Mama's Saris, written by Pooja Makhijani and illustrated by Elena Gomez, is on the surface a very simple story. The young narrator, on her seventh birthday, watches her mother dress for the occasion in a sari, a brilliant contrast to the ordinary clothes that Mama normally wears. The daughter pleads with her mother to be able to wear a sari, too, just this once. She pulls out all the stops, and in the end, her mother gives in, and dresses her in a beautiful blue sari with gold flowers. Mother and daughter look alike in their traditional clothing, and the daughter is heartbreakingly proud to be like her mother.
It's funny. I just reviewed another book that I referred to as "sentimental". But this is the one that brought tears to my eyes. Mama's Saris is a love letter to mothers and daughters, and to the Indian culture that people preserve, wherever they live. Reading the end, when the mother has lovingly dressed her daughter in sari and bangles and bindi, and they look into the mirror together, I sniffled. I think it's because the feeling in the book is so genuine. As is clear from an Author's Note, Pooja Makhijani is writing about her own mother, and her own childhood. She perfectly captures the love and longing of the mother-daughter relationship. Not to mention the wonder of grown-up clothes.
Elena Gomez's acrylic illustrations bring the splendor of Mama's saris to life. Every page is filled with deep colors and vivid patterns. We can practically feel the texture of the different saris. We can also see every mood crossing the face of the daughter (her sulky face when her mother initially says no is especially realistic). The resemblance between mother and daughter comes across, as do the differences in age and degree of polish. For example, the mother's eyebrows arch sleekly, while the daughter's are visibly coarse. The patterns in the wallpaper and bedspread and mirror frame are also gorgeous and detailed. I wanted to bury my face in the comforter.
I highly recommend Mama's Saris, especially for mothers and daughters, and people looking for a window into the Indian culture. Pooja includes a handy mini-glossary of Hindi words, with pronunciation, at the front of the book. Her author's note includes background about saris, as well as about the story itself. I'm certain that her mother loves this book. In fact, I think that mine would, too.
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Source of Book: Review copy from the author
Other Blog Reviews: Saffron Tree, Big A little a, Tea Cozy, Book Moot, Chicken Spaghetti, Fuse
Author Interviews: SAJA Forum, Mitali's Fire Escape