ABOUT THE BOOKFrom roti to dosa and chakli to barfi, there are different kinds of food you can eat across India. Food Monster explores the shapes of these food items. The illustrations in the book are inspired by Gyotaku or ‘fish rubbing’, an old printmaking technique used by fishermen to record their catch.
- Food Monster uses the names of various Indian food items to introduce young readers to different shapes. By using foods and shapes alongside one another, the writer acquaints children with a variety of Indian dishes even as they learn about different kinds of shapes.
- While describing the shapes of different foods, the book also takes readers on a food-journey across the country, and attempts to give children a sense of India’s culinary diversity by featuring everything from dosas to jalebis.
- In many ways, the book seems much too complicated for Pratham’s Level 1 readers, whom it is supposed to be pitched at. It is not an easy read-aloud book with a strong sense of narrative. Instead, it is a heavily conceptual book that requires readers to engage simultaneously at the visual, auditory, and cognitive levels – connecting the foods to the shapes, and both of these to their names. Many of the words themselves – mostly shape and food names – are quite long and complicated. Hexagons, spirals, cylinders, and patishaptas are difficult words, in addition to being unfamiliar ideas.
- While the illustrations, which are based on a Japanese printing technique, are striking, they seem too complex for young readers. Each page contains many individual elements in different colours and shapes. The human figures are expressive, but stylised, and often not totally distinguishable from their surroundings. Pages are so filled with patterns and detailing that it becomes hard to focus on the food item and its shape, which is the central focus of the book. The food items themselves are only one small element on the page, and are often coloured in dullish shades, such that a reader’s eye is not naturally led to them.
- In some instances, there is a disconnect between the shape described in the text and the shape drawn. The barfi, for example, is presented as an example of a square, but the barfi on the page is much closer to a rectangle.