Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review : Celebrate Durga Puja With Me


Have you ever read a children's book that sent you strolling down the memory lane? I think Celebrate Durga Puja with Me by Shoumi Sen is going to be one such book for many of you who grew up in West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, or any other parts of India where Durga Puja is grandly celebrated. Before I tell you more about the book, let me remind you that I have reviewed many other multicultural books on the blog, which you might want to read.


About the Book


Title : Celebrate Durga Puja With Me ! 
Author : Shoumi Sen
Illustrator : Abira Das
Genre : Diverse Children's Literature
'Celebrate Durga Puja With Me!' is part of the series 'From The Toddler Diaries' and celebrates Durga Puja as experienced by 3 year old Riya. This artfully portrayed '5 Days of Pujo' appeals to young and old alike. Shashti, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Bijoya Dashami - the cultural colors have a pronounced Bengali connection, but are universal to Durga Puja celebrations across several communities. Woven in poetry and colors, it is easy to read and enthusiastically endorsed by 3-8 year olds and their parents.

Review


I think Celebrate Durga Puja With Me is a great book for children to learn about the vibrant celebrations that surround the festival, especially for diasporic children who grow up with a mixed cultural identity. In fact the book was the product of the author Shoumi Sen's efforts to pass on to her young daughter living abroad, the cultural experiences she had growing up in India and Dubai. 

I personally have learnt a lot from this book about Durga Puja or Pujo as it's commonly called among the Bengalis. Having grown up in Kerala, I had no idea about the grand festivities that take place during Pujo until I moved in to Hyderabad. The book talks vividly about the five - day long celebrations during Pujo, starting from shashti ( the sixth day ) till vijayadashami ( the tenth day which is when Durga defeated Mahishasura according to the legend ).


It was indeed very interesting to know about it from little Riya's point of view where the festival is mostly about getting new clothes, sweets, going to the pandals and all the merriment. The author has focussed more on painting an image of the celebrations and have thankfully not spent a lot of effort in explaining the religious and ritualistic meanings of the essentially Hindu festival. 

The text has a lyrical nature to it and it must sound more fascinating to children when it is read out and the pictures shown. The book is rich with full page illustrations of the Pujo celebrations right from mall shopping to pandal hopping to the aarti. The yellow and red tinged colour palette chosen by the illustrator Abira Das matches the Pujo festivities quite well and the detailing is worth mentioning.

A detailed illustration of Sindoor Khela from the book
On the whole, this is an interesting book and I'm sure children are going to flip through its pages more than just around Pujo. It has pretty good readability and I would recommend it for ages 5 - 10 for the actual theme of the festival that forms the background. 

Diverse children's books such as Celebrate Durga Puja With Me are especially helpful for diasporic children, but it is also important that the Hindu festival is not be asserted as representative of the entire Bengali or Indian community. For some this book may be a mirror to their culture while to some others, it may be a window to another culture.

About the Author

Shoumi Sen grew up in Mumbai and Dubai and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. She loves to travel and has lived in many countries. The idea for her book series 'From the Toddler Diaries' came from the collection of poems she had written for her daughter. You can learn more about her from shoumisen.com and you can connect with her via Facebook or Twitter.

[ Note: Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed here are solely about the book and may not reflect my personal opinion on the festival or the religion. All images courtesy: author, feature image design: PLB]

Do you celebrate Durga Puja or Dussera? Have you read this or any other book on Durga Puja? Let me know through the comments!