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Posted December 14, 2009
Ted and Betsy Lewin have spent four decades traveling throughout the world and fortunately for us have shared their observations and experiences with young readers. (Horse Song, Gorilla Walk, etc.) A Lewin book is always entertaining, exciting and educational. Such is surely the case with BALARAMA A ROYAL ELEPHANT.
Basing this story on events that took place in and around Mysore, India between 1997 and 1998 the Lewins introduce us to a centuries old festival, Dasara, which is led by the Royal Elephant. In this case, during their first visit, the Royal Elephant was Drona.
Intrigued by both Drona and the festival the Lewins decided to return for another year only to find that Drona had lost his life in an accident and a new lead elephant, Balarama, had been chosen. So, they witnessed Balarama's debut, the first time he carried the golden howdah, an intricately carved ceremonial carriage.
The authors also take readers to an elephant camp where during route they look for the first time into an elephant's eyes. As the elephant returns their gaze, "The long, thick broom of her lashes descends and rises in a slow, solemn blink." We are also treated to stunning drawings depicting the dressing of the elephants for the parade, and finally the parade itself as brilliant colors march under a blazing sun.
A photograph of the actual event is included, a Glossary and Pronunciation Guide, as well as a quote from The Times Of India noting that "for the first time in the Mysore Dasara procession" Balarama "gave a flawless performance."
- Gail Cooke
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