My rating: 5 of 5 stars I received this book through GoodReads "First Reads" Giveaway. I love Children's/Young Adult books, and since the subject matter was elephants and India, I knew I would like this before it even got here.
Based on two trips made by authors Ted and Betsy Lewin, Balarama tells the story of an elephant by that name who will be leading the procession of a parade during Dasara, a holy festival in India. Accompanying the text are the dazzling paintings done by Betsy Lewin.
While this book is aimed at ages 9-12, I read it aloud to my 7 year old son, who enjoyed it as much as I did. We both learned several words in Hindi and Kannada (there is a glossary at the back) and marveled in the artwork. Truly, I think this is the most beautiful illustrated books I have ever seen--my son argued with me over one painting of the parade of elephants, insisting that it must be a photograph.
I can see the use of this book in the study of India, elephants, and relgious/cultural customs for a few age ranges. A section in the back discusses the differences between Asian and African elephants as well as the anatomy of elephants. One final section lists the lineage of the Royal Elephants who participated in Dasara.
I have to admit, based on story alone, I would have given it 4 stars. Betsy Lewin's glorious paintings earned an extra star on its own. I have looked up a few more titles of theirs and will be sure to purchase them.
I feel so fortunate that this book found its way to me; I hope other readers are as equally delighted.