In Uma Krishnaswami's Monsoon, young readers are set down in the world of a young Indian girl, waiting for the monsoon rains to come to her home in the northern part of the country. The summer is a hot and dusty one, and the family cannot wait for the rains to come and scrub all the grit and grime from the air. Though they know the rains are not long in coming, still the intensity of the heat builds, and with it the worry that this will be the year the rains don't come. The girl reads the fears in the faces of the adults around her. Even the slightest rumble makes all faces turn to the sky, searching for signs that the clouds are gathering. When at last the weather turns, the sky breaks open and the sweet rain comes, making the girl and her family burst with pure and perfect joy.
This is a beautifully written and illustrated book, one that reflects a view of India that's inclusive and unique. The girl and her family aren't poverty-stricken, they aren't beggars waiting to be saved. Rather, they're just people like those in any other culture, held captive by the weather and waiting for sweet relief from the summer's intensity. Krishnaswami uses evocative imagery, poetry really, to tell her story. Readers will fairly swoon as she describes the heat and grit in the air, then celebrate with the family as rain finally arrives. And the artwork by Jamel Akib is perfectly suited to the tone of the story, with a hazy softness that builds the emotion even as the family wonders and worries about the rains.
As a family story, Monsoon is just as fully realized, with the strong and reassuring relationships among family members emphasized throughout. An added bonus is the author's note at the end, explaining the importance of the monsoon and the people's deep connectivity to the weather of their region. As with the best title, Monsoon is story, character and setting all drawn together in a gorgeous picture book that makes a great addition to any library.
Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami, published by Farrar Straus Giroux
Sample: "Evening falls. I watch the faces on TV. Old and young, poor and rich, all across India, we wait for rain. The heat makes me feel like a crocodile crouching snap-jawed."
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