Tamarind & the Star of Ishta
About the author
Jasbinder was born on a farm which had a camel and wild monkey called Oma in Northern Punjab at the bottom of the Himalaya. When her family moved to the UK, she grew up with storytelling, good food and strong links to her ancestral home. Jasbinder has had great success with her first children’s novel Asha and the Spirit Bird, which won the Costa Book Award.
About the book
Tamarind is desperate to know the truth about her Mum, who died when she was a baby. So when she arrives at her mother’s ancestral home in India, she’s full of questions for her extended family. She finds her family welcoming, except for Sufia, her cousin who takes an instant dislike to Tamarind. None of the family want to talk about her mum and for some reason she isn’t meant to go to a certain part of the garden. When she follows a strange sound into the forbidden garden, the clues to her past begin to appear.
Week 1: introduction and ch1-3
Week 2: pre read to pg 51 end of ch7
Week 3: pre read to pg end of ch9
Week 4: pre read to pg 121 end of ch17
Week 5: pre read to pg 149 end of ch22
Week 6: pre read to p.202 and the letter from the author
Family Tree and Ancestry
This story very much centres on family and ancestry. By way of introduction you could ask the children in your group to jot down their own family tree in their journals. Keep it simple – three generations will suffice. Use the graphic of Tamarind’s Maternal Family Tree on p.3 as a model. It doesn’t matter if children can’t remember names of relatives , as long as they put the relationship (Grandad, Aunt, Cousin…)
Tamarind lives with her Dad in Bristol. The setting for the story is the Himalayas in India.
Share the slides: Setting and culture
- What differences do you notice between the two settings?
Reading aloud at the beginning of a novel is really useful to establish the tone of the story and to let the children hear the narrative voice from a confident and competent reader.
Read aloud the first paragraph of chapter one. If the children are comfortable to do so invite them to close their eyes while you read and try to imagine the photograph tha Tamarind is describing.
Continue reading ch 1-3 up to p.21 ‘I can’t stop staring at the impressive building perched high on the grassy mound.’
- What do we know so far?
- Use your reading journal to jot down anything Tamarind sees, smells or hears on her journey. What can she see? What can smell? What can she hear?In addition to the things we are told directly in the narrative, can you think of anything else she might see, hear or smell in her new setting?
Hearing the author read will provide a different voice and help orientate the reader to the story. Play the extract of Jasminder reading – p.21-23 “The car doors push open and the cold wind rushes in…” In the Reading Corner Podcast (4mins14- 6mins50)
Word study and prediction
The story starts with a physical journey and also a journey into the past, a personal journey and an emotional journey. Using a bubble map (see resources) share your ideas about the word journey. Encourage the children to expand their thinking. You may need to prompt and shape responses to arrive at words such as motivation, obstacles, guide, destination. Consider descriptions such as a ‘smooth journey’, ‘a bumpy ride’, ‘at the crossroads’ which can be literal or figurative. Can you relate the words and phrases you have noted to Tamarind’s journey so far. Consider what may lay ahead for her.
TEACHER’s NOTE: It is preferable to have access to a screen for this session.
Recap last session and clarify where we are in the story
Read the beginning of Chapter 8 up to half way down p.53 “There are so many unanswered questions”
Hold a ‘Quescussion’ (see resources for guidance)
- What are Jasminder’s questions?
- Do you have any to add?
Look closely at the cover of the book. There are clues regarding significant items in the story.
Now read to the end of chapter 8. You can allow members of the group to read a section each
Share ‘Tamarind’s World’ from Jasminder’s website and the Zooming in slides.
How do you think Tamarind is feeling now?
Using the Emotions graph as a template (see resources) plot Tamarind’s feelings throughout the story so far. Add significant events such as when Tamarind unearths the key. Some examples are given. You can return to this graph and add to it as you progress through the story.
We know a lot about Tamarind and her feelings but what about the other characters in this story. One character in particular has reacted very strongly to Tamarind’s visit.
- What do we know about Sufia?
Read the Readers Theatre script from chapter 8 together (see resources – there is also a guidance sheet with suggestions regarding readers theatre). Ask 3 members of your group to read aloud to the rest of the group. If you would like to spend longer on this activity you could split your group into two groups of 4 with 3 children speaking hte lines and one offering directions.
Discuss together what is happening in this scene and how you think the two girls are feeling. We are more aware of Tamarind’s feelings as she is narrating the story. It would be useful to complete a thought tracking exercise to delve a bit deeper into Sufia’s emotional responses.
Thought tracking gives voice to a character’s thoughts and demonstrates a character’s internal conflicts.
Read the script again and this time everytime Sufia speaks – pause and reflect on what she might be thinking and feeling.
Together discuss what you have learnt about Sufia from this scene. You can organise your responses using the character inference chart (see resources) to plot character actions (what they do), character words (what they say), what other characters say or think about them.
What character traits does Sufia have?
Tamarind and Ishta
Look closely at the map at the beginning of the story.
- What is the name of the large tree?
