A VISHV OF GLITTERING BOOKS

A VISHV OF GLITTERING BOOKS

Magpies and kids love glittering things as a rule. And when the glitter is on a book cover, can one be faulted for judging the book by its cover? The set of books under review is from the Read ‘n’ Grow series by Vishv Books. Running my hands happily across the covers with attractive tactile illustrations, I thought the set should have been named Touch ‘n’ Glow – the child touches it, and the face glows with wonder.

Sadly, the glow is missing in the inside pages, both literally and metaphorically. All the books in the series have a note on the inner front cover that talks about the pleasures of reading together. It asks the parent or teacher to encourage the child to read the title and author’s name together, and try to guess what the story is about. Such notes tend to make the book experience longer than the reading of the story itself, and maybe helpful to some adults. I, however, feel that a suggested activity, unless written in a creative and playful way, makes the book more of a textbook than a storybook. The series is graded into three age-groups: two to five years, with stories which are wordless or have very few words; five to seven years, with stories of 450-500 words for beginning readers, and seven to nine years with stories of more than 900 words.

The first book under review is Mangoes for Bindu, marked for children aged two to five years. Written by Kamlesh Mohindra, the story is about a little girl called Bindu who starts crying because all the mangoes on a tree have disappeared. The mother and child wonder who could have eaten all the mangoes. The visuals are imaginative and absurdly funny. The illustrations of the likely thieves –  cow, goat, donkey, parrot, and the pigeon – are sure to delight children looking at the book. However, the mangoes pasted unimaginatively on the trees add a sour taste to this nice spread. The story is simple; the text on each page is sparse but sufficient to carry the story forward. A teacher, parent or older child reading the story to a young child will have no difficulty filling in the gaps. So why have the publishers included a long a storyline at the end of the book, which is neither aesthetically written nor adds to the story in any way?

The next three books under review are marked for children in the five to seven age-group. We are Friends by Girija Rani Asthana is about a baby elephant who wants to be friends with a deer, a bear and a rabbit. Actually, he wants to be friends with a fawn, a cub and – quick, what do you call the young one of a rabbit? A pity that the author got it wrong; a young rabbit is called a kit or kitten. Kid is what a young goat is called. Predictable though the story is, it is bound to resonate well with children, who do have a way of getting lost! The elephant tries to help all the animals in the hope that he will be accepted by them as their friend. The illustrations are cute, though the textured effect robs them of some colour. The language is clunky and the punctuations a bit awry. Now, read this out aloud: “Boohoo! Boohoo! I am lost.” Certainly the crying has to be a long-drawn wail rather than two sharp exclamations? Boohoo…

A Time Together is not a storybook. Author Nilima Sinha fills the book with overt messaging. Mummy praises Daddy. Daddy helps Mummy in the kitchen. Son helps with setting the table. Another good child says nice things about Mummy’s cooking. And nice Daddy reminds the daughter that she should stop watching television and join them for dinner because “we all have dinner together”. Why do adults feel this strong urge to discipline children, even in storybooks? The children eat bitter gourd and cottage cheese (paneer, one presumes). If the word “daal” is in italics on Page 2, why couldn’t the table have had “paneer” on Page 6? This family that eats daal and chapati and cottage cheese and raspberry pie does not look totally Indian, what with brown hair and light eyes. Overall, it isn’t a book I would pick up for my child. But, if you want to give your child lessons in manners, hmmm, please pick it up by all means.

The Nimba Tree by Nita Berry has a nice rural look. Young Avi loves to play under the large neem tree and so do his friends. Goats, cows, squirrels, dogs and pigeons all gather under the tree, and so for a young reader, there is plenty to see. On a hot day, the boy builds a bird bath, which seems quite incongruous in the setting, more so because the text mentions a pot, while the illustration shows a wide basin. The bad guys cut the tree, and the good guys plant saplings, and the rains make everything fine again, and so ends this simplistic story.

Producing and publishing books is no easy task. That Vishv Books has come out with this set of books graded for three different age-groups is commendable. But certainly children’s books need to be more playful. If we must encourage children to become readers, we have to make the story a treat rather than a chore. The illustrations do have potential. But it is unclear why the illustrators’ names are not mentioned at all. The illustrations are credited in very small print to Vishv Books Design Studio.  Illustrators play the most important role in the making of good picture books, and it is only fair that publishers give them due credit for their work.

By Mala Kumar

MANGOES FOR BINDU

Author: Kamlesh Mohindra
Illustrator: Vishv Books Design Studio
English
20 pages
Rs 100.00
ISBN: 978-93-5065-291-0
Vishv Books, 2014

WE ARE FRIENDS

Author: Girija Rani Asthana
Illustrator: Vishv Books Design Studio
English
20 pages
Rs 100.00
ISBN: 978-93-5065-292-3
Vishv Books, 2014

A TIME TOGETHER

Author: Nilima Sinha
Illustrator: Vishv Books Design Studio
English
20 pages
Rs 100.00
ISBN: 978-93-5065-203-9
Vishv Books, 2014

THE NIMBA TREE

Author: Nita Berry
Illustrator: Vishv Books Design Studio
English
20 pages
Rs 100.00
ISBN: 978-93-5065-217-6
Vishv Books, 2014
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Books
Age-group: 2+

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