My Paati’s Saris

Penguin/Kokila. Nov. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593324608.
K-Gr 3–Glorious fabrics unwind before a small boy’s eyes as his grandmother pulls sari after sari from an elaborate wardrobe. “My paati’s saris are stories./ They whisper the name/ of where they were made and/ how they came to be./ Peacocks preening,/ lotus blooms peeking,/ elephants parading/ —my paati’s saris call to me.” In Gopal’s remarkable South Asian sensory journey, the boy follows her to market, where the fragrant spices call to him, in descriptions that evoke scents and sounds for readers; of peddlers shouting, and a constant swirl of color beautifully limned and expanded upon in Twink’s luminously painted illustrations, with backgrounds and foreground patterns like textiles themselves. These foreshadow an uplifting moment of family unity and support at the end. First, the narrator is shown draping a sari like a hood around his head in the third spread, gazing at himself in the mirror. In one of the last scenes, his paati begowns him in a full sari, and both male and female relatives welcome him in this garb: “I twirl/ and sway…/ They see me./ ME.” This view of a culture where the gender binary is expressed more fluidly is a welcome and subtle celebration of the shelter the boy finds in both the sari and family.
VERDICT An expression of love threaded into the weave and weft of a boy’s yearning, this recommended purchase should be on the shelves for use in cross-generational units, LGBTQIA+ acceptance, and cultural awareness.

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