I was surprised to find the rare theme of childhood sexuality in this well-bound, sturdy, but rather overpriced children’s book. The book market has opened up a bit these days, and it is wonderful to see that organizations of great merit like Arpan (an NGO that deals with child sexual abuse) have with with Young Zubaan to produce My Little Body Book.
What works for this book is the fact that it gives a less conservative parent a hook to begin a dialogue of immense importance with a young child – about staying safe. I breathed a deep sigh of relief to find the page where a penis is labelled a penis and so is a vagina, but drooped immediately afterwards when I read a sentence like: “We look different down there.” Hedging and holding back is perhaps the biggest limitation of this book. What we need for children of all ages are books that grab the bull by the horns, so to speak.
The text in this book is not always clear and is made even more unclear by the illustrative style. It is pretty hard to discern differences between older and younger people because of the way in which they have been drawn. The book takes on a hard theme and has to compress ideas of person, gender, safety, trust and action in one picture book, which makes the author’s grasp over the subject seem less coherent.
I wonder how a book of this kind is different or distinctive from books by non-Indian publishers in English on the same theme. The illustrations and visual references are fairly generic, making this more of an information book that competes with others that are already in the market in this language and price range. All in all, a book that does not live up to its promise.
MY LITTLE BODY BOOK: KEEPING OURSELVES SAFE
Author and Illustrator: Shruti Singhal
Young Zubaan, 2015
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book
By Sujata Noronha