Rama and Sita: A Tale from Ancient Java

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Acclaimed for his meticulous paeans to 20th-century technology, Weitzman (Superpower: The Making of a Steam Locomotive) here reveals an equal passion for a wholly different field: Javanese shadow puppets. Faithful in their complex details, lavish in their combinations of gold ink and rich colors, Weitzman's ornately rendered shadow puppets are the sole inhabitants of his large-scale illustrations. He frames the text as a puppet show in a Javanese village: "Tell us again the old story, the children ask. Sing for us the Ramayana." With little other explanation ("Each little figure comes alive in fluttering shadows on a white cloth lit by an oil lamp sun"), the epic of Prince Rama unfolds, in tightly condensed form, as nonstop adventure. There's no mention of Divaali, the Hindu festival commemorating the triumphal events of the Ramayana; readers will have to do their own work to create the context for the religious and cultural traditions Weitzman celebrates. The lack of concessions to the audience may be seen as a stumbling block or as a raison d'etre. The artistry in the illustrations and in the elegant, airy book design comes close to replicating a primary experience; no intermediary comes between readers and the dalang (storyteller) who brings Hindu literature to life. Children will need some help to enter the story; fortunately, the quality of the presentation should motivate them to ask for it. Ages 9-12. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The traditional Javanese dalang or storyteller introduces the tale, which he performs with shadow puppets. Part of the lengthy Ramayana, it concerns Prince Rama. Although he is declared king by his father Dasarata, the current king has promised to grant the mother of his son Barata two wishes. She demands that he banish Rama to the forest for fourteen years and make Barata king instead. With his wife Sita and his brother Lesmana, Rama leaves the kingdom. The wicked Ravana manages to lure Rama and Lesmana away by trickery and kidnap Sita. This sets the stage for the famous battle of the monkey King Hanuman and his monkeys as they rescue Sita. In the fierce fight, Lesmana kills a mighty giant, Rama kills Ravana, and with Sita they return to the kingdom. "Harmony is restored," this part of the story is over, and the puppets are put away. Shadow puppets glittering with gold in ornate Javanese patterns perform as the major characters. These illustrations do not depict specific actions, but they definitely convey the emotions. The page designs integrate the text blocks with the stunning visuals, offering a virtual trip to a faraway time and place. All that is missing is the sound of the gamelan in the Javanese night. 2002, David R. Godine, Ages 5 to 10.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 5-In this captivating retelling of a Hindu epic, Rama enlists the help of the Monkey King to save his wife from the horrible giant who has abducted her. Weitzman's exquisite, spectacularly colored illustrations reflect the elegant forms of Javanese shadow puppets. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781567921519
  • Publisher: Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.36 (w) x 11.06 (h) x 0.43 (d)

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