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Pria Dee
Diya dances the Dandiya
Pria Dee, author
Diya Dances the Dandiya is a 950-word picture book features themes of Indian heritage, cultural welcoming, and high-spirited childhood. It also introduces Indian dance to a broader audience, particularly the sprightly dandiya, which includes the use of dancing sticks and noise-making anklets. This book is intended for young readers. Diya Dances the Dandiya follows little Diya as she searches the dance hall for her anklets—an important component of her dance costume. As she searches, she runs into family members and friends, and encounters other pieces of her dance costume that she did not realize were lost. In the end, she finds the anklets in a place she least expected… just in time for her team to get on stage and dance! Diya is a fun-loving, energetic child, whose journey will delight young readers. It is a heartwarming and funny story, to which that any parent of a young child can relate, as it pertains to an everyday crisis of misplaced things. This story is about Indian culture and experiences. It speaks to the heart of what I love about my culture; it is spirited, fun, and community oriented. Indian culture is rich with family values, clothes, jewelry, food, dance, and music. This story brings readers a little taste of India.
Diya is excited to perform her first Dandiya for the Navaratri celebration, but once she realizes she’s lost her anklets, she embarks on a low-stakes journey to find them and educates readers about Indian/Hindi traditions and vocabulary along the way in Dee’s Diya Dances the Dandiya. Full of family, community, and heart, Diya’s search for her anklets provides a straightforward and friendly way of introducing readers to articles of clothing, food, and even name meanings, including Diya’s, which means lamp or light. Kim’s pastel illustrations on brown paper renders a more subdued color palette that still manages to have pops of color that suit the celebratory setting and mood.

As the book explains concepts and words to readers while also furthering the plot about the missing anklets, the text sometimes piles up, with large blocks of words taking up an entire page and occasionally a word that might not be familiar to readers not immersed in Indian culture gets presented without further context, as in the scene where Diya remembers that she washed her hands after eating a samosa, and her little brother Ramu sits on the counter eating laddu. A glossary at the back helps, as do Youngju Kim’s rich and emotive illustrations, which center Diya’s feelings while finding in clothes, food, and smiles bursts of inviting color.

The simplistic approach to introducing new words and concepts may serve younger readers well, and incentivize them to do further research into Indian culture. In so doing, Diya Dances the Dandiya succeeds at being a welcoming and engaging introduction, and the illustrations are well worth revisiting for appreciating small details. Likewise, young Indian readers may also find themselves, their friends, their families and traditions in this book, making it worth a gander for anyone interested in the premise.

Takeaway: A charming picture book introduction to Navaratr and the Dandiya.

Great for fans of: Meera Sriram’s A Gift for Amma, Surishtha Sehgal’s Festival of Colors.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-