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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Rumor, written by Anushka Ravishankar and illustrated by Kanyika Kini. Tundra, 2012. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"I was coming from the town,
From the town,
From the town,
It was warm and beautiful
When suddenly I coughed -
Cough! Cough!
Cough! Cough!
And out came a white, downy

Did you ever play 'telephone' with your home or at school? One person starts the message and it is whispered person to person, until the last to receive it speaks it aloud. I'm not sure what you called it, but we loved playing it and delighted in the often totally changed message.

In this book about gossip and rumors, and set in India, we meet Pandurang. He is rarely happy, always scowling and grumbling about something. You know what happens to people like that. Soon, no one wanted to be in his company.

Then one day, he coughed up a white feather. He gave the news to his wife, and begged her not to tell anyone what had happened. Anyone who knows how story works will know just exactly what follows. As his experience is passed from one person to the next, it undergoes subtle, and not so subtle, changes. In fact, with each new telling of the tale it becomes grander and grander until:

"Very soon it was all around the village that
there was a forest growing in Pandurang's
mouth, and it was full of tigers, monkeys,
wolves, bears, and elephants, and that when
Pandurang opened his mouth and talked, out
flew parrots, mynahs, peacocks, koels, hoopoes,
woodpeckers, kingfishers...the list grew
longer and longer."

Poor Pandurang! Everyone wants to know the truth. Will they face Pandurang's ill-tempered ways to see for themselves? How will he react to their intrusion on his solitary life?

I have read a number of books about India in recent months and just yesterday saw, and enjoyed,
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. What is most striking to me are the colors, sounds, cultural abundance in those stories.  In warm, lovely colors Kanyika Kini allows us to see the small village of Baddbaddpur, its residents and the many daily events that occur as people live life there. I love the ever-expanding size of Pandurang's mouth as it tries to accommodate the many creatures that he is said to cough up. I feel an overwhelming sense of place as I pore over the lush landscapes and meet the villagers as the tale progresses.

It's a great read...full of fun and with a little lesson for those who exaggerate.   

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