Written and illustrated by Chewang Dorjee Bhutia
Tulika, 2019, pp. 24, R245.00
An unusual folktale of a giant-girl with rare characteristics of North Eastern hills. In a nutshell, it is a story of a mighty giant girl who likes to swallow clouds for fun. Banished by one village for the damage she caused she saves another from being submerged in rain by eating the rain clouds. The girl tramples over the gender stereotypes in a natural happy environment.
Most folktales, perhaps originating from the heart, hold the capacity to appeal to the depths of the heart that provides them with the essential distinction of crossing into global vistas. This one told in simple verse performs the needful to please gratify the sentiments. It is a typical old-world style folktale presenting the ups and downs of conflicts and acts of goodness at the same time concluding in peace and contentment. As in most folktales, a simple plot contains an undercurrent of virtues and eternal humanity prevails. Most remarkable are the unique illustrations which are predominantly imaginary, out of ordinary perspectives and artistic in content. The scenes of the North-Eastern hills of India are depicted beautifully in picturesque compositions and produced effectively. A delightful production by Tulika.
SO JA ULLoo
Picture books published by Eklavya & Parag (Tata Trusts), Illustrations by Bhuri Bai
2018, pp. 32, R80.00
As you pick up this book, the sticker of an award on the top corner of the cover catches your attention besides the portrayal of owls in the colourful illustration. It is the Runner-Up for Publishing Next Industry Award.
Most Eklavya publications are appropriate for the rural child, here too, the concept is simple and easily understood. A variety of day birds in their natural habitat chirp in their own inimitable voices troubling the night bird–owl. Disturbed by the noise while trying to catch a wink during the day, the owl screams loudly at night waking all the birds.
Illustrations is the most striking feature of this book. All the compositions are done in Bhil folk-art, usually adorning the walls of the huts of village using simple combinations of dots and stripes. They are conspicuous, emphasizing the beauty of folk art elegance. In a picture book for children, a point of concern could be whether the child reader can read the art and relate to the different figures of birds and animals that look very different in reality. Maybe not, but within their unsophisticated surroundings of the countryside one should not forget that children possess a unique capability of absorbing abstractions and relating them with the real. Moreover, the fascination of colours and appreciation of art connects to natural flair. In its simplicity, all the configurations have an aesthetic appeal and very attractive. The book owes its charm to the art-work and design.
MACHhER-JHOL: Fish Curry
By Richa Jha. Illustrations by Sumant De
Pickle Yolk Books, 2018, pp. 40, R350.00
This is the Hindi translation of the original book in English published by Pickle Yolk Books.
Primarily the pictures in a picture book are the first to attract attention when inadvertently the observer begins to mentally form a storyline from the details in the picture. Gorgeous double spread illustrations of a buzzing city with minor and major details of the scenery in shades of ochre build up an artistic canvas arising curiosity. Every page presents a beautiful painting in bold brush strokes over minute details which become lifelike and move on the pages along with the characters and the story.
‘Machher Jhol’ is the sensitive story of a young boy who dares to go out in the humdrum of the city to get fish curry, ‘machher jhol’, for his ailing father. It moves interestingly from one step to the next with a surprise packed in at the end, one that wins the heart, arousing a mixture of feelings and heroism. In that one moment, the entire adventure and all the sequences portrayed in graphic detail acquire a new meaning that are emotional and fulfilling. It is a lovely story told with utmost restraint for it neither becomes exaggerated nor theatrical. The author has excelled in simplicity and precision.
The entire book possesses a classic touch in the placement of brief text on an elaborate cityscape that tends to stall the reader’s attention to scan the minor details of the illustration before proceeding on with the story. Besides the visual impact, the book is soothing as well as heart-warming.
LAL PHOOLON KI KHUSHBU PEELI
Written and illustrated by Bani Prosonno
This is a collection of short rhyming pieces on animals and aspects of a child’s world is supported by photographs of pretty non-figurative vague collage like arrangements of diverse material like ropes, pans, flower pots, buckets, stones and leaves.
As such the book does not create any impact on the young mind because the presentation of rhyming words are neither poetic, nor do the illustrations lend themselves to clarifying the purpose of presentation. I do not think that there is any connection between the title and the reading material inside. While creating a book for the pre-schooler, it is essential to bear in mind the comprehension level of the young reader. In familiarizing concepts and creating mental association of things in a child’s world, clarity of ideas and simple approach is of utmost importance.
By Rinchin. Illustrations by Shivatmika Lala
Eklavaya, 2019, pp. 24, R55.00
In my opinion this book is unsuitable for the format of a picture book by all standards. The story is for older readers who can read fluently and grasp complicated plots. First of all, it is extremely wordy for the intended age group of the readers and a story shoots across the comprehension of children.
Although it is a touching tale of a girl who is unable to go to school owing to circumstances, political and social exploitation, the style and contents of a sensitive situation is rather mature. The story is derived from lengthy letters written to the school teacher. For the picture book readers with limited vocabulary and fragmentary understanding of complexities of life, the story as well as the concept of the tale is beyond their grasp.
Simply illustrated in images from nature and actions in the text, the pages are dominated by the long letters. The prose is tedious with complex expressions including some language inaccuracies.
Ira Saxena Ph.D. in Child Psychology, is the author of innumerable books for children.