SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Book Lands At my Doorstep; Do you want to know Which One?!!

Ever since I got a mail asking me to review Katha’s latest contribution to the world of stories, I was doing a jig of anticipation in my own mental world as I am always ready to receive a book! 
....And the book arrived at my door step pretty fast!

This book is a collection of 29 short stories written by children from schools across the country as part of the Katha-HP Write&Read initiative.

Bring together interactive creative writing workshops, budding enthusiastic writers and a revolutionary ePrint tool, then it results in this one-of-a-kind compilation. The winning stories have been selected by Prasoon Joshi, a writer exemplar (what a tough job to do!) with introductions by Joshi, Neeraj Sharma (HP) and Geeta Dharmarajan (Katha). For anyone who is interested in writings by children for children, the tone is well set by these stalwarts.

I turned the pages in anticipation. The topics are varied, yet strains of similarity do join a few, but what stands out for me is the theme that every child has chosen. Some simple, some more complex, but each one engaging us in some way.

Many children are concerned about the environment and saving the earth (it is heart-warming to note that). Yet Rudraveer Reddy’s bleak end to the Tiger saga makes me want to beg him to rewrite this sorry picture. Reflecting on a glorious past and a present full of despair, his words “This was dangerous, treading on the memory lane when in a life and death situation can send invitation cards to all sorts of harm but….” sent goose bumps down my back. How old is this child anyway?!
Nature does bring out the little philosopher and Dhwani Yagnaraman’s reflections in “Branch of life” is commendable; I take away these words the steady crawl of old into every young cell we possess”; wondering at the complexity of her thoughts and emotions!
A rosewood tree is driven through a gamut of emotions to finally break free, a Sunflower tells its story of origin. Another wonders if humans are the actual aliens for their disregard and lack of care; and then there is a pollen grain which learns to become a plant in Pollen Academy run by Mrs.Pollenberry, (finally here I catch a glimpse of the Potter fan!)

Dreams are a favourite way for our budding writers to escape into an imaginary land where there are no rules and many fools. (How children wish for grand adventures!!) “A Dream come true” wishes her sibling away and then back again to help her with chores; all in a dream. “The Orange Experience”; takes us into the Earth’s core and back, while dreaming (or awake?) in the elevator that has stopped. “Sonia and the Dream Island”, a simple story it seems, but rhymes add a flavour to the tale, and so does the end! An “Adventure in Dreamland” helps us meet a telkhine (half dog, half man), a history/mythology buff I think!

What would a traffic light mean to a girl begging for alms? Interpreted in a wonderfully imaginative way by Anupriya Aggarwal; The Changing Lights” is a story that shows empathy through and through. I wonder why the story ended abruptly; a word limit perhaps. It surely needs completion. Then there is the American Tourister as a protagonist…that’s a first! A delightfully narrated tale of Politics, black money and retribution! Another first (for me) as a toothbrush and his friends gallivant into other worlds!
School time adventures in a chemistry lab, a football fan in a ghost story; a Queen who banishes laughter; cats that are adored, dogs that are lost and found; Very Nice Dragons that run flower shops and a sci-fi story that lauds books, (quite a spectrum of ideas). I am unable to do justice to every story that is in there, but these are the themes that captured me.

The book itself is a visual and aesthetic treat. Every story is presented in a unique style, which makes for delightful imagery. I flip back and forth appreciating the perfection achieved. Every artist has read the story and painted their picture so vividly that the words and images complement each other; making me wonder if they worked together on it. Water colours give way to cartoons, bright, vibrant and bold turns to light shades and pastel.
The font is easy to read and its uniformity gives a sense of balance to the entire text. The layout and colour schemes are superlative; and including the names of all the budding writers at the end is thrilling to note.

Every writer yearns to be published and holding this gorgeous book in my hand I wish I was a child again, and it was my story in there. Never the less as I started reading the book I trembled with excitement as it is not just about reading stories written by children, but it is the joy of diving headlong into the deepest oceans of thoughts and emotions of young minds.

That is definitely satisfied here; but I did feel that some stories were too abrupt and needed completion, while some other stories needed more thought. But befitting this book, is a sequel, similar in content and form giving opportunity to many other budding writers yet untapped.
“A book worth having on your bookshelf”; I second that and give great credit to the artistry accompanying the stories which makes this book a great collectible.

Write and Read; By us For us stories; By children for children.

Published by Katha in collaboration with Hewlett Packard India and Prasoon Joshi. New Delhi, 2011; 133 pp.

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