- Book Style: Educational storybook for children
- Reading Level: 2 (Read with Help due to: some advanced vocabulary, longer pages)
- Reading Length: 7-10 minutes (FYI – we never account for questions from your little ones)
- Illustration: Realistic, vibrant, colorful
Lights, Camera, Diwali! is a storybook for children. Our author (Dr. Amita Roy Shah) tells an engaging story about the Indian festival of lights, which is named Diwali. Our main character, Diya, receives a camera as a gift during the festivities and then explores the different parts of the Diwali celebration with her family and her new camera. The reader will learn about Diwali, as well as other Indian culture, history, and food.
Now, it’s important to understand an author before going to buy a book for your child. The author’s background and biography will tell you a great deal about the book before you begin to read. What struck me immediately in speaking with Amita is that she cares a great deal about some very important initiatives in the world of children education. She is a true leader, having founded Hybrid Parenting (http://hybridparenting.org), a website built entirely to help parents guide their children in matters of multiculturalism. What better way to break down cultural barriers in our society than by educating our children? Oh, and did I mention she has a doctorate in education and carries over 21 years of educational experience? Truthfully, I shouldn’t even be allowed to review her work and make any sort of judgement…but I’m going to try!
I should also mention that Dr. Amita Roy Shah has previously produced a book titled Its’ Time for Holi!, which also focuses on an Indian cultural event (known as Holi, in case you didn’t pick that up). That book won the Kids Are Readers Too (KART) award for memorable content that enhances the gift of learning, was featured in an incredible amount of important publications and media, and has been integrated into the curricula of many schools in the US (wow…).
Well, in case you haven’t already rushed down to the bottom of the page to buy the book, here’s my review of the book.
The style of writing in this book is slightly different than many of the children’s books you’ll find generally marketed to children. There’s no forced rhyming or attempt to coerce your child into loving the way it sounds. The author truly wants your child to gain an understanding of Diwali and other Indian cultural and historical references. She works to do so with every sentence in the book, and therefore each word is specifically used to further knowledge and understanding.
It was an interesting experience, actually. I initially thought my child might not like factual storytelling. I mean, isn’t that a style for adults? Apparently not, as I found my toddler becoming more and more engaged by the details of the story. He didn’t get bored; he found the story interesting and wanted to know more about very specific things. He asked questions about the legendary characters and the stories told about them. He even seemed to grasp that the main character Diya was telling a story from her perspective (he recognized some of the pictures were taken by Diya too).
One of my favorite parts of this book is the fact that our main character is explaining the celebration of Diwali from her young perspective. As a result of this, your child will truly see the event through the eyes of another child and be able to relate. Children often learn through seeing and mimicking, and the way this book is written guarantees they’ll try to mimic Diya. As Diya takes pictures, your child will see themselves taking pictures. As Diya describes helping her mother clean, your child might even think about helping you one time (yeah right)! As Diya experiences the sounds of firecrackers, your child will wish for them (sure, that one’s obvious…but it’s still true!).
Which brings me to the illustrations; this book was illustrated by Diane Lucas, who has done an excellent job. To me, the consistency of our main character Diya is one of the best things in the book. She’s consistently drawn, and always looks cheerful and excited. She looks as though this event is truly a wonderful time and everything she’s doing is fun. The illustrations also add to your child’s retention of the story simply because the characters look like they’re enjoying everything.
There are a few other things that are great about the illustrations. Firstly, the colors used are relatively original. They’re vibrant colors, but not necessarily the same as other books. When you look at the color of something as simple as the kitchen table, it’s not the typical “oak” color. It has some added orange and brown and brings an entirely different feel to the scene. I think the reason I like this so much is simply because it’s different and breaks from the traditional “easy” colors we find in children’s literature so often.
I also love how most of the illustrations are “selfies”. This simple choice drives a modern feel, inside a tradition-based story. It’s a great way to reach a young audience, and again it connects your child with the main character Diya. The reader experiences everything through her eyes, as well as through the lens of the camera. I know my little guy instantly went to his little toy camera (which isn’t a stretch for him…but still)!
In any case, this book is nothing short of excellent and I can definitely recommend it. If you’re a parent who’s struggled explaining differences between cultures or groups of people, then this book has an incredible amount to offer. If your family takes part in the celebration of Diwali, then this book will help you explain how this can be a fun and exciting time in your child’s life. If you simply want something different than the everyday kids’ story, then this book will be exactly what you need.
Now, if you’d like to connect with Dr. Amita Roy Shah (and given my interactions with her, I’d suggest it), then head to any of the following locations:
- Lights, Camera, Diwali! on Facebook
- Hybrid Parenting on Facebook
- It’s Time for Holi on Facebook
- Hybrid Parenting’s website
And of course, the best thing you can do is buy Amita’s book! Here’s the link:
Stay classy and smash, crash, and learn!