Toads and Diamonds

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Overview

Diribani has come to the village well to get water for her family's scant meal of curry and rice. She never expected to meet a goddess there. Yet she is granted a remarkable gift: Flowers and precious jewels drop from her lips whenever she speaks.

It seems only right to Tana that the goddess judged her kind, lovely stepsister worthy of such riches. And when she encounters the goddess, she is not surprised to find herself speaking snakes and ...

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Toads and Diamonds

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Overview

Diribani has come to the village well to get water for her family's scant meal of curry and rice. She never expected to meet a goddess there. Yet she is granted a remarkable gift: Flowers and precious jewels drop from her lips whenever she speaks.

It seems only right to Tana that the goddess judged her kind, lovely stepsister worthy of such riches. And when she encounters the goddess, she is not surprised to find herself speaking snakes and toads as a reward.

Blessings and curses are never so clear as they might seem, however. Diribani’s newfound wealth brings her a prince—and an attempt on her life. Tana is chased out of the village because the province's governor fears snakes, yet thousands are dying of a plague spread by rats. As the sisters' fates hang in the balance, each struggles to understand her gift. Will it bring her wisdom, good fortune, love . . . or death?

Toads and Diamonds is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in a lightly fictionalized India, Tomlinson’s retelling of the Perrault fairy tale gains new resonance in a culture where reptiles are honored. Stepsisters Diribani, 15, and Tana, 16, are struggling to keep their household together after their father’s murder. He was a jewel merchant, and Tana hopes to follow in his footsteps. But these dreams are swept out of reach when Diribani comes back from the local well bringing not water but a gift from the snake goddess, Naghali—gems and flowers that drop from her lips when she speaks. The girls’ mother quickly sends Tana to the well, too, but she returns with an even stranger gift of snakes, frogs, and toads. The awe over Diribani’s gift from people both humble and mighty is predictable, but it’s refreshing to see the matter-of-fact welcome that Tana’s snakes receive from the townspeople. Tomlinson (The Swan Maiden) does not oversimplify in this well-told tale; human discord and the harmony of nature are entwined with simplicity and elegance as the girls travel, physically and emotionally, to places they had never imagined. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

* “A memorable novel . . . Tomlinson is a master craftsman. This beautifully embroidered adventure is well worth the effort.” —Booklist, starred review

“Tomlinson does not oversimplify in this well-told tale; human discord and the harmony of nature are entwined with simplicity and elegance as the girls travel, physically and emotionally, to places they had never imagined.” —Publishers Weekly

“A great read for fans of fairy-tale retellings, this book should be very popular with older tweens and teens.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Tomlinson creates a rich story with opulent visuals that make the teens’ world come to life. Readers can feel the hard jewels in Diribani’s mouth, and taste the dirt and dust as Tana flees. Best of all, Tomlinson creates a truly remarkable bond between the girls, obliterating the trite stepsister stereotype.” School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Tomlinson (The Swan Maiden) retells the Perrault fairytale of two sisters whose gifts could equally be regarded as blessings and curses. Tomlinson sets the story in a fictionalized kingdom that owes many of its elements to India during the Mughal period. Colorful geography can be found here in plenty, with elephants, mahouts, cobras, temple groves, and the scents of sandal and jasmine. Thankfully, the fantasy outshines the exoticism, so that the overwhelming impression is not of India but of a well-crafted fairytale world. In it, a goddess-worshiping, vegetarian culture is ruled by an austere, meat-eating, monotheistic one, with sisters Diribani and Tana at the center of the story. Each of them encounters the goddess Naghali by the village well, an inciting incident that remains true to the Perrault tale. As a result, Diribani begins to let gems and flowers fall from her lips with every word she utters, while Tana starts to speak with snakes and toads falling from her mouth. The story spins out in third person narrative with the sisters as alternating viewpoint characters. While Diribani is taken to the ladies' court as a guest of the crown, Tana is sent to live by a sacred well. Lush settings, a calendar with animal-named months, a classic premise, ancient stepwells, and a few surprising turns of story combine to make this an interesting addition to the fantasy bookshelf. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
VOYA - Melissa Moore
Stepsisters Diribani and Tana have their individual qualities—beauty, kindness, a love for each other—and both are blessed by one of the Twelve, the goddess Naghali-ji, who appears to each girl in disguise. The lovely Diribani is given a gift—when she speaks, flowers and gems are produced from her words—yet is taken (ostensibly for her own safety) into the care of Prince Zahid. More pragmatic Tana is given the supposed curse of speaking frogs and snakes and is sent to live on the outskirts of town because the region's governor has a morbid fear of snakes. While Diribani languishes in the castle, pining for a prince she can never have, Tana experiences the seamier side of life and soon learns of the plague that is devastating the countryside. Tomlinson takes a lesser-known story from Charles Perrault and sets it in fifteenth-century India. Chapters alternate between the girls' points-of-view, and both voices are authentic. Ranks in society, problems with wealth and power, and even an alternative religion are explored in a vividly imagined world. Tomlinson's intent is admirable but falls short of the goal—secondary characters are easily confused and less-fully developed, Diribani's voice especially becomes tiresome, and the reader is at a loss to understand why Tana would be "cursed" when she is just as likeable as her sister. The last sixty pages bring their two separate story lines into a momentous conclusion where their problems are solved almost too neatly. Reviewer: Melissa Moore
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—This is an impressive reimagining of Perrault's classic tale, set in precolonial India. Stepsisters Diribani and Tana are on the edge of poverty when they are blessed and cursed by the goddess Naghali-ji. Diribani, the beautiful and polite one, speaks flowers and jewels every time a sound is uttered from her perfect lips, while Tana, often rude, speaks toads and snakes. Soon Diribani is taken in by a handsome prince who seeks to protect her from those who would use her gift for ill. Tana's fate is not so comfortable, as she is forced out of the village before she is caught by the authorities. Tomlinson creates a rich story with opulent visuals that make the teens' world come to life. Readers can feel the hard jewels in Diribani's mouth, and taste the dirt and dust as Tana flees. Best of all, Tomlinson creates a truly remarkable bond between the girls, obliterating the trite stepsister stereotype. The text may be challenging at times, but this extraordinary entry in the retellings genre is definitely worth its weight in diamonds. Fans of Shannon Hale and Robin McKinley will eat it up.—Lisa Marie Williams, East Gwillimbury Public Library, Holland Landing, Ontario
Kirkus Reviews
Charles Perrault published the tale in 1695, and Robert D. San Souci and Jerry Pinkney brought it to the American South in The Talking Eggs (1988). Now here is a fleshed-out version of this folk motif that tells the story of two stepsisters and their fate-changing encounter with a goddess. One girl speaks with gems and flowers, the other with toads and snakes-gift or curse, depending on your viewpoint. Tropes of the genre are nicely twisted: Both girls are nicer than in the short versions, the worldbuilding has shallow roots in Mughal India and the ending is much kinder to the toad-speaking sister. The writing is fluid and the retelling clever. Third-person narration alternates between the two girls, allowing for a broad view of the land, culture and customs (including great descriptions of clothing) as well as the girls' relationships. The story's climax is a lulu, while the resolution is satisfying, if a little anticlimactic. A great read for fans of fairy-tale retellings, this book should be very popular with older tweens and teens. An author's note contextualizes the telling. (Fairy tale. 12-16)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805089684
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 3/30/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Heather Tomlinson has taught English in Paris and French in the U.S. She lives on a houseboat in southern California with her engineer husband , her baby boy, and cats X, Y, and Z.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Even better than the original!

