CHENNAI: Anushka Ravishankar’s latest children’s book, Hic!, like all her previous works, has a simple premise. “Well, it’s about nothing much except hiccups and how to get rid of them!” she laughs. True to her reputation as the ‘Indian Dr Suess’, Hic! addresses a commonplace occurrence in nonsensical fashion with whimsical text and illustrations.
“People come up with all sorts of solutions to get rid of hiccups (like frightening them) without any actual basis, and I just sort of carried that into the book and made up ridiculous ways of getting rid of hiccups!” The book, which was illustrated by German illustrator Christiane Peiper, is a fun read and even funnier to enact, mostly because of the rib tickling attempts to get rid of hiccups.
So do children’s books always need a moral or a message? “Certainly not!” she says. “One of the reasons I started writing nonsense for children was because I felt Indian books were too didactic. Even when I was working as an editor at Tara Books (the publisher), we published ‘silly’ books because we thought kids needed books that were fun to read. And I love nonsense, so it kind of worked out well!”
Stating that the illustration and text are not just complementary but have equal importance in her book, she opines, “Pictures need to say something that the text doesn’t and vice versa — only then can they go beyond the sum of the two!” On certain occasions, she has tweaked the text to fit the illustration. “Half the fun is in letting the illustrator create his/her own ideas, and this book needed that,” she laughs.
A graduate in mathematics who worked in IT and operations research, her foray into writing for children happened by chance. “You only start looking for things when you’re either a child, or looking for a book for your own child. I realised that there weren’t a lot of books suited for Indian children. There was Ruskin Bond and a few others but the list was very limited. That’s when I decided to write nonsense for children!” she quips.
Anushka adds that her themes are drawn from real life and otherwise. Her first children’s book, Tiger on a Tree, was inspired by a real incident.
For details on the book, call the publisher, Tara Books at 42601033