Manjula Padmanabhan's much loved I am Different and whacky Same and Different explores identity creatively and uniquely. Through fun and games, the books suggest multiple ways of looking at the familiar and the unfamiliar as they celebrate plurality through form, shape and perspective. Manjula writes about her latest offering, The World Tour Mystery.
This book took shape in my mind mainly because of a party game we used to play when I was little. It was called The Around-the-World game. There was no game-board, player tokens or pictures of places and countries. Instead the names of cities were scattered through the house and the players were told to figure out the correct sequence of places on an (imaginary) world tour. Playing the game involved a great deal of running up and down and all around the rooms of the house, with much excited screaming and calling out of cities. The first person to get the whole sequence correct was the winner.
I enjoyed this game so much that I thought it might be possible to make it into a book. BUT … dearie me! It really wasn't easy. In my typical way, I started with the thing I wanted to do most: which is, to make drawings of some of my favorite monuments from around the world. Having done that, I thought, it would be quite simple to force the drawings to become a game! And also a book!
Of course, I was wrong.
Fortunately, Tulika's editors are both very kind and also very patient. I actually completed one version of the book with big colored drawings of my favourite monuments. In the end, however, we all agreed that it just wasn't working as a book. So it didn't get published. We all felt there was something nice about the idea if only it could be worked out in some other way.
Well, five years passed. During that time, I worked on Same and Different, a sequel to I am Different!. Both books explore the ways in which sameness and differences are interesting subjects to think about. As the idea of the Monuments book continued to twitch and grow inside my mind, I and Tulika began to see that difference/sameness are a really important part of traveling too. After all, people in other countries look different and have unique local costumes, yet -- as we see in the book -- tourists look the same wherever they go! When we line up to board an aircraft, we see hundreds of people, some young, some old, some funny, some strange: yet for all the differences, we can also see so much that's the same: we all drink water, for instance; little babies of all nationalities scream in the same language; everyone looks grumpy if there's a long queue for the toilet.
The first big improvement was to create a puzzle based on the game but not really like it at all. You've still got to figure out the correct sequence of places on the tour, but by finding clues embedded in the pictures rather than by running around a house.The next improvement was to imagine a family going on a trip – and then to think up names and faces and personalities for the members of that family. Finally, the family became the focus of the book and the monuments got fitted into the background. That's how the world looks to us when we go on a real sight-seeing trip: a lot of people in holiday clothes, with strange or interesting-looking structures in the distance.
So what we have now is a puzzle-book called The World Tour Mystery with lots to look at and amusing facts to read, as Mum, Dad, Aunt Mimi, Kooks, Bunny and Bobo travel around the world. I hope you enjoy it as much I enjoyed putting it together! And maybe some day you'll go on a world tour just like it.