“The classic quest narrative gets a new spin! A gripping graphic novel where magic meets mystery, inspired by a Tangkhul Naga folktale.”

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

The heartening thing is that there are lots of books being published for children on environmental issues. Parismita Singh’s graphic novel is based on a  Tangkhul Naga folk tale and the author uses a rough children’s style of illustration with muted pastel strokes that gives it an approachability for younger children. Using a tribal background has the effect of creating its own unfamiliar fantasy world for most urban children who are used to the Harry Potter type of fantastic happening.

Singh plays fair with gender – while the magician is Mara an orphan  boy, he is helped by Shiroi, a girl who wanders the forests gathering herbs and who knows how to lead him to the Great Magician. Shiroi’s name comes from the national flower of  Manipur, a lily in danger of extinction, making her an appropriate helper. Of course, it need hardly be added that the north eastern tradition is primarily matriarchal and authority figures  are feminine.

Mara is a magician without knowing it but because he is different he is picked on by the village bullies and has no friends. So he pinches out a pair of cows from clay that miraculously come to life. And the moment they begin to talk, the adventure begins.

Issues that arise are ones of global warming, cruelty to wild animals including both birds and tigers. Magic and wisdom are the only defense in the face of ignorance – which seems in Singh’s story to be mainly masculine.  Not to mention treating animals with respect and addressing them as ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ – legend says that even tigers respond positively to good manners.

Children have many lessons to learn from this graphic novel which keeps its messages simple and in your face to avoid confusing young readers. Mothers should possibly consider adding it to holiday reading lists.

 

 

Reviewed by:

Anjana Basu

Added 19th December 2015

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Anjana Basu