Grandfather Gandhi

GANDHI, Arun & . illus. by Evan Turk. 48p. S & S/Atheneum. Mar. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442423657; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442450820. LC 2011033058.
Gr 1–3—Mahatma Gandhi, as seen through the eyes of one his grandsons, is depicted in this picture-book biography as a loving grandfather and a revered figure. Twelve-year-old Arun and his family have come to live in his bapu's "service village," which is a great honor, but is also hard for young Arun, who must share his grandfather with so many others demanding his time and attention. The boy frets over the difficulty of living up to the expectations that carrying the name Gandhi entails, and when a disagreement during a soccer game sparks his anger, Arun seeks out his wise and loving grandfather for comfort and advice. This is less a biography of a famous leader and more of an ode to a great man by an adoring grandson. While background details are left intentionally vague, i.e., the family's reasons for moving to India, memories of Gandhi himself are sharp and specific, lending an air of intimacy. The accompanying artwork is stunning, the use of mixed media collage is effective and beautiful, with varying perspectives and intriguing materials on display on every page. With so many biographies about Gandhi published recently, this one stands out for its unique point of view and gorgeous art, and makes a fine supplement to any collection.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, Arun, who angers easily, feels he will never live up to the Gandhi name. Gandhi explains that he, too, feels anger but has learned to channel it for good. Unusual for its child-centered portrait of Gandhi, the graceful narrative is matched by vivid mixed-media illustrations, rendered in watercolor, paper collage, cotton fabric, yarn, gouache, pencil, tea, and tinfoil.
A visit to a grandfather's home in another country can have its ups and downs even in an ordinary family. But Arun faces some special challenges because his grandfather is Mahatma Gandhi. It's hard enough to go from his comfortable home in 1945 South Africa, where he enjoys watching John Wayne movies and playing cops and robbers with his friends, to the quiet village of Sevagram, India, where his grandfather lives simply, surrounded by 350 followers who seek to follow the Mahatma's example. Arun, who gets fidgety during prayers and who angers easily while playing soccer with village children, feels he will never live up to the Gandhi name. After he confides this to his grandfather, Gandhi tells Arun that he, too, often feels anger but that he has learned to channel it for good, just as electricity can destroy or give light. Unusual for its child-centered and intimate portrait of Gandhi (we learn, for example, that he smelled like peanut oil), the graceful narrative is nearly outdone by the vivid mixed-media illustrations, rendered in watercolor, paper collage, cotton fabric, cotton, yarn, gouache, pencil, tea, and tinfoil. The cotton yarn, handspun on an Indian book charkha, gives the pictures such a three-dimensional look that one feels as though it could be plucked right off Gandhi's spinning wheel. But it's more than just an attractive effect -- the yarn becomes a visual metaphor for anger channeled into light. kathleen t. horning

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