Author:  Barbara C. Burgess

ISBN:  9781481905565

 

What could be more charming than a parrot named Ludwig that plays the piano? The first tale in Barbara C. Burgess’s book for children, Ludwig the Piano-Playing Parrot & Other Tales, is both educational and humorous. Minnah Kim has recently moved to Canada from Korea, and she is lonely for a friend. This sets up the initial challenge of the story. When Minnah goes to her first day of school, she brings her pet parrot with her. As Minnah opens her backpack to take out her portable piano, the bird flies out. Then, to the surprise and delight of all the children in the class, Ludwig the parrot lands right on top of the teacher’s big hair. This is hilarious, and I am sure young readers would love to see an illustration of that happening. Fortunately, the teacher smiles good-naturedly at this most unusual event. In the end, Minnah Kim’s wish comes true as Julia, a girl in the class, befriends her. 

The second chapter, “The Indian Gaddi,” is a vignette about the East Indian shepherds (gaddi) who make an annual trek up 13,000 feet to the Himalayan mountains so their sheep can escape the 110 degree summer heat. I was struck by the sacrifice these men make as they leave their families behind and embark on this perilous journey. The reader learns about this lifestyle that dates back hundreds of years and still goes on today. I would love to see a map included in this chapter that shows the points of travel.

The third chapter, “Jalfu’s Cows” is a day in the life of a farmer in India. The family is made of three generations. Farming has been passed down from great-grandfather to grandfather to Jalfu. Now Jalfu and his wife are setting aside money so that their own son and daughter might obtain a college education and a better life with more opportunities. Reading this chapter with children could lead to a good discussion about the value of doing well in school. 

Sarika’s First Dusshera Festival” is the last chapter. The festival is an Indian tradition that, from what I can tell, is a combination of a Hindu religious event and a carnival, complete with a merry-go-round, teddy bears, and pagan idols. This is a big day, which everyone in the town enjoys, including the main character, an eight-year old girl named Sarika.

I found these stories to be interesting as they are rich in Indian culture. Personally, I think the book would be enhanced by illustrations and maps. It also needs a consistent font style, standard paragraphing, and page numbers. However, the material itself stands, even without those. 

I recommend these short stories for readers who are interested in life in India.

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