HOLI COLORS! is a lively and entertaining story, well-equipped to appeal to young primary-school students, whether they are accustomed to celebrating Holi every year or have never heard of the holiday. Explanatory pages at the beginning, along with the occasional footnote, give kids a basic understanding of the holiday and the pastimes and vocabulary associated with it, but those who don’t need the explanations can easily skip over those sections and get straight to the story. Maya is an energetic and engaging heroine, to whom kids can easily relate, with her love of color, fun, and celebration. The lesson she learns in the story – that love, friendship, and other people are the most important parts of Holi, and that fun and beauty can be found even in the face of change and strangeness – is sweet, wholesome, and universal. There’s a genuine warmth in the story, with Maya’s friends and family surrounding her with loving support and concern in the middle of her crisis (with the sole exception of her brother, who is promptly hushed by her father), and encouraging her when she finds ways to enjoy the holiday anyway.
The illustrations are busy, well-drawn, and eye-catching, with a rather Richard Scarry-esque feel (except with actual people rather than anthromorphic animals). Maya’s home looks cheerful, friendly, and welcoming, and her hometown is a bustling metropolis full of shops and traffic and all sorts of people engaged in all sorts of activities. There’s plenty here both to keep young children engaged with the story and the setting, and to give a sense of a specifically Indian cultural setting. Kids raised in other parts of the world will find much in these pictures that is familiar and understandable and also people, activities, shops and foods that may be new and interesting to them – but either way, they will get a sense of a thriving and lively community full of fascinating sights and sounds. And kids from all over the world can understand the fun of messy and colorful play, the joy of being with friends, and the comfort of celebrating holidays with a loving family.
A cute, amusing story full of colorful charm and delightful images, HOLI COLORS! captures the bright joyous heart of the Hindu holiday.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader