King and Inglese return for the seventh book in their geographical-literacy series for young children, this time visiting India.
Mila wakes to the cries of the peacocks at dawn and goes downstairs to the kitchen of the family home in Jaipur, which is “so big my parents rented rooms to tourists.” Sari-clad Maa packs lunch (biryani), and then blue-jumpered Mila hops into the tuk-tuk, in which her uncle drives her to school. There, she greets her friends in Hindi, but classes are conducted primarily in English. In the afternoon, she visits her gem-merchant Baba in the bazaar and then meets a friend for a Bollywood movie. After a curry dinner, she does her homework and then heads to bed. As in previous books, Inglese provides mixed-media illustrations in muted palettes, positioning her characters within and against photo-collaged scenes of bustling streets, peaceful courtyards, and such sights as the Raj Mandir movie theater and the massive Hawa Mahal palace (rendered “Hawa Maha” in the text). Though there is no express mention of it in the narration, Mila’s family hints at India’s ethnic tapestry, with skin tones that range from light to dark. A substantial author’s note provides some historical context as well as touching on some of India’s ethnic and economic complexities. Mila’s narration appears in Hindi above English text on every page.
Though it’s necessarily oversimplified, it’s still a sweet introduction to one part of modern India. (Picture book. 5-8)