- Book Style: Storybook for toddlers, educational
- Reading Level: 2 (Read with Help due to: some advanced vocabulary, longer pages)
- Reading Length: 7-10 minutes (FYI – we never account for questions from your little ones)
- Illustration: Very colorful, realistic, and detailed
Lights, Camera, Diwali! is a fun storybook for toddlers. Our author (Dr. Amita Roy Shah) tells a story about the Indian festival of lights, otherwise known as Diwali. Our main character is named Diya; she receives a camera as a gift from her parent and then explores the different parts of the Diwali celebration (with her family and her new camera). The reader will learn about the celebration of Diwali, what it’s about, and why it’s an important piece of Indian culture.
What amazed me immediately while reading this book to my little guy is that there’s no forced rhyming. There are no gimmicks used by so many books to draw your child in. Instead, the author tells a story in a factual (yet fun) way, and in doing so, manages to engage your toddler entirely. Amita truly wants your child to gain an understanding of Diwali and what it means to take part in the event. She works to do so with every sentence in the book, and therefore each word is specifically used to further knowledge and understanding.
You can imagine my uncertainty about a book that wasn’t trying to rhyme, make me sing a song, or tell a story with a bunch of made up words that sound funny to a toddler. I didn’t know what to make of it at first, but it really worked out nicely. With every sentence, my toddler became more engaged and more interested in the story. He found the details in the story interesting and wanted to know more about very specific things. He asked questions about the characters, the stories, and about Diya herself. He even seemed to grasp that the main character Diya was telling a story from her perspective (he recognized some of the pictures were taken by Diya too). This kind of questioning doesn’t always happen with my toddler, and I find when it doesn’t then he doesn’t ask to read it again and hasn’t really absorbed much. As such, I was really pleased with how this book worked out and I’m sure he’s retained a good deal of the book. I’m also betting he’ll ask to read it again, which is the ultimate test isn’t it?
The story is written in the 1st person, but from a child’s perspective. Diya tells us everything she does during the celebration of Diwali. As a result, your child will truly see the event through the eyes of another child and be able to relate. Children often learn through seeing and mimicking, and the way this book is written guarantees they’ll try to mimic Diya. Your toddler might even help you clean up your house!
Diane Lucas is our book’s illustrator and she’s truly done a great job with the illustrations. Each picture furthers the story and draws your child in further. Simply put, they are fun illustrations with exceptional detail, a realistic look, and make the story even more interesting.
For my part, the consistency of illustrations of Diya is one of the best things in the book. She’s consistently drawn, and always looks like she’s having fun. She looks as though this event is truly a wonderful time and she’s going to remember it for years. The illustrations also add to your child’s retention of the story simply because the characters look like they’re enjoying everything.
There are a few other things that are great about the illustrations. The colors used are not the typical colors you find in a simplistic children’s book. There’s no picture that’s just a simple blue with splashes of yellow and red. When you look at the color of something as simple as the tree outside of the window in the picture below, it’s not the typical “fall leaf” color. It’s a much deeper orange, and I think the reason I like this so much is simply because it breaks from the traditional “easy” colors we find in children’s literature so often. I think it’ll help expand my child’s concept of the color orange (and others, of course).
I also love how most of the illustrations are “selfies”. This simple choice helps to provide a modern feel, inside a tradition-based story. It’s a great way to reach a young audience, and again it connects your child with Diya. The reader experiences everything through her eyes, as well as through the lens of the camera. It’s also interesting to see how the selfies seem to ensure that everyone looks great in pictures. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t happen when I take selfies!
Before we get too far, let me tell you a bit about the author. Amita is not just a toddler’s book author. She’s a leader in the field of multiculturalism as well as a doctor in the field of education. Amita previously founded Hybrid Parenting (http://hybridparenting.org), a website built to help parents guide their children in matters of explaining multiculturalism. Can you name a better way to break down cultural barriers in our society than by educating our children? Amita also has a doctorate in education and carries over 21 years of educational experience, which should tell you everything about the quality of her book(s).
Speaking of book(s), Amita has previously produced a book titled Its’ Time for Holi!, which also focuses on another Indian cultural event. It’s Time for Holi! won the Kids Are Readers Too (KART) award for “memorable content that enhances the gift of learning”, and it was featured in an incredible amount of important publications and media. When you read about the book on amazon (see link above), you can see it’s been integrated into the curricula of many schools in the US. That’s not something I’ve read ever about any book I’ve ever reviewed. In fact, if the book title isn’t “To Kill a Mockingbird”, I don’t think you’re allowed in schools.
In any case, this book is nothing short of excellent and I recommend it for parents of toddlers. It’s simply a great segue into explaining the differences between all kinds of people. I think most parents would agree that diversity is something that our toddler’s generation will have to deal with well, as the world wakes up to its diversity in the coming years. Dr. Amita Roy Shah has made this first discussion easier, and with it, every following discussion for you and your little toddler.
Now, if you’d like to connect with Dr. Amita Roy Shah, Hybrid Parenting, or simply learn more about her books, then head to any of the following locations:
- Lights, Camera, Diwali! on Facebook
- Hybrid Parenting on Facebook
- Hybrid Parenting’s website
- It’s Time for Holi! on Facebook
And of course, the best thing you can do is buy Amita’s book! Here’s the link:
Until next time…read!