Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Puffin Book of Folktales

The Puffin Book of Folktales
Illustrations - Poonam Athalye
Ages 4-8

What do you get when you throw together Paro Anand, Ruskin Bond, Kamala Das, Devdutt Patnaik and Shashi Deshpande, among others? You get the Puffin Book of folk tales, celebrating 10 years of Puffin in India.

Some original stories, some moving from the oral tradition to the written, and some retold, the compilation makes a nice mix. Admittedly I see no sense having Manjula Padmanabhan retell the story of the family who didn't appreciate their donkey, but hey, a lot of kids in this generation will probably not have encountered this fable before, and she does tell it well. I just wish we'd got something original from each of these stalwarts. But that's just me nitpicking.

Bhagirathi's pond, by Sudha Murthy is a poingnant fable from Karnataka, focusing on sacrifice. Paro Anand's Harshringar tells a lyrical tale of how the Harshringar flower came into being. Musharraf Ali Farooqi tells in verse, the story of Podna and Podni, from my childhood. The two little love birds are separated, and the brave Podna builds an army and rescues his love from a big, hairy king.  Devdutt Pattanaik works within his area of expertise and gives us the lesser known story of Renuka and Jamadagni in Renuka's Umbrella. My favourite though, was Shashi Deshpande's The Gardener's Son - romance, a feminist twist, lovely.

Beautiful, generous, full page and even *drool* double spread illustrations by Poonam Athalye tempt you to rip the pages out and frame them, sacrilegious though the notion might be. One really can't say enough about them. Rich colours, the feel of oil on canvas, and a stunning use of colour.

In the absence of grandparents telling the kiddies fables as they pat them to sleep, this is a good substitute. Do pick up for the artwork if nothing else.

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