It’s Time for Holi!
Written by Amita Roy Shah and Diane Lucas
Dog Ear Publishing, 2011, 24 pp.
Holi is the Hindu Festival of Colors. This story begins during the winter season with an Indian-American boy who is anxiously waiting for spring and the celebration of Holi. While the boy waits, signs of spring begin to emerge around him. When Holi day finally arrives, he can’t wait to celebrate and decides to use his colored powders before family and friends arrive. Through his explorations, he learns more about the significance of this colorful festival. Using rhymes, alliterations, and engaging dialogue, readers learn that throwing colored powder on one another is a symbolic way to welcome the spring season.
This book represents a specific bicultural experience of the Indian Diaspora. Indians who have moved to Western countries find ways of celebrating Indian festivals within their homes and/or their respective communities. As they prepare for Holi, the women in the story pick and choose when they want to wear their bindi (i.e. cosmetic dot on their forehead) or gold jewelry (Om pendant, necklaces, bracelets). They are also portrayed wearing Indian, American and bicultural styles of fashion (e.g.Indian tops with jeans).
Collectivistic values are at the heart of this book through depictions of living with grandparents and celebrating special occasions with extended family members, uncles, aunts, and cousins. The illustrator, Diane Lucas, referenced the author’s online photo albums to accurately capture how Indian-American families engage in their day-to-day lives. Through the illustrations, children see family members sitting together, drinking tea, and conversing. They also observe common Hindu symbols in the shared areas of the house such as the picture of Ganesha (i.e., God of Obstacles).
This story is an excellent resource for early elementary and can be used to support an interdisciplinary curriculum in Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. Through this story children naturally observe signs in nature and relate them to the changing seasons. This story would work well as an interactive whole-class read aloud or in literature circles. Through the use of the repetitive and rhyming text, teachers can encourage students to participate in the story. Students can actively look for the changing seasons and use hand gestures and movements to represent the signs of spring that appear (e.g., roses blooming, birds singing, grass growing). Teachers and students can also role play the story through the use of dialogue for the Boy, Ma, Papa, and Nani (Grandma). In literature circles, students can share their personal experiences with multicultural festivals that celebrate nature. There are numerous books on Holi, which could be used with this text to broaden readers’ experiences. Older readers might also enjoy Michael Balonek’s (2013) e-book, Adventures in India: Holi-Festival of Color, Festival of Spring.
The author, Dr. Amita Roy Shah, lives in the United States. As an educator, she is passionate about teaching all children about diverse cultures. It’s Time For Holi! is her first children’s book. She received the Kids Are Readers Too! (KART) Book List award in 2011 for creating content that is memorable and enhances the gift of learning for children. More information about the Festival of Colors can be found on this Holi Festival website.
Shaina Khan, Fremont Unified School District, Fremont, CA