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Asia - Indian

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Asia – Indian (a Jataka tale)


Thornhill, Jan. 2002. The rumor: A Jataka tale from India. Toronto, Canada: Maple Tree Press Inc.


Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (out of ♥♥♥♥♥). (Picture from


Summary:   When a worrywart rabbit hears a mango fall to the ground with a loud thud, he starts a stampede of frightened animals, telling his neighbors that the world is falling apart. Rabbits, boars, deer, tigers, and rhinos follow the rabbit without question. Finally, the lion brings rationality and calmness to the situation and teaches others to ask questions.


Type: beast tale


Characters:  With the exception of lion, the characters are one-dimensional. Rabbit is a worrywart who needs something to worry about. All of the animals except lion are followers. Lion brings wisdom and rationality to the scene; he is the only one who investigates the rumor and finds it false. Yet the lion is compassionate in delivering his information, and while he challenges the other animals to think for themselves, he does not make fun of them. According to Thornhill’s text notes, the lion represents the Buddha in this "… retelling of an ancient Jataka tale from India.  Jataka tales have been used for more than 2,500 years to teach about sharing, compassion, and the difference between good and bad. In many Jataka tales, the Buddha appears as an animal” (unpaged).


Setting: The text begins with “Long, long ago, in India, a young hare lived in a sun dappled grove of palm and mango trees” (unpaged). The audience knows right away that this Indian tale takes place in the distant past, probably in a forest or jungle.


Plot:  The plot is similar to the Chicken Little story, where a rumor spreads and animals behave irrationally until someone challenges them.


Themes:  The first theme is that one should not just follow others blindly. One needs to think and investigate for oneself.  Secondly, the story warns that rumors can be dangerous. Finally, when a person is right, he/she needs to treat those who are wrong with compassion.


Rating Considerations:  This well-written book is a pleasure to read, both because of the text and the colorful, decorative illustrations.


Illustrations:    The illustrations are gorgeous with their decorated borders, animal patterns, lush colors, and altering perspectives. As Ellen Heath writes, “ Best of all… are the illustrations. Rich greens, blues, and red-oranges dominate bordered paintings of hordes of animals running through the habitats of India. Some pages have a Rousseau-like look. Others are almost tessellations of creatures moving in unison. Varying perspectives move from close-ups of animals to bird's-eye views of forest, stream, marshland, and mango grove” (SLJ, 2002).