Written by Nandini Nayar
Illustrated by Francesco Manetti
Ages 3 to 6
I’ve always enjoyed Nandini Nayar’s picture books - spare text, minimal characters, and always some simple prop or idea that sends those characters (and us readers) off on imaginative journeys. The Curious Sameer books , a series starring a little boy and his wise mother, follow much the same trajectory.
What Could it Be is all about the power of creativity. The book has Sameer trying to solve a mystery – what lies inside the blue package waiting for him when he gets home from school? Amma knows, of course, but keeps Sameer guessing, only willing to tell him what the gift isn’t. Is it a doll, he asks, which will be my friend? A friend, yes, says Amma, but not a doll. A kite, perhaps, asks Sameer, that will make me soar high? You will soar high, says Amma, but it is no kite. What follows is a wild flight of fancy, much like What Will I be?, as Sameer imagines what the gift could be, while Amma’s answers gets increasingly more profound and mysterious. I especially enjoyed the pacing of the book – it builds up the suspense neatly, has us pause with Sameer as we consider all of Amma’s cryptic clues, before presenting us with the answer in a colourful flourish.
Francesco Manetti’s art captures the charm of Nandini Nayar’s little stories – his illustrations are playful, beautifully textured and bring Sameer’s imaginary worlds to life . Each colourful spread is a delight to the eye, full of interesting details and humorous depictions of Amma’s relentless pursuit of little Sameer. Cities of blocks with wavy clothes lines, faraway moon colonies, candy mountain peaks – and my favourite image, Amma flying towards mountaineer Sameer on a folded newspaper ‘plane! My one regret is that Sameer didn’t consider a career as a deep sea diver – I would have loved to see Fransesco’s depiction of his underwater capers!
An electronic version of this book was sent to me by the publisher for review; all views expressed, however, are my own.