This book combines knowledge with a sweet story and a spunky narrator. Over 32 brightly illustrated pages the reader learns about the art of dyeing yarn, weaving, and the tradition of weaving saris in India moving from Mysore to Kaithoon in Kota. The little girl loves it all, helping her father dye the threads, and watching her mother work the loom. It often takes a month to make a sari, and her mother makes beautiful saris, but she never wears them. With the help of her older sister Sadaf, the little girl hopes to earn enough money to gift her mother a beautiful sari to wear. It will take a lot of work, some community help, and some sacrifice, but Ammi is worth it and the girls are up for the challenge. Preschool to early elementary readers will enjoy learning about the daily life of these amazing Indian Muslim artisans and a craft that they perhaps were not aware existed.
The buffalo are sleeping, but in the afternoon Abba is busy dyeing threads, and mama is weaving colors into prints of mangoes, peacocks, birds, leaves, and flowers. The whole family helps. Abba goes to the haat to sell the completed saris. Sometimes Mama goes as well, but she doesn’t wear the saris, she wears worn-out salwar-kameezes.
One day, when Ammi finishes a particularly beautiful sari the little girl asks her to keep it, but her Ammi says, “If we keep the saris, how will we eat?” The little girl doesn’t understand, they don’t eat saris.
Sadaf explains to her little sister that the only way their Ammi will wear a sari is if they buy her one. So the little girl breaks her bank apart to count the money she has and convinces Sadaf that the things they wanted with the money are nothing compared to how much they want something for their mother.
But Sadaf says they only have enough money for a towel, not a sari, so the girls gather some items to sell to the junk man. They have enough to buy Ammi a duputta, but still not a sari.
They wander home through the wheat field trying to come up with other money raising ideas. The wheat remind the little girl of worshippers on Eid day- all praying together at the mosque. The little girl remembers that sometimes their neighbor Amina Khala purchases dyed threads from them and they rush over to see if she has any work for them. Luckily she does, and they have just enough to buy a sari for Ammi and be rewarded with a smile and tears from their beloved and talented mother.
The book has an information page at the end about The Saris of Kaithoon, as well as a glossary. The story ends a bit abruptly, but the teardrop in the illustrations, the hugging, and the smile, do provide a universal relatability to parents everywhere when their children gift them something so genuinely from the heart. The illustrations also show women with their heads covered going about their daily life.