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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)
by Rachna Gilmore
Age Range: 6-8
When the swollen river bursts its banks during the monsoon rains Chandra’s mother and father are swept away. Due to her parents’ foresight Chandra survives because they place her in the branches of a big tree. Chandra is forced to live with her uncaring aunt and uncle who mistreat her and work her mercilessly while her two cousins bully and torment her. Chandra’s only source of comfort is the wooden flute her mother gave her which becomes a symbol of her mother’s spirit.
Every morning and evening when she takes the cows up river Chandra carries the flute and tries to play of the trees and the sky, but the flute sings only of aching and loss. Eventually her cruel uncle cannot stand the sound any longer and flings the flute into the river where it is carried away.
A harsh winter is followed by blazing heat and food is scarce. Each day Chandra takes the cows further up the river and tries to whistle one of her mother’s songs. As she does so she hears the mysterious sound of her mother’s flute.
This original folk tale set in India by Rachna Gilmore tells the story of resilience and hope. Music is the one thing that helps Chandra to survive all the calamities that befall her.
The Flute is illustrated by one of India’s most celebrated illustrators, Pulak Biswas. Stunning black and white images are contrasted with vivid splashes of primary colours – red for Chandra's sari, blue for the river, and a dash of yellow representing the sun and the moon. The illustrations are simplistic and the charcoal black figures have a smudgy texture that gives the appearance of woodcuts or engravings as they stand out against a stark grey/white background.