Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Whatcha Readin' Weds: The Mountains of Tibet

Is my local library glutted with books intent upon making me cry? Perhaps I gravitate toward those types. It's possible I've just become an easy crier. Well, count The Mountains of Tibet by Mordicai Gerstain among my ever lengthening list of children's books that have recently drawn a tear or two. Uli enjoyed looking at the pictures and hearing the story read to her (even when my throat got scratchy and my voice grew quiet).

Mordicai Gerstin's book is simple. And also: not. (It's hard to describe the not without giving everything away, so if you wish to be surprised, just stick to the next paragraph and then if you're interested in the read, add it to your library request list.)

A small boy lives in Tibet. He loves to fly kites. He dreams about other lands, about exploring the world, about meeting new people and visiting new places. Then he grows up. He stays in his home village and raises a family. He works hard. He grows old. He dies.

Simple enough, right? Lovely illustrations. Told in few sentences in a straightforward manner. Death is not portrayed as sad nor disturbing, just as part of the life cycle.

But that part I note above is just the beginning of the book. The rest of the story is about after death.

If you're reading on, consider this your spoiler alert.

While the beginning of the book shows the man's life, the remainder of the book is about what takes place after his death. From his point of view.

After his death he is provided a glimpse of the entire massive universe. He is invited (by an unidentified voice/being) to become part of the universe, to lose himself in the Everything that's out there. Or he can choose to rejoin a life cycle and start anew, in any galaxy, on any planet, as any creature, anywhere he wishes.

He chooses to live another life.

He doesn't exactly recall his life as a human in Tibet, but nonetheless he feels drawn to the Milky Way galaxy, and to the sun and to Earth.  And when presented with all the different creatures in the world he decides to become human once more. When offered the ability to be reborn as any human, he chooses to be Tibetan once again. And he chooses to be born into the very village in which he'd previously lived.

The cycle begins again.

The Mountains of Tibet's illustrations are gorgeous, and they alone make the trip to the library worth your while (those after he dies, when he's viewing the solar system and then all the different creatures of the world, are especially beautiful). As for the text, I like that the story is happy even though it includes death. The main story only happens because of death, in fact. Death is necessary and kept close, not shown as something to fear. I like that the man's draw to his former home in Tibet is portrayed not in a sad, you're-stuck-with-what-you-know sort of way but in a it's-a-wonderful-life and who-says-you-can't-go-home sort of way. While the man doesn't specifically remember his former life, he clearly sees value in the mountain lands and wants to experience life there [again]. And so he does.

Simple. But not.

Uli enjoyed having it read it to her ("Read Tibet" was one of her earliest sentences!). I hope to add it to our home library very soon. 


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