A child’s world today is filled with the bright clutter of toys and the noisy chatter of television, leaving little or no room for her to simply observe the world around. Those of us who have grown up in an era when children often lay on the floor dreaming about nothing in particular, recall the excitement offered by the sight of sundry insects that wandered into our world. In the sanitised world that children inhabit these days, there is little scope for them to observe an industrious spider spinning a web in a corner or watch a tiny insect building its little home. And that is why Follow the Ants is such a welcome addition to the world of children’s books.
Anita loves small things and so, when she sees a long line of little ants, she follows it. The line of ants leads Anita on a fun chase – into her house, around the things there, over obstacles and under large objects. Where do the ants finally go? Follow intrepid Anita to find out!
This is a bilingual book and the review copy I received carried a crisp Hindi translation of the story. While the English title of the book is intriguing, it was the Hindi one that caught my eye, with its suggestion of a mysterious chase with untold treasures at the end.
The story is simple but manages to sustain the interest of the reader. Young readers are sure to turn pages, eager to see where the line of ants leads Anita and them. The story is set in a recognisable environment, making it easy for children to relate to Anita and her adventures.
In a book meant for children this young, the illustrations are as important as the story, and Follow the Ants scores high primarily because its seamless narrative is built on an exciting combination of words and pictures. Soumya Menon’s illustrations of big-eyed Anita are endearing and her bright palette creates a lovely background against which the ants march. The minimalistic text is mirrored in the clean lines of the illustrations, which provide plenty of scope to portray the contours of the world that Anita sees.
This is a book meant to be read aloud. It is also a book that offers tantalising glimpses into all the fun games that can be organised around its narrative. Those eager to find teaching opportunities in every story are sure to recognise the enormous potential of this book in that direction. But, to me, the greatest success of the book lies in its ability to focus on the tiny, often-ignored aspects of the world around us. Parents who seem to think that children need to be occupied every waking hour will do well to follow the ants with their children and rediscover the calm joys hidden in these small activities.
By Nandini Nayar
FOLLOW THE ANTS
Author: Amrutha Satish
Illustrator: Soumya Menon
Tulika Publishers, 2015
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book