SEA (ENGLISH); SAMANDAR (HINDI) by By Amandine Laprun. Translated from the original Mer in French into English by Ranjitha Seshadri. Translated from the English into Hindi by Madhuri Tiwari. Eklavya Foundation, 2023, 10 pp., INR 400.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

Board books are one of the first ways in which a baby encounters printed words. It’s through these books that a fundamental journey of decoding, and making meaning begins. Board books with their sensory experience of touch, visual contrast and animation, bring joy and excitement to a child’s learning experience. Made of cardboard, they are sturdy enough to be handled by the child and allow the child possibilities of independent interaction, to develop hand-eye coordination, develop fine motor skills and offer much tactile appeal. They also offer parents the possibility of building an intimate bond with the child and participate in their journeys of meaning-making through books.
With just a word a page and vivid illustrations of sea creatures, Sea (in English) and Samandar (in Hindi) is Eklavya Foundation’s latest offering for the earliest of readers. Translated from the French, written and illustrated by Amandine Laprun, the book offers a gentle peek (quite literally) into the world of deep-sea creatures including turtles, crabs, dolphins, star fishes and so on. Originally titled Mer in French, this book is a part of a series of similar board books, along with others such as Rivière (River), Jungle (Jungle), Forêt (Forest), Couleurs (Colors) and so on. The translation and production of the book was made possible by support from the Publication Assistance Programmes of the Institut Français.
Each page of the book has a black and white illustration of a sea creature, almost like a silhouette, placed in a cut-out panel window. There are two pull-out panels on either side of the page. The pull-out panel on the side of the black and white illustration reveals the same picture in vivid colours. Whereas the one on the opposite page gives the name of the sea creature. This animated feature offers possibilities of much surprise and play for the young reader. The final summary page offers the coloured illustrations of all the sea creatures introduced earlier including the beautiful Blue Tang featured on the cover. This animation element, and the various ways of interaction it offers is the key highlight of the book. The book is carefully produced to ensure that the pages are of high quality in its board and the panels create a lock during the pull, so that they do not slip out altogether. Though, like all much-loved books do, they do run the risk of the lock/slide becoming loose and that is of course, like all dog-eared books, a sign of much-loved affection for the books. Despite the possible high production effort and cost, and possibly because it is made available in two languages and the grant from the Institut, the cost of the book has also been kept affordable.
At a time when we are fighting off screen time for our children, especially toddlers, and encouraging parents to read to children from birth, board books are an essential for every child–and Sea/Samandar would make for an exciting addition to your baby’s board book circle.