Jyotsna Prakashan has brought out yet another well designed book. It is The Emerald Island written by Leeladhar Hegde and illustrated by Girish Sahasrabudhe. The original is in Marathi and Ram Mungle has done the translation.
This is a story about an idyllic place where all nature seems to rejoice. The trees are beautiful and bountiful, the living creatures there enjoy the best of everything and all seems the best in all possible worlds. Deep and richly hued pictures enhance the appeal to the eye and mind. So far, so good.
The misstep occurs when one starts reading the text. For a young child’s book, which the theme and the illustrations seem to suggest it is, the sentences are too wordy and the words too heavy. “On the other hand the birds thought that the beasts were behaving highhandedly…..This was the beginning of the misunderstanding between the birds and the beasts. It went on escalating.”
A little later in the story, “The fox opined that all said and done, the birds were considering themselves to be high and mighty.”
It is the sign of a confident writer when he or she can introduce complex words in a story and children respond to that, but elegance of language is essential and in this story, one misses that. There are some unfortunate grammatical missteps too. “Monkeys chose strongest among them as their leader.” “The bat then made an effective little speech in serious tone.” However there is a good possibility that some of these little lapses could be attributed to loss in translation. It would be good to read the story in its original language before coming to a final conclusion.
There are some charming ideas in the book. When the animals and birds celebrate their friendship again, they all decide to have a bath first with the elephant volunteering to shower everyone with his trunk. Again, when they all run a race, the giraffe and the camel are made umpires because they have long necks! But apart from a few flashes like these, the content of the story stays within predictable boundaries with every creature stuck in his or her customary groove and the theme reveals nothing fresh. No doubt that the cost of the book is set at an accessible Rs. 70 but one must not lose sight of quality in a quest for a low priced book!
What ages would this book be suitable for? The story and the vivid illustrations of the creatures might appeal to children from ages 5 to 8 but the language and length of sentences makes it more appropriate for age 9 to 12. This is an unfortunate mismatch.
By Usha Mukunda
Author: Leeladhar Hegde
Illustrator: Girish Sahasrabudhe
Jyotsna Prakashan, 2013
Subject Category: Adventure/Fantasy