A communal effort reunites a lost child with her mother in this invitingly told and illustrated import.
On their weekly outing to buy vegetables, young Bela suddenly loses sight of her quick-moving mother. Her cries attract a boy with a goat (the goat also bleats “Ma!”), a tightrope walker and others who link hands to form a chain of helpers: “ ‘I see her Ma, she is walking near the peepal tree!’ ‘He sees her Ma near the peepal tree!’ ‘Her Ma! Peepal tree!’ ” With each Ma spotting, she runs from one landmark to another until at last she hears her name called. Bela’s “I found her!” and “Thank you!” pass back down the line as she rejoins her mother at the iced-lolly cart, and the two stroll home together. Using warm reds and golds as predominant colors, Gupta depicts uncrowded market scenes from, often, elevated angles so that Bela and her mother are both visible to viewers. Bela wears a spotted shift and her mother, a blue and yellow “saree”; other figures display a similar mix of modern and traditional garb. Bela’s plight is taken seriously, but the overall tone is relaxed. It’s lightened further by visual parallels between the delicate curlicues in the roofs and walls of the long rows of market stalls and the extravagantly curled mustaches sported by most of the men.
A few moments of distress capped by a happy ending and an iced lolly—all stories should end so well. (Picture book. 5-7)