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Children's LiteraturePart of the publisher's "Discovering Cultures" series (some of the other titles are Brazil, Japan, and Spain) this volume, available in library binding, is intended for the elementary grades. Chapters include information on location, unique qualities of cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity, aspects of everyday life, school, recreation, and prominent historical figures. A commendable effort is made here to integrate traditional and contemporary images of India, so that both wilderness landscapes and urban settings are featured. A similar sensitivity is shown in the depiction of people from a range of economic classes. Some generalizations seem a little sweeping, and tend to play into existing stereotypes of the subcontinent. For example, the statements that Hindus believe they must not hurt any living thing and therefore many are vegetarian, are both, in reality, somewhat open to question. Also, one wonders why, if there is only room for three notable figures from Indian history, two of the three selected are Mother Teresa and Rudyard Kipling. Neither is Indian by birth, and Kipling was arguably ambiguous and sometimes frankly racist in his view of Indians. The gap between content and projected readership is bridged by the phonetic rendering of names, for example, encouraging readers to sound the Hindi language words out loud, and in the inclusion of a recipe and a classroom activity. The glossary includes both Hindi words and English words likely to be unfamiliar to young readers. Cover and interior design both include elements in the colors of the Indian flag. A reading list, Web sites, glossary, currency and national flag details, a suggested videotape, and an index areincluded in back matter. 2003, Marshall Cavendish, Ages 7 up.
— Uma Krishnaswami