Friday, February 23, 2007

THE SEED (a bilingual book from India)




Since there is motivation galore right now at Saffron Tree, it could not get easier for me to slouch down to write, combating the chaos generated in the room by my DH and his little associate. The book I am going to review is bilingual, meant for the 3+ age group, that I picked up during my trip to India last year. The two languages involved are Tamil (a South Indian language which is spoken in the state of Tamil Nadu, which also happens to be my native language) and English. It is published by Tulika . Tulika also has the equivalent of it in 6 other Indian languages. The title of the book is THE SEED, vidhai , written and illustrated by Deepa Balsavar,Tamil by Karkuzhali. Check out http://www.tulikabooks.com/bilingualbooks6.htm for your language.

A small girl chances upon a tiny seed, puts it in a pot, waters it and takes care of it. The ecstasy from seeing it sprout soon morphs into heaps of anticipation. Will it have flowers? Will it have fruits? Will it grow tall? Will it stay small? are some of the questions that she tries to find answers to, from her near and dear. The climax is that the little girl ceases to question and realizes that what it turns out to be or how it looks like doesn't really matter to her (and that she will always love it)!

Colorful and child-friendly illustrations, an Indian backdrop, some stylish art of botany encompassing minimal text. Neat. There is always a BUT - (a long pause), can't quite put my finger on it though. Moving on with the kudos, I really liked it for the incident that unraveled the thoughts of the deceptively little mind. The book has a dozen simple sentences, in English, on the top of the page and the Tamil equivalent of it at the bottom. The language, at least in the Tamil version, is very conversational and hence practical. Although I did not purchase the book in a vigorous attempt to make my daughter speak/write/read Tamil, the fact that she has, quite effortlessly, picked up the equivalents to seed, water, sun, pot, tree, tall, small in a second language does make me feel good. Bilingual books have come to be embraced by many, especially by people raising children away from 'home'. The Seed is right for the right reasons.

8 comments:

sathish said...

the illustrations seems to very nice and simple (atleast the sample page you have shown here). The blue background in the illustration makes it look very peaceful..
It is nice to see the same person writing as well as illustrating..

Anjali said...

Hey guys there is no mention of Amar Chitra Katha here.

Krithika said...

Congratulations !!

sathish said...

anjali, ACK is still one of my favs.. and sooraj (our 4 and half year old) son has started taking a liking to it too..(especially those with pictures of demons! )
:)

Space Bar said...

my son loves this book. (i also have the Tamil/English version). What is the 'but' that you felt? it's for three year olds! if they like it, it works. and it doesn't have any regressive enid blyton-y ideas that you have to spent years unlearning...

meera sriram said...

Hi space bar,

I am glad your son likes it. My 2.8 yr old daughter too likes it a lot and often brings the book to me saying 'ma, lets read vidhe..vidhe book'!

I will now attempt to put my finger on the subtlety that I chose not to write in detail, in order to not distract a potential reader. The book has a very nice ending, rather sort of a punchline. However, in my opinion (and from the picture of the happy child hugging the potted plant), the 'it doesn't matter' (paravaa illai) actually is more like "BUT it really doesn't matter, I will still love it the way it is". I do not want to take chances with my child misinterpreting the 'paravaa illai' to a more nonchalant 'I don't care'! The abruptness and conciseness of the last sentence fails to transmit the actual thinking of the child in its entirety, especially to very young children. I hope you are able to understand what I am trying to say although you don't have to necessarily agree with me.

Praba said...

Hi Meera -

We haven't read a bilingual book yet in our family...Your review and pick of Vidhai/Seed is indeed refreshing and unique. The girls will enjoy..

The clarification on the "subtle but" factor in your post was very useful. A neat take-away for me from that was "pay attention to the nuances and subtleties of the text, however minimal and simple the book/message/story might be, and do not leave it to the kid to go figure it out/guess..! It is all the more interesting in this context because the word "parava illai" can be interpretted differently in different situations - for instance - when my daughter spills juice on the couch, and has that look on her face waiting for me to say "paravailla - meaning that's ok - don't worry - amma will take care meaning..." come to think of it - we use it for "I am feeling better " etc....It does get very tricky, isn't it? Explaining the several interpretations and meanings of these simple words to children can be tricky if they don't speak/hear the language often - particularly being raised, she hears tamil so rarely - myself and DH try but....It's an art in itself, and seriously, it's a constant learning in terms of how to communicate with your children - both in daytoday stuff and through books.. I often find myself replying in one-worders to my daughter - when she does something different from what I had wanted or expected - I then realize, I should have been more explicit and shouldn't have left it to her to second guess.."
Communicating with children is so challenging, and at the same time when "they" get it, it can be so fulfilling...You've to be explicit,particularly to very young kids...

mommyof2 said...

"realizes that what it turns out to be or how it looks like doesn't really matter to her (and that she will always love it)"

Now everybody should learn this and we will be happy & satisfied:-)

Its a coincident that you wrote this review because just few days back we were talking about letting our son plant a seed and take care of it.. I wonder what will go into his mind.. he might ask the same questions or more;-)

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