Friday, September 24, 2010

Cloud Tea Monkeys

4th sunday in September is Daughters' Day. Now for me every day is my daughter's day. But I had not reckoned with the power of peer pressure.

So daughter comes home from school armed with the information that it will be Daughters' Day this sunday, 26th Sept. "And what have you got for me?"  She will not be distracted by promises, as she knows I will already be having something ready, today being a friday.

Sigh! It is for such days, I think, I get books to give her 'later.' (Of course, books! That goes without saying.) So I dig into my kitty of books after suitably distracting her with homework. And I do come up with something suitable for a mother-daughter duo to savour, something wonderful that I wanted to share here.

Image Courtesy Amazon
Written by Mal Peet & Elspeth Graham
Illustrations by Juan Wijngaard
Published by Walker books
Ages 5+

Tashi is a little girl staying on the tea-growing slopes of the Himalayas, with her mother who works as a picker on the plantation. Her mother's basket which she puts on her back to put the tender tea shoots into is larger than Tashi.

Every morning, Tashi gets ready with her mother to go to work, with a hot cup of sweet tea, watching as the sun '...was coming (up): a light the colour of lemons was soaking into the sky and painting out the stars....As the stars went out, small squares of light appeared on the dark hillside above her: lamps were being lit in the village.'

Every day as her mother and the other women work, hard, back-breaking work that ends only after the sun has gone down, Tashi amuses herself with the monkeys who come down the mountains every day. They know her and trust her; the babies climb up on her and share her little food, and the mothers relax around her.

But now her mother is too ill to go to work, and if she does not work, they do not eat.

So Tashi picks up the (bigger than herself) basket, and goes with the other women to pick her share of tea. She is, however, too little to reach the very tips which have to be picked. Frightened of the loud, big Overseer, she starts to cry, not knowing what to do. How does she pick a whole basketful so that she can help her mother to pay for the doctor, the medicines and food?

The monkeys, who are her friends, and who trust her, help her out. And they never have to worry about picking tea again. How? That makes up the rest of this magical story, which ends like this:

'There are only three people in the world who drink Cloud Tea. One of them is a little old woman who is called the Empress of All the Known World and Other Bits That Have Not Been Discovered Yet. The other two are a retired tea-picker and her daughter, who live in a village among mountains whose tops are lost in clouds.'

A very heart-warming tale from the Himalayan regions of India. In a note at the end of the book, the authors write: 'Cloud Tea Monkeys is set in the past, but you can still buy "monkey-picked tea", though whether or not it is really picked by monkeys is another story again...'  

You know you have picked up a book that you will like from the minute you set eyes on it. The book is hardcover, with a jacket- an indicator that it is will be a keepsake, with full page, framed pictures in full-colour on one page corresponding to the story on the opposite page, where the  often lyrical text is also embellished with a relevant black-and-white sketch. Some of the paintings of the rolling tea plantations have a photographic quality as if painted from life.

Needless to say, the daughter was extremely pleased with this one!


Choxbox said...

Gasping S. What a lovely book this sounds!
Love the description of the morning light.

starry eyed said...

Where do you find these exquisite books! Sounds just breathtaking!

Meera Sriram said...

Heart-warming indeed. Very. Nice pick:)

sandhya said...

Thanks, Chox, Starry, Meera. Picked it up at Gangarams a few weeks back. Couldn't resist it.
Btw, it has been read and re-read, and re-re-read many times already. All aspects dissected.

Sunita (Poppy) said...

What a wonderful book! Amazing pick!

Zoe @ Playing by the book said...

This sounds so very lovely. I know Mal Peet from his chapter book about the Dutch resistance in the second world war (worth a read too) but I didn't know this book.

Praba Ram said...

The word cloudtea sounds divine! Now I cannot wait to hand pick this dreamy and magical tea story. Seems like a very special, keepsake one for you and your daughter. Thanks, S!

sandhya said...

Thanks, Sunita and Prabha. There is one illustration in the book where Tashi is cuddling up to her mother as she sleeps- A told me it is her favourite in the book. This one will certainly be a keepsake!

And Zoe! It is an honour to have you comment on my post! I think the book you are speaking of is Tamar, isn't it? I looked it up, and it seems like something right up my street- since it is based on WW2, and is my area of interest. Will certainly look for it. In fact, I discovered that both Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, who are a husband-wife team, have written quite a few books for children in the Oxford reading series, all of which sound very interesting.

Vibha said...

Lovely book and a great review Sandhya. Great pick.

Sheela said...

Quite a pick, Sandhya, lovely review as always.

the mad momma said...

wow... i got goosebumps just thinking of the story. you DO find the best books, S...

Choxbox said...

S, thanks for lending this book to us. It has been a super-duper hit esp’ly with the 5 year old. Has alreday been read several times. The descriptions - of teh sky - I just knew would have caught your eye :) It is one book that can be described as exquisite.

Have to get a copy now, as the kids were wondering if S Aunty 'has given this book to us’ (vs. having lent it) with great hope!

Choxbox said...

Reproducing something the 5-year old wrote today, had a tough time keeping a straight face at the 'love' and the 'p.s.':

Dear Empress,
I have got this tea from a young child. I do not know how she got it.
The Royal Tea-taster
p.s.: I hope you like the tea.

sandhya said...

Thanks Vibha, Sheela, the mad momma, chox.
@Choxbox: Glad the girls enjoyed the book. I picked this up at Sapna book house, and not Gangarams as I had said earlier. Had picked up stuff at both places within days of each other, and got confused.
Need I say that I'm in awe of your LB?

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