Multicultural Kidlit Giveaway: A Lion’s Mane by Navjot Kaur

Update: Please scroll to the end for the giveaway winner’s details.

“As I went to pick up my son at the end of his second day in Kindergarten, he appeared at the exit door with his patka [turban] almost off his head. I thought to myself, they probably had Gym class. But that wasn’t the case. I was quickly informed that another Kindergartener had pulled my son’s patka off his head while he sat on the carpet in class. [...] I questioned whether it had been an action of curiosity? I hoped that the response would be positive but it was not. Bullying, in Kindergarten.

We came home and I held it together the whole way. Once we cuddled and I reassured him when he asked, “You going to tell [boy’s name] to say sorry to me?” I went into another room and cried. I’m not sure why I felt so defeated for that tiny moment but I did. But [...] I gained my strength and prepared next steps.”

Vancouver-based mother/teacher/writer Navjot Kaur’s next step was to write a picture book that explained the visible symbols of her Sikh culture, so children would understand why her son looked different. A Lion’s Mane  (Saffron Press, 2009) tells children about the significance of the dastaar (turban, likened to a lion’s mane in this book), the name Singh (lion), langar (the Sikh community kitchen that serves food to all) and other central tenets of Sikhism. Founded in 15th century India, Sikhism emphasizes service and justice, and abjures its followers from cutting their hair–hence the turban for males. (Post 9/11, Sikhs faced escalating hatred as they were often mistaken for Muslims. Nasty every way you look at it.)

Kaur’s book is notable for the intelligence of her approach; rather than merely explaining/extolling her faith, she has her young protagonist show us how Sikhism’s emphasis on the lion is echoed in other cultures. The book thus affirms the importance of preserving cultural identity while denying exceptionalism, and that’s winning strategy for those of us experiencing multiculturalism in our daily lives. (My son’s kindergarten class of 15 made-in-Canada kids includes four East Asians, one Egyptian, one Australian and one South Asian (him), so you can see why I think this book is important and urgent.) Reading about Richard the Lionheart, the Chinese Lion Dance and even lion rugs in ancient Iran, children learn that across cultures, lions have many  (positive) associations–regality, strength, courage, and really awesome roars. Show me a child who wouldn’t want to identify with that? And if one’s faith happens to require a mane-like length of cloth wound to create a turban, well, that’s a great way to mark an affiliation with Sikhism–and with other cultures around the world. What a positive, inclusive message.

The book is also visually lovely, with illustrations drenched in rich color.

The red turban waves across each page, unfolding different qualities associated with lions. The above illustration (click to enlarge) explains the significance of the mountain lion in Hopi culture, and the turban says “nobility” and “guidance”.

And one more, because it’s so cheerful.

Others thought the book was pretty great too–A Lion’s Mane won a Skipping Stones Honor Award in 2010.  The suggested reading age for this book is six, but the illustrations will appeal to the very young, while the text, which is fairly abstract, will suit nine and ten-year-olds. Those in multicultural surroundings will identify, while those in more homogenous environments will learn; I can’t decide which is the more important. In sum: this book ought to be read by kids of all spots and stripes.

You can buy this book for $18.50 here; a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Seva Canada, a charity that helps restore sight to blind children. The book is  eco-friendly, printed on kinder gentler recycled paper. And it’s  a hardback, so it’s handy to bop haters on their heads. I’m also giving away a copy of the book to readers of this blog; to enter, please leave a comment telling me you’d like a copy. The giveaway ends March 21,  is open to those with Canadian/US mailing addresses, and the winning comment will be picked by the reliably whimsical Random Number Generator.

If you are invested in kids, kidlit, and/or multiculturalism, do consider spreading the love about this book and giveaway. For the rest of Navjot Kaur’s story, and to read more about the genesis of the book, please visit her site here.

Update: Random number generator picked a commenter #5 as the winner; that’s Nupur! I’ll be emailing you shortly, Nupur, for your mailing address. Thank you to all those who entered–I read your comments with much admiration, and  I wish each of you could win a copy.

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21 responses to “Multicultural Kidlit Giveaway: A Lion’s Mane by Navjot Kaur

  1. I would love a copy!

  2. I would love a copy – I know some haters that need bopping on the head! Just kidding… sort of. In this part of the world, most of the prejudice and discrimination is aimed towards First Nations people, probably because they are the largest visible minority. It makes me sad that everyone can’t just be accepted for who they are. Seriously, I would love a copy of this book, especially to share with my nephews and niece who live in a very homogenous village.

  3. It always saddens me to hear about stories of discrimination especially with young children. Too many of us share such experiences and it’s the education of acceptance and the celebration of our differences that will make this world a better place. The book seems to demonstrate this beautifully and there are an increasing number of children’s authors that are drawn to this theme. As a teacher, I’m constantly looking for opportunities to expose students to the beauty of diversity. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Teachers can do so much in situations like these! In the rest of her story, Navjot explains how she arranged for a session with the class thanks to the teacher’s support. Your students are lucky to have you :)
      Do let me know if you’d like to be entered for the draw.

      • I would love the chance to be entered in the draw… there is a chance of me getting off the supply list and in a full-time kindergarten position for next year. Would be nice to have this as a resource :)

  4. I would love a Copy. I have 2 young boys myself and ready to start school this year. While as a parent one cannot avoid such situations but you can only do is prepare your kid to handle them in a better way. I hope to collect as much information as I can to better equip my sons. Thanks

  5. I felt such a pang of sadness reading the first paragraph- the world can be such an unkind place.

    Thanks for the giveaway- I would love to enter to win a copy. It will be well loved :) Lila already loves to be read to.

  6. It’s very sad to ponder how kids absorb hateful attitudes and values they do not understand. The un-knowingness makes it worse somehow.
    And yes, you’re in!

  7. Pingback: Multicultural KidLit Giveaway | Navjot Kaur

  8. Thank you for taking the time to review A Lion’s Mane here. I hope the book is enjoyed:)

  9. I’d like to be entered, please. It would be a great read for my daughter’s kindergarten class.

  10. Niranjana, Thanks for writing about this blog about the book. I work as a family doctor for the underserved in New York City, including a large number of South Asians, and would love to show the book to so many parents who are still shocked by the strange questions that kids come home with from school. There are also many groups working with discrimination issues here, and I would like to recommend the book as a gift for gala take-home bags. If you know the person who is doing the promotions/marketing for Navjot Kaur, I would be happy to recommend some non-profits and make some introductions. I would love to have a copy of the book in my office as inspiration.

  11. Niranjana…..Thanks for talking about this book…..The author…Navjot Kaur has handled this sensitive issue in such a great way…its awesome….and its also very inspiring…..In a multicultural country such as Canada….its important that everybody knows, respects and understands each others cultural sensibilities….My son is eight and I think this book will be perfect to share with him….

  12. I really liked your blog! Nice Posts! Keep up the good work!

  13. Thank you Bhaswati, and Dipy for entering this giveaway. Unfortunately, I only have one copy to giveaway, and Random Number determined that it goes to commenter #5, Nupur. Navjot, if you have an extra copy to giveaway, please let me know and perhaps another commenter could receive the book as well!