Friday, March 21, 2014

Beastly times!

Poetry and sing-alongs have been an integral part of children's literature from probably time immemorial. These days even infants respond to nursery rhymes, as none of the new generation toys come without built in sing-alongs or rhymes! Of course, we've come a long way since the days when Barney's Nursery Rhymes was the only music being played on our car stereo! But, off late I have been trying to introduce Abhay to poetry. Well, I can't say he is greatly enthused but a little exposure here and there will certainly help him appreciate the art of words in verse, if not kindle his poetic spirit!  
 So in keeping with today's reading prompt "Sing-along” for the 30 books in 30 days challenge and on World Poetry day, I read a couple of poems from "Beastly tales from here and there" by the one and only Vikram Seth and illustrated by Prabha Mallya. Originally published in 1992, this collection has been given a new lease out of life in its illustrated edition published by Puffin books. This is a collection of famous animal fables from all over the world but narrated in verse. There are some children’s works that seem passable but make great reads when read aloud, then there are those that delight you as a parent but your little one doesn’t mirror the same feeling as its being read aloud………..and finally there are those works that are a joy to read…… and it doesn’t matter if you have kids or don’t to share this joy with ……and the Beastly tales is one such work of poetry. Bracketing this as a children’s book would be unfair as it would only limit the audience who’d otherwise pick up and  revel in his amazing play with words! Most of the stories aren’t new but it’s the poetic retelling that’s telling!:-)
"Beastly tales ..." is a collection of ten animal stories, with first two "The Crocodile and the Monkey" and "The Louse and the Mosquito" are from India and other tales from China, Ukraine, Greece, etc. Though recommended  for children aged five and above, I feel its tongue-in-cheek-humour  and a brush with reality best resonates with older kids.  For instance,  in "The Hare and the Tortoise"  the author adds several nuances to the characters of the cocky hare and the wise tortoise, and the final outcome puzzled Abhay as it did not seem as straightforward as the ending in the age old tale. Our favourite however is  "The Crocodile and the Monkey" where the monkey fools Kurup, the crocodile about having left his heart back in the tree....when Crocodile scared at the prospect of upsetting his wife,  pleads ...
"How my sweetheart will upbraid me! 
Monkey, monkey --- you must aid me"
"Well ....'--- the monkey placed his paw
Thoughtfully upon his jaw---
'Well, although the day is hot
And I'd rather not---
We could go back and fetch my heart, 
Check its sweetness, and depart.'
....Like I said, you are in for beastly feast! :-)

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