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Nita Berry

By Swati Sengupta . Illustrations by Sayan Mukherjee
Tulika Publishers, Chennai, 2015, pp. 24, Rs. 150.00

By Arti Sonthalia . Illustrated by Sebin Simon
Duckbill Books, Chennai, 2015, pp. 68, Rs. 150.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 11 November 2015

What talks nineteen to the dozen, mimicking all that it hears—on the jostling footpath, in a packed bus and on a busy Kolkata road, even when it’s in a bag? Tokai’s Ma is mesmerized by the talking toy bird that is big and colourful. ‘You put in four batteries and it will repeat what you say,’ persists the pavement hawker who is selling the talking bird for two hundred and fifty rupees. As Ma puts it away in her bag for Tokai, little does she realize that this is just the beginning of her travails. The bird in the bag creates pandemonium wherever Ma goes, and is ultimately confiscated by an irate policeman. He marches off with the colourful toy bird in one hand and his walkie talkie in the other, as crowds stare in the middle of busy Dalhousie. Ma sadly loses her bird—till she goes back the next day to buy another one. And this time, she knows better than to put in its batteries! This amusing picture book by Swati Sengupta, a journalist on a sabbatical, is written in a charming, engaging style. The book carries much local flavour, set as it is in the heart of busy Kolkata—with its traffic jams and crowded footpaths where hawkers and pedestrians jostle for space. This local picture is reinforced by the attractive illustrations by Sayan Mukherjee, a creative young artist whose minimalistic style carries touches of traditional Bengali folk art with its simple, bold lines and earthy tones. The expressive eyes of the figures he illustrates bring out a gamut of emotions. Even the eyes of the talking bird have a malevolent gleam! One does feel however that the colours inside could have been brighter for a children’s picture book. Also it does seem a little strange that there is no child in the entire story or its illustrations, even though the talking bird has been bought for little Tokai. So the story is essentially an adult muddle, as indeed most muddles are! However young readers are sure to enjoy this hilarious story of the toy bird that will not stop repeating what it hears. In our stressful lives today humour is a scarce commodity, so this funny picture book really tickles! ‘Jump into reading through a Duckbill hole’ says the back cover of this Hole Book Big Bully and M-Me by Arti ...

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