Four and half year-old twins Kai and Che Millington were on the horns of a dilemma: what color yarn should they choose for the yak’s tail ?
Book artist Sushmita Mazumdar surveyed the library table, covered with a large map of India and chock full of colored paper and crayons.
Sushmita had just shared her story, “Juley, Yak !” (“Hello,Yak !” in Bengali, the language of her childhood) with a roomful of young readers gathered at Takoma DC’s Public Library. The Indian-born graphic designer first wrote the story for her own children, and soon figured out how to make yak-shaped books that kids could personalize. Her summer appearance at the Cedar Avenue library was part of a series called “One World Many Stories.”
“I want kids to learn how different life is in other places,” says Sushmita. “In addition to my Yak book is one about the Buddhist prayer wheel. I want to get them thinking of how everyday events can inspire stories and art.”
Sushmita aims to teach kids a little bit about Indian culture with her spare text: “On the Yak’s head are horns/In his nose a ring/On the Yak’s back is a load/He carries up the mountain.”
The text begins: “Hello Yak!” – a hint that the subject is a domesticated animal.
It’s pictured in snow – a clue that its natural habitat is cold. And the ring in its nose shows that it’s a beast of burden, used to carry loads of grass. Sushmita uses her story, about a yak she once saw when visiting the countryside outside the Indian city of Ladakh, to encourage kids to tell their own stories.
“My kids liked the books so much they made further embellishments when they got home, “ said Michelle Glasby Millington. “Now they know that yaks are black and brown, and live in the mountains. And someday they’d love to go to India.”