Magadi Days

A Library Session on Nonfiction with Palashas and Akshas at CFL

Nonfiction: “The Literature of Fact.”

Nonfiction has long been neglected in school libraries around the world. According to studies, at the elementary and primary levels, very few books in nonfiction are available for children to read either in class libraries or in the main library except for encyclopedias and fact books. This is unfortunate because young children are drawn to interesting narratives in nonfiction as well and an early ease and familiarity with this genre actually strengthens the stamina and readiness to read nonfiction as they get older. Another factor that inhibits early reading of nonfiction is the non-availability of well written and well produced books in this genre. However the good news is that across the world more and more writers and publishers are waking up to this lacuna and a stream of books with attractive and unusual approaches are entering the market.

As a librarian, the first inkling I had of this shift was when I came across more and more books that I could not automatically place in fiction or nonfiction. In other words, there are now more and more books where the content is nonfiction but the style and flow mimic fiction! They are now known as ‘blended’ texts.

We started the session by asking each child to search and bring one item of nonfiction. We were careful not to say ‘book’! We also asked them to stre……etch themselves to every corner of the library and their minds in selecting their item. (One interesting observation was that many made a beeline to the section where nonfiction used to be shelved) They all came back with a good variety which included magazines, books on art, dance, music and craft, a dictionary on the origin of words and “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

We then went on to ask them what they felt nonfiction is.

 Their responses:

Something true, real life experiences, factual, something that happened, educational, inspiring, not fiction.

We then asked why did they feel it was given a name which implies it is ‘not something’.

One child said it could be because it covers a wider range.

We then went on to talk about the format or particularities of nonfiction. Their responses:

The structure is different. It does not have a beginning, a middle and an end.

It can be read in bits. It need not be connected like a story.

The content is different.

We can look up something in it.

There are real life photographs, dates and information.

I then shared with them some of the features of the new trend in nonfiction.

1. Nonfiction has literary merit. There is an elegance in the writing and children remember and quote interesting words and phrases from the text just as they might do from a fictional work. They also get familiar with the vocabulary that is used to describe in different kinds of disciplines. In fact, it is a very vital aid in early reading and vocabulary enrichment.

2. The art work is presented imaginatively and the overall production draws the reader towards the book.

3. The authors are now getting known. Readers are beginning to remember and look for specific writers rather than themes.

3. Real life and current incidents are taken and a story is woven around them. For example, the Chilean mine disaster. So the facts exist but the conversations may not have actually happened.

4. Biographies have taken on a new look and are coming out in graphic form.

5. Magazines, brochures, cave paintings and many other forms are now being seen as fitting into the nonfiction category.

The next session was to ask them if they feel sufficiently intrigued by nonfiction, how would they popularise it and get others to read it? Their responses:

Displays, book talks, reading aloud of excerpts, posters and teachers setting project work around books.

Finally, we introduced them to three other ideas and in groups they took them on and after some preparation shared them with the others in a presentation mode.

1. Readers’ Theatre (A variation)

Children choose a nonfiction item and prepare a skit where the book is highlighted.

2. Guess the fib.

Children choose and read out four different sentences from a nonfiction item. One of them is a fib. They read out all four and the others have to guess which one is the fib.

3. Pass the book.

Each child in the group has a sheet of paper and a book. They go through the book and write one or two sentences about the content and quality and their response. Then they pass on the book to the next person and everyone does the same thing with their book until all the books are done. They then read out all the responses to each book and the others have to guess which one is being talked about.

At the end, they were asked to display the material they had selected and also borrow one nonficton.

It was for me a very enjoyable and revealing session.

Thank you for giving me the time with these two groups.

Usha Mukunda

March 12th 2014.

What is a good book?

A child actually begins a relationship with reading before she can read! Sitting snuggled in a lap, gazing intently at the pictures and even the words perhaps, a child is soon able to recognise which part of the story is on which page. She even has favourite stories. There is a hazy awareness that apart from the pictures the words do have some role to play. Even at this young age, some stories have the power to hold their attention and they already have their favourite stories. Reading as a skill and reading as an art may overlap but are not discrete.

As adults can we acknowledge that we have agendas for reading in children, hidden or otherwise! We want a book to convey, reform, teach, enhance, widen and deepen a child’s knowledge base,bring in some learning about right conduct and morals and instill a life-long love for reading.But a child just reads and some books seem to linger in their consciousness . Against this background here are a few of my thoughts on good books and by inference, on not-so-good books!

