A beautiful children’s picture book that showcases a young Indian boy’s fascination with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women. Rather than chastise her son, she teaches him about its cultural significance and doesn’t flinch when he asks for one himself. Wearing it allows him to joyfully explore and express his difference.
Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, and film. She is the author of The Subtweet, Death Threat, even this page is white, The Boy & The Bindi, She of the Mountains, and God Loves Hair; and her best-selling I’m Afraid of Men was heralded by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel”. She is one half of the music duo Too Attached, founder of the publishing imprint VS. Books, and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.
Beautiful rhyming musical text and vibrantly coloured illustrations. I love how the gender non-conformity of the boy wanting his mom's bindi is totally not made into a big deal. Very affirming for brown and/or gender non-conforming kids!
The art in this book is stunning and I love how affirming it is - I just wish there was some back matter or other type of author's note to teach readers more about the bindi (what it means, cultural significance, etc.).
While I am no expert on children’s books by any stretch of the imagination, I did enjoy reading them to my nieces and nephews when they were younger. Some books originally intended for younger audiences can be enjoyed at any age, and I think that ‘The Boy and the Bindi’ is a good example. The target age may be 4 to 8 years, but the message behind this beautifully illustrated story is compelling and applicable to people of any age.
On the face of it, the story is simple. A young boy is fascinated by the red bindi his mother wears in the middle of her forehead. Like for many other Indian and South Asian women, it might have religious meaning for her, or it could be a signal that she is married. The explanation she gives her son is that it reminds her of where she is from and of her own mother. The boy, of course, wants one as well, and the mother gives him one of a different color. The boy’s bindi is yellow, and he goes on to explore its effect on himself and his environment.
Like another children’s book I read recently, this one challenges the gender stereotype that “only girls wear bindis”. This has not been the case historically, according to my (brief) research bindis have been worn by men as well as women, and in some regions of Asia they still are. But for many young children who grow up with the majority belief that “bindis are for girls”, this book may help open their eyes to a different reality.
There is also a powerful message for children (and adults) outside the Indian culture. It shows what a bindi is and what it can mean. But it is also a book with nonwhite characters, and in that sense, celebrates diversity through its existence and the message it sends. As the author says in one of the press releases about this book:
“The Boy & the Bindi is about the relationships between a boy and his mother, his family, his culture, his friends, his gender, and social norms. There is a need for books that address these themes, especially through the lens of a boy of colour. In 2014, of the 3,500 children’s books received by Cooperative Children’s Book Center, only 112 were about Asian Pacific Americans (just under 4%).”
I can recommend this book for many reasons: its celebration of diversity and the fact that its main characters are people of color - although it makes me sad that this is celebration-worthy, it should be the norm! Then there are the beautiful illustrations, the awe in the boy’s telling of how he figures out what the bindi means to him personally, and the message about how his different approach to tradition is accepted. It’s a beautiful fairy tale and a great vision of how things might be one day. I loved it!
This book was so beautifully drawn and so very colourful as well! In this story, there is a boy as the main character who is drawn to his mother's bindi. The book was very vivid and beautiful with lovely, colourful illustrations with a lot of blue, pink, and purple.
Amazing to see this team, Vivek Shraya and Rajni Perera, create such a beautiful book.
A young boy is fascinated by his mother's bindi in this rhyming picture-book from Canadian artist and author Vivek Shraya. Attracted to the "bright and pretty spot," he is given a poetic explanation of what a bindi is and does, keeping one "safe and true," and reminding the wearer of where she comes from. When the boy asks his mother if he can have a bindi, she gives him one to wear, and he immediately feels calm and happy...
Although not associated exclusively with women in all Asian cultures, in India the use of the bindi - a decorative mark that is situated over the spot in the forehead considered the location of the mystical "third eye" - does seem to be a gendered practice. I have vivid memories of a college friend from India who would become very incensed about the topic, considering the bindi a symbol of the oppression of women. For my part, having not studied the subject, I have no strong or fixed opinion on the matter, and approached The Boy & The Bindi with curiosity. Here the practice seems more a marker of identity, although its spiritual aspects are touched upon as well. The text is somewhat clunky at times (always a risk, with rhyming tales), but overall the narrative is positive and upbeat, and the artwork, done by Rajni Perera, is lovely. This one reminded me of Jacob's New Dress, a similar story of a boy embracing traditionally female attire, but it is nice to see a story bringing in South Asian culture as well. Recommended to anyone looking for children's stories in which the characters experiment with gendered behavior and dress.
While the rhymes were a bit clunky at times, I appreciate that this book exists. Finding children's books by queer authors in the library is so encouraging, especially when I think about how much I would have appreciated these kinds of things when I was younger. (Which really wasn't all that long ago, but things have changed so much in even just the past fifteen years, I'm so excited to see more LGBTQA literature out there.)
This book touches on identity, gender, culture, and it's all done in a really positive way. I like that it doesn't treat any of those things as a "very special" issue -- the story itself feels really down to earth and authentic, despite the sometimes awkward writing.
Wow! This little picture book explores so much in such a tiny space. I loved the illustrations: they're saturated with color and are glorious in depicting the little boy, his Ammi, and what the bindi means to both of them. I really liked Ammi's response to her son and how the son learned and grew from it. I learned so much about bindis and it was fascinating!
