I read this 30 page early elementary book a few times before writing this review and honestly my cheeks hurt because I cannot stop smiling. The lyrical writing radiates warmth and pride, culture and tradition, legacy and identity, while acknowledging both the playfulness and solemnness of a piece of fabric. My heart breathed with the clarity and articulation that is felt and contained within the fabric that perhaps all Pakistanis feel, but cannot convey so poetically. The book may be meant for children four to eight years old, but all readers will appreciate the text and illustrations that seamlessly flow like a favorite dupatta grabbed while running out the door. I struggled with picking only a few images to share, as every page became my new favorite as the book progressed. Admittedly though, one page did give me pause as it conflated incense burning with getting rid of evil spirits which comes across as a religious belief, but is a cultural practice.
The book starts out with the actual physical description of what a dupatta is and how it is adorned. It then moves on to describing the color, the sound, the smell, the place, the function, the art, the beauty, the fun, the faith, the legacy, and the identity. Each spread ends with the words, “but a dupatta is so much more…” seamlessly weaving so many facets of what a dupatta is together to create a true understanding of it from a tangible, to cultural, to practical perspective.
I love that there is a page about faith, and praying five times a day with a dupatta being worn, it is a little odd that there is a portrait decorating the wall behind the two characters making dua, but at least it is clearly behind them. I absolutely loved that so often the wearer of the dupatta was also wearing a hijab, particularly the bride picture- which is absolutely gorgeous. It signals without words that a dupatta can be worn to cover a Muslim woman’s head, but it is also often not. The backmatter further details that it was once worn as part of the national dress and as a form of modesty, but now is often worn as an accessory.
One summer in Pakistan, a friend and some cousins and I started trying to formulate 101 Things to do with a dupatta (wipe noses, pull things out of the oven, catch fish), it was the year of net dupattas so clearly covering your head was not one of them. Sure we were being silly, but to see the book also highlight wiping sticky hands, and wrapping it up like a sari, and using it as a cradle to rock a baby was very, very accurate and heartwarming.
Please pre order this book, it signals to publishers that these books are in demand and is a way to show what type of books we want to see. I preordered mine here.