A village girl in India follows her inclinations and becomes an artist, in spite of her upbringing in a very poor family.
Devi, a woman from the state of Bihar, has illustrated her life story with Mithila folk-art paintings that employ bold patterns of parallel black lines, swirling shapes and intense solid colors. The straightforward text in Devi’s voice tells of her childhood and her hard work in the rice fields and the marketplace. Unschooled, she is doomed to be a cleaner in someone else’s home. When she finds work at an artist’s house, her creative yearnings find an outlet, and an artist is born. In an afterword, Devi is described as combining community traditions with modern themes, and her double-page spread of “Raju Ice Creame Wala” (“The Ice-Cream Man”) surrounded by eager children in traditional dress, under a spreading leafy tree with a highly decorated trunk, is the best example of this synthesis. The paintings, based on traditional floor and wall decorations, have been commercialized, but they also provide a way for rural women to make a living. Devi’s story has been put into written form by Wolf, but it is the paintings that stand out here.
While it will be inspirational to young readers who may be exploring their own talents, this is probably of greater interest to adult folk-art lovers. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)