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Children's Fiction Death & Dying


by (author) Mahak Jain

illustrated by Elly Mackay

Owlkids Books Inc.
Initial publish date
Apr 2016
Death & Dying, General, Emotions & Feelings, Imagination & Play
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2016
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 4


The electricity in Maya’s house has gone out again. She is afraid of the dark — and her fear has been even worse since her father died. Now it feels as if the darkness will never go away.

Maya’s mother distracts her with a legend about the banyan tree, which saved the world from the first monsoon by drinking up the floodwaters, and growing tall and strong. Later that night, unsettled by the noises around her, Maya revisits the story in her imagination. She ventures deep into the banyan tree, where she discovers not darkness but life: snakes move gently, monkeys laugh, and elephants dance. Maya pushes her imagination even further to call up memories of her father, helping to soothe her fear and assuage her grief.

Elly MacKay mixes miniature-paper-theater art with spellbinding shadow puppetry to play with darkness and light, giving Maya’s real, fantasy, and story-within-a-story worlds unique treatment—and making Maya’s world come alive on the page.

About the authors

Mahak Jain is a writer and editor based in Toronto, Ontario. She is enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Guelph, where she is working on a novel. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Room Magazine and The New Quarterly, and her first book for children is forthcoming from Owlkids Books in 2016. She was previously the Managing Editor at Owlkids and at Lobster Press, and continues to provide editorial services on a freelance basis. Maya is Mahak's first picture book.

Mahak Jain's profile page

Elly MacKay creates tiny worlds from cut paper, ink and light, which she then photographs. Her work explores themes of nature, childhood and the imaginary. Elly’s work has been featured in international publications, including O: The Oprah Magazine, Chatelaine and Cosmopolitan. She grew up in a converted church in the countryside by Georgian Bay, Ontario. She now explores the same rivers, forests and beaches with her husband, Simon, and their two kids, Lily and Koen. For more information, visit

Elly Mackay's profile page


  • South Asia Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature selection, 2017
  • Kirkus Best Picture Books of 2016
  • Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens

Editorial Reviews


Canadian Review of Materials

"Richly poetic...engaging...gorgeous... Papa once told Maya that "a story was like a bird," flying us to somewhere unknown and always changing us. And so it is with this book."

Canadian Children's Book News

"Beautifully illustrated... Highlight[s] the discovery of beauty and strength in unlikely places."

Quill & Quire

"...the idea that bad things can turn good is clear, and kids will sense Maya's ultimate healing."

The National Reading Campaign

"This story made me feel a little bit kind of happy and kind of sad. Some feelings that [Maya] had, I sometimes have. Sometimes I am sad too but still finding a way to be happy. She was scared and I get scared too. ...I love this book."

Ayla, age 6, Kids Book Buzz

"An important and subtle story of love, loss, beauty, and joy."

Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

"An atmospheric tale about loss, the power of story, and finding light in the darkness."

School Library Journal

"Nothing short of magical, breath-taking and inspiring... Highly, highly recommended and very very close to essential."


Librarian Reviews


Maya takes readers on a journey to other parts of the world and provides a geography lesson as well as insight into the ramifications of extreme weather patterns such as monsoons. The book also tells the human story of overcoming grief and the importance of familial love. Jain’s book presents two parallel narratives: the legend of the first monsoon, as well as the courageous adventures of a young girl, a banyan tree, tigers, peacocks, and monkeys.

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Diversity Collection Selection 2017.

User Reviews

Facing Fears

Last night I read this book to both my 7 year old daughter and 10 year old son. Before bed, they left the story quietly imagining the stories in their own minds that help with their fears of unknown noises creaking into our new apartment, and wavering shadows in the corners and tipping boxes tumbling from open closets. As Maya is used to her father easing her fears and now finding she needs to find solace within herself, my children must imagine the true light inside an illusionary darkness. Our life is different from Maya's, but the fears that keep the darkness and creatures on the prowl are very real in any life - and this story teaches us that our perspective is whether we choose to believe in the fear, or in the power of light.

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