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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 Tutu Dutta
Age Range: 6-8
Arohan dreams of having a guitar so when his grandmother gives him a plain old bamboo flute for his eight birthday he is disappointed. His mother explains that this is no ordinary flute: it’s called a xiao and is a family heirloom. She tells him about Cendrawasih, an ancient Chinese/Malay legend of a man who roamed the forest with the birds and wild animals. He had a special gift. Whenever he played the xiao he could summon the phoenix who represents spring and the renewal of life.
When Arohan’s brothers go missing on the slopes of the hill behind their home, he follows them into the bamboo grove. Arohan knows he must summon up his courage and find a way to placate the Guardian of the Forest in order to find them again.
This is a beautifully crafted story by author Tutu Dutta, who was born in India but grew up in Malaysia. Taking a version of a Malay folktale she has given it a contemporary setting whist retaining the essence of the true legend. Italian artist Martina Peluso’s illustrations are truly exquisite, rendering rich, lush landscapes, a whispering bamboo grove and the magnificent phoenix as it rises up out of the final pages.