Diwali, the festival of lights, is one of the largest Hindu festivals, and it’s celebrated all around the world; this nonfiction board book presents its sights, sounds, and celebrations.
Each page of brief, often rhyming text is paired with a vivid photograph depicting wide-eyed toddlers and young children of the Indian diaspora, with dark hair and skin of varying shades of brown. These photographs are the best feature of this book. The text, as narrated by an adult to a young child, talks about the various aspects of the Diwali celebration, including new clothes, prayers, henna, sweets, firecrackers. It occasionally reads awkwardly, and readers may have to hunt for rhymes: “Buy diyas, candles / and paper lanterns.// Henna for hands / and rangoli sand.” With its focus on very young children, the book shows how Diwali is celebrated rather than why. However, notably absent is the holiday’s important community aspect. And although there are multiple mentions of diyas, these beautiful clay lamps that are a highlight of this festival are neither depicted nor explained; neither are such other specialized vocabulary as “jaan” or “rangoli.” A short note at the back of the book gives a smidge more information for older children. There are not many board books for very young kids on this topic, and this one is not everything it could have been.
The photographs carry this board book even though the presentation and text disappoint. (Board book. 2-4)