The Katha Chest

Salaam Reads. Feb. 2022. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781665903905.
PreS-Gr 2–Asiya knows that inside her nanu’s house, there is a treasure chest. It is the katha chest, filled with quilts her Nanu made out of old saris. As Asiya examines each quilt, she thinks of the women the saris once belonged to and the stories that define their unique strengths. While Asiya does not narrate, the text has a simplicity evocative of childhood, focusing primarily on her sensory exploration of the katha quilts. After Asiya introduces each quilt, along with a brief reference to the woman who wore the sari, the following page spread conveys the woman’s story in four highly detailed wordless panels. For example, the panels show a woman wearing the sari; holding her three worried children close to her pregnant belly as her husband strides away bearing the flag of Bangladesh; cradling her newborn and older children within her sari, while an image above shows shadowy figures firing guns; and the husband returned to his smiling family, holding the youngest child and wearing a medal. Many of the panels portray serious issues such as war and death. Most young readers will need the guidance of an adult, and for that reason the book may be best suited to one-on-one reading. The volume of significant visual details, many specific to Bangladeshi culture, mean this book can be explored at multiple levels. Educators can simply enjoy a vibrant story about family, or use the book to discuss the impact of trauma and the power of resilience.
VERDICT This engaging and colorful celebration of the legacy of strength shared by women is recommended for general purchase.

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