reviews & Recognitions
Junior Library Guild Selection
Bank Street’s “Outstanding Merit” book on 2014 edition of
Best Books of the Year for Children and Young Adults
Semi-finalist Irma Simonton Black Award 2014
Nominated for Maine Chickadee Award 2014
Set in Pakistan during Basant, “the most exciting day of the year,” this story focuses on the strength and resourcefulness of a child in a wheelchair as he navigates the skies at the spring kite festival.
Perched on the rooftop and assisted by his brother and sister, Malik launches his small but swift creation, named Falcon, into the stratosphere, where it defeats both of the kites that belong to the bully next door. (Unlikely as that may be, it will undoubtedly please the intended audience.) Falcon sends many others to the ground, where “they’ll belong to whoever finds them. But at least they will have tasted freedom.” Silk, burlap, brocade, embroidery, ribbons and rice paper mingle with light brown figures outlined in black within exquisite and dynamic mixed-media collages. In one particularly successful scene, layered buildings and billowing laundry form a backdrop, the three siblings dominate the middle ground, and Malik’s white robe becomes a sky against which small figures cycle in the foreground. Pointed Moorish arches are a design element on almost every page, often framing the text and lending a cultural reference. Displaying another side of his personality, the “King” concludes his day of warfare with a secret act of kindness. Krömer’s inventive compositions are a visually exciting match for Khan’s introduction to an appealing event (originally published in Canada in 2001 with art by different illustrators).
This story soars.
School Library Journal
Spring has arrived in Lahore, Pakistan, and the celebration of Basant ushers it in with an annual kite-flying contest. Young Malik plans to win the self-proclaimed title of “king of Basant” by capturing and/or setting free more kites than anyone else. He puts all his faith in his small handmade kite, Falcon, and enters the competition. Thus ensues the story of how Malik, who, incidentally, is in a wheelchair, sits on his balcony and, with assistance from his sister and brother, wins the coveted designation and defeats the bully next door. Mixed-media collage illustrations consist of an intriguing combination of cut paper, floss, yarn, cloth, and pencil sketches. Varying perspectives include ground level, balcony level, and kite’s-eye views of the action. The breezy conditions are evident in the soaring kites, billowing curtains, and Malik’s sister’s clothing. An author’s note gives a historical view of the spring festival and its traditions in the ancient city.–Maryann H. Owen, Children’s Literature Specialist, Mt. Pleasant, WI
American Library Association
Using a fantastic medley of mixed-media collage that incorporates traditional Pakistani fabric, handmade paper, burlap, silk, and ribbon, Krömer skillfully captures the textures and colors of basant, the spring kite-flying festival in Lahore. During basant, the people of Lahore move to their rooftops to enjoy the spectacle of a sky filled with kites and birds, an impressive city skyline, their community, and the renewal of spring. Here, a boy in a wheelchair overpowers the neighborhood bully with his kite-flying savvy and keen, compassionate eye. While this is undeniably grounded in a Lahori tradition, it is also a universal tale of one boy’s good-natured, competitive spirit and desire to shine, if only for a day. This story could be paired with Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness (2012) to spark discussion about being a bystander. -Amina Chaudhri
With the arrival of the spring festival in Lahore, Pakistan, no one is more excited than Malik who is ready for the upcoming kite-flying battles armed with Falcon. “‘How can you be king of Basant with only one kite?’” his sister teases. “‘Insha Allah, it will be fast enough,’” he happily insists.
Directing from his wheelchair on the family’s rooftop, Malik sends his brother “downwind so he can catch the kites I will set free.” His sister remains nearby, carefully following his instructions. Together, the children take on the bully next door, whose hurtful words and powerful kites are no match for Falcon. Once he’s defeated the enemy, Falcon continues to pluck kite after kite from the sky: “When they land, they’ll belong to whoever finds them. But at least they will have tasted freedom.”
Malik is not only king of Basant for his aerial prowess, but even more so for his earthbound kindness as he manages – anonymously! – to stop the tears of a little girl who becomes the bully’s next victim. Joyfully, he’s already planning for next year: “And tomorrow I will start designing a new kite … for next Basant when, Insha Allah, I will be king again.” By highlighting Malik’s many other strengths and talents, author Rukhsana Khan seamlessly presents a hero who is much more than his physical challenges: His patience and skill prove stronger than any bully’s cruelty and greed.
Christiane Krömer, who “specializes in illustrating stories that feature cultures from around the world,” uses multi-layered, mixed-media collages to enhance Khan’s caring story: unexpected combinations of delicate embroidery and rougher textures add depth, carefully placed architectural specifics ground the narrative, while the depiction of a teeny-tiny black cat who is the sole witness to Malik’s secret thoughtfulness turns out to be the perfect ‘show-don’t-tell’ detail.
In the endnote “About Basant,” Canada-based Khan gives a cultural and historical overview of Basant in her birthcountry of Pakistan. She explains in the final paragraph how “kite flying and the celebration of Basant in Lahore were banned for safety reasons and for security concerns due to orthodox religious opposition.” According to a recent Pakistani media article, “Hundreds have died in Basant related accidents in the past decade”! Khan mentions that 2013 was supposed to bring a return of Basant to Lahore, but activities remained cancelled until this year. At least in Lahore, Basant officially returns February 21 until March 5, 2014. Here’s to the promise to lofty adventures ahead!
Cozy Little Book Review
...You know what? I think I'm just going to turn this whole review over to my daughter, Magda.
So when I get older and I travel, I hope I'm going to get to go to Pakistan where the kite festival is, and then I can see the kite festival. And they'll say, "Do you know what today is?" And I'll say, "Yes, it's the kite festival day!" I'll know because I already read this book! Can we go fly a kite now, Mommy?