I’ve always been a fan of familiar stories told through other cultures. Harshita Jerath has created a delightful new version of the familiar Gingerbread Man by shifting the setting to India. Here she tells how that idea sprang from real life experiences and her efforts to connect her children to her native land.
Harshita is offering a GIVEAWAY! A copy of her debut picture book, THE LEAPING LADDOO. Just leave a comment below for a chance to win.
“From Life to Story: Connecting Cultures” by Harshita Jerath.
Thank you, Beth, for the opportunity to share the story behind my story.
To understand the genesis of this book, I need to share my background. I grew up in India, where I’ve lived more than half of my life. After my move to the United States, I made sure to keep my children connected with my family in India, its heritage, and its culture by visiting them often.
To prepare my then-toddler kids for the India trips, I read parenting tips to make our overseas travel as uneventful as possible. One important tip was introducing the place ahead of the trip, so there are no shockers. I found no picture books about India, so I became a storyteller instead. I told my kids they’ll be welcomed by the honking melody of the traffic, cows lazying on the roads, chai vendors selling tea, and so on.
When we arrived in India, I could tell from my children’s eyes that they could relate to the street cacophony- the first piece of India they encountered. And it made me comfortable knowing they are too.
With that background, on my son’s eighth birthday, I wanted to surprise him by making laddoos, a round-shaped Indian dessert. One laddoo slipped off my hand while I was shaping laddoos, and I said, “Oh, an Indian Gingerbread Man!” That was the start of the story. I noted the idea onto my kitchen notepad before it disappeared in thin air.
From there on, the story began to form. I added the elements and the imagery. I sprinkled a tongue twister in Hindi, an Indian language, so that young readers can have fun with words. Cricket, a game played with bat and ball, is the heart of India. I included that too. I kept reminiscing my time in India, and the story wrote itself.
It brings me so much joy to share that this idea is now my debut book coming out in March 2022.
The story begins with the laddoo coming to life and running away on the streets of India. A series of interesting characters chase after the laddoo to get a bite, but the haughty laddoo runs away chanting,
Bhago Bhago as fast as you can.
You can’t eat me. I’m the laddoo man.
I’m amazed at how different elements of my life came together to form this story, now a book. The Gingerbread Man story turned out to be the perfect platform I needed to introduce the streets of India. I hope that having a base of a familiar story would ground the young readers, and the cultural aspect would provide freshness by introducing India and its culture.
Don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of THE LEAPING LADDOO! (US addresses only, please)