Asha and the Toymaker

Kids Can. Oct. 2023. 40p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781525306662.
PreS-Gr 3–This picture book represents the beauty of India through color and pattern choices in the illustrations. The simple text introduces Asha and her family, then expands to a story of love and artistry. Papa creates amazing wooden toys to sell at the market to help provide for his family, but sometimes, Asha explains, he doesn’t sell a single toy. Readers are immediately able to identify why that might be, as his beautiful though plain wooden toys are starkly contrasted with the bright colors and vivid patterns at the market. Because of Papa’s past poverty, he wants Asha to concentrate on her studies and on creating a better life than he had as a child. He encourages her to focus more on school and less on painting, but Asha wants to prove to Papa that her art is not a waste of time and help him be a success. Mangal perfectly paces the story, all the while showing the strength of a family and the tenacity of a child; the text introduces a few Hindi words such as lakdi ki kathi and damaru. The pictures show representation of different skin tones and abilities, while also capturing the atmosphere of an Indian market.
VERDICT With a well-told story whose simple illustrations convey complex emotions, this book will be a great addition to any library.

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