  1. Can a story bring about awareness, empathy, understanding and even action when needed? Not just momentary enjoyment or pleasure though I am not at all decrying such stories where there is pure fun. Examples: Anju and the Stream, Chuskit goes to school,Dani Ped,Andaman’s Boy, Bhimayana,Faces in the water,Sadako and for the sheer fun aspect, The Spectacular Spectacle man, Kajari Gai series, Pehelwaan Ji, Appukuttan, Papa ki Mooch, Chai ke ketali.
  2. Can a story look at themes close up, in daily life, and far away? The two may overlap too. Examples: Where is Amma and Basava and the dots of fire.
  3. Can a story evoke reflection and have a lingering quality? Examples: What shape is an elephant? and The three questions by Jon Muth. Books by Michael Morpurgo.
  4. Are there books and stories that have the quality of read-again and are ‘keepers?’ Timeless books. All the books I have given as examples are of this quality.
  5. Story/content for me are very crucial. Is there a clear plot? Is there movement and is there a satisfactory completion for the young child Example: Where is Gola’s home? Mahagiri.
  6. The layout is more significant than we might imagine. Children tend to look ahead as they read or even listen. Often they look intently at the pictures and then go to the words. Example: The Why-Why girl is one. Pranav goes to school is another.
  7. Which brings us to the art work. Simple but not childish. A promise of unknown worlds and of fantastic imagination. But very detailed and realistic images work too. Examples: The shape of an elephant, I am a cat,The three kittens, Where is my cat? Sometimes there is a parallel illustration going on which children enjoy very much. It is like multi-accessing. E.g. the cat in Where is Amma? All the supporting characters in Where is my cat? Also a small detail which the child picks up of the next possible story. E.g. The Umbrella by Dieter Schubert. No words.
  8. Language: Children love to hear or enunciate interesting- sounding and ‘memorable’ words.   Example: Malu Bhalu,Tiger on a tree,To market, to market,The Spectacular Spectacle man.
  9. Length: Not necessary to be too short. Even 3 and 4 year old children can listen and sustain interest in a 10 to 15 page story if it is in a state of movement.Example: The Golden Deer. But there are short stories which work beautifully too.Example: The Seed. Short but very satisfying and with no feeling of haste, it has a sense of completion and leisure.
  10. Bright colours, muted shades, black andwhite. No formula but that the choice is right for the story, the setting and the reader! Tough to put into words.Example: My first railway journey
  11. A story works immediately if the author is present. Example: Mukand and Riaz and No, David (Scholastic)
  12. A story works when the characters are such that the readers can relate to, but more interesting is the fact that children respond to the relationship a character has to another person, animal or thing in the story.The Festival of Eid, Basava, The seed, Danny,the champion of the world, Charlotte’s web, Grannie’s glasses. Angry River, Little big man, etc.
  13. A story where the character grows in learning is very valuable. He has experiences which lead to learnng about the outer world and about the inner world –within himself. Gola is a very good example. Also the turtle in Tyltyl’s adventure,Andaman’s boy.
  14. A story that pushes the readers into new landscapes is valuable but the quest to present new situations must be appropriateand relevant. Some preparation may be needed but this venture is needed against the backdrop of our multi-lingual, multi-class, multi-religion scenario as well as gender and sexuality. Example: Why are you afraid to hold my hand? Who am I?The lonely king and queen. Kali and the water snake, Mukand and Riaz,The Toda and the Tahr, Who will be Ningthou? The Armenian Champa Tree,Journey to Joburg by Beverly Naidoo.Bishnu, the Dhobi singer, Jim Corbett?
  15. Sometimes the main character may be of a particular age which leads us to suggest the book to the same age group.But what experiences are safe to expose them to?  Caution must be used because it may be setting-appropriate only. E.g. Anveshi’s The named boy talks about forced conversions which the young protagonist is puzzled by, but the children who listened and read it were rather disturbed because it had many more ramifications globally and they were not ready for that.

 Non-fiction

Non-fiction covers a wide range of books including biographies, travel books, poetry, drama, nature books,craft and how-to books, as well as dictionaries, atlases and encyclopedias. So can we look at content for level, density, relevance, accuracy,ease in omprehension, and then also examine mode of presentation.

