Friday, January 29, 2010

Book Review: A Lion's Mane


On our weekly library trips, I find myself going through shelf after shelf of children’s books trying to find something both entertaining and challenging for my young and enthusiastic readers. Often times, the books we find are one-dimensional; either instructive, or funny, or downright silly. Rarely do I come across a book that strikes a balance of being both educational and inspiring...this is what I found in A Lion’s Mane by Navjot Kaur

A Lion’s Mane is about the journey of a young Sikh boy who while discovering why he has his long mane (kesh), also learns about the principles of his faith. Concepts like patience, generosity, wisdom, and courage are all woven in to his beautiful red dastaar that guide you through the story.

In addition to the captivating illustrations, it is the simple messages that are reinforced throughout the story that I found particularly meaningful and easy for children to process. Statements like,

“When we learn something new, it makes each of us stronger”
“Being a Khalsa knight gives me the courage to stand up to bullies”

Although I have read several children’s books that touch on the Sikh experience, what I appreciate most about A Lion’s Mane, is how Sikh religious and cultural principles are raised in the context of other cultures and communities with similar principles. I had no idea of the symbolic role the lion played in Native American Hopi culture. In explaining who we are to non-Sikh communities, I think it is just as important to share how our traditions are similar as it is to show how we are different. This pushed me to learn a bit more about some of the other people and cultures mentioned. I found the glossary most useful in explaining to my children who is Wangari Mathai and what the Anishinaabe tribe is.

A Lion’s Mane has become quite popular in our sangat circle, not only for being an excellent resource for inspiring children – Sikh and non-Sikh alike – but also for Saffron Press’s commitment to being environmentally responsible (printing their books on 100% recycled paper) and socially conscious, donating a portion of their proceeds to restore sight and prevent blindness in children.

The image on the front cover of the book shows a young boy tying his dastaar in a mirror. But as he peers at his reflection, he seems himself with the whiskers of a lion, symbolizing its strength, courage and bravery. So many children struggle with their self-image and identity. And with our distinct uniform, many Sikh children find it even more challenging. I believe any book or initiative that helps promote a positive self-image and confidence in one’s identity should be both supported and celebrated.

I look forward to further publications from Navjot Kaur, and would encourage her to consider a sequel depicting the journey of a Sikh girl. Although the path of Sikhi is the same, I’m sure the experience is different. And there are few, if any, children’s books I’m aware of with a young Sikh girl as the main character.

A Lion’s Mane is definitely a hit with our kids! Truly a wonderful book...a must read!

For more information on A Lion’s Mane, Saffron Press, or to order your copy, please visit:
http://www.saffronpress.com/books.html

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