As I walked into the beautiful Kitab Khana bookstore in Bombay’s historic Fort district for the launch and reading of the Sweetest Mango, I wondered whether there would be an audience on a sultry, pre-monsoon Saturday morning. I needn’t have worried.
The classically elegant, quiet bookstore was soon a lively,raucous venue echoing with the excited voices of children of various ages. Children and adults filled up the chairs and the mats in front of the podium eagerly waiting for the reading of the book to begin.
I always hope that I have an audience that is enthusiastic and willing to participate in an interactive reading. The audience at Kitab Khana was a dream. The children got completely into the summery, mango theme of the book. They lapped up everything single sentence I read from the book, and they responded to every question I asked them, whether it was a question about which fruit they liked best, what games they liked playing, or a question about what they called their grandmothers. Some of the children in the audience even told me that they did not like mangoes! Can you believe that? How can anyone not like mangoes?
After a chatty, very participative reading of the book, the children worked on colouring pages based on pictures from the book and on a craft activity where they had to design their own mango characters and give these characters names. I got lots of fun, creative names: Fango Mango, Girish the mango, Zango… One kid even named a mango character after herself. The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy sitting down and messing around with glue, crayons, stick-on eyes, and wool. Sticky, crayon-coloured fingers did not seem to deter them from enjoying the mango tarts served by the Kitab Khana café ‘Food for Thought’ at the end of the event. The tarts were a refreshing cap off to an energetic, enjoyable morning. As for me, I had fun, and best of all, I made lots of new friends.