Rukmini Banerji, illustrated by Bindia Thapar,
City of Stories
Read India/Pratham Books, 2008.
In Rukmini Banerji’s City of Stories, a girl living in “one of the biggest, busiest cities in the world” can’t seem to find anyone to tell her a story. Everyone she asks is busy doing house work, reading the newspaper, playing games, running errands…
Things change, however, when Didi, a girl who seems “older than the children and younger than the teacher” shows up at school and, to the little girl’s surprise, says: “I can tell you story. What kind of story would you like?”. Didi’s gift as a storyteller has the younger one entranced. Soon the other children in the school join them and become absorbed by the vivid details of the many stories Didi tells them, again and again– animal stories, tales of adventure and mystery, stories about lost treasures and what to do when you are scared…
Soon, children from neighboring schools come. Children who had left school come. Even adults gather around Didi. They all listen eagerly, and learn how to spin their own tales. Their contagious enthusiasm spreads throughout the city and pretty soon begins to disturb the pace of life for its inhabitants. People, young and old, can’t stop listening and telling stories. As stories weave their way into their lives, they start forgoing their responsibilities–and to disastrous consequences: the postmen stop delivering the mail; bus drivers stop driving their buses; restaurants stop making food…
Accused of “flooding the city with an ocean of stories” that brings it to a halt, Didi and the little girl she first met are summoned to the Mayor’s mansion to set things straight. The outcome of their meeting, proposed by Didi, a simple one: “Let there be one story in the morning and one story in the evening.” Life in the big city, now known as the City of Stories, resumes its normal course, except that everyone’s lives have been enriched by stories and transformed forever.
Bindia Thapar’s exquisite watercolor and line-drawing illustrations showing the faces of enraptured, colorfully dressed children and images of the hub-hub of city life, brim with energy and details.
City of Stories is a reminder about the universal power of storytelling. It makes for a pitch-perfect read aloud – in the morning or at night.