________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 6 . . . . November 17, 2000

cover Suresh and the Sea.

Raghavendra Rao and Sandhya Rao.
Chennai, India: Tulika (Distributed in Canada by The Banyan Tree, 2355 Fifth Lane West, Unit 46, Mississauga, ON, L5K 2M8), 1998.
48 pp., pbk., $8.00.
ISBN 81-86895-19-1.

Subject Headings:
Children's literature, Indic (English).

Grades 4 - 6 / Ages 9 - 11.

Review by Joan Payzant.

*** /4


When they were little, Suresh and his friends spent all their time trying to learn to ride the tiny kattumaram his father had fashioned for them. It was everybody's favourite game.

But the kattumaram is no toy. It is an ancient fishing craft - some people say it is as least 3000 years old - and is used by about 75 percent of the fishermen in the nearly 450 fishing villages in Tamilnadu.

The word kattumaram in Tamil describes the craft exactly. "Kattu" means to tie and "maram" means log. The kattumaram is assembled by tying together five or six or seven logs of a light wood that floats easily and lasts about 7 or 8 years. A unique feature of this craft is that any water that gets into the kattumaram is drained out immediately through the gaps between the logs. . . .

The children's games do not stop with sailing the kattumaram. They understand how important it is to tie the logs together securely. They practise until their fingers become deft at tying - and untying - knots. Very early they learn why they must untie the logs after a fishing expedition and dry them in the sun. This prevents moss from forming on the logs. Slippery logs are dangerous in the sea, especially when a fisherman is hauling in a net full of fish. Or when the sea is rough.

image Suresh and the Sea tells of the life of the people of Tamilnadu, a fishing village at the southern tip of India. Sandhya Rao, an author of children's books, is also an editor with the publisher of this story. Black and white photos, taken by Raghavendra Rao, show small Indian boys playing at the seashore where they make small kattumarams, the fishing craft used by their ancestors and still used today.
    One is immediately hopeful that no scarcity of fish exists in Tamilnadu, but, alas, the book reveals much the same problems existing there as exist in maritime Canada - draggers and trawlers greedily scoop up more than their share of fish; sewage and plastic contaminate the ocean; young people leave home to look elsewhere for work.
    Photographs are excellent and numerous, side issues are raised comparing conditions in Tamilnadu to Alaska, for instance, and notes for parents and teachers are included at the end of the book. Although the paper is of good quality, the binding does not feel quite sturdy enough, and it is doubtful how well it would stand up to use in a school library.
    The long, complicated names of the main characters, and the geographical place names take patience to absorb, but Suresh and the Sea will be of special interest to those with an Indian background. For a comparative study of methods of fishing in India and elsewhere, it will also be useful.


Joan Payzant is a former teacher-librarian, living in Dartmouth, NS.

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