Sunday, February 17, 2013

Himalaya, by Jan Reynolds

Jan Reynolds writes a day-in-the life story for children of a young Sherpa girl and her family in Himalaya: Vanishing Cultures. The book follows Yangshi in her daily routine living in Namche Bazaar with her mother, father, and siblings. She is told of her family's history by her father, helps her mother with chores, plays with her sister after she returns from the weekly market, attends the monastery with her father, tends her family's yaks, and later attends a Mani Rimdu celebration. The book describes the culture of the Sherpa during Yangshi's grand day, including the trade between Nepal and Tibet, their Buddhist beliefs, their small-time farming and herding, and their cultural history. The story is accompanied by photographic illustrations of Yangshi and her family taken by the author.

This book has (thankfully) almost nothing to do with climbing Mount Everest. Though Yangshi's father uses their yaks to carry supplies to Base Camp for climbers, the story stays focused on Yangshi's family and Sherpa culture. It seems to me that too many kids' books (or is it all books) treat Sherpa as a people specially bred for carrying equipment up the world's highest mountain and ignore their full humanity and broader homeland. Perhaps because Jan Reynolds spent her time climbing around Everest rather than up it (see her Everest Grand Circle), she got a better sense of the local population, or maybe she's just more intelligent and sensitive than the average climber.

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