________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 6 . . . . October 7, 2011


The Flute.

Rachna Gilmore. Illustrated by Pulak Biswas.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, 2011.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-896580-57-9.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Linda Ludke.

***½ /4



Long ago and far away, in a village on the banks of a rushing river, a baby girl was born. The mother cuddled her baby and gazed up at the full moon, glowing in a sky like blue honey.

"Chandra," murmured the mother. "I'll call you Chandra after the moon."

As Chandra grew, she followed her mother like a shadow. Each day she helped her parents in the fields. Each evening she went with them to the banks of the great river. There her mother played her old wooden flute. She played of shimmering hot days and the richness of the earth.

This original folktale, set in India, is about love and loss. During a monsoon, Chandra's life is saved by her mother who pushes her up the tallest tree. Before vanishing in the flood, Chandra's mother passes her wooden flute on to Chandra. An uncle reluctantly takes the little girl in and then treats her cruelly. Chandra keeps her mother's memory alive by playing music and reflecting upon happier times. Not only does the flute provide emotional comfort, it also has magical powers. When Chandra collapses from hunger, the flute makes plantain, rice, lentils and eggplant appear. During another monsoon, the flute sends a rope that takes her to safety.

internal art      Chandra's music also leads her to meet a man and woman who lost their son in one of the floods. During difficult times, they recall hearing a flute "playing of our loss", but now they hear music "singing of hope". Chandra's story has a new beginning when she is adopted by the family.

      Chandra is a resilient character who overcomes many obstacles, from the destructive forces of nature to human unkindness. The healing power of music is a central theme, and there are other well-crafted, recurring images such as the moon and shadows.

      Pulak Biswas is one of India's most well-known illustrators. His striking artwork has the appearance of woodcuts or engravings. The mainly black and white illustrations have splashes of deep blue, crimson and yellow.

      With the many recent disasters around the world in everyone's thoughts, this lyrically written book speaks of "hope and enduring strength."

Highly Recommended.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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