  1. Can non-fiction books convey information in different ways? For e.g. through a narration and photographs . Example: Eskimo Boy. Lai-Lai the baby elephant. Through pictures.Example: A visit to the city market. Through a story. Example:The story of zero, Panther Dream by Bob Weir and Wendy Weir.Through fun in an activity. Example: Arvind Gupta’s books, Mala Kumar’s books on Mathematics and on Paper play. Through a particular character. Through poetry.The Sun all golden and round.Through questions and answers.Example: Kitna Tandha? Kitna garam? Through a diary format. Example:T he Coral tree. Through maps. Through reminiscenses. E.g. Seasons of Splendour by Madhur Jaffrey.Through great lives. Example: The Puffin Lives. (Buddha, Dalai Lama,Guru Nanak, MotherTeresa)   
  2. Is it possible to convey deep philosophical insights in a readable way? Example: Krishnamurti for the young. What is it to care?
  3. Can non-fiction books have a light touch and not have an overload of information? E.g. Demi’s biographies.

A few more examples of good books:

  1. Ulti-Sulti Meeto by Kamala Bhasin.
  2. The girl who hated books.
  3. The Little old woman. By Shanta Rameshwar Rao.
  4. Ancient bird legends of India. Orient Longman.
  5. My feet are the wheelchair.( BGVS.)
  6. Jahanaara. By Subhadra Sengupta.
  7. Panthers’ moon. By Ruskin Bond.
  8. The Man who planted trees.By Jean Giono
  9. Malli
  10. Ponni the flower seller. By Sirish Rao.

 Usha Mukunda

Money, Money, Money………

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   usha.mukunda@gmail.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

Sari saves the day

Title: What did Nepo do with a sari?

Author: Benita Sen.

Art: Sekhar Mukherjee.

Publisher: Katha. 2013. Rs. 175.00.

Age level: Ages 6 to 10.

At first glance one may wonder what the rationale is for another book on the theme of a sari. However the theme is a very different one.  Nemo is a poor farmer and comes with a request to Dadu for an old shirt. But Dadu “often wore a frown, above his clean white cotton shirt, like a funny crown.” Would he respond to this request? Sure enough all that can be seen on Dadu’s face is shock and an impending scowl. Quick as a flash, Dadi comes in to provide the help. So what does Nemo do with the sari Dadi has given him? Read and find out! The characters are real and one can relate to the crotchety Dadu, the over-helpful Dadi, and the narrator with her mouth full of foaming tooth paste! Even the dog, the cat and the mouse, though usually seen as cliched characters, come up with a surprise

The art work is inventive and has mobility. In a single frame, we see multiple Nepos move from emotion to emotion as he approaches Dadu. Many details can be discovered on a second or third looking at each page. Spot Nepo’s belly button and the little fan Dadu carries as she walks out into the hot sun.

The story is in rhyme and works most of the time but there are parts where the rhythm seems to get broken. Perhaps more inventiveness with words might have helped. At the end is a section with some information about the sari with reference to ancient sculptures, paintings and a picture of weavers. While in itself it is interesting, it is not clear how it fits in with the format of the story or the age group. Perhaps the hope is that teachers may be spurred on to go into the history of the sari. It does not sit too well with the mood or tempo of the story.

This book is an animator’s delight. The child will revel in the flow of the pictures as they move the simple story along.

Usha Mukunda.  usha.mukunda@gmail.com     April 8th 2014

Is there a secret in this diary?

This review was originally done for the Goodbooks site www.goodbooks.in. It can also be viewed at http://www.goodbooks.in/node/6561

“Mostly Madly Mayil”

Authors: Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran.

Illustrator: Niveditha Subramaniam.

Publisher: Tulika. 2013. Pages 139.

Price: Rs. 175.00

Target Age Group: 11+

For pre-teens and teenagers, having an outlet to express their own feelings and their commentaries on the people around them seems to give them a strange sense of liberation. When Anne Frank decided to give her diary a name, she opened the window to generations of young people who saw their diary outpourings as intimate conversations with a dear friend. For readers too, there is a curious thrill to be privy to another person’s secrets through her daily entries.

In this second book of Mayil, she is 13 going on 14. Like any teenager, Mayil’s world revolves around herself, her friends, her school encounters and her family, in that order! But even though the diary as a format seems to ‘tell all’, in her first entry, Mayil gives us a hint while talking about her previous year’s diary, ” ….. I wrote so much and left out even more.”  So for the reader, there is a challenge. You will know a lot about Mayil but perhaps you will never know all!

