Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Serendipity is a nice thing

Honestly, it is! Sampurna got us two really lovely treasures in the last fortnight. One was Down by the bay… which is adorable and delightful, and has given baby n a new love for nonsense… the book has lyrics which are easy to remember and especially, are easy to add on to! It goes Down by the bay where the watermelons grow, back to my home I dare not go / For if I do, my mother will say: have you ever seen llamas eating their pajamas, down by the bay? The last bit gets goofier and goofier till you’re tempted to think up your own most nonsensical collocation. It was found, Sampurna says, at a book sale in Hyderabad, and was one of those things you buy and think you’ll gift some kid, and then feel a bit possessive about as time passes and you feel that it’s starting to look good in your house! Well, I’m thrilled n got it, because we just love it!!

But the best find has been, I think, the other book that Sampurna got us when she visited one morning. A thin, not very colourful, rather moody looking picture book called Tuesday. Leafing through it quickly, I said something daft like, better not show it to n, she’s kind of prone to getting scared of dark stuff. Well, more fool me. Because as Sampurna and I started looking through the book more, not only did we get excited about it, but baby walked in and got all thrilled about the flying frogs too!*

Yes, Tuesday is a rather dark, bizarre-but-fun book about a night, one Tuesday, around 8 pm, when frogs, seated on lily pads took off and flew over small-town America. The whole treatment is one of sinister calm. Frame by frame the frogs lift off, startle some fish and a rather grim turtle, fly into a suburb, scare a dog, watch some tv, startle a late-night snacker, and then, with dawn, plop back into their bog and continue being quiet and grumpy. The next morning there’s this amazingly TV-like freeze-frame of a ‘crime’ scene. There’s an All-American ’tec rubbing his chin and examining some lily pads on the road, while the late-night snacker hysterically tells his tale to gawking reporters. And next Tuesday, at around 8 pm, the next lot of animals take off. They are flying pigs. End of book.

Thank god, whatever his reasons, Wiesner chose to draw frogs thru the books and not pigs. The pigs are funny, but the frogs are goofy, dreamy, mischievous, surreal, and a whole lot more!
What I loved about the book are two things: 1. every time you look at the book – and I mean this literally – you discover something new. Every time you show it to someone new, s/he discovers something else! Even the sense of the book takes its time unfolding itself. And the more you discover, the more your spine tingles with the geniosity of it all! Siiiigh. I think I’m in love. 2. With a subject like flying frogs, it's easy to go all twee. But Wiesner is realistic; grim, almost. And wonderfully moody. You'll read more about his reasons in an excerpt from his speech at the Caldecott awards. It’s delightfully insightful though a bit long. But your patience will be rewarded – especially if you’re in the book trade and interested in this sorta thing!

If you want to find out about Tuesday, click here, and to see the actual creative process here.
Moral of the story: Long live book fairs which sell slightly ratty books that seem - and only seem - not so exciting. Because that's where all the treasures are!

*In her book of poetry that came out in 2009, Sampurna had a surprise for us: a poem by her on n, and her love for this book. Here, after too long, it is!

For Nayana

Every Tuesday, the frogs fly off the pages of the book I meant for your parents.
And yet, you are the one who loves it the most, the epiphany of frogs as they fly.
Do you dream of them, larger than clouds or lily-pads, lighter than feathers?
With their eyes on the back of their heads, do they say hello, goodbye?

From Sampurna Chattarji's `The Fried Frog and Other Funny, Freaky, Foodie, Feisty Poems'

Once again, thank you, Shampoo!


mandar talvekar said...

How and where do you manage to get hold of these books?
Much envy comes.
Next time please get two copies.
I know it is needless to say, but knowing your love for them books, me will just say it to leave no scope for ambiguity: Handover the second copy to me.

Earbrass said...

You have heard Raffi sing "Down by the Bay", haven't you? If not, let me know!

Arthy said...

where the hell have you guys been? got to thinking of you when i saw the book on nonsense. and when shenny mentions you- amit. what is going on? tell all. the cover designs all look great. take care. arthy

SURABHI said...

welcome back anita. had stopped visiting your blog, spotted your comment on mine only today( since i visit my blog rarely too!)

wish you'd write some children's books of your own. waiting!

mfm157 said...

I love Tuesday! Simply because being nearly wordless it leaves so much room for the kids to add to it. Another gem of a book is Two Bad Ants by Allsburg, written from the prespective of two small ants climbing into a home to find some "sweet crystals"...a joy to read :)

sathish said...

Hi Anita and Amit,

Thank you guys for visiting us at saffrontree ( . We are glad to find kindred spirit (love for children's books)..

Recently, I heard a lot about weisner.. He seems to have won this years caldecott award for his latest book again!

Do keep visiting us and leave your comments.

Distended Animation said...

Serendipity indeed, Anita miss! For all the kids at ABWA, Shishuvan, DY Patil Int'l and more, where we feature Tuesday in our Reading Program! We need to start a fan club for the book.

Distended Animation said...
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