Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Mother

Title: Earth Mother
Author: Ellen Jackson
Illustrator: Leo & Diane Dillon
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Age Group: 4-8

Mother Earth is Bhoodevi, bejeweled and fertile, in Hindu mythology. She is a young African woman in this book. Both epitomize Earth, like a mother - gentle, beautiful, giving.

Earth Mother wakes up and walks across deserts and mesas, touching the lives of bugs, flowers and birds. Soon she meets Man. Man is preparing to catch a frog for breakfast. He thanks Mother for Frog. But he goes on to complain about the Mosquito that annoys him. Nonchalantly, Earth Mother moves on to savannas and plains, tending and caring for her creations on the way.

She filled the water holes and sharpened the thornbushes. Her hand guided a sunbird to a blossom sweet with nectar.

In the north, Earth Mother powdered the trees with snow. Tiny crystals gleamed in the air like diamond dust.

The depth and beauty with which the writing evokes calmness and vigor, that ultimately creates a sense of wonder (for nature), is accomplished in childish simplicity in this book.

Moving on, Mother meets Frog biting into an insect. Frog while thanking her for the Mosquito, whines about Man. Interspersed with these encounters is Earth Mother devoutly "touching" things and lives, in different forms and places. The final meeting with the Mosquito follows the pattern. But Mother walks on unperturbed.

Then she went to sleep....And the world, in its own way, was perfect.

The illustrations meet the standards of the text with an additional quality of mystique. Colorful but in a muted way, a plethora of geometric patterns work in harmony with many diverse landscapes and creatures.

Ellen Jackson's talent is distinct in her attempt to keep the subtle humor intact and apt in the midst of an overwhelming serenity. The circle of life cannot be more interestingly explained to children. And when a book leaves one convinced and spell bound, it is a good piece of work.

There is more information, educational stuff and ideas for Earth Day celebration for children on the author's website here.

Salutations to Earth and her children - man and all things living and lifeless. May we share her and protect her in kind ways. Happy Earth Day!

This book reminded my family of a lovely Native American chant we learnt at a music class, that also ended up as a lullaby for a long time for us. You can listen to, or watch it here. I have also added the lyrics below.

The Earth is our Mother
adapted from a Hopi chant

The earth is our mother, we must take care of her (2x)
Hey yana ho yana hey yan yan (2x)

Her sacred ground we walk upon, with every step we take (2x)
Hey yana ho yana hey yan yan (2x)

The earth is our mother, she will take care of us (2x)
Hey yana ho yana hey yan yan (2x)

The sky is our father, we must take care of him...
The rivers are our sisters, we must take care of them...
The trees are our brothers, we must take care of them...


Praba Ram said...

Sounds like a very wholesome , quietly conveying the message kind of book.And a perfectly pitched one from always! :) Greatly enjoyed browsing the author's page. Will go back to it later sometime.

For an off-the-cuff side-note, reading the "man complaining about mosquito" line, Why mosquitoes buzz in people's ears?, reviewed for CROCUS 2009 by T popped in my head. Read it again, and interestingly, illustrated by the same Dillons. Nice COI! :)

Sheela said...

Lovely review, M! You are so right - there is a sense of calmness and peace, as if all's right as they should be, as we read about Earth Mother going about her day.

I liked Leo&Diane Dillons' illustrations (of Why Mosquitoes Buzz..., Two Little Trains).

Ana had a few questions - like, do people really eat frogs? She also studied the illustrations closely pointing out the different shawls Earth Mother wears in each picture (fringed with falling rain!). The end was a bit puzzling for Ana - "then she went to sleep" - does Earth Mother really sleep? what happens to us when she sleeps? and so on... quite a lovely book - subtle and gentle.

Oh, and yes, it is a favorite to sing Earth is our mother... esp. the Hey "ana", ho "ana" part as Of thinks it involves his sister somehow :)

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