This Indian import traces the life and work of the social reformer Bhimrao “Bhim” Ambedkar as he fought for the rights of lower-caste people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Even as a child, Bhim is aware that the world he lives in is “like a ladder” and that he (like the other people in his caste) occupies the lowest rung. Bhim is considered an “Untouchable”; this means that they cannot eat with people from higher castes, drink from the same wells, swim in the same ponds, or even be touched. Despite the numerous obstacles placed in his path, Bhim studies hard and wins a scholarship to a school in the United States. He also studies law in London and, upon his return, fights for the basic human rights of his people. The picture book concludes with a timeline of Ambedkar’s life and a brief explanation of caste, which clarifies that “practicing untouchability is illegal” and that those formerly called Untouchables are today called Dalits. Gade’s brushy watercolors brim with energy and even humor. Rajendran’s text and Gade’s depiction of culturally familiar images, however, seem aimed primarily at an Indian audience living in India, and North American audiences unfamiliar with the context will need some help. They may also be struck at the strong implication that social inequalities exist only in India.
(Picture book/biography. 5-10)