An Indian mother’s tales of her mischievous rural childhood are almost too magical to believe.
In the intricate world woven by an 11-and-½-year-old child’s mother, bicycles pedal themselves, shadows become friendly ghosts, hyenas haunt the fields, and insects predict the weather. Amma’s descriptions of her exploits in the southern Indian village where she grew up walk a thin line between fact and fiction, and the narrator is never quite sure what is truth and what is exaggeration. Only one thing is certain: Whether she is plucking feathers off of a live peacock or throwing herself into a river before she knows how to properly swim, Amma’s courage and curiosity are the driving forces behind all of her fantastical adventures. By the end, the narrator wishes that they, too, lived in a place as interesting as Amma’s village. The book is written as a dialogue between a mother and child, and its conversational tone makes it suitable for both read-alouds and independent reading. The narrator’s voice is charming, as are the pen-and-ink illustrations and the cleverly designed text, which uses various fonts to emphasize key words in the narrative. Amma’s fearless and empowered personality is particularly refreshing to read, as is the book’s portrayal of rural India as a fascinating place bursting with possibility instead of an impoverished backwater in need of Western intervention.
A beautifully designed and expertly narrated introduction to childhood in the southern Indian countryside. (Fiction. 10-12)