Amma, Tell Me About Diwali! by Bhakti Mathur

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Amma, Tell Me About Diwali! by Bhakti Mathur

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A gentle introduction to the festival of Diwali which should be read by children of all faiths. It educates without preaching. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: April 2016
Publisher: Anjana Publishing
ISBN: 978-9881502889

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Klaka had celebrated Diwali and it had been great fun - a wonderful, beautiful day and tonight the city is lit up by thousands and thousands of lights. Amma and daddy had given many gifts to their boy and Klaka and his brother had lit the earthen oil lamps known as diyas. They didn't just eat and have a good time - they also offered their prayers for good fortune, prosperity and health to Ganesha, the God of new beginnings and to Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. But Klaka was curious: Amma he said, tell me about Diwali.

And Amma told him that Diwali means 'row of lights' and that it's celebrated in autumn on amavasya, the month's darkest night and then she told him the story of Rama, prince of Ayodhya, who was heir to the throne, but Kaikeyi, his stepmother wanted the throne for her son and made the king banish Rama from the kingdom for fourteen years. He left with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, and Amma told Klaka of the troubles they had and how with the aid of Hanuman and an army of monkeys they defeated the demon king Ravana. It was fourteen years since they had left Ayodhya and their return was greeted with diyas lit across the land.

Bhakti Mathur tells the story so much more eloquently than I have done - and she does it in rhyme. Maulshree Somani's illustrations give life - and light - to the story. I liked too that the sequel to the story is also told. Each year the Goddess Lakshmi comes to earth on Diwali to bless Rama's true followers, but one year the lights were so bright that she had to rest and found a small cottage with little light, where she asked to stay a while. The occupier, a seamstress, invited her in and explained that she only had the one light and had been busy finishing her work to the extent that she had not realised that it was Diwali. Hearing this, Lakshmi blessed her as a true follower - someone who thought of doing her duty rather than pleasing the Gods. I liked the emphasis on it being work, rather than outward display which brings fortune and luck.

Amma, Tell Me About Diwali! is an easy, enjoyable read which teaches without preaching. It would be a mistake to think that the readership would be limited to children in Hindu families (although I'm sure that they would love it) as I think all children should understand the basic tenets of other faiths. I particularly liked the glossary at the back of the book and I can see a place for Amma, Tell Me About Diwali! in all school libraries. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For another retelling of the story of the ancient Hindu folk tale of Lord Rama we can recommend Rama and the Demon King by Jessica Souhami. Adults wanting to know more about the background to the folk tale will appreciate An Indian Odyssey by Martin Buckley.

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