Official Review: Pola's Flower by Diana Nadeau

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MsTri
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Official Review: Pola's Flower by Diana Nadeau

Post by MsTri »

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Pola's Flower" by Diana Nadeau.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Not having an artistic bone in my body - seriously; even my stick figures look deformed - I've always admired people who have the talent for drawing. Now, thanks to Lobsang Gyatso's beyond stunning illustrations, I have a new kind of art to admire. Diana Lynne Nadeau's book, Pola's Flower, introduces the reader to the painting of Buddhist scrolls known as thangkas (always written in italics). In this story, Metog-ma learns the ancient art from her grandfather, Pola, during the time before Tibet is taken over by the government. The story doesn't really have a conflict or problem to solve, it's more of a lovely look at Metog-ma's life and relationship with Pola before the take-over.

I'm not usually a fan of books that have family relationships as the basis for their story, but I was taken away with this memoir-like tale. It took me back to the summer days that I spent following MY grandfather, learning about working a farm, which I guess is a different kind of art. I liked both Metog-ma and Pola and teared up several times during the reading. The author truly did a stupendous job bringing out the love these characters have for each other, and I was sobbing by the end of the short book.

Since this book is centered around thangkas and one particular project that Pola is working on, the book is full of thangka-like illustrations, most of them taking up the full page. As noted above, the artwork is simply stunning, and I often found myself forgetting to read. When I finished the tale, I went back and just pored over the pictures, I was so overwhelmed. I also did a Google search on thangkas because I wanted to know more about this kind of art. I always think it's wonderful when a book teaches me something, so that was a definite plus. At one point, Metog-ma noted that Pola taught her that "thangkas hold messages for those who meditate on them." The end of the tale showed Metog-ma realizing one of the messages, and it tugged at my heartstrings because it was so bittersweet. According to Amazon, this book is geared towards youngsters between the ages of 9-12. I think they will also enjoy looking at the detailed pictures, and I hope that they too are persuaded to do further research and possibly see messages in the lovely artwork.

Another thing that drew me to this book was the thought of getting to explore another world. The pictures really took me there, so much so that I actually shivered while reading the pages with winter scenes. There was also the occasional mention of traditional foods with a brief description. For instance, at one point, Metog-ma and her grandfather ate chhurpi (italicized in the book), "cheese made from the milk of a female yak"; even though I'm not so sure that I want anything to do with yak milk, I do love cheese, so my mouth watered. I was slightly disappointed that Tibet and its culture weren't explored more, but I also realized that this book was more about Metog-ma and Pola's relationship and thangka's place in it than discussing Tibetan ways. Still, I'm hopeful that there will be more books that further explore this culture. With that being said, there was a lovely Foreword written by Tulku Jigme Rinpoche, the Founder and Director of Palmo Center for Peace and Education. In this section, Tulku gave a brief overview of Tibet's commitment to "developing the best kind of human beings... awake and engaged, wise and compassionate", i.e. "spiritual education". I was deeply moved by Tulku's words and am thankful that they were included. It was also nice to read a little blurb about the Khyentse Foundation, a "nonprofit organization founded in 2001 by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche to support all traditions of Buddhist study and practice. The foundation has given grants to Buddhist institutions and individuals in more than 35 countries around the world."

This book was written in the first-person point-of-view, and I loved Metog-ma's "voice". I truly felt as if I was listening to her tell me about this time of her life. The text was also written in an interesting font and blended well with the pictures. I will note that not all of the pages had page numbers, so I think the author should either remove the numbers entirely or make sure that all pages have them. I noted a handful of grammatical errors as well, but they didn't distract from my reading. Still, since this book is geared towards younger people, I think the author should have the book edited one more time to get rid of the few mishaps, resulting in a fully polished piece of literature.

I am thrilled to give Pola's Flower a rating of 4 out of 4 stars, and I highly recommend this tome to readers of all ages who enjoy artwork and exploring other lands. I also think people who are interested in other cultures, Tibetan in particular, would enjoy it. Finally, readers who like reading about family relationships may like this book as well.

Lastly, dear reader, be thankful that we don't have to illustrate our reviews; I would not have done nearly as good a job as Lobsang!

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Post by AmySmiles »

Wow, looks like a beautiful children's book. Thank you for the review!
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Post by KarinaBordas »

What a review! I now want to delve into the pages of Pola's Flower in hopes that Diana Nadeau's writing and illustrations may have the same enchanting power it did for you! It will be particularly interesting to explore Tibetan Buddhist culture geared towards a young audience. Additionally, through the art, cultural immersion, and family perspectives, this piece could be used for an educational lesson in a number of different courses.

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Post by Cecilia_L »

This sounds like a delightful children's book with exquisite art. I enjoyed your review. Thanks for the recommendation!

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Post by Kat Berg »

These kinds of books make me think about my childhood and my very favorite library. That library had what seemed to me at the time hundreds of books of the very kind I loved, i.e. with beautiful pictures. I could read, but I most loved the books that also gave me something lovely to look at. I would sit and stare at those books for as long as my parents would let me. I hadn't thought of that since I was a kid! Thank you for the review that took me down memory lane. This book sounds lovely.

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Post by Abigail R »

You’re writing alone is beautiful but it also made me want to see what this book is like. It sounds beautiful and inviting with so much to offer readers - art, culture, and depth.
What a wonderful, thoughtful review!

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Post by drunyan »

This book sounds wonderful. I am drawn (no pun intended!) to the fact that it is filled with illustrations, yet it is recommended by Amazon for ages 9-12. This age group often struggles with the idea of a book with too many words, so this would likely appeal to them.

I also like learning about other cultures, and encourage the children I know to learn about the them. In learning about others, we often let go of our prejudices of "outsiders."

Thanks for the excellent review!
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Post by Sahani Nimandra »

Fascinating! The love for cultural exploration certain goes beyond boundaries besides they do have a lot to teach. I like the explanation delivered by colorful illustrations. Thank you for the descriptive review!
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Post by Jonida »

It seems like the book that completes many things, the childhood, other cultures, new countries... good job on your review!

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Post by Bianka Walter »

This sounds like a really beautiful book! Your review is awesome, it's taken me right into the pages of this one! Thanks so much :)
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Post by kandscreeley »

The illustrations sound like they are worth reading the book by themselves. This was a great review, but it's still not something I'm extremely interested in. However, I might have to try it just to see these illustrations you enjoyed so much. Thanks.
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Post by stbrians »

An illustrated book is the best one for children. Your review actually attracts and pulls one to read the book. Well done

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Post by julessawyer »

This is definitely on my to-read list. Thanks for your detailed and infectious review. I can literally feel your excitement about the book and on the illustrations as well. I love Tibet! :)

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Post by Fuzaila »

Wonderful review, it's as much a pleasure to read your review as it would have been for you to read this book! I am a big buff for books portraying family relationships and besides, art is basically my second language so this book is definitely going on my tbr! I would love to know more about the thangkas, and Tibetan culture as well. Great job :D
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Post by OloladeO »

Detailed review. It sounds like an educational book exploring another culture.

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