The Rajah’s Moustache is a book that will find itself a snug spot on any child’s bookshelf. It might not have the glamour and production values that go into many children’s books today, but don’t be too quick to judge the book, because it’s an entertaining, light-hearted tale that will bring a smile to any child’s face.
Asha Nehemiah’s story is very conducive to being read out aloud – it’s uncomplicated, and yet has an engaging style. Her tone is light and witty, while managing to keep the text simple and straightforward. I can see why this book is a favourite among storytellers to read out to children. It’s quite hard to achieve this balance with written text, and I think the author manages to do so very successfully. So it came as no surprise when I read later (on the back cover) that this book won the first prize in the category ‘Read-aloud Books/Picture Books in the Competition for Writers of Children’s Books’ organized by the Children’s Book Trust.
B. G. Varma’s illustrations compliment the author’s telling very well. They have a lot of humour and heart, and bring to life the comic nature of the story. However, the pictures don’t add much in terms of a visual narrative to the story, like in a picture book. But they do accompany the written descriptions nicely, as in a classic illustrated storybook for children.
The design of the book is not particularly innovative or fresh. The leading in the text is a little tight and, on some pages, the layout looks cramped because of the amount of text that’s been placed along with the illustrations. It would have helped to have proper paragraph spacing, which might have eased how cluttered the text looks in a few pages.
Ultimately though, I love how this humble, humorous sixteen-page story is a good example of a children’s book done right. And I honestly don’t know another book of this quality and standard you can still get for twenty-five rupees. It’s truly a little treasure from the Children’s Book Trust that gets it storytelling absolutely right!
By Mayura K.
Author: Asha Nehemiah
Illustrator: B.G. Varma
Children’s Book Trust, 1999
Subject Category: Fiction/Picture Book