Its not that nonsense has not been around – Sukumar Ray’s Abol Tabol was (and is) loved by scores of Bengali children and in its English avatar by kids and adults around the country. Other than that, though, I can count on my fingertips the number of books on the Indian scene that celebrate the joy of nonsense.
Whimsy in which Annie Besant pens a romance between a whimsical creature and a creature with a penchant for whimsy, is a most unusual book; a very pleasant addition to the nonsense bookshelf.
What is whimsy? is the big question at the heart of this picture book. Mr Prat, born of a rat and a pig, insists that whimsy describes his strange appearance. Ms Fox begs to differ – what she does, for example, “wear pink pantaloons and ride a unicycle with my dog blue,” is whimsy.
Thus begins playful bantering between the two that delights the reader with descriptions of their outlandish appearance and mad behaviour. In word and picture, the book attempts to turn the expected into the unexpected. Clue: look beyond the words to find lots of unexpected-ness in the pictures as well. For instance, check out the dog, Blue’s behind, and maybe Mr. Prat’s shoes?
Whimsy is an exploration of the absurd. It is also a romance. It appears to be an homage to Edward Lear – yes, you’ll find one of his best-loved poems woven into one of the pictures, and I’m not telling you what and where…
Ruchi Mhasane’s utterly gorgeous illustrations make this book a thing of beauty with a very international look and feel. The picture part is a whole story by itself that invites a second look beyond the obvious. Creating nonsense is a particularly sophisticated art, and the writing doesn’t fully capture the rhythm and inventiveness of the best kind of nonsense. That said, it is definitely imaginative and amusing and will get kids to explore and expand their imagination.
By Lubaina Bandukwala
Author: Annie Besant
Illustrator: Ruchi Mhasane
Karadi Tales, 2014
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book