Squiggle Gets Stuck attempts to fill a gap where, unfortunately enough, our school curriculum miserably falls short. While our children speak English effortlessly from the cradle, one might say from the womb even, it is on an instinctive level. The rules of grammar are often still quite alien.
Squiggle, the heroine of our story, has accidentally fallen out of her own book, Squiggle Takes a Walk (which incidentally is the first book in this series and about punctuation), and into the in the verbose depths of the ponderous Oxford Dictionary. What makes her a female and Doodle Dude, the goofy sidekick, a male I’m not entirely sure, but the characterization seems about right! The only way to escape is to string together a grammatically correct sentence that stretches from the bottom left of the page all the way to the top right.
The challenge is thrown at the start of the book. As in any good book, of course, there are a couple of complications to overcome. It can’t be so easy. The sentence must use all eight parts of speech, and must be constructed by the ditzy and distinctly ungrammatical Doodle Dude, who is stuck in the wordy depths of the dictionary along with Squiggle.
Squiggle takes on the challenge and, part of speech by part of speech, she goes about the arduous, but not impossible, task of educating Doodle Dude enough to string together a grammatically impeccable sentence and they are well on their way to freedom.
Squiggle Gets Stuck is one of those wonderfully rare creations, not unlike the children’s show Sesame Street, in that it appeals to parents and young children alike. The cute characters and the beautifully simple and imaginative plot have an immediate appeal for the young reader. But some of the word-related humour is possibly aimed at the parent who might be reading the book to the child.
For example, after painstakingly putting together a nineteen-word long sentence containing all the parts of speech, Doodle Dude decides in an emotional denouement to stay right there in the initially inhospitable but now comfortingly familiar literary depths of the Oxford Dictionary. Oxford is understandably taken aback – “I’m at a loss for words, which is unheard of in my line of work!”
The book also has some exercises after the story, based on the characters and the situation. But good as they are, they do, arguably, take some of the fun away from the book. After building up the story so promisingly, the activities make it seem like just another grammar book.
The illustrations and visuals, including creative use of font types and sizes, are again simple and elegant, though I must confess they do not particularly jump off the page (pun intended)!
All in all, Squiggle Gets Stuck is a fun way to help young children make sense of sentences and English grammar.
By Anandam Ravi
Author: Natasha Sharma
Illustrator: Vikram Nandwani
Penguin India and Young Zubaan, 2016
Subject Category: Contemporary/Non-Fiction/Series