Look for the light

Updated: 28 December, 2019 09:43 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

That's what psychology professor Tanu Shree Singh hopes to convey in a new picture book that serves as a conversation starter on grief for kids

While writing the story, the author had a clear vision about how she wanted the characters to be portrayed by US-based illustrator Sandhya Prabhat
While writing the story, the author had a clear vision about how she wanted the characters to be portrayed by US-based illustrator Sandhya Prabhat

In 19 pages, Tanu Shree Singh infuses umpteen possibilities. Her latest picture book titled Darkless (Puffin Books) revolves around a little boy named Ani. A quick glance at the first page is enough to tell you that he is going through something he can't quite articulate. He settles for one word — dark. While his dog enjoys sound sleep at night, Ani sleeps with his eyes wide open

And here's where illustrator Sandhya Prabhat introduces a black cloud that perpetually follows him. It is not only symbolic of the grief he carries with him everywhere he goes but portrays what darkness actually is — when you want to say nothing and each passing minute feels like 100 years of agony.

While writing the story, the author had a clear vision about how she wanted the characters to be portrayed by US-based illustrator Sandhya Prabhat

Singh, an assistant professor of psychology, reveals the reason for the boy's tribulations in the last couple of pages. But what makes the book unique is the fact that it doesn't focus solely on the root cause of this sadness, but on accepting it as a part of life.

The idea for Darkless goes back four years. "My friend was working on a story based on light and darkness according to STEM. So, while her approach was to do with physics, I started a thing about light and darkness as emotions and it stayed with me," Faridabad-based Singh shares. Even though she finished writing the story, she had to face rejections from publishers until 2018.

While writing the story, the author had a clear vision about how she wanted the characters to be portrayed by US-based illustrator Sandhya Prabhat

The author maintains that she didn't have concerns with respect to the narrative but more about how a story of acceptance would be perceived, given that parents often hide the "bad" from their children in order to protect them. "I've been a big believer of letting children in on the whole spectrum of emotions. The feedback has been welcoming, too; I've seen it resonate with people of all ages," she says.

Sandhya PrabhatTanu Shree Singh

Singh also addresses the need for picture books to not be attached to innocence or happiness. In order to create a conversation, it is also important for us to not attach those same principles to kids. "I want people to accept all their feelings. It takes effort to reach out but look out for a hand to hold along the way. Sometimes, it could even be your own.

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First Published: 28 December, 2019 09:34 IST

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