Share the photographs of a tamarind pod and a tamarind tree (see resources). The Tamarind tree is popular in gardens in India (to make chutney). When her Mum was pregnant she would go to the tree to settle Tamarind by gently rocking in the swing. Using the photograph of the tree as a visual stimulus, ask the children to imagine how Tamarind may have felt or thought when seeing the tree for the first time after studying it in the photograph (from the opening scene). You may like to read the paragraph on p.75 by way of introduction.
Re-read p.70 when Hanu, the monkey is leading Tamarind into the wild garden and she comes across the statue of Ishtar.
The goddess Ishtar was originally known as Inanna by the ancient Mesopotamian’s (that’s before the Ancient Egyptians). There is a good opportunity here to highlight the changing and parallel stories of gods and goddesses over time and through different cultures and faiths. The Romans worshipped Ishtar under the names of Venus and Minerva. The Greeks worshipped Aphrodite and Athena. They all embody similar traits – love, beauty, justice. Ishtar has both strength and beauty making her a kind of super-goddess.
So the star (and the goddess) we call Venus, the Indian culture would refer to as Ishtar.
Share an image of the night sky with the star labelled. April is the best month to spot Venus/Ishtar.
- Do you think Tamarind shows any of Ishtar’s qualities through her actions in the story so far?
In chapter 15 Tamarind uncovers a book about Gods and Goddesses and she looks up Ishtar. If you have any similar books in school you can do your own research.
If you have a word hoard (see generic guidance) you may like to add the word – deity.
You could also add the Hindu word Ishta which means a worshipper’s favourite deity, the one with which they have a strong emotional connection (rather like mother and daughter).
- What two origami figures did Arjan give to Tamarind? Can you identify a connection to the extract on p.100?
- Do you think Tamarind shows any of Ishtar’s qualities through her actions in the story so far?
Think about Owls and Lions from other stories. The wisdom of owls originates from Indian folklore but there are examples from Western culture too. ‘Winnie the Pooh’ has an archetypal wise old old for example; Aslan from ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’, The Lion King and ‘The Owl Who was Afraid of the Dark’ – although the baby owl is initially frightened – his pursuit of knowledge results him being a wiser animal and knowledgeable about his nocturnal world by the end of the story .
Draw an owl and a lion and label with attributes to represent traditional association and ones that you have seen Tamarind display during the story.
Language – description of the Monsoon
Share an enlarged copy of the monsoon photo(see web resources). Ask the children to describe the scene. What can they see? If they were in the picture what would they hear and feel? Invite them to make connections with personal experience – has anyone been outside in very heavy rain or seen footage of tropical storms on television? How do you think it would feel to be outside in rain like that?
Invite the children to suggest different words to describe ‘rain’’ e,g, fat, soft, hard, light, spitting, slanting, vertical, side, sheet, tropical, downpour, torrential. Check the definitions of each and arrange them on a scale of intensity.
Share the descriptions of the weather from chapters 19 and 20.
Can you place these descriptions in order.
You can use the ‘eye-in-the-sky technique to help them imagine the scene. Suggest that they might want to close their eyes to help them imagine (but don’t insist). Play a soundtrack with the sound of wind and rain effects as you read the climax of the storm on p.140 from “On hands and knees, I crawl along….” to p.142 “Wolves!”
Using all the words create a physical Wordle (there are apps that do this online but in this instance created it with pen and paper allows the children to really think about each word and how they might write it to reflect it’s meaning)
You could mention that poets often use this technique and to look out for it when they are reading poetry.
Tamarind draws strength from Ishta. Some children may have seen the disney film Moana . There is a moving scene in which Moana is visited by her Grandma’s spirit who offers some advice about identity and belonging. There is a link to the clip in the resources.
Turn to the back cover of the book. This book in three words: India, Family and Mystery.
Write each word on a large piece of paper and expand how each word represents the essence of this story.
- Would you add any other words?
Tamarind says ‘…feeling more out of place than I’ve ever felt before’ on p48
Sufia says ‘I don’t know where I belong’ on p.153
Return to the family tree on the first page.
- Do you agree with Sufia when she says ‘love is stronger than blood’?
The characters grow throughout the story. Your first impressions may only scratch the surface.
Return to emotions graph for Tamarind – can you add any new emotions from the end of the story?
Look at the character traits you attributed to Sufia wearlier in the story – can you add any more now?
- What is your opinion of the ending?
The genre of this story is magical realism.
- Do you like elements of a story that cannot be real? It is important for the author to make the story believable within the word they have created? Do you think Jasminder achieves this?
Introduce the mini challenge
The star of Ishtar is an important symbol in this story. Draw the star (make sure it has eight points) and label each point with a word that represents the spirit of the book. You can add quotations and references from the story. The purpose of your picture is to give a taste of what this book is about (without giving the end away!) Display your star along with the book or book jacket in the Library, classroom, or corridor for other children to see. The star should be created by the whole group. Individuals can be tasked with finding references or quotations but the final entry should be one group effort. It can be any size. Photograph your star and submit via the Submissions tab.