14 June 2010

Book of the Week (65): "Laghu, the Clever Crow", by Bhavit Mehta, illustrated by Carol Liddiment

The newly established Saadhak Books has the tagline ‘Bringing timeless Indian wisdom to children of all cultures’. This book, Laghu the Clever Crow, is the first of their Granny Geeta series and is their first publication.

The story of Laghu is taken from a collection of animal fables, written in Sanskrit in the 3rd century BCE (so it is estimated), though it is believed the stories originated long before this and were passed on by storytellers. The tale of Laghu and the doves is also found in fables from other cultures.

Traditionally in the Indian Subcontinent the grandmother is the chief storyteller and Granny Geeta is the fictional embodiement of a good storytelling grandmother. She retells old tales and fables using her insight and humour to breathe life into them and deliver their message.

Here Granny Geeta tells her Grandson the story of Laghu the clever crow and how he rescues the doves. It is a simple tale highlighting that things should not be judged on how they appear. Straight-forwardly written and easy to read aloud I can imagine parents (or grandparents) reading it to children by the fireplace. The illustrations are bright and colourful – they certainly reminded me of Southern India and made me smile.

Saadhak Books look set to put Indian picture books on our shelves (where they have been previously lacking), repackaging traditional fables and tales in an accessible familiar picture book format, to introduce children to different cultures through simple stories. I wonder what tale Granny Geeta will share next…

Recommended by Tessa Brechin

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