Hooked on the words

Updated: Mar 28, 2020, 12:50 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

A new series of early chapter books by four award-winning authors gets a thumbs up by mom from Andheri and her seven-year-old

Illustration by Lavanya Naidu for Jerry Pinto's My Daddy and the well
Illustration by Lavanya Naidu for Jerry Pinto's My Daddy and the well

Reading about the unfamiliar can spark imagination. It's an agenda the Hook Book series published by Duckbill Books this month comes with for young readers aged five and above (for being read to) or those aged above six, who can read independently. The four books authored by award-winning writers Paro Anand, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Jerry Pinto and Anushka Ravishankar are set in non-urban settings. They are tied together by an adorable mascot called Havaldar Hook, who always wants answers at the end of each story — testing the reader's knowledge of collective nouns or interjections, for instance. We invited Andheri resident Virginia D'souza to check the series along with her seven-year-old daughter Anayah.

Illustration by Priya Kuriyan for Anushka  Ravishankar’s Hey Diddle DiddleIllustration by Priya Kuriyan for Anushka Ravishankar's Hey Diddle Diddle

Although Anayah is an avid reader, the series entailed words she found difficult to make sense of. And thus, in order to ensure she doesnt give up on reading altogether, her mother had to narrate the stories to her. Each book was completed in 15 minutes and the series over two days. "So, we read two titles per day. And after the first two, she was after my life to read the rest immediately," D'souza shares.

Illustration by Taposhi Ghoshal for Paro Anand’s A Quiet Girl and
Illustration by Anupama Ajinkya Apte for Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar's Who's There?

They first picked Ravishankar's Hey Diddle Diddle, a sweet, funny tale about the friendship of two schoolgirls who strike an unlikely comparison between a cow and a horse. D'souza, 39, found the story being set in the south of the country to be quite interesting because it took her back to scenes from her own childhood, which her daughter cannot get a glimpse of in the city. "Children are so familiar with traditional fairy tales that the narrative of the village is lost. So, for books to be set in them is great because this was our idea of a fairy tale," she says.

Illustration by Priya Kuriyan for Anushka  Ravishankar’s Hey Diddle Diddle
Virginia and Anayah D'souza

Although D'souza could relate to Pinto's My Daddy and the Well that revolves around Moira, a village in north Goa, Anayah couldn't since the story doesn't follow the usual structure of a children's tale that ends with a moral. Shekhar's spooky tale, on the other hand, was an instant hit with the kid and left the parent spooked out, instead. After giving us a spoiler about Anand's A Quiet Girl, Anayah tells us that she loved the illustrations. All in all, the two can't wait to recommend the series. D'souza adds, "These stories open up a whole wide world in contrast to the ones in the school books that, for instance, speak of a boy on a horse cart who meets different animals and heads to a fair."

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