What's normal? And how's it new?

Updated: Jul 06, 2020, 10:07 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

The world right is not the same playground for children as it used to be. So, we invited a psychologist to review two new e-books for little minds that help make sense of it

Being cognisant of this fragile environment isn't an easy task for kids but books do help, suggests Jehanzeb Baldiwala, a city-based therapist and director, mental health services, at Ummeed Child Development Centre. So, she gave two free, new e-books for kids themed around the pandemic, a read.

Has Anyone Seen Normal? by Ace and Lacey Stryker

Having written and illustrated this picture book, the California-based couple Ace and Lacy Stryker have had over 600 downloads and readers in 42 countries. It follows the story of a girl struggling to find "normal" ever since a guy called "chaos" showed up, resulting in dance classes, piano lessons and vacations being shut down in her town.

Jehanzeb Baldiwala
Jehanzeb Baldiwala

"It's lovely because it's about a character facing a context and not about what's wrong with the people around them. It's centred on these 'losses' that kids experience; you know, like missing out on playing with their friends. It would be suitable for readers aged up to 10 years," Baldiwala shares.

What also makes a difference to the narrative, for Baldiwala, is that it comes from lived experiences as the Strykers are parents to four children. "However, I wish that the book also addressed safety. I would've also liked to see a gender-neutral protagonist since it would resonate with more kids, some of whom don't identify as boys or girls," Baldiwala informs.

pics/stryker.fm
Pics/stryker.fm

The ending of the story is what brings out its real essence; the authors don't pretend like suddenly, everything has returned to normalcy. Instead, it gives children agency, says Baldiwala. "So, you see the girl leaving cookies at her neighbour's doorstep or playing the piano by leaving the windows open so that passers-by can hear the music. Then, she states that she has 'learned' to be happy. This word is important because it gives children a sense of control. A lot of children are focused on their well-being anyway. It's a great conversation starter."

Log on to stryker.fm

The World Has Turned Upside Down by Ambitious about Autism

A charity based out of the United Kingdom for children and young people with autism, Ambitious about Autism, partnered with bestselling children's author Kes Gray and noted illustrator Chloe Batchelor for a story that "highlights the impact of recent changes and uncertainty on autistic children."

pics/issuu.com
Pics/issuu.com

The story features larger-scale drawings as compared to the book by the Strykers and incorporates the use of several antonyms, as evident in the title. So, school has turned "open-closed", friends have turned "hi-bye", and days have turned "different-same". This approach may not work for everyone on the spectrum, Baldiwala says. "It can get confusing because they often like structure. But that said, the idea of the world turning upside town is important. It also talks of the specifics — like the impact on school, roads and aeroplanes," she explains.

Gui

Baldiwala also gives a thumbs-up to the illustrations with pastels and bright colours. "And the young person here doesn't look like a girl or a boy. It is a lot more diverse as it includes people of colour," she shares. But there is one particular spread that struck the therapist the most. It's a couple of pages dotted with faces of the protagonist, all displaying different emotions — happy-sad, sad-happy, busy-bored, bored-busy, noisy-quiet or quiet-noisy. "Kids on the spectrum might find this useful because they can use this page to articulate their emotions. You could ask them which face matches how they are feeling. What also works is the use of shorter sentences that have a rhythm," Baldiwala says, adding that the verbal ability of the reader living with autism ought to be considered with this book, irrespective of age.

Log on to issuu.com/wordsbydesign/docs/children_s_book_v2/2'

Also check out

1. Fight With Corona – Written by Sushama Khurde and illustrated by Sanskruti Khurde and
Valentina Gonnella

2. What A Highway Would Think About Corona Virus – Written by Tanvi Jaiswal and illustrated by Measa Sovonnarea, Pia Meenakshi, Priya Kuriyan, Sadhna Prasad, and Tasneem Amiruddin

Log on to storyweaver.org.in

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