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Ganesha's Sweet Tooth: Sanjay Patel & Emily Haynes

Book: Ganesha's Sweet Tooth
Authors: Sanjay Patel & Emily Haynes
Illustrator: Sanjay Patel 
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4 and up 

Ganesha's Sweet Tooth is a colorful confection of a picture book, loosely based on the legend of how a god named Ganesha ended up writing the Mahabharata, the epic poem of Hindu literature. Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes explain a bit in an afterword about the legend and the liberties they took to turn it into a picture book. 

The story in the book follows Ganesha, "a Hindu god. He's very important and powerful. And a tad chubby." As a child, Ganesha is obsessed with eating sweets, particularly the traditional Indian dessert laddoo. The elephant-headed Ganesha travels around with his best friend, Mr. Mouse. His greed leads him to break a tusk on a jawbreaker. But he ends up finding a use for his broken tusk, which becomes a kind of magical pen. He uses the pen to take down the Mahabharata, as dictated by an old man named Vyasa. 

It's a bit surrealistic, of course. But Patel and Haynes' delivery of the story is entertaining, and with a decidedly modern flair. 

Here's the passage after Ganesha loses his tusk:

"I look lopsided!" he said. "Everyone will laugh at me."

"No they won't," said Mr. Mouse. "Everyone loses their teeth. And besides, you already have an elephant's head and your friends still love you."

(Questions to ask child during read-aloud: would your friends still love you if you had an elephant head? What if you ate all the candy?)

Ganesha's Sweet Tooth makes use of varying font sizes (and occasionally text color) to emphasize particular points. For instance, when Mr. Mouse warns Ganesha not to eat the jawbreaker, "JAWBREAKER!" is in a huge font. When Ganesha learns that his tusk can be used as a pen he says "I LOVE my tusk!", with "LOVE" portrayed in four colors.

Ganesha's Sweet Tooth has a unique subject (how often does one find picture books, at least in the United States, featuring elephant-headed Hindu gods?). But it is Patel's illustrations that really make the book stand out. Patel is a supervising animator and storyboard artist at Pixar Animation Studio, and his experience with animation shows. Every page is filled with movement of one sort or another. And all of it has a distinctly Indian feel, through Patel's use of colors and patterns (see cover image above). It's an eye-catching and memorable style, one that the author has apparently turned into a brand. I think it's a kid-friendly style, too, though more one for older kids than preschoolers.  

Ganesha's Sweet Tooth is not your typical picture book, and it may not be a book that many kids will pick up on their own. But I think it would be an excellent choice for library or classroom read-aloud, where there's an adult to lead discussion. It's a nice mix of gorgeous illustrations, humor, and multicultural story. Recommended for age 4 and up. 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids)
Publication Date: September 19, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).