A Picture Book A Day: Day 13 Savitri: A Tale of Ancient India

Savitri: A Tale of Ancient India retold by Aaron Shepard, Illustrated by Vera Rosenberry

Published by: Albert Whitman & Company. Morton Grove, Illinois. 1992

Purchased: Free from the give-away shelf, at the South End branch of the Boston Public Library. The book is in practically new condition. I asked the librarian how they decide which books to give away, as there were several other wonderful books that I got for free that day including Chicken Sunday, The Chocolate Touch, and The Stories Julian Tells. The librarian said it is based on their check-out rate, or they were donated by patrons. If the books that a patron donates are not in excellent condition, or the library already has a sufficient number of copies of a title, then the books go onto the give-away shelf.

Back to Savitri

I enjoyed reading this story. The pictures are beautiful and captivating. However, as I am a progressive teacher, I am still contemplating how I can use this book in my classroom. Two aspects of the story contradict my pedagogy: 1. – the reference to character Yama, god of death, as “his skin was darker than the darkest night.”  I don’t use the word dark to represent anything negative, in my classroom. Dark is beautiful, and a coveted quality. Period. Any other use of the word, I hesitate to embrace.  A god of death, is not something positive in the minds of 6 year olds. So associating a god of death with dark skin is contradicting to how I teach.

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Yes, I could still use this book, and transform the words the way I want, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort, when there are other stories I can read. But there is something so beautiful about this book.

2. – I don’t view this story as a tale about independent women, even though it is a tale “of women far more independent than later Indian culture allowed.”  In the story, the men have many wives, etc. There is reference to his “favorite wife” as being chosen to bare children.  All these things are a part of history, and I don’t like to shelter my students from historical facts and historical perspectives, as long as they are introduced to them in a way that is empowering. At this time, I don’t know if I can invest the time to retell this story with the necessary insights and perspectives to empower my young students living in the 21st century.

Still, I give it an all around 5 out of 5 stars. I will not be keeping it on the shelves for my students to grab at their leisure. I will keep it in the classroom, however, in case there is a need for it, at a later time.

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Thank you for reading The Picture Book Pusher.

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