The Boy and the Bindi is a very sweet story about a young boy's connection to his mother's Bindi and his own Bindi. The gentle rhyming pattern works very well, and delivers the story in a smooth way that is easy for read-alouds. The illustrations are lovely and really bring the story to life.
I look forward to reading more from the author. I definitely recommend this one.
Really lovely book. I love it when children's books teach me things and I learned about the bindi from this one, as well as it being an awesome depiction of acceptance and a little boy's relationship with his mother. I agree with other reviewers that the rhyme scheme isn't perfect but to me that just made it sound more like his voice, trying it his way. I think this one worked really well in first person.
I read this for my English Literature for Children class (396) and had the pleasure to actually hear a lecture given by the author! Who I must say, is extremely fashionable, knowledgeable and conscious of social issues.
From our analysis of picture books, I have learned that children's books sometimes address political and social issues and are actually more complicated than what we expect.
I appreciate how the author depicted a darker skinned Indian individual, the acceptance of the mother in giving a bindi to her son (which is most traditionally worn by women), and how the young protagonist is proud of wearing his bindi. In one scene of the book when he is confronted by his classmates, I had the fear that they would begin to make fun of him for being different. However, the protagonist interpreted it as a sign of curiosity and pride where he believed that they also wanted a bindi to wear themselves. The pictures in this book are beautiful drawn and the narrative of the book alongside it makes for a great read!
I liked this book, but appreciate it more after reading the reviews. I wish it did not assume so much in prerequisite knowledge to understand the significance. I had no idea that 1. the bindi had a special name-- bindi, (as opposed to a dot), or 2. that it is usually worn by women. So, until I read the reviews, I had no clue that this might have been an unusual family exchange, with a "nonconforming" or LGBTQ or specific twist to this story. I only saw the story first as an introduction to the significance of the Bindi -- passing information from adult (mother/aunt/grandmother?) to child, and assumed it was an explanation of that culture. I did not know who AMMI was (and there was no explanation, although on the back of the book, half covered by our library's barcode, it does say that he asks about "the dot on his mother's forehead."). Likewise, I was just guessing that this was Indian, and did not realizing it was originally worn by Hindu and Jain women. It would have been nice to have interpretative text for those who pick up this book and are equally ignorant in advance, to give some more context. Background into diverse authors: Maybe of interest to note: The author's website says it is a digital archive for Vivek Shraya, a "living trans artist of colour, featuring her music, writing, visual art and film works." This wasn't necessary to the authorship, but gives me a little more sense of the likelihood that this is deliberately nonconforming and perhaps showing a pointedly positive family relationship.
The Boy & the Bindi is a children's picture book written by Vivek Shraya and illustrated by Rajni Perera, which tells a story about a boy questioning his mother about her bindi and asking for one himself.
Shraya's text is rather simply wonderful – it's simplistic, straightforward, yet has a innocence and almost poetic tone to it. Through the inquisitiveness of the boy, we get to learn about what a Bindi is and what the purpose of wearing one. Perera's illustrations are simply wonderful and one can almost feel a spiritual connection with some of the pictures. It depicted the text extremely well.
The premise of the book is rather straightforward. A boy's fascination with his mother's bindi, the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women just on their forehead between their eyes, has her teaching her son about its cultural significance. She doesn't even flinch when he asks one for himself and by wearing it allows him to joyfully explore and express his difference to his friends and culture – as a bindi is traditionally worn by women.
All in all, The Boy & the Bindi is a wonderful children's book depicting the cultural and spiritual significance of a bindi and touches (if you squint) gender stereotypes.
Well, the pictures didn't impress me. And--forgive my spacey brain these days--I went the whole book thinking "the child looks like a boy" and I thought the Bindi was only for females. Eventually I looked at the title (which I have known for months), and went, "It IS a boy!" Yeah. No brain.
I didn't know anything about Bindis (can you pluralize it?) until this book. So I liked learning a little something, but there needed to be more explanation at the end. In some ways I left more confused. At least the poem flowed well.
This is a multicultural book about a young Indian boy discovering himself and his place in his culture. He is proud of his heritage and shares information about his culture. He is encouraged by his older sister. I think this book would help students to be able to explore themselves and look to find meaning in who they are in the world. I think it also encourages positive relationships with others.
Content warnings are listed at the end of my review!
The art absolutely stunned me and drew me in strongly to the book! Rajni Perera's illustrations add a spiritual and passionate beauty to the story, capturing the creative and reflective messages of the narrative.
We follow a young Indian boy observing his mother's bindi, the red dot on her forehead, curious about what it is. She explains to him that it is a bindi, and answers his questions on why she wears it, and how it works. He becomes excited and wants to wear a bindi to wear, and is delighted to receive his own. We watch his journey of connection to his bindi and how wearing it makes him feel.
Summary: Readability: ★★★★☆, Almost the entire book rhymes, making it very songlike. Some rhymes are a small stretch, but there's only 5 lines that don't directly rhyme, personally not taking too much away from the rhythm for myself. The story is incredibly easy to follow, and describes the personal reason why a bindi is worn.
Entertainment: ★★★★★, This book was so upbeat, loving, and cohesive, I reread it many times while making this review! The art and rhymes really make this book something special, I think it would make a really engaging story time book.
Audience: I think this would be such a fun read out loud, perfect for discussions about the meaning of wearing a bindi, emotional connections, spirituality, and expression. There is even a free teacher's guide provided for creating lessons inspired by the book. It was such a creative and visually stunning book, I recommend it to everyone!