Intimate scenes of a family of Indian immigrants earn Krishnaswami's (Shower of Gold: Girls and Women in the Stories of India) a place on the multicultural bookshelf. Asking about the rose-covered teacup his grandfather Chachaji prefers to all others, Neel learns that it is the only object Chachaji's own mother brought with her when India was partitioned in 1947, and she and Chachaji had to walk miles to reach safety across the new border. "Everyone laughed at her for taking a breakable thing like a teacup, instead of something useful," says Chachaji. "She knew-if this teacup got to India without breaking, she would get to India without breaking." Although she doesn't endow Neel with much dimension, the author smoothly handles the issues of loss, alienation and assimilation. "How would twenty [miles] feel, or a hundred, every step weighed down with sadness?" Neel asks himself. When he breaks the cup, figuring out how to make the loss right repairs his relationship with Chachaji, too. First-timer Sitaraman has trouble portraying the characters in the story. Only the face of Chachaji seems really distinctive-perhaps a symptom of the sense that the story is less Neel's than Chachaji's. Potentially impressive scenes in which Chachaji recalls scenes from his life in India show indistinct figures and little detail beyond that specified by the text. While the book may be a good touchstone for adults seeking openings for discussions about India, it's less likely to appeal to children who happen upon it on their own. Ages 6-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In Chachaji's Cup, Neel loves helping his great-uncle prepare tea. Often while slurping tea from a faded china cup, the older man will tell of his boyhood in India. Only once does he share the story behind the teacup, which his family carried to a new home in 1947. During this time of the Partition, borders were drawn. Hindus resettled in India and Muslims in Pakistan. More than 12 million people were uprooted, according to the informative author's note in the back. This must-read by Uma Krishnaswami celebrates family across generations and acquaints young readers with an important and little-known time in world history. Krishnaswami leavens her text with gentle humor as the American-born Neel giggles with Chachaji over Hindi rental videos and tries to make amends when he accidentally breaks the precious cup. Soumya Sitaraman's vibrant paintings swirl across the pages, making Chachaji's past as real to Neel as the boy's own present. 2003, Children's Book Press,
K-Gr 3-Neel's great-uncle often tells stories from India-sometimes of gods such as Hanuman the monkey-but one day he relates his experiences as a child in 1947, "-when India was split in two.-`The country was broken.'" His family walked miles with millions of other refugees to cross the border into India, his mother carrying with her the flowered china cup from which the old man now drinks his tea. When Neel accidentally breaks it, and Chachaji is coincidentally hospitalized, the child tries to cheer his uncle to no avail. After a dream about his great-grandmother and her frightened little boy making their journey, he glues the cup together as best he can, presenting it to a grateful Chachaji. "It wasn't much good for holding tea anymore. But I figured you don't have to be shiny new to hold memories." Neel's voice lends immediacy and a warm family feeling to this graceful story. The simple explanation of the Partition is understandable to young children. The emphasis on the concrete reality of what it means to be a refugee-to have to leave one's home and travel to a new place- will also speak to them. Unfortunately, the illustrations are a drawback. Using thickly applied paints in vivid colors and done in an expressionistic style, their composition is interesting, even arresting, but the human figures are too often awkwardly amateurish. Given the value of the subject matter, the paucity of picture books featuring Indian characters, and the skill of the telling, however, this would be a worthwhile purchase.-Nancy Palmer, The Little School, Bellevue, WA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A china teacup serves as both a memento of troubled times and a bridge across generations in this unusual family portrait. For as long as young Neel can remember, his great-uncle Chachaji has used only his own mother’s old cup at teatime. Why? Because it has a history; his mother’s family was among the many that were displaced when India was "broken" into two countries in 1947, and though she had to leave much behind, she chose to take the fragile cup on the long journey to a new home. Using strong brushwork and deep, rich colors, Sitaraman centers most of her scenes on dark, expressive faces, placing Neel’s extended family in this country, and with dress and other details subtly suggesting the mingling of cultures such families experience. Doubly valuable for its overall theme, and as a surprisingly rare depiction of an Indian-American family, Neel’s story is bound to engage readers, as well as leave them more receptive to learning about their own families’ past. (Picture book. 7-9)