One of my favorite things about working on Chandra’s Magic Light has been learning so much about Nepal. We tried to capture the essence of this incredible country while also telling a compelling story about two resourceful big sisters working together to help their sick baby brother. We did a lot of research to integrate the culture, beauty, and some of the challenges facing Nepali people today into this book. Here are some Nepali details in Chandra’s Magic Light:

photo by Oliphant. Flickr Creative Commons

Prayer Flags

Prayer flags are a common sight in Nepal. Prayers, mantras, and symbols are written on the thin, bright squares of cloth. When the wind blows through the flags, it carries the flags’ message of goodwill to everything it touches. This is why the flags are often strung up in high, windy places.

Prayer flags are found all over the illustrations in Chandra’s Magic Light. Sometimes they are the featured prominently, as they are here on the title page, but most of the time they are a detail in the background of a scene.


Eighty percent of Nepal is mountainous, and it’s home to the highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest. We wanted to express the high elevation of Nepal as much as possible in the illustrations, and Judith did a fantastic job conveying this. In nearly every scene, the ground slopes and mountains can be seen. The gorgeous cover shows Chandra and Deena high on a mountain with the vast Nepali sky all around them, twinkling with stars and glowing with moonlight. I also love how Judith cleverly drew the map of Nepal to look almost three-dimensional, showing the flat Terai, a fertile region of grassland, farms and forest, in the south and the peaks of the Himalayas soaring up in the north.


Judith and I did a lot of photo research to represent the Nepali people in Chandra as accurately as possible. We loved the bright, patterned fabric, and the style and shape of the clothes. Many of the men wear a traditional hat called a Dhaka topi. The floral patterns found on many of the women’s clothes also appear in the mountains, showing the connection between the Nepali people and the landscape. Judith also took great care matching the characters’ clothing to their personalities – thoughtful and responsible Deena wears her hair in a long, neat braid, while Chandra’s short, tousled hair looks as wild as she is.

photo by eatswords. Flickr Creative Commons

Market Scene

The market scene on pp.4–5 of the book was one of the two sample illustrations Judith painted. Originally she thought the book was set in India, not Nepal, so she repainted the spread to be sure it looked like a Nepali market. Can you spot all the differences between the two illustrations?

Market Scene: India

Market Scene: Nepal


Love and family is at the core of this beautiful story. Theresa Heine, who also wrote Star Seeker and Elephant Dance, has done a fantastic job creating a story and characters that I think everyone can relate to. I have a sister, and I found little moments between Deena and Chandra really touching. One of my favorites is when the two girls are at the market, and Chandra asks Deena if she can have a drink. Deena says that they can share a cup of pomegranate juice, but she only takes a sip and then gives the rest of it to her little sister. Even though these two sisters live on the other side of the world from me, I was able to identify with them and imagine myself and my own sister sharing a cup of juice in a Nepali market.


Rhododendrons are the national flower of Nepal, so it was perfect for Theresa to have Chandra and Deena sell these flowers at the market. I think it’s amazing that these brightly colored flowers grow so high up in the mountains. As Theresa points out in endnotes following the story, lower down the mountains, the blooms are a rich red, and as the elevation increases, the flowers become pink and then white.

photo by Andrew Miller. Flickr Creative Commons

Technology may be making the world seem smaller every day, but if you’ve ever explored the Barefoot World Atlas app, you’ll know how huge it really is! We at Barefoot are committed to celebrating what makes each corner of the world special and unique, and highlighting what stays the same no matter where you live or what you look like or what language you speak. What are some of your favorite Barefoot stories set in places far from your home, and what in particular do you enjoy about them? I’d love to hear from you!

If you liked learning more about our creative process, or would enjoy being a part of the development of our future books, you should check out our lively Creative Cauldron forums!

If you’d like to learn more about artist Judith Guyfier’s creative process, check out her blog post! [Note: you will leave the Barefoot Books website, and it's in French!]

Chandra’s Magic Light will release in May 2014.

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