Monkeys on a Fast is a fun, chuckle-inducing story adapted from a Buddhist fable. Chakrapani (Chakku), a monkey chieftain, and his band of overweight monkeys live close to a temple. After overhearing the temple priest calling for a fast on the eleventh day of the waxing moon, Chakku exhorts his tribe to go on a fast and also meditate for a day in order to become calm, peaceful and intelligent monkeys. What follows is true to form monkey business.
This is a hardbound book with a bright yellow, uncluttered cover that is very inviting. The page size is generous and allows for a large font size, and a bit of typographic play too. Although some spreads are text heavy, the text is laid out in easy-to-read chunks that occupy one side of the spread with the illustrations on the facing page.
The book is simple enough for a seven plus child to read on her own, and can also be a fun read-aloud tale for a younger child. It’s the kind of story that children are likely to enjoy many times over because of the way in which it hastens towards its inevitable end, with things getting wilier and funnier with each page turn.
The illustrations are by Shilpa Ranade, a professor at the Industrial Design Centre, Mumbai, and a multi-award-winning animator and filmmaker of no mean accomplishment. Ranade has often expressed her view that art needs to be personal expression, and that “cute and clean” is not the only way to go. She also stands for being original and not mindlesly imitating or following prevailing trends. The monkey characters and other illustrations in the book fully reflect these views. Although my head agrees with Ranade’s stand, my heart didn’t take to the illustrations in this book. I wish I found the characters endearing even without them being cute. The spareness of the illustrations does rob them of some much-needed warmth.
By Archana Sreenivasan
MONKEYS ON A FAST
Author: Kaushik Viswanath
Illustrator: Shilpa Ranade
Karadi Tales, 2009
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book