Once Upon a Sari

Tundra. May 2024. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781774880944.
K-Gr 4–A young girl of South Asian background learns about her family history while admiring her mother’s collection of traditional saris. In fact, Avani is caught buried in a pile of colorful saris on the bedroom floor. Rather than angered by her daughter’s actions, Avani’s mother takes the opportunity to explain the importance of the sari as a traditional Indian garment: “Every sari has a story” of where and when it was worn. The mother relates stories about her saris; each begins with its purchase, highlighting the regional style names throughout India. Then, the emotional memories are stirred by seeing and feeling each garment. The entire wardrobe retains both a family resonance and cultural heritage to be gradually passed on to Avani. The intricate craftsmanship of the cloths are highlighted in jewel-toned, saturated watercolor illustrations. Their vibrancy ensures each spread contains a rainbow of color. Colors are also given Indian descriptors, e.g., a golden yellow sari resembling kheer, a pudding. These details add to the informative and immersive nature of the story. The narrative adopts a quintessential childhood activity, playing dress-up, and transforms it into a sensitive exploration of Indian culture easily accessible to readers of all backgrounds.
VERDICT An essential purchase on an underrepresented topic for school and public libraries.

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