The New Hampshire Humanities Council statewide literacy initiative called Connections.The project's goals are: to create a bilingual picture book that supports English language acquisition of new Americans from Bhutan, to preserve a traditional tale in the mother tongue, and to present a story for children from all cultures to read. I was invited to get involved by the Literacy Coordinator, and wonderful writer, Terry Farish.
The project began by recording stories from the community. You can hear all of the stories here. The one that was chosen for the book project was The Pumpkin Husband told by Hari Tiwari (pictured above). The first meeting I attended in Laconia, NH was the one in which the story was chosen. Dal Rai, who is doing the illustrations, was there and left with the assignment to prepare a watercolor of a scene in the story. I took some iphone photos of some traditional fabric with the idea that it might be useful in the page design. In addition to decision making and lively conversation, we were treated to delicious soup and noodles prepared by Ambika Sharma.
My second visit was to an ESOL class where Hari told her story once again in Nepali and it was recorded by consulting folklorist Jo Radner. Dal brought us a watercolor painting and several drawings. I was fascinated to see the power of his drawings on the class. Many of the refugees have only memories of their homeland and his pictures gave them visual reminders of the life they left behind. A picture of an ox in a field with a basket muzzling its mouth sparked a lively discussion of farming and basket weaving.
At home, I scanned in Dal's painting and experimented with a design for the illustrated pages. The background is a scan of the Resho paper from Bhutan that I use in my Spirit Book workshops. The border around Dal's painting is from traditional fabric woven in Bhutan.
As the book will be bilingual, I did some experimenting with the page design for the text pages. I found some Nepali writing online as an image and used it for a test. The English is the standard dummy text used in printing. (You can find out some interesting facts about the origin of here.)
My third visit, last week, to Laconia was another visit to Ambika's where we scanned fabric including her beautiful wedding sari.
It is a privilege to be part of the project. I'll keep you posted on the progress.