Wednesday, November 14, 2007

J 294.52 (The Ramayana)

It all started because I wanted to read something scary without necessarily reading something "Halloween-y." It was the week before Halloween and the library shelves had slim pickings for anyone wanting a genuine Halloween story. So....I brought home Linda Ashman's The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner David Small. In rhyme, the author describes 13 mythical beasts from around the world. At our house, Ravana, demon king of the Rakshasas quickly became the favorite. With his ten heads and 20 arms, what little boy could resist him? Next thing I know, big brother is on the phone to Nana asking her to accompany him to India. "Just to look, Nana." Because, of course, Ravana is far too dangerous to approach."Now Nana, if we see Ravana and I say let's go, what are you going to do? Good. Let's practice. Let's go! Now, what do you do! Very good!" We watched Alfonso Cuaron's version of A Little Princess which frames Sara Crewe's story with portions of the Ramayana, drawing parallels between the two. (I'll admit that the movie is truer to the Shirley Temple movie of 1939 than to the original book, but Cuaron is a genius. His use of color and imagery take both this movie and the third Harry Potter movie to another level. But I digress.)

The next step was a trip to the library for books on India, the Ramayana, and maps (to figure out how to get there, of course). I am always up for the teachable moment, so off we went. I can recommend Hanuman: based on Valmiki's Ramayana retold by Erik Jendresesn and Joshua M. Greene for a child-friendly but detailed retelling of the story; little brother prefers Jessica Souhami's Rama and the Demon King, a simpler retelling with bold shadow puppet style illustrations. The Hindu festival of Diwali was this past week -- a great time to introduce this ancient story to your eager readers.

NB: Big brother has decided to be Ravana for Halloween next year. Feel free to contact me if you have any idea how to fit 9 more heads on a first grader's shoulders!

No comments: