cover image A Garden in My Hands

A Garden in My Hands

Meera Sriram, illus. by Sandhya Prabhat. Knopf, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-5934-2710-1

Greens, magentas, and purples dominate this vibrantly rendered picture book, which follows a Southeast Asian–cued family applying henna ahead of a special occasion. “Stories and seeds/ Mama plants in my palm/ for a wedding tomorrow” begins the child narrator as Mama squeezes henna paste on their hands. Each motif has meaning: “pearls on a string, petals on a vine” prompt Mama’s wedding story, and other designs represent “ancestors long gone.” As the paste dries, the child—careful not to “smudge a story”—has parental help with nighttime ablutions. Wearing cotton gloves at bedtime, “I tuck my henna in/ and snuggle with my stories.” Via saturated digital images that incorporate peacocks and paisley patterns alongside familial scenes, Prabhat’s art juxtaposes fantasy, memory, and reality as Sriram details how “The sweet smell of henna,/ and stories we carry,/ fill us with pride/ of a faraway home.” Back matter includes an author’s note and additional henna facts and designs. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)