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The Rumor: A Jataka Tale from India    by Jan Thornhill order for
by Jan Thornhill
Order:  USA  Can
Maple Tree, 2004 (2002)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I love the lush tropical detail of the illustrations in Jan Thornhill's The Rumor - looking at them pulls you in to the warm, spicy Indian countryside. The picture book retells an ancient Jataka tale, stories used for over 2,500 years 'to teach about sharing, compassion, and the difference between good and bad.' The back of the book includes a one paragraph introduction to each of the animals in the story - sadly, all endangered or threatened species.

It opens, 'Long, long ago, in India, a young hare lived in a sun-dappled grove of palm and mango trees.' She was a worrywart who 'fretted about everything', especially during nap time. One day, the combination of her anxiety about the possibility of the world breaking up, and the crash of a ripe mango falling into a 'crunchy old palm frond' sends the frightened creature running in a panic (rather like Chicken Little), declaring to all the animals she passes that 'The world is breaking up! Run for your life!'

Of course, you know what happens. Soon there's a stampede of thousands of hares, boars, deer, tigers and rhinos running through forest and marshland and brushland. But when they reach the open plain, a wise lion challenges them, and seeks to verify the rumor. Kids will enjoy the story's repetition, as animals of each species latch on to the rumor and run for their lives. And all ages can learn from this allegorical tale the importance of thinking for oneself.

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