Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day of Delight

Day of Delight
A Jewish Sabbath in Ethiopia
Maxin Rose Schur
Illustrations by Brian Pinkney

When asked about Ethiopia, I can only think of coffee, Haile Gebrselassie(the incredible marathon runner) and music. Little did I know that it is a country as diverse and ancient as India. This landlocked country nearer to Asia was once home to a group of black Jews called Falasha(strangers in Ethiopian). Most of them seem to have now moved to Israel.

This wonderful book is a story of a day in the life of these people - their culture, their traditions, food and livelihood. The book is choc-a-bloc with details that is sometimes over-whelming. I had to stop every once in a while to go online to find out more about what is being described in the book. If we take a small excerpt from the book, one can understand the details incorporated -

"Today she has much to do. Besides making jugs, she must sweep the hut with horsehair broom, prepare wat, our peppery chicken stew, and bake dabo, our white Sabbath bread. Simcha kneels in the dirt beside her, scratching alphabet letters with a sycamore twig" -

In that one sentence, one gets know what the women do when the men folk are out working(making jugs/clay items), what food is cooked(wat and dabo), how their homes are cleaned(horsehair broom) and what are plants/trees around them (sycamore). There is more if you follow the accompanying illustration - it shows the mother working on a making a clay pot and a kid writing alphabets (Ge'ez alphabets - one of the oldest forms of written scripts) on the dry, brown earth.

Imagine every line and illustration of these 32 pages book, working together to give us a complete glimpse of the life of these people. At times, one could mistake the book to be a non-fiction book. And this is good! In order to give a glimpse of history and culture of some region, nothing works better than a non-fiction book disguised as a fiction book.

Th book is about a kid called Menelick, his family and his extended family, the village. They are woken up early one morning with drums informing them that Sabbath, the day of Delight, is starting at sun-down. Menelick and his father, a black smith, go to work early; while is mother and younger brother Simcha helps around in the house. The whole village retires early that evening, in order to meet at the synagogue at the top of the mountain next day morning.

The illustrations - one look at them and one could only shake the head in amazement. The illustrations look very different and unique. It would make you wonder why are there so many distinct white lines? The answer lies in the technique that Brian Pinkney uses. He uses a technique called scratchboard drawing. His website explains it all - "Rather than adding black lines or paint to a white canvas or paper, he subtracts; it's almost like drawing in reverse. Starting with a white board covered in black ink, Brian uses sharp tools to scratch away the ink to expose the white board below, creating white lines that emerge to form the image he is trying to portray. ".

A wonderful book, a great stop over for CROCUS as we deal with variety of multi-cultural books.


Tharini said...

Wow. Wow. Wow. I can see your intense involvement with this book, as you've tried to convey everything that makes it stand out.

Amazed at the technique that he uses, which I am hearing about for the first time. Wow.

sathish said...

Tharini, Everything in the book was different - the content is not something that one hears about and the illustrations and their technique is also very different.

It is a big fav in home. Ranjani and the kids enjoy it as much - does not happen that often that all of us like the same book!

ranjani.sathish said...

Oh yeah I agree this book is currently my favourite at home ! The book is so beautiful, simple and honest. As Sathish mentioned, it has their festival tradition, day to day lifetsyle patterns, various occupations of the village people...everything woven into it.

I was so amazed by the illustrations. They are indeed beautiful and unique. Every day this book has to be read to my 4 yr old daughter atleast once !

sandhya said...

Wow, Satish, this book has really capturedour attention. Is is available at the library?

The illustration technique reminds me of something we saw in a how-to book about art- Mix glue in colour and paint the entire page. Then working very quickly with an empty ballpoint refill, scratch out the entire drawing and then let it set.

SoulSpace said...

Seems very informative...
kids too must enjoy learning/knowing all these new words...

Meera Sriram said...

Seems like a complete package. The bit on the illustration was informative and impressive. Will look for this one just for that.
Ethiopia reminds me of their "injera" and side dishes (just like our dosa and chutneys:)

Sheela said...

What an awesome book, thanks for the pick, Satish! That one sentence you quoted simply captures the day and life so beautifully.

Aside: Apple doesn't fall far from the tree! (If I am not mistaken Brian's dad Jerry Pinkney, illustrator extraordinaire, is someone we've shared here in ST before)

sathish said...

Sheela, did not realise Jerry and Brian Pinkney are related.

Awesome father and son illustrators.

artnavy said...

The art technique does sound very intriguing...there is somuch learning from such books for us adults as well....

Poppins said...

Awesome book. Satish is this available at the library?

sathish said...

artnavy, true.

Poppins, I bought it in a seconds book sale. sorry. I do not think it is present in our library.

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