Buddhist Stories for Kids
Jataka Tales of Kindness, Friendship, and Forgiveness
by Laura Burges
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Pub Date 06 Dec 2022 | Archive Date 06 Dec 2022
Shambhala Publications, Inc., Bala Kids
Long ago, the Buddha told his followers Jataka Tales, or “birth stories,” about the many lifetimes he lived before he was born as Prince Siddhartha. In this beautiful retelling of ten such stories, the Buddha is introduced as the Queen of the Dogs, a loyal Parrot, a mischievous Monkey, a wise Lion, a brave Forest Owlet, and more.
Each story conveys important morals that are short, sweet, and to the point, giving children a handful of useful lessons to apply to their lives, like “Always try to do the right thing, even when no one else is watching.”
These tales are brought to life with stunning and dreamlike illustrations by Sonali Zohra (illustrator of Ashoka the Fierce), exploring in vivid detail how one’s actions affect others; the importance of kindness; the strength of friendship; the value of thoughtful decisions; and the importance of letting go and learning to forgive. With a beautiful paper-over-board package to tie it all together, this book will serve as a timeless and treasured offering for both children and adults.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 3 members
I shall preface this by saying that I am agnostic/atheist, yet I’ve nonetheless enjoyed many religious stories.
The illustrations are so beautiful, and the stories are short, sweet, and come with simple, lovely underlying messages like “try to do the right thing” and “everyone can make a difference”. Definitely a book I would love for any child to read.
An amazing collection of ten stories from the Jataka Tales, one of the oldest literary texts in India.
‘Jataka’ means ‘birth’ in Pali & Sanskrit, two of the oldest languages in the world and still in use in India, though only for scholarly pursuits. The Jataka tales, originally written in Pali, are stories that Indian children (at least until my generation) have read since childhood. Thus, this was a very nostalgic read for me, though a few of the stories were ones I hadn’t read before.
These classic tales are supposed to be the stories narrated by Gautama Buddha about his many lifetimes before he was born as ‘The Buddha’. There are more than 500 Jataka tales; this book contains just ten (slightly disappointed at this number), but these ten come with a linked theme. As the Buddha had a great connection with trees (he was born under a tree, he received enlightenment under a tree, he preached under trees, and he attained nirvana under a tree), the ten stories in this book are all linked to trees. The basic plots in these stories are the same as the original version, but the genders and the species have been updated to suit modern readers.
I loved each of the tales, as I had expected to. The stories—centred around nature, trees and animals—is written in an easy-to-understand language, and not extended needlessly. Each story is just about 3-4 pages long, and accompanied with multifarious colourful illustrations that capture the heart of the story perfectly. The illustrations are vivid and stunning.
The best part is that there is a little moral at the end of each story, and these morals are practical rather than preachy. I am sure children (as well as parents/guardians) will find these little life lessons worth implementing. At the end of the book, there is a glossary of all the animals that appear in the stories, with an illustration, their common name and scientific name, and some interesting facts about them. This adds to the charm of the book.
There is a simplicity and a purity in the Jataka fables that I can’t explain. While the Panchatantra stories, another ancient collection of animal fables from India, are more popular, I find the Jataka tales more impactful in how beautifully they convey a deep thought in a relatable manner. (Probably because the Panchatantra was written for kings and princes while the Jataka tales were meant for the laypeople.)
Don’t be dissuaded by the religious-sounding title; the collection will work for all readers and is not theistic but humanitarian in its approach.
Heartily recommended to homes, schools and libraries. These would make for a wonderful gifting item as well. The target reading age of this book is ages 4-8. Younger kids will need reading assistance.
My thanks to Shambhala Publications, Inc., Bala Kids, and NetGalley for the DRC of “Buddhist Stories for Kids: Jataka Tales of Kindness, Friendship, and Forgiveness”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.
Thank you netgalley for this ARC. I am leaving an 100% honest review.
I adore fable and I really enjoy learning new ones from other cultures and religions. I liked how the lesson it tried to teach is at the bottom. Normally I can tell but sometimes it's nice to have a clue when children ask. Great book
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