CHENNAI: It’s quite common to think of fantasy and fiction when it comes to children’s books. Author Gayathri Bashi goes one step further with her latest book titled Big Rain. It was written when the author tried to explain to her three-year-old son how the devastating 2018 floods in Kerala had affected family, friends and many others.
She talks to children through simple text and evocative visuals, ending with an important reminder, “If you look after nature, nature will look after you.”
Gayathri has a background in literature, having pursued both her undergraduate and Masters degrees in the subject. She started getting very interested in children’s books, specifically picture books, after working as an editor at Tulika Publishers in Chennai. Her first picture book Minu and her Hair was released in 2013.
“The opportunities that the dynamic between illustrations and words offered in picture books is what draws (no pun intended) me to the form,” said the author, who resides in Seattle with her family.
Big Rain came out at the end of 2018. “I was physically very far away from Kerala during the time of the floods. Hearing stories from my family and seeing the news was very distressing, and I was thinking of ways to talk about the events with my young son in a way that he could understand them. That’s how I landed on this subject,” she said.
Gayathri hopes for the book to be of some help to parents, teachers, and adults. It can be used as a tool to gently introduce very young children to the concept of natural disasters.
“I feel that we generally don’t give children much credit for being able to engage with topics that adults usually think are difficult for them. I have always felt the importance of not talking down to children, but being able to speak about anything in a way that they can comprehend,” she said.
Big Rain was written with the intention of addressing very young children from around four years and up.
“I would almost call it a short poem that broadly follows the arc of how a natural calamity happens. The book only has about 200 words in total, so a lot of the meaning the children will derive is in the pictures. The pictures carry as much importance as the text as in any well-balanced picture book, and help give the reader more context and detail,” she said.
The book has been translated into eight languages. She has read both the English and Malayalam versions to her son, and she finds the translation to capture the rhythm and spirit of the original language.
“I have read it with my son several times; he spent a lot of time poring over the pictures in addition to listening to the story. It’s fascinating to observe how he has processed it so meaningfully. TR Rajesh
really managed to capture the mood of the story beautifully,” said Gayathri, who is currently working on a new picture book.
The book will be launched on February 2 at 11 am at the Tulika Bookstore, Chennai. ‘Big Rain’ is currently available online at the Tulika website and costs `175.
Gayathri hopes that ‘Big Rain’ will be of some help to parents, teachers, and adults. It can be used as a tool to gently introduce very young children to the concept of natural disasters.