Readers familiar with a certain old lady who swallowed a fly will revel in this adaptation of a Rajasthani trickster tale.
Beautifully illustrated in a traditional finger-painting style called Mandna, practiced by the Meena tribe in Rajasthan, the black-and-white pictures on thick, tan paper are eye-catching in their graphic qualities. Ultimately, the art outshines the simple text, which is told in a cumulative rhyme that occasionally falters in its cadence. Despite this quibble, the picture book is a visual feast for readers as it depicts the gluttonous, lazy jackal who doesn’t want to hunt for his food and instead tricks a succession of animals into becoming his meal. When he is quite literally full-to-bursting, the picture depicts all of the animals he’s eaten within his “huge balloon” of a tummy. Mistakenly thinking that some water will help him, he drinks from a river—until “BLAMM! his poor tummy finally gave up…and BURST.” The animals tumble forth, alive and well, leaving jackal “as thin as a whip” and in search of a tailor bird to sew him up. Itself hand-sewn and bound (as well as -printed, as the ink smell wafting from the pages attests), this handsome volume is an art object in itself.
Though the story will feel familiar to Western readers, its fresh visual expression sets it far apart. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)