Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Review: Mama's Saris

Pooja Makhijani is well known in the kidlit world: her annotated bibliography of South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora in children's literature is second-to-none, she's a frequent commenter on listservs and blogs, a guest blogger, and the editor of Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America. Her first picture book, Mama's Saris, has been released just this month and I'm happy to report it's a beauty.

The narrator of Mama's Saris is about to turn seven years old and Mama, who wears saris only for special occasions, is choosing what she will wear to her daughter's party. The daughter helps, but, really, all she wants is to wear a sari too:

"Mama unfurls it. It shines like the afternoon sun. I watch her tuck one end into her petticoat and pull the other end over her left shoulder. Then she folds the pleats, weaving the fabric into an accordion between her slim fingers.

I look down at my Mary Janes and corduroy jumper. I feel so plain next to her."

Finally, mama relents and helps her daughter dress in one of her saris, accented with gold bangles and a bindi. When she is dressed, the narrator looks in the mirror:

"I feel like I am floating in an ocean of blue. The shiny material makes me sparkle. I think it looks beautiful."

When mama asks, "what do you think?", the little girl answers, "I think I look like you."

It's a simple story on the surface of things, but the text speaks volumes about growing up, mother-and-daughter relationships, and family traditions. Elena Gomez' s warm, lush paintings fit Makhijani's text perfectly and bring the saris and mother and daughter to life. Mama's Saris is a lovely, heartfelt debut and not to be missed.
Other blog reviews:

Saffron Tree
Sepia Mutiny
Chicken Spaghetti
Book Moot
A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
A Fuse #8 Production
Uma Krishnaswami