Monday, July 20, 2009
Yes, Virginia, dreams do come true! Or, YAAAYYYY!
There are healthy ambitions, and then there are those you should worry about. Like my old, old, old one of writing picture books for children in India and hoping to have them published. About 10 years back when I first began taking my manuscripts around, editors would smile indulgently when we mentioned the words 'picture books'. It wouldn't work, their marketting guys would invariably say, and that would be the end of it. (Of course it didn’t help matters that my stories themselves weren’t so great!)
Over the years though, more and more Indian picture books have begun peeking out of shelves in stores. About a year and a half back, I was directed by a friend (thanks, Arthy!) to Saraswathy Rajagopalan, the editor at Tumbi Books, Kerala, who was coming out with original, Indian picture books. Luckily for me, she liked this long story-poem of mine, and felt it would make a nice read. They got one of my favourite children's illustrators, Anitha Balachandran, to draw it. The book – which was expected to come out in September – suddenly turned up today!
We opened it excitedly, and as usual, Anitha's done a wonderful job. She's captured the spirit - the fun, the mischief - of the poem so well, it's amazing. It's like she was sitting next to me while I was writing the poem, chortling with me and planning what all she could draw in. Which never happened of course - we've never met or even mailed - so well, hats off to her! She's drawn in details I’d never thought of, adding a whole new layer to the text. I also personally like the way she brings in real things - tiny details, like a stamp or a bit of a newspaper - to give the page a lovely, slightly scratchy and tactile quality.
The story itself was inspired by N, who becomes Nonie in the poem. Nonie refuses to sleep - she plays, runs and generally never tires. But her parents are exhausted. So mum sends for a magical cousin, who arrives in a swish of beads, colours and baggage which leaps and moves with life. She hints at flying on a broom, and whips out a snake - Somu - to measure Nonie for a magical quilt. As a poem it's great fun, and thanks to Anitha, it's now visually magical too!
Sorry if I sound a bit breathless - apart from the fact that the book's looking lovely, for me the fact that my mad dream of doing a picture book has come true is a bit overwhelming.
Tumbi Books are available in most bookstores, I think, and if you don't find the book the first time, do make a request for it with the sales staff. It might make them want to procure the books!