Pickle Yolk Books emerged from Richa Jha’s popular blog Snuggle with Picture Books. The ‘new kid’ on the Indian independent children’s book publishing scene (that’s a bit of a mouthful!) is fast gaining a reputation for titles which champion alternative viewpoints and mindsets. Vee Loved Garlic is no exception. Taking a young girl vampire as its protagonist, it explores what happens when she decides that – contrary to what she and every other vampire is taught – she rather likes the taste of garlic. Cue much “pandemonium” as her parents try to teach her the error of her ways, and educate her as to the potentially dire consequence of her actions.
I’m always a fan of a plucky, freethinking protagonist who just won’t be told what to do, and my favourite line in the book comes when Vee decides that she must find out for herself whether garlic is as dangerous as she’s told it is. “But Vee believed otherwise. So she made sure.” While I don’t want to get carried away with the far-reaching implications, it’s not hard to imagine that this could encourage a new generation of young readers to follow their inner ‘why?’ voice, rather than taking everything that they are told at face value. Which can only be a good thing.
Something which stands out in Kunal Kundu’s illustrations are the details which she has evidently had great fun incorporating. Perhaps on a second or third reading, you might notice that Vee is reading a book about ‘dealing with stubborn parents’, that the fish in the fish tank is a skeleton, that at one point Vee can be seen waving a ‘Hunger Strike’ banner, or that the family kitchen contains ‘skunk oil’. These are the details which really make a picture book magical – and while there are some which may go over a child’s head, there are others which young readers will enjoy discovering for themselves. Be sure to read Vee’s menu of “treats” out loud, as the disgusting concoctions were met with great delight by my reading companion.
While a dark colour palette is a natural choice in a book about vampires, I felt that at times the colours were a little too dark for the illustrations to be appreciated fully – though this could be more of a production/printing issue. I’d be interested to see the original sketches. The hardback format and extra details like the semi-transparent page at the beginning get full marks, but I’m not such a fan of the slightly shiny paper, or the typography, which I feel could be a lot more adventurous. I won’t give away the ending too much, but I can say that I found it rather clever, and that grown-ups reading the book will appreciate the sentiment that no one ever really grows up as long as they are still somebody’s child.
By Maegan Dobson Sippy
Author: Richa Jha
Illustrator: Kunal Kundu
Pickle Yolk Books, 2015
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book