The author of a bestselling cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery, Jaffrey is also well-known as an actress in England and America. Her feeling for drama imbues this collection with the color and vigor of Foreman's paintings and drawings. Selections from East-Indian lore are arranged according to the Hindu calender and prefaced by the anthologist's reminiscences of times when mothers told the stories to their children. The reader responds to the magic when young girls gather on rooftops to eat halva in the moon-drenched night, in honor of the legend, ``The Moon and the Heavenly Nectar.'' The evil star Rahu tricks Vishnu, Creator of the Universe, by swallowing a drop of potion that makes the demon immortal. Because the moon tries to warn Vishnu, Rahu vows to wipe out its light, every year. That's why there is an annual eclipse of the moon. ``If you listen, that is the day you can hear Rahu laughing.'' Each tale is unusual and enthralling in itself, as well as a rewarding excursion into the culture of an ancient country. (All ages)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gr 4-6 In the introduction, Jaffrey promises a recounting of stories told ``. . .not only to separate right from wrong but to prepare us, indirectly, for the vagaries of life and the fact of death.'' Indeed, this is the unconscious aim of all folklore. Unfortunately, in this case Jaffrey's writing style and grasp of language are not equal to the task of retelling fine old legends. Such dull colloqualisms as ``he loved her a lot,'' ``someone's problems are weighing on me like a ton of bricks'' and ``All right, all right'' are sprinkled liberally throughout the stories and destroy the integrity of the tales. Arranged to follow the Hindu calendar of feasts and festivals, the tales are those Jaffrey remembers hearing as a child growing up near Delhi. Each story is preceded by her childhood memories of the events and setting in which she heard the tale. These vignettes give a vivid picture of life in India from a child's point of view, and the pronunciation guide for the names of characters and events is helpful. Foreman's drawings and full-page color paintings that profusely illustrate the text have an appropriate mystical cast, but too often they are needlessly grotesque. A picture of the demon Pootana, a dark, bony creature floating in mid-air with the baby Krishna suckling at her elongated, misshapen breast, could better have been left to the imagination. The stories themselves are exciting and memorable, if readers can get past the choppy writing and grotesque illustrations. Joseph Jacobs' Indian Fairy Tales (Dover, 1969) and Flora A. Steel and R. C. Temple's Tales of the Punjab (Bodley Head, 1984) are better choices for Indian folklore. Connie C. Rockman, Ferguson Library, Stamford, Conn.