Binny’s Diwali

Binny’s Diwali
Thrity Umrigar and Nidhi Chanani
Scholastic
‘All over the world, Diwali marked the victory of goodness and light.’ So young Binny’s mother tells her, and surely more than ever right now we could all do with goodness and light to help us through the coming months that promise little of cheer.

Binny is due to talk to her class about the celebration of this important Hindu festival; she’s wearing her new clothes, has eaten a sweet breakfast and can’t wait to tell her friends about Diwali at circle time. But when it’s her turn to speak, she gets an attack of nerves and can’t get her words out. Her fear is almost palpable but then so too, is her delight and enthusiasm when she finds her voice after some reassurance from her teacher. She tells of her favourite holiday, of how people light diva lamps and put them outside their front doors to chase away the dark and guide the light and good fortune to their homes.

She explains how the festival lasts for five days and how fireworks colour the air (not often now though at least in some countries on account of the pollution), and best of all she creates her own rangoli pattern on the classroom floor using the bags of coloured powder she’s brought specially.

Then after sharing a box of sweets with everyone she feels that after all she’s done Diwali proud in her classroom. Then walking back home she’s able to feel that in her class she’s celebrated her very ‘own victory of goodness and light’.

I especially love Nidhi Chanani’s beautiful diva endpapers reminding me how much I will miss celebrating the festival in India this year. I’ll be interested to hear how my friends there do so during the pandemic; no doubt many be they Hindus or from another of the faiths followed there, they’ll find a way. Yes, Diwali is a Hindu festival but many Indian friends who do not share a Hindu worldview, also celebrate (and that’s despite the current political climate).

Thrity Umrigar (herself from a Zoroastrian family) provides a brief account of the Diwali story – the triumph of good over evil – at the back of the book along with an explanation of the five days of the festival.

This is a lovely, uplifting, colourful book to share with youngsters in KS1 classrooms as well as in a family.

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