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Stories from Orissa and the connections my students made.

While I’ve been posting about all kinds of books, our Indian Folk Tale theme has been continuing at the school library.

Last week we were in Orissa and I had two stories, one to read aloud and another narrated orally.

First, we were in Puri, a city whose name brought many giggles and witty comments, immersed with Aai and Priya in the Rath Yatra.

‘THE SECRET GOD OF THE FOREST’ written by Anuradha Kumar, illustrated by Piyush Verma, was a longish read, and I was afraid I was going to lose the attention my 6 year olds in my mixed age group class.

But as Aai began to narrate the story of the Nilamadhaba statue hidden in a secret grove in the forest, the story cast a spell and I had all eyes on the book and ears open.

It is a clever story, one that I’m sure many grandparents narrated in the past. The book narrates the story of the massive Nilamadhaba statue hidden in the forest...the God of the Sabaras tribe.

What happens when the ruler of a nearby kingdom wants the statue for a temple in his kingdom?

The children marvelled at the cleverness of Bidyapati, a minister of King Indrayumna and connected his trail of the mustard seeds with the story of Hansel and Gretel. Don't you just love when children make text to text connections? It means that their comprehension skills are working.

The very evocative illustrations of the mustard seed trail in bloom made them marvel at the brilliant idea of using seeds.

The book left them wanting more, they were so immersed in the tale that they did not want it to end…the perfect story, one that leaves you craving for more.

I was mentally kicking myself for not looking up the rest of the story to narrate to them orally. The children connected this story to the idols they saw at the ISKCON temple and the many temple festivals where they witnessed the rathas being pulled by the devotees. Here again, they activate schema to make connections.

So, I narrated another story. orally.

I heard being performed by Storyteller Vikram Sridhar at his performance storytelling event, The Rani’s of India. His story of Rani Shuka Dei had stayed with me, not just because she ruled as an equal with her husband the King, but also her skill as an expert horseman and warrior. She rode out into battle to protect her kingdom, despite having a little baby, and having been recently widowed, leading her army by example. Then having defeated her rival, she had him brought before her only to deliver justice with a woman’s heart, earning the respect of her opponent and the court around her.

Another story which left my students with their mouths open. Why would you not take revenge/retaliate when you had every opportunity to?

That is a question we need to all think about?

The Secret God of the Forest Publisher: Tulika Books Age: 6+

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