I have had several encounters with the Ramayana over the years, first in a Hindu mythology course in college, later through its Thai incarnation--The Ramakhien. And then, through visits with its various characters at several museums with Asian collections. It has, for a long time, been one of my favorite adventure stories.
I think it's fair to say that Sanjay Patel's rendition of the Ramayana is my absolute favorite. Admittedly, Patel has produced an abridged version (3,000 pages down to 120+), that is the perfect size to read to one's children--as I have done. It is complete enough to cover all the main events, yet not so detailed that a young reader would get bogged down in the minutiae. As the subject matter involves some rather scary demons, it might not be right for the youngest kids however.
Reminiscent of one of my son's favorite cartoons--Samurai Jack--Patel's artwork continually draws me back to the book. His use of shapes creates a kind of dynamism, that combined with the compelling story-telling, generates the best kind of storybook.
Besides being the perfect story to read to kids of a certain age, The Ramayana has become a favorite of my coffee table books. I find that guests are often entranced by the vibrant colors, complex geometrical shapes, and fierce beauty of the work.
If that were all, it would be enough. But Patel includes a glossary/cast of characters including the famous gods, warriors and demons. He also has included a narrative map which points out the various story locations. He concludes the book with several pages of his sketches, and a description of how he put the story together (my favorite of the "extras").
I have been so pleased with this book that I look forward to future projects of Sanjay Patel with great anticipation.