Non-fiction for children, written and published in India is a rare commodity. Excellent non-fiction is a pearl beyond price! Therefore when a book or series comes along authored by Mala Kumar whose writing has shape and meaning, and illustrated by Deepa Balsavar whose art work has been a source of delight, there is a good deal of anticipation. This is a review of a set of four books called the “Rupaiya Paisa Series”recently published in a colourful and attractive format by Pratham Books at an accessible price of Rs. 40 for each book. Each book is a part of the whole so the price can be calculated accordingly!
Book 1 is called “The World of Money” and aims to introduce the concept and history of money in its various ‘avatars’ over the years. After a brief look at this aspect, it goes on to talk about how one can earn, spend and save money, giving a few tips that adults could use too.
In “How Money travels,” Mala explores all the ways in which money is used, stored, dispersed and transacted.
Book 3 is about “Money Managers.” The reader is introduced to people who manage our money, and we are given an inkling as to why and how we use such ‘managers.”
The final book, called “Be wise with money” is a melange of advice to both children and adults on how to perceive wants and needs, how to plan a family budget and an explanation of how Governments help or hinder this process.
The author addresses her audience directly and has included interactive suggestions for the readers. The illustrations are eye-catching and evocative of the people one comes across in our daily lives.
However, one cannot escape the fact that the topic of money is a complex one and it would be hard even for an Amartya Sen to do justice to it in four slim books for children! Some questions do arise. What is the age group it is meant for? The overall appearance and design of the books which is eye-catching and in comic-book style at times, makes us believe they are for 8 or 10 year old children. Book 1 uses basic ideas and simple vocabulary appropriate to this age group but the subsequent books introduce concepts and ideas like a ‘co-operative’, ‘insurance,’ ‘share-holder’ or ‘promoter’ needing a greater level of maturity than the readership the book seems to be aiming at. Even though each of these words is ‘explained’ the concept is hard to grasp for a child of 8 to 10 years. So one would assume that 12 year olds and above would be the right readership. But the activities suggested seem to be for a younger age grouop. So there is a bit of a mismatch between intent and content. The books could be best used by a family reading and sharing the content together or by a teacher or librarian reading and initiating a group discussion at school. The theme is an important one given that even young children handle money and must understand the ins and outs of it. Anecdotes about how chit funds originated and the notion of pygmy banks add to the appeal of the theme.
The intent of the book is an excellent one – to introduce the notion of money to young people. Nowadays money is handed out to younger and younger children in affluent families, and conversely younger and younger children living in poverty but exposed to consumerism through the media, even resort to crime, begging and what-have-you. Mala Kumar has made a valiant attempt to cover a range of issues around money and Deepa Balsavar’s expressive and imaginative illustrations helps her pull it off.
Usha Mukunda email@example.com January 21st 2014.
Usha Mukunda has read children’s literature with great enjoyment for more than 30 years. In the process, she has resorted to many strategems, games and ideas to bring children and books into joyous communion with each other. Reading books, sharing them with children, teachers and other librarians to elicit their responses has