cover image MONSOON


Uma Krishnaswami, , illus. by Jamel Akib. . FSG, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-35015-4

Krishnaswami (Chachaji's Cup ) offers a lyrical slice-of-life story about contemporary India on the eve of the monsoon season. Walking through crowded city streets, the girl narrator absorbs her mother's worries about the rain. "How much will it rain? How fast, how hard?" And another question hangs in her mind, much like the "cry of the crows in the old neem tree/ hangs in the dust-pink air"—what if the rains never come? The author evokes the oppressive weather in tense images: the heat makes the girl feel "like a crocodile/ crouching snap-jawed"; "hot loo winds tear through the city./ They rip the paper off billboards/ and shred the smiles of movie stars." Readers experience the sights and sounds of another culture as the girl and her brother play hopscotch to the sound of temple bells "clanging, clanging," and a taxi driver honks futilely at the tired old cow who stubbornly blocks his path in the street. Debut illustrator Akib suggests the heaviness of the air in the thick strokes and hazy palette of his stylized, almost dreamlike illustrations, capturing the bustle of the streets with slightly off-kilter perspectives. American readers will enjoy the exotic clothing and customs (when it rains, the adults offer coins to "potbellied Ganesh, god of beginnings"), all the more so because they will recognize the girl's feelings as very much like their own. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)