When Anne Frank wrote her diary, it was against the background of the holocaust. There was danger and certain death lurking in the shadows beyond the small office space where the family hid. There was also the angst of growing up, and feelings and emotions that any teenager would experience. Above all, it was a true story. So how can Mayil’s diary expect to hold the readers’ attention through 365 days of so-called trivia? ” it is 3 p.m. now. Ma and Pa are sleeping. I can hear Thatha humming in his room. Thamarai is out somewhere playing with his friends.” Do we need to know all this? Yes, because when reading a diary we have to rely on a single voice to tell us who the other characters are. So this seemingly banal entry sets the scene for us to know who is who. Friends are identified by initials or nicknames, Ki, VS and so on. Like any other teenager Mayil is greatly excited about two new students coming in to their class, about present classmates getting shifted to another section, a change of teachers, a friend revealing the identity of a boyfriend…in short all the regular school stuff that occupies the minds of teenagers. But then suddenly there is a portent of what is to come. Ki calls to ask her whether Mayil has ever been on a crowded bus and has she been hurt? Mayil is baffled but not for long, unfortunately. On her way back from Pandian Stores one day, she has a creepy encounter with a ‘flasher’ and is confused, disgusted and actually nauseous. Who should she tell? “I don’t know if I should be writing this. If Ma somehow reads this, she ‘ll be mad I didn’t tell her. I don’t feel like telling her. But I feel I’ll burst if I don’t tell someone. So I’m telling you, diary……What if Ma never lets me go anywhere by myself?”

Mayil’s diary takes us through her own crushes, strong likes and dislikes, her observations of close family relationships and her own take on it all. “Now Pa and Ma are not talking to each other. This is really tiring because they’ll use Thamarai and me as messengers. And they’ll not even look at each other…..I wish they’d stop being babies.”

The issues that Mayil takes up in her diary could be seen as girl-oriented, but actually the references to a boy’s perspective are there for reading between the lines, whether it is VS who is obviously  (though not so obvious to Mayil) attracted to her or Thamarai with his preoccupations, or even adults who are seen by Mayil with their defences down. “ Sneh Uncle(an old flame of Mayil’s mother) stayed for dinner yesterday. Pa was laughing loudly at everything he said and being fake. It was awful.”

The diary is layered in its content and theme. At one level it is the daily record of the doings of a teenage girl. Wearing a new dress, helping her mother bake a cake, getting onto Facebook, doing homework, having exams…But through these accounts, even though they are fleeting, the larger picture emerges of what it means to be a girl. The Pati’s disappointment at Mayil’s birth, her dark skin, the subtle nuances of being a girl child, the navigation through looming dangers for a girl without making her afraid and subservient, all this and more is adequately touched upon in the book. The authors’ little note at the back of the book is revealing. It says they are inspired by all the things that happened and didn’t happen to them. Not all the things Mayil experiences may happen to every reader, boy or girl, but it is their right to know about them. This humorous but very realistic perspective makes that process more accessible.

A vulnerable moment for Mayil is when she succumbs to the temptation of reading her brother Tamaril’s diary. There is nothing shocking or revealing in the entries and yet it is as if she has transgressed some boundaries. “ This was wrong. What I did…..I just feel mean and I feel like Thamarai didn’t even think I would read his diary.”

The style and language are casual and unforced, but the book does not mince words while dealing with issues like sexual abuse or about sexual urges in teenagers so it is important that the book is read by teenagers who can recognise these emotions and feelings. A younger child stumbling on it might just be confused or titillated. What would be best is if after a group of youngsters reads it, the librarian or teacher opens up a dialogue about it. But the adult must know the art of  communication with young people, and tread gently. Not like Pa who wants Mayil to open up with no preamble or chat first! Conversely a parent might read it and open up his or her genuine questions with he young person. An older sibling could find that such a book makes it easier to bring up some topics with a teenager. The right ambience is the critical factor. As Shakespeare says, “….the readiness is all.”

In conclusion, as a librarian, I have found that when adolescents read books like “The Diary of Anne Frank” or “The catcher in the rye,” there is a great deal that opens up for them that can never be accomplished by sex education sessions or by handing out teenage sex manuals. The communication and chat that goes with reading such ‘coming of age’ books are crucial.

