CHAIWALA!

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When the train pulls into Jaipur station, the stop is 10 minutes long: just long enough to get a delicious cup of chai. Parent and child rush to the chai counter and wait in line for their turn. After they order, the child watches the chaiwala make their tea. First, he uses a mortar and pestle to grind up cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. Next, he drops fresh tea leaves into the pot. He then adds milk and sugar and heats everything until it starts to “boil and bubble.” Finally, he pours the tea into glasses, transferring it back and forth from pitcher to glass until it cools. The mother and child also purchase some sweets to dip into the tea—“biscuits and rusks”—and sit on the platform to enjoy their snack before the train takes off again. The text describes a scene familiar to many Indian train passengers, using authentic details and multisensory descriptions. The liberal use of onomatopoeia makes the book particularly fun to read out loud. The cut-paper illustrations are charming and do a wonderful job capturing the essence of Indian railway stations. While there is a clearly Sikh character shown on the platform, there are no characters who are obviously Muslim. Based on the mother’s bindi, the main characters appear to be Hindu. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

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