Tara the Rickshaw and the Tale of the Lost Kitten (Amna Nasima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Tara the Rickshaw and the Tale of the Lost Kitten, written by Amna Nasima and illustrated by Saliha Arif and Sarah Rajper, a tale of friendship and community.

In an unspecified town on the coast of the Indian Ocean, a colorful little rickshaw named Tara loves nothing more than to introduce her passengers to the sights, sounds, and tastes of South Asia. One day, she meets a little gray kitten named Meru who has been separated from her family, and helpful Tara vows to help Meru search high and low for them. Tara enlists the help of her previous passengers and friends at a local dhaba, then searches mango groves, parks, the beach, and the market for signs of Meru’s family. Yet as the sun sets, there is no sign of them – what will Tara and Meru do?

A simple story with unique immersion. Nasima’s rhyming text offers a predictable yet sweet tale of finding lost family and making new friends along the way, with the main areas of interest coming from the immersive look at a few elements of everyday, multicultural South Asian life. The meter of the rhyme is fairly consistent, with only a few stumbles and awkward lines, which makes for easy reading aloud, and nicely incorporates a few Urdu/Hindi words like “chaiwala” and “piyari beti,” providing glossary definitions in the backmatter. The watercolor-and-digital art leans towards simplistic style for some characters, but the over abundance of watercolors unfortunately makes well-designed characters (like Tara) and locations difficult to distinguish visually from their surroundings. The length is fine for an elementary storytime, though the ending seems to drag a bit, and JJ enjoyed the animals and gentle story. Overall, this one definitely has some areas of improvement, but tells a classic and heartwarming story that incorporates authentic South Asian representation, and is worth a look. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

A Sari For Ammi (Mamta Nainy)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Sari For Ammi, written by Mamta Nainy and illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat, a beautiful tale of family love.

In the village of Kaithoon in India, the unnamed narrator lives with her mother (Ammi), her father (Abba), and her sister Sadaf. The entire family works together to run the family’s business, making and selling saris in the haat (bazaar), but it’s Ammi who is the true talent, skillfully weaving intricate and beautiful patterns into the material, sometimes taking months to complete even one sari. Yet despite her beautiful work, Ammi only wears old salwar-kameez, never keeping her work so as not to eat into the family’s profits. The narrator becomes determined to purchase one of her mother’s beautiful saris as a gift, and enlists Sadaf’s help. Together, the girls embark on money-making endeavor that explores their town’s unique culture. Can they pull together enough for Ammi’s gift?

Touching. This lovely tale of two daughters’ devotion to their mother weaves together elements of Indian culture and the history of Kaithoon, a town known for its particularly unique and intricate saris, made using a special weaving process passed down through generations. Bold text emphasizes important topics and Hindi words, yet leaves the definitions to a backmatter glossary, keeping the text conversational and engaging. The colorful digital artwork is as bright and intricate as Ammi’s saris, giving great charm to the girls, their family, and their neighbors and community. And the story of the girls’ sacrifice and work to buy a gift for their mother is quite moving, showing both a youthful, guileless spirit of kindness as well as a realistic peek at the economics of a working-class family, a surprisingly underrepresented group in picture books. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ loved the artwork and learning the Hindi vocabulary. Overall, we liked this one a lot – an endearing tale of family love that opens a door to a special place and culture. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Festival Of Colors (Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Festival Of Colors, written by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal and illustrated by Vashti Harrison, a gorgeous look at the Hindu spring festival of Holi.

Chintoo and Mintoo are in their garden, preparing for Holi – a holiday most often celebrated through color. The children carefully pick the flowers they will need: hibiscus will make a bright red, marigolds a golden orange, and irises are just the thing for a vibrant blue. They bring the flowers home, lay them out to dry, collecting the petals when they have lost their moisture. Then the petals are crushed into fine powder, and bagged for the big day. Mintoo and Chintoo, along with their family, dress in white and collect their colors, gathering with their friends, family and neighbors. Then, at the right moment, POOF! An explosion of color as everyone throws their crushed petals in the air and at each other. At the end of the day, their white outfits now dusted with rainbow colors, the families enjoy all the things Holi celebrates: new starts, forgiveness, friendship, and color.

Lovely! What a fascinating and fun way to introduce Holi to those who are unfamiliar, and celebrate it for those who are. I had seen Holi celebrations before, and enjoyed learning about the origin of the colorful powders used, as well as the meaning of the festival. JJ adored the colors, flowers, and fantastic use of onomatopoeia. The illustrations are everything you could hope, featuring a Hindi cast in a wide range of skin tones, ages, and sizes and of course, plenty of bright, eye-catching color. The length was perfect, and JJ loved it. A wonderful way to learn about a beautiful holiday, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

The Wheels On The Tuk Tuk (Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal)

Summer Reading Day 79: Our book today was The Wheels On The Tuk Tuk by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal, an awesome look at Indian culture told through a twist on a familiar tune. Set to “Wheels on the Bus,” Wheels On The Tuk Tuk can be read or sung (though JJ definitely preferred singing), and explores a different part of an Indian street scene in each verse. From yogis, to sacred cows, poppadoms, chai, rupees and Diwali, the tuk tuk wala takes his passengers and the readers on a fun and educational ride.

This was such a cool book! Using such a well-known rhyme is a perfect way to learn new words and traditions for little ones. It was a great length for JJ, and she loved singing and bouncing on my knee as we read (and side note: this was one of the most fun books for me TO read that we’ve reviewed so far), plus the illustrations by Jess Golden are adorable, colorful and beautiful. Lastly, as much fun as JJ had with it, older kids would love this book because it teaches so many awesome Indian and Hindi cultural elements: in addition to the rhyme, there is also a glossary in the back that explains all the references. This one is absolutely Baby Bookworm approved! We loved it!