    Vastly different from Charles Perrault's The Fairies, in my opinion, Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson is a much-better version of the tale. For those not familiar with the original, two step-sisters encounter a disguised fairy on separate occasions. The younger of the two is blessed with a gift: Whenever she speaks, flowers and jewels fall from her lips. The eldest isn't a kind person, so the fairy curses her to spit out snakes and amphibians when she speaks. In traditional fairy tale fashion, the good-hearted, but downtrodden maiden overcomes all while those that put her down get their just rewards. Tomlinson took a fresh look at the original tale and thought, "What if the fairy blessed both sisters?" Both sisters are kind, good-hearted people who honestly love one another despite the fact that they don't share blood. Some parts of the tale remain consistent: Diribani is blessed with the gift of jewels and flowers, while her stepsister Tana is given the ability to speak snakes and toads. But which is a blessing and which a curse?

    Tomlinson sets Toads and Diamonds in India, where snakes are revered. Tana has also received a gift, not a curse, though there are those who flee from what her lips release upon speaking. Many families own house nagas, snakes that eat the rats and keep pestilence from spreading. While outwardly, Diribani has received a priceless gift and releases a small fortune whenever she has something to say, it's actually a curse in disguise. She's locked up and kept away from everyone; her jewels line the king's coffers and a greedy governor wants her for himself. Toads and Diamonds is told in alternating POVs, so readers are able to follow both Diribani and Tana, seeing what becomes of the sisters and their "gifts."

    Overall, Tana was my favorite of the sisters. She's made of strong mettle and goes through so much agony, while Diribani has a much easier life. Diribani's story flatlined a bit, and at times, I was eager to get back to Tana's plight. There was so much heartbreak and misery in her life; Tana was braver than most girls in her situation. As with any other fairy tale, there are also romantic prospects involved, though a relationship is hard for either sister due to their unique gifts. The throne doesn't want to let go of Diribani's riches while Tana feels that no one could love a girl who spits venomous snakes. The setting also played an important factor in the book and was a character in and of itself. I loved that Tomlinson modeled her land on a real country, India, and invented two powerful religions that are similar to ones we have in reality, while still being quite unique. Everything fit together well and created a lovely atmosphere not often seen in literature. Combined with an unusual outlook on what constitutes a blessing or a curse, Toads and Diamonds leaves readers with a lot to think about and reflect on.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jennifer Rummel for TeensReadToo

    Diribani and Tana both meet a goddess while fetching water from the town. She grants each sister a gift. When Diribani speaks, jewels and flowers fall from her mouth. When Tana speaks, toads and snakes fall from hers. When their secret is discovered, it changes the sisters' lives. Diribani finds herself traveling with the Prince and his family. Each jewel is recorded and taken to send back to her village. She learns a new set of customs but struggles to keep part of herself intact. Tana's gift brings fear. She, too, leaves her home and travels to a monastery. Before long, she sets off on a pilgrimage to learn the true meaning of her gift. Her travels bring her grief, and destruction follows in her path. Are their gifts a blessing or a curse? A wonderful fairy tale consisting of two sisters, with alternating chapters of each one's story. As each sister struggles to understand her gift, they encounter danger, friendship, romance, hardships, joy, tests of their strength, and a strong desire to see her sister.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    A must read!!!hey my last name is tomlinson tooo!!!we could be cousins

    This book is one of my favs

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  • Posted August 14, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    I was hooked from the first paragraph. I love the author's writ

    I was hooked from the first paragraph. I love the author's writing style. She is expressive and descriptive.
    I like to read reimaginings of fairy tales, but this was a new one for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and following on thier paths of self discovery.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2011

    Fantastic- A Must Read

    Toads and Diamonds, a story based on a fairy tale and set in a fantastical Mughal empire, is a must-read. Beautifully written, with compelling characters and unexpected insight, this is definitely a book I want added to my collection!

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  • Posted February 16, 2011

    kinky but cute

    my oh my this book is great yall

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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