By Anila Akram @mailatale
“Audrey & Barbara”
By Janet Lawson
This is an interesting book for parents with young kids who know very little about India or South Asia. Sometimes the best way to introduce a concept is with a light touch – and this book is definitely a light touch. Often, books about South Asia – with South Asian main characters – tend to come on too strong. There’s no one to blame – the books are often written by early immigrants, and centered around a specific kind of South Asian experience.
This picture book doesn’t have South Asian characters in it, and the major theme is friendship and travel, not culture. Audrey is a little girl with an appetite for exploration, and her cat Barbara tends to favour naps over playtime. Audrey decides one day that she wants to see the glorious Taj Mahal, and embarks on an escapade to build sails on her bathtub to get across the ocean. She wants to ride an elephant and see the Indian landscape, and her imagination is the first step to getting there.
It’s a great title to introduce Indian landmarks and geography – and a great way to build excitement about other titles related to South Asian culture.
The only caveat is that a book like this has a tendency to characterize India in dated and stereotypical ways, especially if used as the only source of information. There’s certainly more to modern-day India than the Taj Mahal and elephants – and an important aspect of teaching about South Asia through kidlit is making sure you get a broad range of perspectives.
Anila Akram is co-founder at Mailatale.ca, a monthly subscription service for great children’s books
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