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Children's LiteratureAGERANGE: Ages 6 to 10.
Between luscious watermelon pink endpapers, this beautifully illustrated story collection bursts with the images and colors of India. The retold traditional stories come from all over the country--from Punjab in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, Gujarat in the west to Bengal in the east. A kind-hearted boy is rewarded with the drum he longs to own. A girl without a dowry defeats a robber by using her wits and finds a husband without benefit of riches. In protecting the tree she has befriended, a princess finds her true love. Some of the stories come from classical mythic traditions, such as the story of Nala and Damayanti and the Hanuman story from the Ramayana. Others are clearly from folk traditions, like the adaptation of the Divaali story of the washerwoman and the goddess Lakshmi. Nanjis prose is clean and crisp. On the whole she manages to avoid the common pitfall of didacticism in conveying cultural nuance while telling a story, and it is wonderful to see such a regionally diverse collection of tales. An author's note and introductory chapter offer supplementary information about India and provide some context. Each story, in addition, includes prefatory pages with information about the state from which it comes. The source list in the back unfortunately seems to consist solely of Internet sites with additional information for young readers, rather than a bibliography of sources used by the author for these retellings. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami