This column should actually be called Under Six because that is what we are looking at this week. Finding a book for a young child can be tricky. But that is because bookstores don’t bother to stock too many titles for this audience.
There are some basic dynamics parents look for in a book for the under-six age group. Big pictures, three-letter words, not too much clutter, fewer colours, thick pages that the child can’t tear.
Consider these authors and some of their work: Eric Carle, Maurice Sendak (though he writes all those scary stories, his 1963 book Where Wild Things Are is still popular), Crockett Johnson (Harold and the Purple Crayon), Shel Silverstein (Runny Babbit), Dr Seuss (Green Eggs and Ham) or Richard Scarry (The Please and Thank You Book).
Want to search locally? Try the Bubbles or Bruno series (or both). Publishers such as Pratham, Tulika, Young Zubaan and Katha have some wonderful books. India also has a Suddhasattwa Basu, a Sandhya Rao, a Radhika Chadha and a Manjula Padmanabhan to boast of. However, when it comes to consistently churning out quality books for the under-six audience, foreign publishers are way ahead of their Indian counterparts. From cloth books, pop-outs, slide-outs, specially engineered ones that rotate, flip-up books, rattle books, touch-and-feel books, picture books, books with attractive illustrations to books with stories that are narrated with three lines on each page, each formed with three-letter words (you can’t get more specialized than that).
Take a look at our picks this week. They make for absorbing bedtime reading.
By Sarah Sullivan, Illustrated by Paul Meisel, Walker Books, 40 pages, Rs236
Little Mike writes a letter to his yet-to-be-born “brother”. The baby turns out to be a girl. Sample gems such as this: “Mum and Dad think you are beautiful, but they also think asparagus tastes nice, so you can’t always believe them.” Delightful and funny.
I Love You, Little Monkey
By Alan Durant, Illustrated by Katharine McEwen, Simon & Schuster, 32 pages, Rs255
Alan Durant writes for toddlers as well as teenagers. He is also the man who wrote those wonderfully entertaining stories on football. Little Monkey is a naughty one. For all that, Big Monkey loves him, though there is the odd display of annoyance by the latter. Children will love it when you narrate this story—with a little play-acting.
And the Train Goes
Written and illustrated by William Bee, Walker Books, 32 pages, Rs387
A cutely-drawn story about a train pulled by a steam engine as it traverses the countryside with an assorted set of passengers like schoolchildren, soldiers and ladies off to the races.
Yes, We Can
By Sam McBratney, Illustrated by Charles Fuge, Puffin, 32 pages, Rs348
Little Roo, the Kangaroo, Quaker Duck and Country Mouse are friends who play together. Each challenges the other to do something that he alone can do. For instance, Country Mouse can catch his own tail but the others can’t and they laugh at each other. This story is about how one shouldn’t laugh at others’ shortcomings.
Bear’s New Friend
By Karma Wilson, Illustrated by Jane Chapman, Simon & Schuster, 40 pages, Rs255
Beautifully narrated through bright colours and illustrations. This is a story of how a bear and his companions, the mouse, hare, raven, gopher, mole, badger and wren find a new friend.
Oscar and the Moth
By Geoff Waring, Walker Books, 32 pages, Rs350
Waring is the creative director of Glamour magazine. His ‘Oscar’ books are based on his cat, Oskar. Waring, whose favourite insect is the praying mantis, introduces the child to the science of light and dark through the adorable kitten who is naturally curious.
The writer is the editor of Heek, (e-heek.com), a children’s magazine.
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