There’s a lot to be said for Eklavya’s simply produced and reasonably priced books. An NGO of thirty years standing, Eklavya works in the field of education, publishing books for children in order to support their own work. In the case of these two charming books, My Day with the Clouds and Niloufer’s Smile, Eklavya has brought out the titles, which were originally published in Persian, with help from the Sir Ratan Tata Trust.
Whimsical is the best word to describe these simply told, meandering stories. In My Day with the Clouds, two small girls sing a rain poem to encourage the beautiful clouds dancing around in the sky above them to remember how to rain. Mundane and fantastical elements are combined to great effect. While the backbone of the story is a typical day in the life of a child (from waking up and eating breakfast to playing with friends and interacting with parents), magical elements are seamlessly slipped in. Clouds listen to the girls’ song, and the mother is able to spin thread from the clouds to knit jackets as light as the sky.
On the surface, Niloufer’s Smile is an even simpler story, as a girl searches for the smile she seems to have misplaced. In this tale, the reported dialogue is humorous and easy to relate to: ““Shall I tell Ma? But she will only say, “Try to think hard where you kept it last.”” Yet it’s the message behind the story which really stays with you. In regaining her own smile by adding ‘happiness’ to sketches of her family and friends, we’re reminded of both the transformative power of art, and of our ability to invite happiness into our own lives by bringing it into the lives of others.
The illustration styles are in stark contrast to one another, but both work well in their respective contexts. The childlike pencil sketches in Niloufer’s Smile are reminiscent of a child’s own imaginative creations, while Hoda Hadadi’s art in My Day with the Clouds is truly stunning, taking us away from the usual bright, un-complex style often deemed appropriate for children, towards something far more subtle and interesting.
While the design and production are less strong than the illustrations and text, this is entirely understandable considering the price point. The basic centre-stapled format won’t stand up to too many readings, and the books could have benefited from more interesting integration of text and image. What does stand out though is the fact that, despite being translations, the stories and characters provide much that an Indian audience can relate to.
By Maegan Dobson Sippy
MY DAY WITH THE CLOUDS
Author: Hoda Hadadi
Illustrator: Hoda Hadadi
Author: Akhram Ghasempour
Illustrator: Naseem Azadi
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Books