Friday, April 13, 2007

Mama's Saris

When I first turned the pages of Mama's Saris, I stood entranced staring at the beauty of this magnificent children's book. I had to rub my eyes hard to believe that I was actually turning the pages of a children's book, and not in fact the fabrics of a real sari! I almost put the book over my left shoulder to stand before the mirror to see how the sari/book looked on me. :-)

Mama's Saris, by Pooja Makhijani is an eloquent and colorful presentation of a story that celebrates the beauty of saris, and the special role they play in an East Indian family. The story is a vivid portrayal of a conversation between a mother and her daughter around the daughter's desire to wear one of Mama's precious saris for her 7th birthday party. It is based on a simple fact common to every culture -
"little girls LOVE to play dress up in their moms' clothes, and discover in themselves the images of their mothers."

A little girl is celebrating her seventh birthday. And obviously, there is a party for which Mama is planning to wear a sari. The little girl has to help her mother decide which sari to wear for the party. When Mama flips open the suitcase filled with saris that she wears only for special occasions, the girl's excitement to wear one on herself naturally increases. They talk about the different occasions Mama wore each of her saris - a black chiffon one "that shimmers like the night-time sky" she wore for Devi Masi's annniversary; the magenta one with "a herd of galloping deer embroidered on it" is the one she wore when Nanima came to visit the first time. And so on and so forth....Finally, the little girl picks an orange one that Mama tells her she wore when the little girl was first brought home from the hospital. She watches her mama elegantly tie the sari, and "weave the fabric into an accordion between her slim fingers."

Seeing her mother shimmer in a beautiful sari, the girl naturally feels ready to look all grown-up and beautiful like Mama. She explains to her Mama she wants to pick a sari for herself because she is a big girl who can "pour her own glass of milk in the morning without spilling and also, does not need the nightlight anymore." Finally, Mama agrees to grant her wish only because it's her birthday. So Mama ties a beautiful, blue sari with gold flowers on her little girl by wrapping the fabric around her again and again. She also gives her bangles to match, and then puts a beautiful glittery bindi in the middle of her forehead! And then asks, "So, what do you think?", and the girl answers with a sparkle in her eye, "I think I look like you!"

I love books like this one where the text and the illustrations enhance each other so much that you can actually feel the textures, and fabrics of the different saris that the little daughter admires in her mother's collection. In fact, wouldn't be an exaggeration to describe that the text and the illustrations flow together just as beautifully as the pleats and folds of an elegantly clad sari. I loved the part in which the author so beautifully describes the little girl's fond memories of her nanima's saris - "the folds and nooks of nanima's saris holding lots of secrets; safety pins and coins fastened on the inside; the smell of cardamom and sandalwood soap all over." That was a neat treat!

Final say:This book can be just as pretty, stylish, delicate and dignified as your mother's collection of saris! So, let's share the tender and delicate tale of Mama's Saris with our children. Add this to your mother/daughter collection of all things precious! I am sure your family will cherish the book, and talk about it for a long time. Moms/dads of sons, may be the author is considering doing a sequel - Papa's Kurtas???? :D

Additional Resources for Mama's Saris: There's a teacher's guide available on the author's website. A great resource to discuss some of the things that the book highlights. The guide has discussion questions, and project ideas.

Aside from seeing, touching, smelling,and of course, reading the book many,many times, my daughter and I loved singing the lyrics of Mama's Saris available on the author's website to the tune of "Frere Jacques"...LOVELY,LOVELY IDEA! (I wanted to sing the song with my daughter, and podcast it here. But realized, first I need to learn how to podcast...! If someone knows how to, would appreciate if you send me instructions. Or send me an MP3 file, and will upload!)

"Mama's Saris
Mama's Saris
Orange and Blue
Eggplant too

Folded Pleats of secrets
Folded Pleats of secrets
Try one on!
Try one on!"

Pooja Makhijani's Mama's Saris offers a culturally appropriate children's book celebrating one of India's richest traditions.
Mama's Sari is a multi-cultural and a multi-sensory treat!"

Author:Pooja Makhijani
Illustrator: Elena Gomez
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Amazon link to the book:


Tharini said...

Wow Praba....what an enchangting pick that was. I have only the kurta descendants at home, but I can sooo relate from the POV of the daughter. Wow. Evokes such sweet memories.

Great work by Pooja Makhijani. Looked forward to checking out other works by her. Hope she'll definitely work on the sequel! ;)

And the ST page has really livened up from that cover picture you posted. Its beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Praba, thank you for your thoughtful review. I am speechless; you are too kind.

Tharini, thank YOU for your kind words.

Praba Ram said...

Pooja -

thrilled to see your comment on ST! Thanks so much. What an amazing book, and what attention to details both in text and illustrations!

Kudos to you and Elena Gomez!

The Saffron Tree Team wishes you the very best with Mama's Saris.


Gauri said...

Wow !! Thanks for the reco Praba. Am definitely going to check this book out. It is difficult not to - not after having seen the beautiful cover page and such a wonderful review.

Sheela said...

how wonderful! i was looking at Mama's sari prominently displayed at Border's and browsed through it and liked it a lot, but, didn't get a chance to read it objectively; but loved the illustrations, and as i turned the pages i was trying to decide if it will suit Ana now, but decided she may not relate as I only wear a saree at home for festivals and such, so, decided to get the book later :)

This is like some Synchronicity going around in the Universe - i was just debating getting this book and writing a review on ST!!

My mom sewed a wrap-around-and-tie mini saree for Ana - i remember i had a mini saree similar to that - i just had to tie at the waist and drape the rest of it over the shoulder:)

nice work on the review.

Roopa said...

Thanks for the wonderfull review Prabha

Praba Ram said...

Gauri - Thanks for your sweet comment! Would love for you to check it out...I have enjoyed going through your blog...Will send you an email soon...

Roopa - thanks for the comment. Have enjoyed reading your intro on desimomzclub! Look forward to staying in touch

Sheela - I can't agree with you more on the "in-sync" thinking...

Anonymous said...

My daughter just turned 5 and got Mama's saris as a birthday present. We read the delightful book tonight. The illustrations and colors are stunning.
My own saris are all in a suitcase below the bed and my daughter is always fascinated by their colors!
I am sure we will be reading the book many more times.

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