“ I’m really happy when I write. I hope I never grow out of it.” Mayil.

Usha Mukunda.   usha.mukunda@gmail.com      April 8th 2014.

“Serena” 103. 6th Main Road. Malleswaram. Bangalore 560003.

Fantastic Funny Flip Friends, 2014

Flip-bookHere is a flip book made by our seven to nine year-olds as part of a Library Project.

There are innumerable ways of opening this book. Each page may have three authors and three illustrators.  You can actually compose your own page!

Here are some of the one-sentence accounts you may find:

Kaki the happy white and brown monkey
laughed so loud that she fell off the tree branch on
grey wonder rock.

Fantastic Funny Flip FriendsLarge eyed Lata, the slow slender loris
Laughed so loud that she fell off the tree branch
In the pond filled with mosquito larvae and frogs.

Tilley the cucumber-eating goat
Walks around
In the lush green gardens around the
Junior School at C.F.L.
In Varadenahalli.

Come find a story sentence in Fantastic Funny Flip Friends, now on the Library Projects shelf in our Library!

Diba

A breakthrough at the Jnana Ganga Granthalaya

For some time now Leela Garady and I have been facing some difficulties in the running of this Varadenahalli village library. The initial enthusiasm on the part of the teenagers gradually waned as they moved on to college and other pursuits. But the eagerness of the younger children to have access to the library remained undiminished. So Vani, a parent of CFL, and some students from CFL volunteered to do some activities and interactions. Those went very well but then after that the library lapsed into a closed state.

After some chats with various library workers in different parts of North India, there was the realisation that perhaps we need to loosen ‘our’ picture of a library and see how to make it blossom in the given situation. So yesterday I marched off to the library. Within minutes there was a vociferous crowd of children following me there. The “Pied Piper’ analogy was inescapable!

The place was dusty, the books strewn untidily on the shelves and there was a general air of disarray, so we set to work to clean the place and within minutes some older children set to work too and the young housewife, Tulsamma, began to put the books in order with efficiency! What joy to see that.  After I told them a story and showed pictures, we talked about the best way to keep the library alive and used. There was a unanimous feeling that if it is DEFINITELY open on one given day, that would help a lot. So Tulsamma volunteered to do it on Sundays, two older boys were selected as back-ups and we were really off and running again. One boy made a poster to give the new timings. Others talked about returning books and a method to ensure that. There was such a wonderful feeling of working and thinking together.

I handed Tulsamma back the key. How happy she looked. She had devised a very organised way to track the borrowings and I do believe she is the right person to run the library. I hesitantly said, we would try to raise some money to give her some small stipend and I LOVED the way she said, “Ayyo, Sumne Iri. yenoo beda.”

Will we all live happily ever after?!!

Usha Mukunda. Sep. 28th 2013.

अपनी अपनी पसंद (पुस्तकावलोकन)

शीर्षक:   अपनी अपनी पसंद

लेखक: विजयदान देथा

चित्रांकन: अनिता हाशेमी मोघद्दम

अनुवाद: रंजना शुक्ला

प्रकाशन : कथा

मूल्य २२५ रू.

यह पुस्तक मनोहर है, देखने और पढ़ने में भी। बच्चों और बड़ों दोनों को यह प्रिय लगती है। कहानी अनुवादित होने पर भी भाषा की सहजता के कारण कहीं भी अनुवादित सी नहीं लगती। कहानी ललित गति से आगे बढ़ती है। भाषा अत्यंत सरल और सरस है।

पुस्तक की विषयवस्तु साधारण होने पर भी बड़े सरस और आसक्ति पूर्ण रूप से अभिव्यक्त की गई है। लोग किस प्रकार परिसरों के आदी हो जाते हैं? कैसे आदतों के दास होते हैं? इसे मनोहर ढंग से बताया गया है।इस तरह यह पुस्तक अलग स्तर पर भी पढ़ी जा सकती है। पुस्तक का यह गुण पुस्तक के महत्व को बढ़ाता है।

