cover image Amal and the Letter from the King

Amal and the Letter from the King

Rabindranath Tagore, Chitra Gajadin. Boyds Mills Press, $14.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-56397-120-4

This haunting reworking of a play by the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, with its mystical foreshadowing of a boy's death, will prove weighty emotional fare for some readers. Amal, a sickly child, is forbidden to step outside his house; from his window, he questions villagers--a vagabond, an itinerant merchant, a constable--about their travels. In wistful dialogue, Amal voices his own yearning to travel to an unknown land. The young invalid, who can see faraway events in his mind's eye with preternatural accuracy, dreams of one day receiving a letter from the king that will allow him to embark on this longed-for journey. As he envisions the royal postman drawing ever closer, the ailing child gives away his toys, declares he no longer feels pain and is presented with a final gift of flowers by a young friend. In an abrupt and abstruse ending, Amal falls asleep--or dies?--waiting for the letter's arrival. Ong's unornamented but evocative paintings, in the golds and ochres of the Indian landscape, capture the dailiness of village life as well as a more fanciful dreamscape. All ages. (Sept.)