ABOUT THE BOOKJahan’s best friend Susie speaks with a lisp. Kids at school laugh at her and the boys in the park call her Thoothie. Fed up, Susie decides that she won’t speak at all. What is Jahan to do?
- We cannot have enough stories on being bullied for being different. In this case, Susie has a speech disorder that makes her lisp, which in turn makes her the butt of all jokes. We also have a marvellous character in Jahan. He is empathetic, funny, a loyal friend. The friendship between the two protagonists is endearing.
- Author Shruthi Rao writes about a child who is different without being sentimental or preachy, which makes the story very readable and relatable.
- The illustrations and the hole in the book are added attractions. Lavanya Naidu’s pictures delight page after page, adding dollops of humour to the story.
- The hOle books have been lovely without exception, but the message in this one is a bit uncomfortable. Susie’s lisp is seen as something that is “wrong” and needs to be corrected. There are no reassurances given to her. The book ends with her agreeing to speech therapy, but there is no consequence for (or message about) treating someone with a speech problem with derision.
- The other troubling aspect is that all of Susie’s speech is written “with the lisp”. For example, “I want thamotha.” This automatically makes her the “other”, so instead of empathising with her, the reader is tempted to laugh at her. How else is Susie’s speech to be represented? This is a valid question with no pat answer on offer. As far as Susie is concerned, she’s speaking normally; it’s others who are hearing it differently – and perhaps the clue to resolving this issue lies in going deeper into that thought.