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The Story of Diwaali
retold by Jatinder Verma, illustrated by Nilesh Mistry
(Barefoot Books)
Jatinder Verma has based his version of the traditional tale on the stories told to him by his parents when he was a child. As you might expect from a tale that's been handed down verbally for generations, this retelling of the Rumayana is written to read well aloud. The vibrant illustrations help to bring the story alive but this isn't a picture book for the very young - it's for older children who are able to sit and listen to a lengthier tale.
(Please note: The title hasn't got a typo. This book spells Divaali with a double a)
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Rama and the Demon King
by Jessica Souhami
(Frances Lincoln)
The festival of Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over dark and knowledge over ignorance. Frequently told around the time of Diwali (or Dusshera/Navaratri which preceeds it) is a portion of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana: Brave Prince Rama, with the help of Hanuman and his loyal monkey army, wins the battle against the wicked ten-headed demon king, Ravana, to rescue his beloved Sita from her imprisonment on Lanka and returns to claim the throne of his kingdom, Ayodhya.
Based on traditional shadow puppets, Jessica Souhami has created a wonderful picture book version of this adventure with vibrant artwork. Magic arrows become poisonous snakes and demons move at the speed of light in the battle before Ravana finally lies dead – pierced by a magic arrow from Rama’s bow.
Children are entranced and inspired by this book and the big book version is superb to share with larger groups.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Lighting a Lamp
Jonny Zucker, illustrated by Jan Barger
(Frances Lincoln)
A welcome addition to the Festival Time! series wherein a young Hindu girl narrator shares some of her family’s preparations for, and celebration of, the festival of Divali (the Hindu New Year). They listen to the story of Sita’s rescue from the demon king, Ravana, by her husband Rama; draw rangoli patterns outside their home in honour of Lakshmi goddess of good fortune, make coconut barfi, visit the temple, exchange festival sweets and gifts with relations and friends, light welcoming divas and finally, enjoy a fantastic display of fireworks.
The cheerful paintings of the family celebrations help to bring the festival alive for the books intended very young audience. The final spread for parents or teachers provides additional information about the festival and its celebration in different regions of India.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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The Story of Ram and Sita: The Origins of Diwali
by Nirmal Hirani, illustrated by Melanie Crawford
This retelling of the story of Ram and Sita recounts the complex events in a simple, straightforward way without the use of dialogue. The colourful illustrations add to the mythic feel and give a real sense of India, while a page at the end explains the link between the story and the festival. A good choice for introducing children of all ages to the origin of Diwali.
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