Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi,
My Dadima Wears a Sari
Peachtree Publishers, 2007
"Because a sari is a sari and I can do so much with it,” says Rupa's Indian dadima (grandmother) in response to why she doesn't wear Western clothing. Award-winning, young adult novelist Kashmira Sheth’s first picture book takes a familiar theme, that of a special relationship between grandparent and grandchild, and weaves it into a sweet story about tradition and the power of imagination. It is a gentle addition to literature for young children with a South Asian flavor.
Who would think that six yards of silk or cotton could be so magical? From an umbrella, to a cooling fan, to a shell collecting pouch, the usefulness of the fabric becomes more and more fanciful as together they imagine a trip into the Gir Jungle. The sari patterns bordering the pages of the text delicately capture Rupa's thoughts as she blends into the thick forest in a leopard-spotted length of silky material; or knots the sari’s end as a way to remind her grandmother to hug her. One of my favorite pages shows the girls and their grandmother encircled by swirls of gorgeously dyed and embroidered saris. One can almost feel the cool breeze of the silk and hear the whispers of the floating fabric.
Indian customs and Hindi words are gently threaded into the story, as dadima shows her American-born granddaughters her special collection of saris - her very first half-sari, her red and gold wedding one, and the gauzy pink one worn for her journey from India to America, years ago. Jaeggi’s soft watercolors enhance not only the action of the story, but also colorwash the background of each page in the very same pattern dadima is showing the girls.
My Dadima Wears a Sari is a sure-bet for young girls who will be anxious to try out sari-wearing themselves. The author includes step-by-step photos on “How to Wrap a Sari” at the end of the story. This book warmly captures the sweetness of a close relationship with a grandmother who takes palpable joy in sharing the traditions of her native culture with her American granddaughters.