With elements reminiscent of many different stories, this original tale features a beloved young girl named Chandra (moon in Hindi) who loses her parents in a terrible flood during monsoon season.
The Cinderella-like orphan is grudgingly taken in by her mean aunt and uncle, but she is denied adequate food and forced to work hard. Her only pleasure is playing her mother’s flute, put into her hands as her parents saved her from the raging river, but her cruel relatives take the little instrument. Chandra, who never loses hope, hears the flute and begins to find a daily meal of rice, lentils and eggplant. As everyone else starves during the drought-ridden season, she is accused of using “unholy magic,” and her uncle purposely pushes her into the next monsoon’s floodwaters. Miraculously, the flute sounds again, and the girl follows its sound until a rope pulls her to safety and into the hearts of a new set of loving parents. The dramatic illustrations create a strong, rural south Indian setting, with their quick black lines, almost-solid black bodies and bold use of red and blue, with just a hint of yellow for the moon. A traditional tale’s comeuppance for (and possible forgiveness of) the evil relatives is missing here, though, resulting in a narrative that feels incomplete.The thin story is mostly redeemed by the vigorous illustrations. (Picture book. 6-8)