Ammachi’s Glasses

For my first review, I chose a recent book from Tulika Publishers that has left me…wordless!

Ammachi’s Glasses is a wordless picture book and that is so amazing on so many levels. Done well, a good wordless picture book breaks down so many barriers – age, literacy, language, culture. And Ammachi’s Glasses is done fabulously well.

ammachi-s-glasses

One morning Ammachi (grandmother in malayalam) wakes up and can’t seem to find her glasses. But even though she is clearly blind as a bat without them, she continues to go about her day with hilarious effects.

Page after page, illustrator Priya Kuriyan beautifully chronicles every mishap as Ammachi washes the cat and hangs it to dry, wears her grand-daughter’s clothes and has no idea what she has put in her stew.

The pictures have a splendid level of detail which is what really makes this book work. Every illustration captures the humor and drama of the moment, from the blissful lack of awareness in Ammachi’s face of the mess she is making and the constant tension in family members faces as they try – and fail – to prevent the next accident. Kuriyan captures the little elements that make a home in a way that really transported me back to India – the Malayalam calendar on the wall (much like the Tamil calendar I have seen hanging in my mother’s kitchen), the big jars of pickle (how I long for home-made pickle) and of course, the ever-present crow, which besides being practically a staple in independent homes in India is crucial to this story – but let me not give it all away.

This is a great find. Both my 5 year old and 2 year old love it. My 5 year old is able to narrate the story in her own words, which is a great way to improve story-telling abilities. There is no scope for making mistakes while reading, so this is a good way to draw in shy readers and get them to participate in storytime.

It  is also possible to tell the same story in different ways and in different languages too, without feeling like you have departed from some script. The absence of words is somewhat liberating – you can really have fun “reading” it aloud to your kids.

Look forward to seeing more wordless picture books. I am definitely a fan of the author.

Disclosure: I recently became a sub-distributor of Tulika Books. Ammachi’s Glasses is in my collection. That said, I only source and distribute books that I already like and write about books from across publishing houses.

 

Author: Tales of India

I am an Indian mom raising two little "American" girls in the U.S. I love reading to my children and it has helped me rediscover my love for books written for children. Growing up in the 80s, I, like most middle-class Indians, read books by British authors such as Enid Blyton and Richard Crompton. While I credit those books with developing my imagination - after all, what did a child in south India really know of English boarding schools - they have, in some ways, let me down. I remember dreaming about scones and crumpets as a little girl and came to the U.S. with an appetite for them, only to discover that they paled in comparison to samosa and masala dosa! That's what made me realize that for all my love for the English language and western literature, I still needed books that resonate with my personal experiences. Surely, my 5- year- old daughter, growing up in America but with Indian roots, feels the same. So I had my parents bring the Indian children's books I grew up reading - Amar Chitra Kathas. Yet some of these stories seem too advanced for a 5- year- old, with several characters and complex themes of good and evil. Then I did some research and was amazed to find the hundreds of age-appropriate books that have been published over the last 20 years. It appears that Indian children's literary landscape has undergone quite a change and those of us who have grown up and moved away from that world are quite out of touch. There are picture books that have wonderful illustrations that reflect all of India's diversity and they are available in several languages that can truly be appreciated by bi-lingual parents. While the neighborhood I live in is pretty diverse, the books that she reads are sorely lacking in representing the world around her. I want my daughter to read books that are filled with pictures of children with black hair, their "ammas" in a sari and bindi, speaking a mix of English and Tamil (her mother tongue, which she is still to fully embrace). Hopefully, reading these books would ensure that her own culture will not feel alien to her as she grows up in the U.S. And I know this sense of identity is what millions of Indians settled in the U.S. also want for their kids. This blog is dedicated to discovering new books for Indian children that have global appeal but are rooted in authentic Indian storytelling.

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