Thursday, May 27, 2010


Myths are traditional stories, that have been passed on through generations, largely un-proven, but are accepted as a part of our history. Myths often have a religious element in it. Myths talk about the process of creation, right and wrong, demi-gods and traditions. Though the content is different from culture to culture, the existence of myths are common across cultures.

While growing up, the myths I read are the Amar Chitra Katha series and it has a special place in my heart. However, when it comes to my children, I was looking for something different and did succeed finding some very interesting ones.

Vyasa’s Mahabaratha
Author: Chitra Krishnan
Illustration: Arun Kumar
Translation: Aasai
Pulisher: Tulika Books
Self-Readers: 8+, Read along: 5+
Have you seen Jackie Chan movies?! After the movie, the rolling credits invariably show scenes from the making of the movie. It shows the bloopers. Silly, but always puts a smile on my face. That is the same effect this book had on me.

Tulika’s Vyasa Mahabaratha is not Mahabaratha, but the events leading to the writing of the epic. Vyasa’s search for a scribe and how Vyasa and Ganesha entered in to an agreement is the crux of this book.

I ordered the tamil version of the book. The tamil used in this book is certainly not the spoken tamil, but what my tamil class students will call as, ‘news reader’ tamil. I read it for my children and have to make sure that I translate. When what they hear is different from what they read, it is tough for children to understand. So it was up to me to make it interesting.

The story is narrated in a fun, lively manner. The illustrations are cartoonish with a Dumbledore looking Vyasa and a ‘thinni pandaram’(translates to: glutton ) Ganesha. I loved it. My children are getting used to it.

Hanuman’s Ramayana
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Illustrator: Nancy Raj
Translation: Shankarramasubramaniyan
Publishers: Tulika Books
Self-Readers: 8+, Read along: 5+
Mythology is considered as a symbolism. Myths were originally passed on through the tradition of oral story telling. In the days of yore, story telling was a form of entertainment. Story telling, I am sure, was cause of much excitement, celebration and was often associated with a religious occasion. Tulika’s Sweet And Salty talks about how the people in the village of Narasannapeta get excited when the story teller Gorannagaru visits to tell the story of Ramayana.

Hanuman’s Ramayana is not the story of Rama, but tells the readers that mythological stories might have different versions and the possibility of stories getting lost over time. I have personally heard two versions of Ramayana, one in which Ravana is the cruel villain and one in which he is Sita’s original father and took Sita captive for the good of the divine couple.

Basic things that I took away from this book is that a story can be molded to suit the ideas of the story teller. It changes and flows with the interpretation of the narrater. The story is bigger than the teller. It is not the who but the how and what that matters.

Nancy Raj’s illustrations are in Madhubani style. Lovely, intricate and in beautiful colors. We have three Tulika books illustrated by Nancy Raj(Village Fair, A-vil Yirundhu Ak-varai and Hanuman’s Ramayana) and each has its own style to suit the nature of the story. The concept of Hanuman’s Ramayana – ‘what is important is the story, not the story teller’. Nancy’s concept seems to be, ‘what is important is the art that compliments the story, not the artist’ and as a result the illustrations shine through.

Ramayana The Divine Loophole
Author/Illustrator: Sanjay Patel
Self Readers: 5+
How can I talk about Ramayana and not talk about this book?! The key attraction for our family in this book are the illustrations. Sanjay Patel has used vector point illustrations to translate his sketches in to digital format using adobe illustrator. Four years of hard work, each page taking approximately seven days to finish and the result is this vibrant 185 page eye candy. I literally drooled. I have never see Ramyana illustrated like this before. Considering that this book came at the time, I was struggling to translate some of my sketches in to digital format using illustrator and photoshop and was throughly frustrated with the result, my respect for the book doubled. And of course, Sanjay Patel saying that Rama kneeled before Sita’s feet asking her forgiveness for having suspected her faithfulness and the authors note that ‘Times have changed, as have customs, but love has always been complicated’ agreed well with me

The tone of the book is very casual and the target audience is definitely the ‘non-hindu but is curious about the monkey god and such’ category. So if you are seeking deep spiritual advice and an insight in to hinduism then you are barking up the wrong tree.

Both my daughters love looking at the pictures in this book. They can sit for a good hour, just turning the glossy pages, absorbing the pictures.

My only gripe is about the illustration of Ravanan. In order to make him symmetrical Sanjay Patel took poetic license and shows only nine heads. In my humble opinion, Ravanan = ten heads. End of discussion.


Choxbox said...

Awesome review utbt.

Vyasa's Mahabharata and Hanuman's Ramayana -totally fresh take on the great epics. Not just the kids but also my parents LOVED them. We had a sort of 'epics quiz' after we read them, with the grandees vs. the kids and me the moderator. No prize for guessing who won :)

utbtkids said...

The moderator?? :)

Vibha said...

Where can I get the Sanjay Patel's book from ? I am planning a trip to the bookstore today, will look for it. I read his interview in Hindu once and got really interested in the same.

utbtkids said...

If you are in the US, Amazon.

If you are in India, Flipkart

sandhya said...

What fun! co-incidentally, I also put up a post on Hanuman's Ramayan, courtesy review copy from Tulika books.

And I agree with you that it is so much more fun for the children to be read a book in their mother-tongue if the book uses the spoken language. Funnily enough, this book had a marathi closer to our spoken marathi than in many other marathi books for children, although A found quite a lot of words she did not immediately understand. See my post here:

Vibha said...

Thanks. Will order thro' flipkart.

Choxbox said...

btw, have you read samhita arni's mahabharata: a child's view?

sandhya said...

Yes, we have that, chox. It is wonderful how that child has understood the Mahabharata so well, and written it so lucidly for children. Hats off to her mother- not only for the inputs she must have put in, but also because it says in the book that a lot of the book was dictated by Samhita and written down by her mother.

Vibha said...

Hey, I just picked the Samhita Arni's book today. I read the preface there and could not leave it.

I read 'Palace of Illusions' first, written (by Chitra banerjee Divakaruni) from Draupadi's point of view. Liked it immensely especially the parts where Krishna is in the picture.

Then read 'Difficulty of being good' by Gurcharan Das. A wonderfully written book and especially the parts on Yudhishthir and about sva-dharma and sadharan dharma. I would strongly recommend this book.

Now a child's view on Mahabharatha.
Will start it right away.

SoulSpace said...

each review surpasses the other
keep them coming

especially as epics/myths are my fav
def. going to add all this to my collection....soon

Artnavy said...

Vyasa's Mahabharata is a favourite took Anush a couple of readings to fully understand it...

Choxbox said...

Oh and here are two more:
Ramayana for Children by Bulbul Sharma, published by Penguin Books
The Puffin Mahabharata by Namita Gokhale

Both were liked by the tester here.

sandhya said...

Chox, Puffin Mahabharata by Namita Gokhale has been lonlisted for the Vodafone Awards.

sandhya said...


utbtkids said...

Sandhya, I read you review. I loved reading A's comments.

Chox, haven't read Arni's Mahabaratha. But speaking of teenage ariter's I am reading Parthiban's Dream by Nirupama Raghavan. Kids these days are amazing :)

Vibha, I like Palace of Illusions too. It was my first experience of reading Mahabaratha retold through another perspective, so I was super thrilled.

Between all the comments, the suggestions are pouring. Love it.

Art, the illustrations are definitely on the cute side. Must make it appealing to the kids.

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