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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Sacred Banana Leaf (The)
by Nathan Kumar Scott
Age Range: 6-8
The Sacred Banana Leaf is a re-telling of a popular Indonesian and Malaysian trickster tale featuring Kanchil, the mouse-deer who lives in the rainforest. One bright sunny day Kanchil is on his way back from Sunday market where he has bought some delicious sweet rice cakes wrapped in a big banana leaf. He is so engrossed in licking every last grain of sticky rice off the leaf that he does not look where he is going and falls into a deep pit. Kanchil is unable to climb out, but it is not long before he comes up with a cunning plan that allows him to trick a gullible snake, a nervous wild boar and a hungry tiger into inadvertently helping him to get out of the pit.
Re-told by Nathan Kumar Scott, these trickster tales, about the wise fool, the clown, or the small animal who outwits larger more powerful animals appear in the folklore of most cultures around the world.
The art for this story has been created by Radhashyam Raut, who paints in the Patachitra style – an ornamental temple mural painting that started around the ancient temple of Puri, Orissa in Eastern India. The sand-toned pages contrast beautifully with the saturated colour of the clearly defined animals; Kanchil appears in a rich red with small yellow dots while the snake has blue and black scales with a pale yellow under-belly. The wild boar is depicted in a dark green with a splash of red and the tiger is a vivid orange with small black stripes. The illustrations include symmetrical foliage that suggests the forest setting and the pit appears as a series of circles with a variety of coloured and decorative borders.
The Sacred Banana Leaf is a true feast for the eye and a perfect book to use for storytelling or introducing children to a different style of art from Asia. More information regarding the origins of the story and art is provided at the end of the book together with a game which children can make themselves.