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Ranjana Kaul

By Paola Ferrarotti  with Various Artists
Tara Books, Chennai, 2015, Rs. 200.00

Text by Gita Wolf  and V. Geetha
Tara Books, Chennai, 2015, Rs. 400.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 11 November 2015

An illustrated book is often a child’s first introduction to the magical world of reading. Children have short attention spans and a limited vocabulary, thus the pictures represent a relatively familiar concrete experience with which they can identify. Books like Eight Ways to Draw an Elephant and Tree Matters with their bright colours, simple pictures and sparse texts encourage a child to engage imaginatively with the objects and events portrayed. The illustrations play a significant role in attracting a child to words as they provide a pictorial restatement of the text and also expand its meanings. The child responds to line, colour and shape as he or she looks at the beautiful pictures and the minimal textual content forces him or her to interpret and recreate a mental picture of the story being narrated. The two beautifully illustrated books being reviewed draw the young reader into a world in which objects and surroundings are imagined in a way uniquely different from the norm thus fostering an appreciation or at least a recognition of different types of art. Both books use tribal art but the first of these Eight Ways to Draw an Elephant is evidently aimed at a younger reader as it focuses on activities such as colouring and drawing. Each page provides simple information about elephants and gives an illustration from a different tribal art form though the subject always remains the same. The variety of pictures gently exposes a child to the idea that the imagination is a wondrous thing and that the world in which he or she lives can be seen and interpreted in myriad ways. This idea is further reinforced by the fact that the reader is also given the opportunity to colour and draw thus using his or her own imagination. Tree Matters is more knowledge based and provides an interesting introduction to the world of the Bhils, an old indigenous tribe living in central India. It introduces the reader to a world, a way of life and a social context very different from the one with which he or she would normally be familiar. Gangu bai, the artist, brings alive the flora and fauna of the jungles which are the habitat of her community through her brightly coloured, traditional illustrations. We enjoy her imaginative representation of the jungle, the trees, the berries and people. Her knowledge of the trees with which she ...

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