The Homework by Ashwin Guha,  illustrated by Vaibhav Kumaresh

The Homework by Ashwin Guha,  illustrated by Vaibhav Kumaresh. Karadi Tales, 2021. 9788194407126

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Paperback picture book

What did you like about the book?  Bhattu and Kittu (possibly twin brothers?) have short, shaggy black hair and two different styles of nerdy glasses. They’ve forgotten to do their homework, which involves gathering facts about a land mammal and creating a report and poster. Caught short, they turn to their know-it-all big sister Meena, who has a wealth of information about the rhinoceros. She fills in all the brothers’ knowledge gaps: it’s a big animal with a horn on its nose, it’s as big as a van, it has 4 legs, etc. Bhattu begins to draw while Kittu takes notes. The next day, they read their hand-written report, but the laughs come when they show their drawing, which resembles a 4-legged armored tank with a bicycle horn on the end of its nose. The artwork for the book was very slapdash and scribbly in a way that recalls last minute homework assignments, which was well-suited to the story and lots of fun. The figures are collage cutouts drawn with heavy markers and then set against spiral bound notebook paper, with lots of smudges. The last page shows the drawings of the entire class: a lion, a cow, an elephant, a giraffe, and right in the middle, the boys’ ridiculous rhino. Everyone in the book is Indian.

Anything you didn’t like about it? As a school librarian, I didn’t care for the assignment (fill-in-the-blanks with no critical thinking tasks) or the reliance on Meena for all the answers! I guess one of the takeaways could be that you need to set aside time to do homework and find an authoritative source so you don’t end up like Bhattu and Kittu. But the situation was really just played for laughs, so I’m not sure that message comes through very well. It did also seem unlikely to me that elementary-school age boys would be that ignorant about rhinos…

To whom would you recommend this book?  It could be useful in library lessons or in a classroom setting when talking about good and bad homework strategies.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school 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: May 22, 2022

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