In a world that is getting more and more competitive and where parents cram children’s lives with things to learn and do, often stifling their creativity, a wordless picture book comes as a breather. A child can finally tell her story without being led by an adult. And it is into this marvellous open-ended space that The Walking Stick trots in. Conceptualised and illustrated by B V Suresh, the book is the story of the adventures of a toddler and his horse (a walking stick).
As I leafed through the book, I was struck by the very expressive faces of the two main characters – the horse, who seems a little apprehensive, and the toddler, who is eager and enthusiastic as they set out on their journey. I quickly wove a story around these characters.
The next day I took the book to some second and third graders. As they flipped through the book, the story changed. The boy had name, the mountain setting outside his window was an indication that he lived in a forest. The story continued as they travelled, making friends with smiling clouds, getting mail from his mother, going hot air ballooning (which most children thought would be fun) and finally coming home tired but happy to find themselves on television.
The children also expressed concern for the mother who doesn’t feature anywhere in the book. They thought she may have been worried when the child went out on an adventure. They also discussed whether it was right for the child to run off without telling an adult.
Phew, the possibilities were limitless! Guess that’s the beauty of a wordless book. Though there is a loosely woven story, it engages and encourages children to start weaving stories of their own.
Illustrations obviously play a big role in such a book and B V Suresh builds an engaging narrative with his expressive characters in the midst of a lot of white space to draw the reader in. Given the young audience the book is meant for, a brighter colour palette would have added to its appeal.
Parents and teachers will find many ways to use this book to teach children. The children I took the book to were allowed to express themselves in one or more languages. They also had the freedom to mix languages and tell a bilingual tale. This kind of activity often helps children become happy and confident storytellers. With a few prompts, the book can also be used to get children to write their own stories.
By Indu Harikumar
Author and Illustrator: B V Suresh
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book