What’s not to like in a book like Alphabet Dress-Up? Each letter of the alphabet is used to introduce children to a different profession ranging from astronaut to zookeeper. Simultaneously, it proclaims that if children could just imagine, Dzthey could be anyonedz. There’s a letter hunt on every page to add to the fun and a card game included in the book, which gives children the opportunity to act out different professions. That’s enough value-addition (or ‘edutainment’, if you like) for a parent to be induced to pick it up, while the little ones most certainly have enough to look at as they thumb through the book’s thick, glossy pages.

Barring a few awkward mouthfuls, the verse reads well enough. The first two lines pertain to the occupation, while the last two invite children to imagine playing the part. But half the fun of pretend play lies in being able to use simple resources at oneǯs disposal and turning it into the object of one’s fancy. The author’s note at the end of the book emphatically states that this was her inspiration for creating Alphabet Dress-Up: “A pencil could be a sword used to slay dragons, a carton could be a tree house…”

Unfortunately, this whimsy and playfulness is not reflected in the text or the illustrations. The settings are a little too picture-perfect and the children often strike a pose– the little gardener stands in a manicured, picket-fenced yard wearing a hat, overalls and leaning on her shovel, the little race car driver is standing in front of his car with a cup in his hands. Of course, one could argue that self-consciousness has its role in make-believe and there are professions like movie star or singer, where a pose is perfectly appropriate, but it would have been nice to see the gardener with a little dirt on her hands and feet and the racer actually zipping around the circuit. “There was a conscious effort to infuse subtle elements of ‘Indianness’ wherever possible,” writes the illustrator, and to this end, block print motifs have been used across the pages. They’re pretty patterns for sure, but then thatǯs all they are, since they don’t really blend organically with the rest of the image.

Despite its shortcomings, what will endear this book to its reader is the cheerfulness of the verse and the flashes of humor that liven its pages. The yoga instructor’s earnest gaze as he performs his many asanas instantly makes one smile, as does the supremely confident queen’s supremely grumpy royal cat. Another deliberate effort, one that does work in the book’s favor though, is the attempt to break some gender stereotypes –it’s good to see the little girl zooming off into space and the boy earnestly teaching the alphabet to baby animals in uniform (yes, really).

By Niveditha Subramaniam

Author: Nalini Sorenson
Illustrator and Designer: Shraddha Pimputkar
Price: Rs 199.00
ISBN Number: 978-93-81593-04-2
Funokplease, 2013
Subject category: Concepts

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