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Current Tamil Books for the Young

K.S. Sundaram

Vanathi Pathippagam, Palaniappa Brothers, Saiva Sidhanta Noorpathippu Kazhagam, New Century Book House, Kalaimagal Kaariyalayam—these are some private publishers who bring out books for children regularly in Tamil. They are what one might call 'big' publishers, and having a few children’s titles in their catalogue adds to their prestige or image. They can not only afford the extra invest­ment which a children's book entails because of illustrations, good paper etc, but can also print more copies to keep the price low, and have the resources and contact to win bulk school orders. The target, then, is the school Principal or Librarian rather than the child: they offer some fiction, some poems, some biogra­phies, some general information books, some popular science; and the librarian, whose most pressing problem is often 'exhausting' his funds, buys it all up.  This is not to hint at lack of good intentions on anybody's part. The pro­blem, rather, is one of approach. Every­one is concerned only with keeping up appearances: there's no real involvement, no thirst for innovation and adventure. The only exception is the field of chil­dren's poetry: excellent and original con­tributions have been made by poets such as A.I. Valliappa, 'Lemon', Thambi Srini­vasan, P. Thooran, A.N. Ganapathi, R. Ayyasami, Krishnan Nambi, and others. Big names like Bharati, Bharatidasan, Desika Vinayakam Pillai, Kannadasan, and Kothamangalam Subbu have also made important contributions in this field. Tamil Writers' Co-operative Society re­cently published a representative antho­logy of children's poems in Tamil, edited by AI. Valliappa. (Chiruvar Kathaippa­dalgal, 1977, Rs. 6.50). It is a window on children's poetry in Tamil. Valliappa himself is well known among children's poets, and the collection of his own poems entitled Malarum Ullam has run into 9 editions and sold over 30,000 copies. The qualities one notices in the best of childrens' poets—subtlety, precision, humour and innovativeness—are somehow often lacking in fiction writers. Prose becomes synonymous with prosaicness, with clumsy sugar-coating. With flabbiness. Not that wordiness doesn't have a place in children's literature-like grandma, for example, spinning out yarns for her grandchildren: ‘And then suddenly, jumping and dancing, mewing like a siren, there came a big, black cat—ugh! so ugly it was, so frightful to look at, and smelly too—ugh! it must be living near a drain or dustbin—its whiskers as long as the jaadu, its tail as long as ...

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