________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 7. . . .October 21, 2016


Diwali: Festival of Lights. (Orca Origins).

Rina Singh.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2016.
96 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $24.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1007-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1008-2 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1009-9 (epub).

Subject Heading:
Diwali-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Inderjit Deogun.

**˝ /4

Reviewed from F&Gs.



Internationally published children’s author Rina Singh helms Diwali, the second book in the “Orca Origins” series, which examines how ancient traditions are celebrated in our modern world. Singh, a daughter of a Hindu mother and a Sikh father, celebrated Diwali in India with great enthusiasm but admits “for many years after leaving India, Diwali lost its luster.” Only after her daughter, Amrita, asked what Diwali was did Singh take the steps necessary to reconnect with her roots.

     Like Passover: Festival of Freedom, the first in the series, Diwali is divided into four chapters:

What is Diwali?
The History of Indian Immigration
The Evolution of Diwali
Diwali Around the World

     Each chapter of the book, which focuses on the Hindu, Sikh and Jain religions, is overflowing with information. Words that relate directly to each of the faiths, as well as the festival itself, can be found in italics throughout. The inclusion of stories that are both heartbreaking and inspiring will most certainly propel parents to share their own experiences of the festival with their children. Since Diwali embodies the triumph of good over evil, Singh doesn’t shy away from showcasing the darkness, such as the SS Komagata Maru incident of 1914.

"The ship was kept three kilometers (two miles) away from the harbor, and only the Japanese crew was allowed to come and go. The passengers were told repeatedly to turn around and go back, but they refused. As a punishment, and to make them go back of their own will, only minimal supplies of food and water were sent to the passengers. The situation on the ship worsened. Starvation and unsanitary conditions made the passengers restless, rebellious and ill.”

     Unfortunately, the book fails to address the faults of the first in the series: Some of the full-colour photographs and illustrations are still too small as are their corresponding captions. One striking instance is the illustration of Guru Hargobind's release which is central to the Sikh Diwali. A larger image would more clearly demonstrate the impact of the Guru's manoeuver to outsmart Emperor Jahangir. Though numerous sidebars, quotes and recipes are found in each chapter and provide a mountain of information, several are laid out ineffectively. An example is the double-page spread pertaining to Rama's Legend because the eye doesn't know where to rest first. This works to the detriment of the book because the reading experience ends up being both jarring and unsatisfying.

     Though Diwali is an informative read, the book tries to do too much. As such, it functions more like an encyclopaedia than a general information chapter book.


Inderjit Deogun is a communications professional in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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