Over the last few weeks, there have been discussions on the Internet about the relevance of non-fiction books at a time when everything is a Google click away. The consensus, and I can’t help but agree, was that good non-fiction books introduce children to a wealth of information in a way that’s fun and educational, without being overt.
TERI – The Energy and Resources Institute – is a not-for-profit policy research organisation that is working towards sustainability. As part of their publishing programme, they have a range of children’s books that aim to talk about climate change, solar energy, and other aspects of environment education. The books, when they were first published, had illustrations that were reminiscent of the… er… I am not sure what era actually, well, they had Indian children with blue eyes learning about solar energy!
Their latest slew of books are more Indian in their illustrations and look and feel. While we could do without Comic Sans and other fonts from the same family, this series is brimming with basic information perfect for tweenagers. The Story of… series aims to get children to think about our consumption pattern, whether it’s paper, travel, e-waste, food, or the way we live.
There’s a generic letter from R.K. Pachauri, the former director-general of TERI, at the beginning of the books. It would have been great to see a more personalised one either from him or from the editor of the series instead.
The Story of Computer starts with the basics of a computer and goes on to trace its history, evolution and also talks about e-waste. Trivia is offered in the form of boxes titled ‘Info Chip and Bit of Data’. The Story of Transport takes young readers on a journey through the different modes of transport – from draft animals to road, water, rail, air, and space travel. The Story of House begins with the concept of what a house is and what makes a home. It then makes its way from caves and animal houses to modern apartment complexes. There’s a double-spread on eco-friendly housing which talks about LEED certification and rainwater harvesting.
The Story of Paper talks about the ubiquity of paper and takes children through the evolution of paper. The book is by far the best in the series, going into paper’s history, paper mills, and the benefits of recycled paper. What’s great is that the books are also printed on recycled paper. The Story of Food is packed with very basic information on things like taste, where food comes from, and junk food.
Each book introduces readers to some of the movers and shakers of the industry, which is a good addition. What’s also neat is the ‘Words to Remember’ section, which familiarises young readers with different words related to that particular subject.
On the whole, however, the series is quite disappointing mainly because of its uninspired design. That said, the books can be used as good research material for those tenacious school projects that are habitually sprung upon children every term.
By Bijal Vachharajani
Author: Benita Sen
Illustrators: Santosh Kumar Singh, Yatindra Kumar, Vijay Nipane
25 pages each
Rs 95.00 each
THE STORY OF FOOD
THE STORY OF PAPER
THE STORY OF HOUSE
THE STORY OF TRANSPORT
THE STORY OF COMPUTER
Subject Category: Contemporary/Non-Fiction/Series