Sari saves the day

Title: What did Nepo do with a sari?

Author: Benita Sen.

Art: Sekhar Mukherjee.

Publisher: Katha. 2013. Rs. 175.00.

Age level: Ages 6 to 10.

At first glance one may wonder what the rationale is for another book on the theme of a sari. However the theme is a very different one.  Nemo is a poor farmer and comes with a request to Dadu for an old shirt. But Dadu “often wore a frown, above his clean white cotton shirt, like a funny crown.” Would he respond to this request? Sure enough all that can be seen on Dadu’s face is shock and an impending scowl. Quick as a flash, Dadi comes in to provide the help. So what does Nemo do with the sari Dadi has given him? Read and find out! The characters are real and one can relate to the crotchety Dadu, the over-helpful Dadi, and the narrator with her mouth full of foaming tooth paste! Even the dog, the cat and the mouse, though usually seen as cliched characters, come up with a surprise

The art work is inventive and has mobility. In a single frame, we see multiple Nepos move from emotion to emotion as he approaches Dadu. Many details can be discovered on a second or third looking at each page. Spot Nepo’s belly button and the little fan Dadu carries as she walks out into the hot sun.

The story is in rhyme and works most of the time but there are parts where the rhythm seems to get broken. Perhaps more inventiveness with words might have helped. At the end is a section with some information about the sari with reference to ancient sculptures, paintings and a picture of weavers. While in itself it is interesting, it is not clear how it fits in with the format of the story or the age group. Perhaps the hope is that teachers may be spurred on to go into the history of the sari. It does not sit too well with the mood or tempo of the story.

This book is an animator’s delight. The child will revel in the flow of the pictures as they move the simple story along.

Usha Mukunda.     April 8th 2014