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Linda Mah
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Author, Illustrator Share Talents at Arcadia

Mahak Jain and Elly MacKay Visited

Author Mahak Jain and illustrator Elly MacKay helped Arcadia Elementary School celebrate “Maya” Day in October.

Jain and MacKay are the creative team behind the children’s book “Maya,” which won the 2017 South Asia Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Their visit was organized and sponsored by the Kalamazoo Public Library.

When they visited, the school declared it Maya Day and two Arcadia students, Maitreya “Maya” Carroll and Maya Van Heest, received autographed copies of the book.

The book tells the story of a young girl who must deal with the death of her father and an enormous blackout in her Indian hometown. Her mother shares the story of banyan tree, which helps Maya remember her father and deal with the stress of the blackout.

Jain told the students that the story was inspired by her own relationship with India, where she was born. She knew she wanted to create a story that included the peacock, which is the national bird of India, the tiger, which is the national animal, and the banyan tree, which is the national tree.

And she used those elements to create a story to show that “sometimes, the things we think are scary are not so scary if we think about what they’re doing.”

In the book, the animal characters, seemingly frightening, are shown to be not so scary at all. The elephant is not stomping but rather she’s dancing, and the tiger is not really sneaking around a tree but trying to scratch an itch.

“I can put something in a story and transform it,” she said. “I can make it silly. I can make it happy. I can take a scary snake hiss and make it silly.”

MacKay explained her process of making illustrations for books.

She hand paints paper, then, inspired by the painting, she cuts out shapes and figures. She uses those to create little collage worlds, which she photographs. MacKay took some figures and asked students to help her create a collage.

She worked with them to create butterflies that were taped against a colorful backdrop as part of a group art project.

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