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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Flute, written by Rachna Gilmore and illustrated by Pulak Biswas. Tradewind Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2011. $16.95 ages 3 and up

"But every morning and evening, when she led the cows to the river, Chandra took the wooden flute, worn smooth by her mother's hands. She tried to play of the trees and the sky, but the flute sang of aching and loss."

Rachna Gilmore has created a new tale from the folklore tradition. It is set in India and tells readers Chandra's story. Chandra is a much loved child, whose parents' lives are lost during a monsoon. When she realizes the danger of the rising water, the mother pushes her daughter high into a tree. She cannot save herself.

But, before she is dragged downriver by the rushing waters, she is able to leave her flute with Chandra. Alone and lonely, the child is taken in by an uncle, who treats her with derision and great cruelty. It is the flute's music that keeps Chandra's spirits up, and keeps her mother in her heart. As she plays her music, she remembers the wonderful times they spent together, and the love they shared.

No one ensures that Chandra has the food that a growing girl needs. Soon, she is malnourished and dehydrated. It is the flute that provides for her...making food needed for her sustenance. Another time, it provides a rope that keeps the child safe from the rising waters that threaten to engulf her as they did her mother.

When Chandra's music attracts the attention of a couple who are bereft at the loss of their son in a flood,  they are soothed by it. They have heard such a flute in earlier times. Then, it sang of sadness; now, it brings the promise of hope and happiness. Adoption is the joy that brings a new life for Chandra. She is a strong and has proven herself worthy of a better way to spend her days, with love and comfort once more. We leave her with a sense of hopeful admiration for her resilience through tormenting times, and her love of the music passed to her from her mother.

I was interested in knowing more about Pulak Biswas, the book's illustrator. He is one of India's most well-known illustrators of children's books. He lives in Delhi and has been working in illustration for more than forty years, first in advertising and later as a freelance artist. Presently, his work is with children's books and his own painting. He loves this life!  His use of brilliant primary colors to adorn his mostly black and white artwork add vibrant life to this original tale.

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