CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 20. . . . January 26, 2018
A lovely dedication introduces a story based on the allegorical Sikh tale of Vaisakhi:
In a South Asian land, the actions of a “ruthless emperor” have brought about hard times. The harvest has failed, and the peasants fear that the seeds left are tainted. A swooping bird (a “baaj”) comes down and carries off a number of the seeds, some of which end up secret location we later learn is Anandpur.
The wealthy have retreated to the safety of the hills, so the abandoned poor, looking for hope, try to track the bird’s flight.
This passage shows the meandering river leading to distant grey-blue hills, with a compass rose prettily ringed with leaves and flowers in the corner pointing us north.
Now the feeling is brighter and more optimistic. The seeds still appear wizened and useless, but a gentle figure, Mother Love in the City of Happiness, believes they can bear fruit. One by one, pilgrims plant them to engender Kindness, Fairness, Courage, Determination, and, finally, Warrior of Change.
The book is based on a traditional legend, and two pages of back matter explain a lot about Vaisakhi and the Sikh religion, but I found the text hard to follow in places. In the author’s attempt to write in a poetic fashion, from time to time meaning is obscured. For example, “Bleary shadows loomed from the fog, eager to poke the cinders of misfortune.” And, “In the confusion, the ever-expanding crowd shared the earth to sit side by side one another, never knowing whom the other might be.”
Author Navjot Kaur is a former teacher, better known for her work in the United Kingdom than in North America. The message-laden text (near the end we also have the explanation for the wearing of the turban and the beginning of the use of Kaur, for females, and Singh, for males, in every Sikh name) is much aided by the beautiful watercolour illustrations. Delicate washes of green, taupe and apricot, detailed embellishments featuring natural objects like seeds and blossoms, and all the human figures clad in traditional Sikh dress are a keystone to understanding the tale. There is a great deal of white space to set off the individual tableaux.
Saffron Press is a small independent published located in Ontario with the mission statement “dedicated to inspiring citizens of change”.
Recommended with Reservations.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.