Anjana Neira Dev
A FRIEND FOR POOCHI by By Meera Ganapathi. Illustrations by Rohit Kelkar Pratham Books Level 3, Bengaluru, 2021, pp.,
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

Meera Ganapathi’s text and Rohit Kelkar’s illustrations that complement it make this book a sensitive intervention about the importance of love and understanding in everyone’s life, especially someone who is visibly ‘different’ and suffers for it. This is the story of Poochi, a hairy, six-eyed creature, and a sentient being conscious of the trauma of being shunned by all who saw it. This continuous rejection makes the little creature very lonely and sad. So impactful is the personification of Poochi, that very early on, the reader is moved by its plight and shares in its sadness when neither the busy ants, nor the shy snail, nor the rowdy mosquitoes and not even the wasps, respond to his overtures of friendship. Each of these creatures is cleverly introduced to the young reader not only through the verisimilitude of their portraiture but also by giving each of them distinct and memorable personalities. The first person whom Poochi meets who does not sneer or squirm when she sees him is a little girl’s grandmother who tells her that ‘Poochis are a gardener’s best friend’. It is she who gives Poochi a place to belong to, a large, damp and stinky compost pit, and a whole host of jocund company. This book is a gentle reminder that the world is full of Poochis who only need someone to love and appreciate them for what they are, and I am sure that this theme will resonate with all young readers struggling to feel at home in the world which can sometimes be a difficult place to adjust to.