Few authors can straddle the world of children’s and adult literature with ease and Anita Nair is one of them. As a parent, if you want to feel satisfied and convinced about the quality of reading your child does – till as long as you can, that is – then Who Let Nonu Out? will give you that feeling. It has all the trappings of a ‘good’ book: a satisfying storyline, likeable characters, great language and gentle humour. The illustrations are simple black-and-white watercolour paintings of Nonu and the other characters, spread across every chapter. Not too many, yet just enough to get young imaginations going. It’s the kind of book that you can gift fearlessly too; the parent won’t raise an eyebrow and child will be happy for sure.
The story begins with Nonu Squirrel’s parents planning a move to a cleaner neighbourhood because their current home is surrounded by dust and smoke from a nearby construction site. Most readers will identify with this considering how polluted our cities have become. Anita Nair has cleverly used allegory throughout the book, making it almost fable-like. Every chapter presents a possible challenge a human child is likely to face, solved through the adventures of a young squirrel.
In the first chapter, for instance, Nonu throws a temper tantrum because he doesn’t want to leave his current house and move to a new place because he doesn’t want to leave his friends behind. His parents indulge in a little bit of ‘tough love’ to make him see sense. I can well imagine myself saying to my son, “You recall what Nonu’s Mama said when he threw his toy in anger?” Similarly, throughout the book, there are instances of good and bad attitudes, right and wrong reactions and the importance of saying please, sorry and thank you, but not once does it all sound preachy, lest you think this is some sort of behaviour manual.
As the story moves along, Nonu, like any child (and like most children’s novels go), goes through experiences that become his many adventures and misadventures, which include learning to skate, making new friends and getting into lots of trouble. In the process, Nonu learns very valuable life-lessons, such as keeping good company, not deceiving, staying clear of danger and such. I must confess that I felt the balance tilts in favour of being ‘better-safe-than-sorry’ without paying due attention to other qualities like presence of mind and fearlessness, which children should also develop.
Who Let Nonu Out? is a delightfully warm story. Anita Nair declares there’s more to come if we wait patiently and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
By Deeptha Vivekanand
Author: Anita Nair
Illustrator: Sayan Mukherjee
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Chapter Book