Have you ever landed in trouble after committing an error? A fear arises then: will you be scolded? Or worse, punished? The fear then makes you want to hide what happened. Add the stress of keeping a secret to your now-overflowing plate of emotions. And until this distress is allowed to be expressed, it tends to grow - just like that sense of dread in the pit of your stomach.
This predicament is depicted in Roy's Noisy Secret, one of Pratham Books' latest offerings for children. While unwittingly trying on his late grandmother's anklets, the titular Roy finds to his horror that one of them refuses to come off his ankle.
Afraid that his parents will react adversely, the child then goes about hiding the ornament that is on his body. As days pass by, and his parents start looking for the anklet, Roy's feelings of fear and shame compound. Naturally, to cover up, he starts lying, which then causes feelings of guilt to occur, too.
Will Roy's 'noisy secret' get exposed? Will his parents punish him for something that was an unwitting mistake? Or will they be gentle with the child? The book's writer Yamini Vijayan hopes adults become more considerate of children's feelings in these situations.
"In the book, I have tried to convey that it's okay to make mistakes - it's impossible to live without making them. Why instil so much fear in children? The hope is that parents and educators don’t punish children in the ways that they do, for small and big mistakes. And instead, approach them with acceptance and kindness," she says.
Yamini and illustrator Anjali Kamat manage to capture the emotional landscape of a child rather realistically. Phrases like 'AYYO!' jump out of the page, enabling readers to put themselves into the shoes of the distressed child. The vividly coloured scenes from his life, too, aid in communicating his various moods to us.
The language is simple, and the use of Malayalam kinship terms lend a distinct charm. In addition to fear, grief, too, is subtly but effectively brought out in this tale. The ways in which Roy tries to grieve his grandmother's absence are quite heartwarming.
How can children learn to navigate their emotional landscape? By looking at how adults express, regulate, and manage their emotions. While Roy's Noisy Secret makes sure Roy's parents set a positive example, one wishes it had highlighted how the grown-ups made sense of a child’s emotions.
Roy's Noisy Secret expresses a seemingly simple (yet complex) funda to navigate life - feel your feelings, express your emotions. Something that grown-up readers, too, can take away from this tale.
Roy's Noisy Sceret (read here)
Price: Rs 50
Publisher: Pratham Books