'Venkat and Friends': A Delightful Book For Both Kids And Parents
The book 'Venkat and Friends' is at once a story book, an activity book and even a potential journal.
The book is intelligently designed to boost the creativity of the children in a hands-on manner.
Venkat and Friends. Sambhavi Ganti. Notion Press, 2022. Pages 90. Rs 175
It is not easy to write a children's book. No. A good book for children should be entertaining and educative. It should be value-based and fun-filled.
To add to the author's difficulties, kids of the present generation have hundred and one distractions and entertainments that are flashy and a lot easier than reading.
Today, we need good children’s books more than ever. We need to cultivate the joy of reading in children. And we need to do that without getting lost in a purely fantasy-filled alternate reality. Not that it is bad, but that market has already been saturated. Books of that genre, from displaying creative flights, have turned to following clichés and routine formulae.
So, we need such books for children that are rooted in the Indian context but impart universal values that children of the day need.
If you are searching for such a book, for children of age group seven to 14, then your search may well end at Venkat and Friends by Sambhavi Ganti.
This contains the very homily, in fact extraordinarily ordinary day-to-day episodes in the life of Venkat and his gang of friends. It is through grasping the extraordinary miracles that lurk in the ordinary incidents of a curious child’s mind and his surroundings, that the author has produced this very readable book.
Consider for example the first incident.
A mother is a proud recipient of a green award for her architectural innovations and brings the trophy home. Our hero Venkat just as every excited hyper-energetic child, performs some in-house acrobatics and the trophy gets broken.
The reactions and responses that follow seem natural. The way the subsequent events play out is neither preachy nor awkward. There is anger, embarrassment, guilt, sorrow and ultimately forgiveness and realisation of mistakes.
Again, the important aspect to be remembered is that at no point does the narrator get preachy.
In fact, this book is also a good guidebook for parents and grandparents. The age of corporal punishment is over. Sometimes, many think it was good and that that is how children should be brought up. Wrong.
The fact that today most parents hesitate to go for corporal punishment is an improvement in our sense of morality. But the problem is that the pendulum swings to the other end and parents end up appeasing the indulgences of their children. Personally, I have seen parents taking a covert pride in their son being a bully or their daughter being a snob.
This book shows a positive, creative alternative to both painful punishment and fanciful indulgence.
The book also deals with the fascination some adults and most children have for stray animals, particularly kittens, and explains the problems and responsibilities that come with taking them in.
It also deals with sibling rivalry and how generational wisdom can heal and make relations healthier; even as a child may face what he or she may consider as a problem that no adult understands.
A thread that runs through the book is that most problems that children of this generation face are also problems that the adults would have faced in their own times in their own ways. By reaching out to positive and healthy memories associated with those problems, we can actually empathise with our own children.
If in a rare case a parent may lack such memories then surely, they can always reach out to this book.
Every ‘adventure’ of Venkat and his friends at its end has some facts sheets and hands-on activities. Thus, the children get to know about green architecture. They do crossword puzzles which include finding the different ‘state animals’ of India. A fact sheet introduces the children to the different performing arts in various states, thus familiarising them with India's diversity and also emphasising the natural unity in diversity.
The children are asked to write their own stories and provided space in the book. There is even a recipe for do it your-self power laddu.
Thus, the book is at once a story book, an activity book and even a potential journal. It is intelligently designed to boost the creativity of the children in a hands-on manner.
The book is for children but it is also definitely a guidebook for parents.
This book will kindle in the child the desire to have parents like the Nanna and Amma of Venkat – who talk to the children and understand their problems and correct them ever so sweetly but firmly, with values and wisdom of the family. Really, this cute little book is a book for all families.
Make sure to gift it to your children and then be sure to make the child realise that it is about his or her own family as well.
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