New Picture Books from India Offer Visual Excitement
Books, particularly picture books, become more valuable as resources as our educational goals reach out globally. Often labeled "multicultural" because their subject matter deals with areas and peoples our children are less familiar with, they offer both textual and visual information along with the emotions they evoke. Most books currently available from American or European publishers are influenced by Western traditions. If they are motivated to tell a story from another part of the world, they must translate and interpret story and image to fit our protocols.
So currently we find Gerald McDermott in Monkey: A Trickster Tale from India (Harcourt, 2011) telling his story with a simple American text and objects reflecting current esthetics. How different are the following books now available from Tara Publishers: first Gita Wolf & Swarna Chitrakar's Monkey Photo, visualized in the patua folk style of Bengal! Another mischievous monkey stars in the Indonesian folk tale, Mangoes & Bananas, by Nathan Kumar Scott with art by T. Balaji in the traditional Kalamkari style of Indian textile painting. Another impressive book is illustrated by a self-taught "domestic helper," Dulari Devi, whose story is told by Gita Wolf in Following My Paint Brush, and who paints in the Mithila style of folk painting from Bihar in eastern India.
The illustrations of the almost textless Do! are rendered in the style of the traditional Warli wall paintings from western India, painted in white on the outsides of their houses. Another remarkable work is Tsunami by Joydeb and Moyna Chitrakar, whose ballad-like text describes the horrors of the flood. The book is a Patua from Bengal, striking narrative graphic art in series of panels bound together to open vertically, so we follow the flood from the top to the bottom of each horizontal page.
Traditional books from another Indian publisher, Karadi Tales Company, will soon be available in the United States as well. A series of folk classics include CDs with music along with the text read aloud. Stories are from folk classics like the Panchatrantra and the Jataka. These books can also offer students a view of another culture.
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