Open Library

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The Coral Tree – Mamata Pandya and Pankaj Gorana

Photo albums still seem to hold a fascination for children. Perhaps it has to do with recognising people and places, and perhaps it has to do with some progression in time. To me, this book did both. The pictures of familiar birds, insects, animals and even a snake helped me reconnect with the immediate world around me. It reminded me that I too have a window to look out from and discover the exciting happenings which don’t make the headlines, more’s the pity!

In all the years I have worked with children in a school library, one thing I notice is that children are drawn to nature -story books which have a quality of realism and photographs seem to enhance that. There is a directness that they relate to. In fact when I opened the pages of this book, I found myself looking at the pictures first and then turning to the words to see if they matched! Not only did they match, they actually continued to have that visual quality.

The vibrancy of the cover and the shared ownership of the book left me with a warm feeling. The bits of information on some of the pages are not obtrusive and that, for me, is a good thing, because children are content to observe and ‘know’ when they are ready, not necessarily when someone else feels they are! However the interesting information given at the end is captivating, as well as the idea of a tree diary.

A bare review of the Wimpy kid series:

1. It promotes a culture of manipulating adults, fooling them, tricking friends, bullying them for fun, etc. through the main character. So when a young reader reads, they could turn this character into a role model and mimic that culture. Some parijathas thought this too…

2. Good literature should have langauge with metaphors, imagery, sound, description, setting, etc and there is none here so no examples of ‘good writing’. there is slang and derogatory langauge like: hot girls, cute butts, jerks, etc. which appears cool for a young reader.

3. We need to know who is writing so in this case the author is an online game developer and designer. It does not look like he has any training or experience in writing or literary worldliness (I am not sure, though, could research..). How it comes out in the book is that the main character is obsessed about violent video games so again there is a promotion of this…

4. What is considered important or thematic is his social world, he has the same notions and views throughout so there is no learning or evolution of this character. Any themes that could be picked up in a meaningful way are addressed very superficially by his parent so …dead ends, like: his brother’s attitude towards girls. So the scope of the book is narrow and does not trigger interest in other people, places or issues. When you read good lit. you feel you have learned something about the other person, place or theme but here all we know is how he feels and wallows in those feelings.

5. It is easy reading and language very simple so that might be the draw. Shouldn’t lit. challenge at least a bit?

6. There is no story line really. Lots of little events that don’t hang together in a bigger scheme so a reader is not learning about the nature of stories or the design of a novel.

7. There are books about young boys who are mischievous or have a secretive side to them so it is not like we want only goody goody characters. It is about how balanced the book is as a whole, how that character evolves, who the others are in the book, where it is taking place, what one learns about deeper issues, etc. On the other hand there are books that are light like, ‘George’s marvellous medicine’ which are about mischievous kids but are so outrageous that one would not try to mimic anything. It is almost fantasy.

8. Finally the older kids said it is like ‘time-pass’ reading. In which case, it should not be for someone beginning to read literature, not be the main thing they read, etc. Only for a reader who has the time and is reading good literature also.

Keerthi L. Mukunda