Bringing Diwali to Life for Children

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Diwali: A Festival of Lights and Fun (Diwali: Kushiyon Ka Tyohaar)
By Manisha Kumar & Monica Kumar (Authors), Sona & Jacob (Illustrators)
Reviewed by Meera Sriram

 

(Reprinted with permission from Saffrontree.org)

 

This bilingual book on Diwali is from Meera Masi, a Bay Area based cross-cultural publishing house with a mission to pass on the heritage of India to immigrant children, through books and other products on Indian languages and culture.

 

A warm introduction on the essence of Diwali on the opening page sets the stage for the ensuing colors and rhymes that bring to life Diwali for our children.

 

“We all love Diwali, it’s so much fun.
The festival of lights has now begun.”

 

Simple verses like the above alternating with brightly hued pictures, both of a family celebration, is what this book is about. All the fundamentals of the festival are laid out. The act of wearing new clothes, cleaning and decorating our houses, greeting families and friends, making rangoli, offering puja, lighting diyas, bursting crackers and of course eating mithai are all poetized alongside appropriate illustrations. Yes, I have retained the Hindi diction as sprinkled in the English text in the book.

 

Each pair of sentences comprising the sweet little rhyme appears in the Hindi language followed by its transliteration in English and then the translation itself in the English language. No doubt a tool for teaching children an Indian language.

 

As is the belief of people at Meera Masi, I too believe that the prelude to imparting the deeper meanings and concepts of festivals to young children is simply kindling their curiosity to learn about them. This can be effortlessly and successfully achieved by creating a playful and amusing environment for it – what better way to do it than to add a tune and dance with color! In fact, my 3.5 year old daughter will stand testimony to this!

 

The book comes with a read along audio CD, readings of the book in Hindi and English. There is a glossary included on the last page for few of the Hindi words used in the book. The intention for including the CD and the transliteration is to help children learn the pronunciations the right way and this especially comes in handy for parents who are not comfortable with the language themselves. The book can be purchased at www.meeramasi.com.

 

“With everyone we had a blast.
We know the Diwali cheer will last!”

 

The concluding lyric in this book will make children realize that Diwali is indeed a festival of lights!

 

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Note from the Editors:

 

Here is another children’s book about Diwali that InCultureParent has noticed is popular (but we have not yet reviewed):

Lighting a Lamp: A Diwali Story

By Jonny Zucker (Author) and Jan Barger Cohen (Illustrator)

for ages 4-8

 

And this children’s book is a popular book about Indian culture (InCultureParent has also not yet reviewed it):

Indian Children’s Favourite Stories

By Rosemarie Somaiah and Ranjan Somaiah (Authors)

for ages 4-8

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Meera Sriram has been reviewing and recommending diverse children’s literature for about ten years now. She loves to pass on a title or an author to a friend (or a stranger, for that matter). Picture books particularly appeal to the inner child in her. She moved to the U.S. at the turn of the millennium from India. After graduate studies and a brief stint as an electrical engineer, she decided to express herself in other creative ways, primarily through writing. She has co-authored four books for children, all published in India. Her writing interests include people and cultures, nature, and life’s everyday moments. She also runs an early literacy program for toddlers and preschoolers in her neighboring communities. She lives in Berkeley, CA, with her husband and two kids. Curling up to read a good book with her children is something she looks forward to every day. She constantly fantasizes about a world with no boundaries over hot chai, to help her stay warm in foggy Northern California. More at www.meerasriram.com.

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