Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Great Race by Nathan Kumar Scott and Jagdish Chitara

The familiar folktale of the Tortoise and the Hare is retold here with an all-new set of animals and stunning original illustrations.

Kanchil the mouse deer is the boaster, sure that he's faster than all the other animals in the forest. He decides to challenge all the creatures in the forest to The Great Race to show them all how he is the fastest. All the animals gather, but the only one willing to race Kanchil is Pelan the snail. Pelan the trickster wins the race not once but twice and Kanchil learns a lesson in humility.

The illustrations are created by Jagdish Chitara, a member of the Waghari community. They create a traditional sacred cloth called Mata Ni Pachedi, Cloth of the Mother. The art in this story is in stark red, white and black, with stylized versions of the animals and elaborate designs. The art swirls from page to page, recreating the circular designs of the traditional cloth while creating something new. While the style will be unfamiliar to most children, it's accessible and the different animals are easy to identify.

The end notes explaining the artist and his art were interesting, but I would have liked some additional information on the origins of the folktale. According to the back cover, it's an Indonesian folktale and Kanchil is a traditional trickster character, but that's all the information that is given.

Verdict: This is a new and interesting folktale; familiar enough in subject and art for children and adults unfamiliar with the culture to connect with, but different enough to be intriguing. It would make an excellent storytime choice as well.

ISBN: 9789380340159; Published June 2012 by Tara Books; Borrowed from the library; Added to the library's wishlist

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