Holi Hai! By Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Darshika Varma. Albert Whitman, 2021. 9780807533574
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5
Format: ARC (publication date: January 2022)
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? Gauri’s family gets ready to celebrate Holi by choosing a color for each person to make gulal (the small packets of colored powder that are flung during the festival), using natural ingredients. She’s annoyed because her favorite color is yellow, but she get’s stuck with red. As everyone else busily collects, boils and grinds materials, Guari sulks, until she listens to a story about the origins of Holi and its meaning: that joy and love are stronger than evil. The digital art work is bright and representational and I appreciated Guari’s large family: 3 kids, grandparents and a mom and dad. The two younger generations wear western clothes but switch to Indian outfits for the celebration, which looks like a lot of fun. Back matter includes information about Holi, a glossary, and directions for making gulal from nature.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I didn’t love the bland artwork. Soundar doesn’t mention that this is a Hindu holiday, which seemed like an oversight. Also, I have no idea if it’s common to make gulal and couldn’t tell from the book. I thought there was some discontinuity between the story, which takes place entirely at Gauri’s home, and the About section, which describes the festivities as taking place outside with a crowd.
To whom would you recommend this book? Anyone interested in Holi or Indian festivities generally. It’s a solid entry if you’re looking for more holiday books, especially ones that actually feature an actual story in addition to background information.
Who should buy this book? Elementary schools and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: September 15, 2021