Toads and Diamonds
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Fairytale, Historical, Mythological
Diribani has come to the village well to get water for her family's scant meal of curry and rice. She never expected to meet a goddess there. Yet she is granted a remarkable gift: Flowers and precious jewels drop from her lips whenever she speaks.
It seems only right to Tana that the goddess judged her kind, lovely stepsister worthy of such riches. And when she encounters the goddess, she is not surprised to find herself speaking snakes and toads as a reward.
Blessings and curses are never so clear as they might seem, however. Diribani’s newfound wealth brings her a prince—and an attempt on her life. Tana is chased out of the village because the province's governor fears snakes, yet thousands are dying of a plague spread by rats. As the sisters' fates hang in the balance, each struggles to understand her gift. Will it bring her wisdom, good fortune, love . . . or death?
Toads and Diamonds is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
The fairytale of "Toads and Diamonds" was introduced to me in the short story "The Fairy's Mistake" by Gail Carson Levine. After that I hadn't heard much of the fairytale at all, though the premise of it really intrigued me, the thought that things aren't always what they seem at first and that blessings are curses and curses blessings.
Tomlinson takes this premise and stretches it out, exploring it to its fullest potential. This is, however, only one of the many layers in this book. Another very important layer is the setting of the book.
The book takes place in
after a Muslim invasion an
conquering. The natives and the Muslims find themselves at odds during this
time, especially because of their very different religions. The heroines
Diribani and Tana are both native girls surviving this world where they are now
at the disadvantage, on top of the fact that due to the death of their father,
a jewel merchant, they have had no way to gain money to pay for their lives. India
Tomlinson also includes Hindu cosmology as the driving force behind the mystical part of the fairytale, which I love.
Overall there is a strong Indian/Hindu Cultural and Historical slant on this fairytale which I wish there were more of out there.
I adore how it all came together at the end with the girls meeting up with each other and realizing what to do with their gifts and then losing them at the end, but keeping the wisdom they learned for the rest of their lives.
That is hands down the best part of the book, the way the girls grew up so much. Comparing them to how they were in the beginning to how they were by the end was amazing. Also watching the cultural differences interact with each other between the Muslim "white coats" and the Hindu "Dirt Eaters".
I highly recommend this book to any lovers of fairytale adaptations. I also recommend this book for people who love India and the culture or even just a non-western point of view in a YA story.