The Gifts That Grow

The Gifts That Grow
Monika Singh Gangotra and Michaela Dias-Hayes
Owlet Press

This story is based on a true one from author Monika Singh Gangotra’s own family
When Amrita, her best friend Kiki and their pal Finn, return from school Finn tells Amrita’s mum that they have to create a recipe. Happily Amrita’s mum is busy in the kitchen preparing spices; it is, so she says a ‘garam masala grinding day.’

Having helped grind the spices, Finn notices that the background to a photograph hanging on the wall looks exactly like the tree growing in his backyard. Amrita’s mum confirms that it is the very same tree and that the person in the foreground is her own mum, Amrita’s Nani. She mentions that she has skin the colour of the masala they’ve been preparing and her smiling lips are the colour of jamun. This needs some explanation: Mum says it’s a purple fruit and that her mum brought a seedling from her jamun tree in India to their old house, the one Finn now lives in.

When they take Finn home, his dads Hayden and Andy welcome everyone warmly and Amrita asks their permission to show Kiki the jamun tree. Then Amrita’s mum tells them the wonderful, sometimes tear inducing story of the big tree, allowing space for a few interjections from Amrita along the way. 

Said tree was brought by Nani from India as a cutting taken from one planted there by Amrita’s mother’s great-grandmother when the little girl was a ‘little seed’ growing in her mother’s tummy as a celebration of that special time when Amrita was born.

With Indian motifs, objects including a tuk-tuk conjuring forth Amrita’s heritage land as part and parcel of Michaela’s brilliant, gorgeously hued illustrations 

and Monika’s beautifully told story rich in detail, full of love both intergenerational and that between the friends and their families, and that perfect ending, this is a book for everyone, everywhere.

If you eat eggs, there’s a recipe on the final page that sounds delicious, though if like me you don’t, you’ll need to think of an egg substitute.