Life can get plastic. Very plastic. When it’s too hot to play outside and all you have is a remote between your fingers and a Playstation joystick in your hands. Age 3 is too early for life to be plastic. Here’s one way of holding on to earth, shaking and moving tales instead. Try our summer reading picks for kids, titles for the young and nimble, who are now on the loose.
One, Two, Tree
Anushka Ravishankar, Sirish Rao, Durga Bai
TARA PUBLISHING | AGE 4+ | Rs 395
This read-aloud book from Tara Publishing is about counting, an unlikely menagerie of ants and elephants, as they clamber up a very willing tree. Illustrated by Gond artist Durga Bai, every creature emerges from primitive tribal visual traditions that are collective, though unique and spontaneous. The exaggerated animal forms, drawn in black broken lines and filled with vibrant colour, are alien and yet entirely recognisable. And when this tree’s story is told with a whacky and audacious style, you’ll know why this balancing act of a story-cum-art introduction has become another Tara Publishing award winner.
Mister Jeejeebhoy and the Birds
YOUNG ZUBAAN | AGE 5 | Rs 395
A little lisper who loves to eat chipth, a Parsi sweet maker and a broody neighbourhood in Dimlivili (East), all tumble into this magical tale, gorgeously shaded and written. It is set around a haunting, haunted house, where kids play and squabble over words like ‘crunchagious’. Life is mystical and real, until the day when the sweet maker’s flock of birds suddenly flies away. Balachandran’s drawings take you into a real-dream world, which holds a sweet mystery aloft with sparkling visual details like silver trophies on shelves and golden glowing carpets. With this and quirky ladies like Nina Masi who wears her sari hitched above the ankles and lets her rubber slippers show, this a book you’ll re-read even with your eyes closed.
Samira’s Awful Lunch
Story: Bharati Jagannathan | Illustrations: Preeti Krishnamurthy
PRATHAM BOOKS | AGE 3–6 | Rs 20
‘Anything, something, not this… that, no, not that this.’ No one, specially her mother, knows what to do with Samira for whom idlis are like frisbees, upma like mud, while parathas and curry are very yucky. Even the insects and animals in her school yard are worried. The birds get her to stick her tongue inside a flower to sip nectar, and the ants, well we won’t tell you what they hold out, the crows and cows all offer her their own type of chow. How do they persuade this imp to eat? For this, you’ll have to read Samira’s Awful Lunch. When you buy this story, you will help support young readers like Gopalji Srivastava, who are at the heart of Pratham’s Read India library and programme. Buy this book and many more at prathambooks.org.
The Tamarind Tree
Story: Lata Mani | Illustrations: Srividiya Natarajan
TULIKA | AGE 6+ | Rs 100
Four boys, a summer’s day and a tamarind tree whose pods are ripe. With its smattering of Kannada, this countryside story could go anywhere clichéd. It doesn’t. This book lays bare children’s inner world of feelings and fears about tree climbing. You can almost feel the boys biting their lips. Beyond the palpable fear of heights, there’s also the dynamics between the tall Mallikarjuna and small Shivappa. Supporting the tale are a subdued colour palette and illustrations. Saying so much about seeing and belonging, without ever using those words, is an art. You’ll savour this sweet-sour story long after the summer.
Soumya S Ayer
VAKILS, FEFFER & SIMONS PVT LTD | READ ALOUD AGE 7+ | READ ALONE AGE 10+ | Rs 150
From Matsya (the avatar that swam the waters) to Kalki (the destroyer), the story of the Dashavatars of Vishnu gets repacked between a new book
jacket. Told as a straight tale, with black and white drawings, there’s not much twist here, more of a faithful retelling. These Dashavatars, which are thought to represent the theory of evolution, send out fearsome avatars like Varaha and Narasimha who slay demons and subdue evil. While Soumya Ayer is a competent storyteller, platitudes addle the read at the end of each episode. Skip the morals, enjoy the story.
Roderick Gordon & Brian Williams
CHICKEN HOUSE SCHOLASTIC | AGE 9–12 | Rs 650
Maybe it’s the Potter-mania aftermath, but books for young readers seem to be getting thicker, in default mode. Tunnels, a New York Times bestseller, was the first fantasy fiction title in this series from writers Roderick Gordon, a former investment banker, and Brian Williams, an installation artist. Deeper, the weighty sequel picks up the subterranean adventure, when boy archeologist Will slips into the bowels of the earth in search of his father. Pitting the Topsoilers against the Styx, sort of upper lok versus lower parlok, the authors create two convincing universes that collide with each other. What follows is a racy adventure filled with darkness, heat, caves and sudden attacks from slayers. What better escape, than this fiction about a risky journey to the centre of the earth?