चित्रांकन आसक्तिपूर्ण है। इसमें उपयोग किए गए रंग भी आकर्षक हैं। अधिकांशतः हर पन्ने पर लिखे हुए कहानी के भाग के अनुसार चित्र मोहक बने हैं। पर कहीं कहीं पन्ने पर दिए हुए विवरण से चित्र भिन्न हैं। उदाहरण के लिए – प्रथम पन्ने पर लिखा गया है: “एक समय की बात है,  कहीं एक ताज़े पानी की झील हुआ करती थी। और उस झील के किनारे थी एक मछुआरे की झोपड़ी।”

लेकिन चित्र में मछुआरे की झोपड़ी झील के किनारे पर नहीं है। उसके चारों तरफ़ पानी दिखाई देता है। तृतीय पन्ने पर कहा जाता है कि झमा झम बारिश होने लगी। चित्र में बारिश दिखाई होती तो चित्र अर्थपूर्ण होता। परंतु ऐसा नहीं हुआ है।

अंतिम पन्ने पर कहा गया है कि मछुआरिन अपनी मछलियों की टोकरी मुँह पर ढ़क कर सो गई। चित्र में यह टोकरी मछलियों से भरी दिखाई गई है। लेकिन उससे पहले ही कहानी में कहा गया है कि मालिन ने मछुआरिन की टोकरी कमरे से बाहर रख दी थी। तब तक मछुआरिन की सारी मछलियाँ बिक चुकी थी। फिर उसकी खाली टोकरी मछलियों से कैसे भर गई?

पुस्तक के अंत में दो पन्नों पर भिन्न भिन्न जानकारियाँ दी गई हैं। पुस्तक की कहानी से इनदोनों का कोई संबंध नहीं है। अतः यह जानकारी व्यर्थ साबित होती हैं। इसके अतिरिक्त यदि मछली, जाल, बाढ़, नदी या बाग के बारे में कुछ बताया होता तो अधिक अर्थ पूर्ण होता।

पुस्तक का मूल्य २२५ रू. है। यह आम लोगों के लिए बहुत महंगी होती है। अतः इतनी अच्छी पुस्तक से सामन्य लोग वंचित रह जाएँगे।

हाथी का वज़न कैसे करें?

शीर्षक:  हाथी का वज़न कैसे करें?

लेखक: गीता धर्मराजन

चित्रांकन: वेन सू

प्रकाशन : कथा

मूल्य १७५ रू.

अनेक भारतीय भाषाओं में प्रचलित यह लोककथा बच्चों को कौतूहल से भर देती है। परंतु यही कथा इस पुस्तक में और भी सुंदर रूप से कही गई है। कहानी की भाषा सरल और सरस है। कहानी सुललित गति से आगे बढ़ती है। अंत तक  बच्चों की आसक्ति बनाए रखती है।

कहानी में भिन्न भिन्न वृत्ति वाले हाथी को तोलने के लिए करने वाले उपाय दिलचस्प हैं।

पुस्तक के चित्र सरल होते हुए भी सुंदर हैं। राजा के सभासदों की वेश भूषा से पता चलता है कि भिन्न भिन्न देश के लोग वहाँ उपस्थित हैं। हर पन्ने पर दिए गए विषय के विवरण से संबंध रखने वाले चित्र अर्थपूर्ण हैं।

कहानी के अंत में लीलावती का परिचय उचित है। परंतु अन्य महिलाओं का परिचय इस उम्र के बच्चों के लिए गंभीर एवं जटिल बनता है। आर्किमेडिस का परिचय भी पुस्तक केलिए ठीक बैठता है। अंत में दिया हुआ प्रयोग प्रशंसनीय है। परंतु उसमें एक दोष है। तीसरे चित्र में जब मिट्टी की गेंद को कटोरे के पानी में डुबाया जाता है तो कटोरे के पानी का स्तर बढ़ जाना चाहिए। चित्र में ऐसा नहीं होता। यह एक बड़ा दोष है।

पुस्तक का मूल्य १७५ रू. है। मेरे विचार में यह अधिक है। इस कहानी के भिन्न रूपांतर अन्य प्रकाशकों के द्वारा प्रकाशित हुए हैं, और उनका मूल्य काफी कम है।

पालकीवाले

शीर्षक: पालकीवाले

लेखक: सरोजिनी नायडू

चित्रांकन: इंदु हरिकुमार

प्रकाशन : कथा

मूल्य: १४५ रू.

पालकीवाले पुस्तक के चित्र अत्यंत आकर्षक हैं। परंतु इसका विषय आज कल के बच्चों की समझ के परे है। निस्संदेह सरोजिनी नायडू की रचना उत्तम है। पर प्रकाशक तथा चित्रकार को याद रखना चाहिए कि समय की दृष्टि से यह रचना बहुत पुरानी है। अब हमारी संस्कृति में पर्याप्त परिवर्तन हुआ है। अतः आज कल के बच्चे इसका पूरा मज़ा उठाने में असमर्थ रह जाते हैं।

पालकी, जो आज कल कहीं दिखाई नहीं देती, का बोध कराने के लिए कम से कम पुस्तक में पालकी का नैज चित्र होना अत्यावश्यक है। स्टैलैज़्ड चित्र यह काम नहीं कर सकते।

पुस्तक सुंदर तथा भारत की कोकिला सरोजिनी नायडू की लिखी होने पर भी बच्चों के लिए पूर्ण रूप से निष्फल है।

जादूई नगरी

शीर्षक: मिमी की जादूई नगरी

लेखन और चित्रांकन: क्वे लिंग शू

प्रकाशन : कथा

मूल्य: १४५ रू.

यह पुस्तक मैने कईं बच्चों और बड़ों को दिखाई। सब के सब बच्चों ने पुस्तक के दो तीन पन्ने पलटकर  बिना पढ़े अलग रख दिए। किसी को भी यह पुस्तक अच्छी नहीं लगी। इसका कारण है इसके गूढ़ लगने वाले अस्पष्ट चित्र।

कहानी बुरी नहीं है। गहरे रंगों के धुँधले चित्रों के कारण पुस्तक अत्यंत अनाकर्षक हो गई है। कहानी के पात्रों का भी पता नहीं चलता। चित्र में उन्हें ध्यान लगाकर ढूँढना पड़ता है। कहानी के अन्य अच्छे गुण भी अवगणना के शिकार हो जाते हैं।

गटिला

शीर्षक: गटिला

लेखन तथा चित्रांकन: लीसा डाएस नोरोन्हा एवं अंजोरा नोरोन्हा

पुस्तक का मूल्य १७५ रू.

“गटिला” कहानी की पुस्तक आकर्षक और सुंदर है। इसके रंग और चित्र दिलचस्प हैं। भाषा सरल है। इसमें बताई गई नीति भी उचित है और सरल रूप से बताई गई है। पुस्तक के अंत में दिए गए कार्य कलाप बच्चों के लिए आसक्तिपूर्ण और उचित हैं।

पुस्तक का मूल्य १७५ रू. है जो अधिक लगता है। इस कहानी के कई रूपांतर प्रचुर मात्रा में मिलते हैं।

मेहर गढ़ की थंगम

शीर्षक: मेहरगढ़ की थंगम

लेखक: गीता धर्मराजन

चित्रांकन: मृणालिनी सरदार

प्रकाशन : कथा

मूल्य: १७५ रू.

आकर्षक रंगों के स्टैलैज़्ड चित्रों के साथ पुस्तक आंखों के लिए उत्सव है। परंतु पुस्तक के कई भाग अपने आप समझने में बच्चों को दिक्कत हो सकती हैं। विषय वस्तु हज़ारों वर्ष पुरानी होने के कारण दीर्घ पृष्ठ्भूमि की आवश्यकता है। समसामयिक  विषयों के विवरण के बिना समझना कठिन है।

चित्र सुंदर होने पर भी स्टैलैज़्ड होने के कारण बच्चों को विषय स्पष्ट नहीं हो पाता। उदाहरण के लिए: थंगम मोहर पर क्या काम कर रही थी? या फिर, कुल्लन मामा का चाक कहाँ है? और वे उस पर कैसे काम करते हैं?

अंत में “थंगम से मिलो” भाग में वृत्तों में उल्लिखित विषय बहुत दिल्चस्प और जानने योग्य हैं। लेकिन ये विषय पुस्तक में चित्रित थंगम से मेल नहिं खाते। उदाहरण के लिए: थंगम का घर आरामदायक है, थंगम दांतों के डाक्टर के पास जाती थी, उसके घर में भंडारण हुआ करता था, घर में गुसलखाना था, माँ घर को सजाय करती थी, आदि।

मन में प्रश्न उठता है कि इस पुस्तक का उद्देश्य क्या है?

मेहरगढ़ के बारे में सरल तथा सरस रूप से जानकारी देना?

केवल रंगीन स्टैलैज़्ड चित्र प्रस्तुत करना?

या फिर, चित्र और पठ्य को जोड कर अर्थ समझने में खुद बच्चों को अपना सिर खपाने के लिए मजबूर करना?

यह सबसे विषादनीय विषय है कि पुस्तक बच्चों को मेहरगढ़ की असली गंध नहीं दे सकती। इसके लिए पुस्तक के अंत में दिए गए विषयों का पुस्तक में उपयोग करना अति आवश्यक है जो नहीं हो पाया है। थंगम नाम भी मेहरगढ़ से मेल नहीं खाता।

The dream and the reality

I just came back from Kausani in Uttarakhand where a small library had started in May this year. Well, it is actually in full operation!

The young woman who took on the task of being the ‘librarian’ seems to be born to be one. I sat quietly in a corner and watched her interact with the kids. “Accha, aap yeh ghar le jana chahte hain? teek hai.Kitab ko achi tharah se dekh lena aur vapas jab leke aaoge, aisi hi rahani chahiye.” Another comment was to ask them to relax and browse first and then select the book they want. About 30 to 35 children visit, borrow and return with care.

On my second day, I chatted with the children asking them to tell me why they were borrowing a particular book and so on. Hema also pitched in to say that she would like them to tell her what they liked or did not when they returned the books. Though there are some timings listed for the library, she tells me that the children know they can come in whenever they can. One enthusiastic mother told me that she reads all the books her 9 year old daughter brings home.

The older ones, age 14 and above wanted GK question and answers! Some mothers felt hat this was taking their children away from homework and tuitions. So there are challenges but already with Hema’s co-operation, we have a plan in place. When I visit there again in November, we will have a short interaction with the mothers,telling them how valuable it is for the reading habit to grow, plying them with some Jilebis first. Also we will get some books for the mothers  too. The other plan is to put up some flyers in the market area.

Lets see how it works. Meanwhile if any of you visit Kausani, don’t forget to visit the Himjoli shop and check out the Kausani Kishor Kitab Ghar in a corner of the shop. All thanks to Mr. Pankaj Wadhwa for having the vision to house this little library in his outlet.

Usha Mukunda.

October 14th 2012.

If Kausani can have a library can Varadenahalli be far behind?

About 40 kms from Bangalore city under the benevolent shadow of the Savandurga monolithic rock hill, lies a small village called Varadenahalli. To some of us, it has come to be home because our school, CFL has spread its roots in the welcoming soil of this village.

For some years now, the children of the Government school there have had energetic interactions with the school, both in academic subjects and in other ways. Teachers and students have interacted with the children formally in the school setting and informally on walks where they constantly hear childish voices call out, “Kallaje navare,tata.” More recently the teachers have also begun a womens outreach where they meet the women of the village once a month and talk and learn from each other.

Leela and I, having been with the school for many years, were wondering if we could actually start a small library for the village. But where could it be housed and who would run it? Both questions were answered in such simple ways that we could not help feeling like Shakespeare, that there is a divinity that shapes our ends! On a walk, we spotted the abandoned but standing room where the Anganwadi was. It was now used we were told for Bhajanes and for Ganesh Habba. In other words it was a public space! Check one. At the monthly meeting with women, two teenage girls expressed their keenness to run the library. Check two and we were off!

So we bought the books, a kindly soul made two wonderful shelves himself, other friends jumped in to paint the walls and windows, and the library was poised to GO! We took the books into the space and like a magnet,apart from the two girls, three other teenage boys also came in and within minutes they had grasped the system of stamping, numbering, accessing and sorting the books  into categories! A handful of younger children were made to stamp. The stamp may have smudged but their joy was unsullied!

On Thursday Oct. 11th, the library ‘opened’ with the name they chose, “Jnana Gange Granthalaya.” Eager younger children who came in early sat down to make posters for the place. Leela told them all a story and also a few guidelines for using the library.

But one could see the children’s impatience to handle the books! A  steady stream of children followed by teenagers and finally by some young mothers  came in. They browsed, sat, read and  went off happily clutching their books, promising to take good care and return them. The youngsters from the village were totally in charge. I heard just  now that the enthusiasm is undiminished. What we need are more books for older children and for the adult women.

Any ideas anyone for small funds?

Usha Mukunda

October 13th 2012.