CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 6 . . . . October 14, 2016
This picture book offers a well-meant, but less-than-totally-successful, glimpse into one aspect of South Asian culture and belief.
Ammi (Mama) wears a bindi on her forehead, and her young son would like to have one too. A bindi, "a word from the Sanskrit meaning point or drop, is the red dot worn in the centre of the forehead, commonly by Hindu or Jain women." (Wikipedia definition). In fact, a bindi is worn only by women, but the male child depicted here is fascinated when he sees his mother with one.
Ammi has bindis in a variety of shapes and colours, and she puts a yellow one on the boy. As soon as it is in place, he feels an inner transformation, a sense of calm, even in face of the curious stares of other children. He keeps it on all the time, finding comfort in it day and night. Here's where the rhythm of the verse really takes second place to the idea that the author is trying to convey:
The short rhyming text from an author who has other publications as well as awards to her credit is a bit awkward. I am never sure why writers of books for the young feel they need to squeeze their ideas into lines that rhyme and scan when a prose style could be more effective, less forced.
The bright and luscious illustrations by Perera, a Toronto artist of Sri Lankan heritage, show the boy in day-to-day surroundings and isolate charming small details such as a foot with an ankle bracelet or the contents of a trinket drawer.
I think the intent of The Boy & the Bindi was to present to young readers the idea of meditation and the understanding of a symbol to represent a higher power, but the book would probably be most useful for discussion with primary children about cultural differences.
Recommended with Reservations.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children's librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.
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