Archana—Archie for short—loves Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
This year, for the first time, she’s invited her friends Virgil, Nora, and Paisley to her house for her family’s annual Diwali party, which makes her excited but also nervous. Before her friends arrive, she tidies up the rangoli, sets out the diyas, and plugs in the strings of lights around the house. But her family’s preparations make her anxious all over again. What if Dida’s food is too spicy for her friends? Then it starts to pour, ruining all of Archie’s careful decorations. Shortly after her friends arrive, the power goes out, and Archie is sure that this is the worst Diwali ever—until her friends ask her what the holiday is really about. By the end of the party, Archie’s friends aren’t the only ones who develop an appreciation of Diwali: Archie, too, realizes why it’s the most special day of the year. The book’s vivid illustrations utilize a bright color palette that perfectly matches the spirit of the holiday. The storyline is compelling, accurately reflecting the reality of children who celebrate religions outside the mainstream American culture, and it ends in an organic and believable way. Unfortunately, in the afterword, the author does not specify that Diwali is a Hindu celebration, a flattening omission.
This sweet picture book about sharing Diwali will ring true in many households.
Archie, short for Archana, has invited a few friends to her family’s Diwali celebration. She feels nervous that they will think her traditions are weird. Archie becomes even more nervous when a storm knocks out the power. But though she apologizes for the spicy food, her friends love the traditional dishes. Their interest leads Archie to share one of the holiday’s origin stories. The power returns, the storm blows over, and everyone enjoys dancing and setting off firecrackers together. Bold colors reflect the decorations of Diwali celebrations, while lights are emphasized with smudges and glows. The use of chiaroscuro conveys the holiday’s theme of light and good overcoming darkness and evil. Bengali words are used with plenty of context to decipher their meanings (and are explicitly defined in a glossary). Other back matter includes more specific information about the origins of Diwali and how it is observed, and a recipe for making diya (Diwali candles). The narrative is a bit clunky at points, wedging in a superfluous detail here and leaving out a transition there; still, it’s an effective primer on the holiday that also communicates the mix of excitement and anxiety experienced by children sharing cultural practices with friends who have different customs. VERDICT Though this isn’t a completely smooth read, enchanting illustrations and a simple plot offer an enjoyable glimpse of one family’s celebration. A strong choice for picture book shelves.
—School Library Journal
Archie’s favorite holiday, Diwali, is here, and she’s excited for her family’s annual party. Decorations are set, the food’s prepared, and she’s wearing her special outfit, but Archie’s nervous because this year she’s sharing her family’s traditions with friends. A storm and power outage threaten to ruin the party, but, while eating by lantern light, a friend asks what Diwali is, and Archie draws her pals in with the story of Diwali and how the Festival of Lights is a reminder “that evil and darkness can’t win against all our lights shining together.” When the power returns, there’s dancing and fireworks outdoors, rounding out a celebration that everyone enjoys—especially because they share it with family and friends. Slick, digitally rendered illustrations depict the scenarios in vivid color and incorporate some of the holiday customs. The text presumes some familiarity with the holiday’s Hindu association, and appended back matter helps bolster the story with a glossary of Hindi terms used in the book, some additional Diwali information, and a craft. An upbeat story about the holiday and a reassuring portrayal of childhood anxieties.