cover image The Sanyasin's First Day

The Sanyasin's First Day

Ned Shank. Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7614-5055-9

In a bustling town in contemporary India, a handful of adults face their ""first day"" in their chosen pursuits. The title character, who has just ""given away everything he owned to lead the holy life of a sanyasin,"" sits under a tree with an empty bowl, and hopes that someone will fill it. On her first day as a plumber, a woman arrives at Mrs. Krishnan's house, anxious to do a good job installing a new kitchen sink. There is also a rookie traffic cop, and a farmer bringing rice to town for the first time. Shank, himself a first-time author (and the husband of Crescent Dragonwagon), brings some of these characters into contact with one another: the policeman tells the farmer where to sell her rice; the farmer's first customer is Mrs. Krishnan. The rookies make mistakes, but the mistakes prove advantageous. For example, the faucet of Mrs. Krishan's new sink fills her rice pot too rapidly, and as the plumber adjusts the water pressure, Mrs. Krishnan simply makes extra rice, which she brings to her son at school; her son later gives his leftover rice to the sanyasin. The story feels contrived and takes too long to get moving, but the atmosphere is vivid and may compensate for the abstract plot. Stock (Emma's Dragon Hunt), too, is more effective with her panoramas and exotic street scenes than with her portraits of individuals. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)