Values: Happiness, Joy, Love and Confidence.
The Boy & The Bindi is a lovely rhyming picturebook about a little boy who wants to know more about his mother’s bindi and wants one too! It is a great way of understanding more about Hindu or Jain (or in some cases, Buddhist) culture from a child’s perspective and celebrates diversity in the best way possible. It is my understanding that usually married women and babies wear a bindi, but in this story when the little boy asks to wear one too, his mother does not question it and lets him join in. We all know children who like to dress up, regardless of their gender, and this is a great book for recognising this. In some countries, it is a religious symbol and in some, more of a cultural symbol (for example in Bangladesh). It could be interesting to explore this with the children. Some of them may have their own experiences of family members or friends who wear a bindi too.
I love the way that Ammi (the boy’s mother) so beautifully explains the cultural relevance of wearing the bindi and explains that it helps keep her “safe and true”. When the little boy wears his bindi, he feels calm and light. He isn’t able to fully explain this to his friends, but knows it is a feeling of belonging. In the book, the boy discovers that the bindi is almost a state of mind – the beauty it brings him, he can share. Traditionally, the bindi has been symbolic of the third eye watching over people and keeping them safe which is why babies are often given a bindi, and it might be a nice conversation around how we protect babies in different parts of the world.
The first Value that shines through in this book to me is happiness or joy. You can see Ammi’s joy when she explains to her son what her bindi means to her and how it changes the way she thinks and lives her life. She is keen for her son to feel the same. Furthermore, when he does wear the bindi, this beautiful line sums up his happiness: “But if a bindi can be more than a spot, And bring beauty where there was not, Maybe I can too…”
Secondly, another Value that can be explored would be love. The love Ammi and son have for each other is shown through their words and the illustrations, but also the love of their culture. It is great to have books in the classroom or library or home that reflect different ethnicities, cultures, religions and traditions and this book is perfect for exploring a love of religion and culture. You could ask the children what is special to them in their religion (if they have one) or family or community. I bet the children will be able to talk with such passion and confidence!
I would also use this book as a way for examining the Value of confidence. The little boy is confident when wearing his bindi and doesn’t mind that others stare; he answers their questions as best as he can and is proud to wear something that represents his culture. He sees his mother’s confidence in wearing her bindi and copies her – regardless of the other children’s curiosity. A great Value for children to see ‘in action’!
Vivek Shraya is a musician and artist in Canada, where she is based. In 2016, she came out as transgender and promotes for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Rajni Perera is a Canadian illustrator who uses an immigrant perspective (she is originally from Sri Lanka) to create artwork about women from the BAME communities. Both really inspiring people that would be great role models for the classroom or for children at home. You can buy the book from independent booksellers on Bookshop.org and you can also find teacher resources and an audio recording at www.vivekshraya.com/bindi
If you want to explore the Values on this blog in other books too, you can use the hashtags below: