Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's the moral of the story?

Tulika's Thumb Thumb Books series has been published in Tamil by Bharati Puthakalayam's children's imprint, Books for Children, in a special book fair edition for sale across Tamilnadu. Bharati Puthakalayam is a Tamil publisher of many years standing. The January edition of its literary journal carried an insightful write-up about the impact of these books and why they work brilliantly for children:

In the name of children’s books loads and loads of moral stories have been churned out and offered to children. It is heartening that finally some meaningful steps are being taken in Tamil society to change this. A few publishers have started publishing some good books.

Books for Children have taken many important steps in this direction. The Thumb Thumb Books comprising ten titles in Tamil is their first attempt. Very young children can read and use these books. Usually, children never use something that adults use in a manner or for the same reasons that adults do. If they do, it would be rather unusual. I saw a child turning a book into a vessel, opening its lid, putting spoon inside and serving curry from it. This would never occur to us adults. A child could turn a square shaped book into a round vessel/bowl. It was at that moment I felt we, as adults, don’t deserve to write books for children. And that too, write only moral stories. We need to be punished for this and whatever the punishment, it can never be enough!

The Thumb Thumb Books series saves children from the torture of moral literature. Making a thumbprint, creating a Thambi through that print… ten books tell ten stories.

The first book 9-1 doesn’t really have a story. 9 crickets talking, 8 ants walking,… That’s the story. All this happens in 12 pages. At the end, 2 pages have been left for children to put their thumb prints and draw on them. In what way is this a progressive children’s book? That’s the first thing that crossed my mind. To remember numbers along with a story, this book is the best.

Are they all Thambi stories? No, there is a Thangi as well. Shhh! In this book she is sleeping. So turn the pages of the book slowly… without disturbing her sleep. Caterpillar slowly crawls. Cat yawns looking at her. Dog sniffs ….That’s the story!

Like this one, all ten books tell ten different stories – Song, Mirror, Up! Up!, Tail, Hello,Where is Thangi?, Dark, and Flower. On each page are big colourful pictures with just a line of text, printed on good quality paper. All ten books are held in a compact box. It should have been priced at Rs 300 but they are offering it at Rs 150. At the Chennai Book Fair it is available at Rs 100. Tulika and Books for Children together have produced this, a nice gift for anybody.