the blue jackal

BLue Jackal_revised Spreads.cdrThe Blue Jackal by Shobha Viswanath with illustrations by Dileep Joshi

Viswanath’s retelling of The Blue Jackal is in rhyme, making it enjoyable to read aloud. Children can search for Juno the jackal on each page, who becomes blue after falling in a vat of Indigo. The other animals, who once abused and neglected him, now think Juno must be a god and seek to obey his orders. But what will happen as Juno’s real color starts showing?

This children’s book recounts a tale from the Panchatantra, a 3rd century Indian literature consisting of five books of animal fables. They are much like Aesop’s fables, delving into difficult topics like morality, philosophy, and ethics. This tale is from the first book, The Separation of Friends, which is the longest book in the set.

Though I am interested in fables, it was the illustrations that attracted me to this book. Burgundy and violet dominate with white-painted figures and landscapes to tell the tale, and an Indigo-dyed jackal throughout. The illustrations are done in the painting style of the Warli. The Warli tribe on the outskirts of Mumbai has had little outside influence and their artwork was only discovered in the 1970s.

Their paintings resemble prehistoric cave paintings, but they are far more complex and offer details into both animal and human communities and relationships. The paintings are done inside their huts, with walls made of earth, branches, and cow dung. This must count for the rich burgundy background. The white pigment is painted on using a bamboo stick, providing a painterly quality stroke with little fine detail. The limited color palette and simple illustrations are expected in a children’s book, but they also help readers absorb a rather serious tale about contempt.

* Please note that I received a free copy of this book from LibraryThing in exchange for a review.