Published By: Pratham Books
Story: Maasoumeh Ansarian
Illustrations: Fatemeh Fazel
Green Pencil says, ‘You can play with us if you wish!’
In a Sentence: A child’s creativity can be her best friend.
What is it About: When you think you have no one to play with, look inside you, for that where there’s a parallel universe of your own boundless creativity good enough to keep you company for hours – our little girl in this story discovers just that with a little nudge from her colour pencils! So when mammy gets busy with work, Daddy is glued to the newspaper, her brother’s homework doesn’t seem to get over, and our little girl feels ignored and lonely, in jump her colour pencils to help her grab everyone’s attention on to herself again.
What makes it snuggly: It’s the it-happens-everyday-with-me feel of the story which helps kids identify with the girl’s cribs, her pouting, and her crisis immediately. So even though quite wordy (running more like a short story), most young readers will find this predictable-enough tale unputdownable.
What Stands Out: Fatemeh Fazel’s most gorgeous illustrations. In fact, they are the reason this book is getting featured here, because for all practical purposes, it is an illustrated story book (and I don’t include books that can be read and understood pretty well even without a single illustration being there). But in this case, Fazel’s artwork is too irresistible have missed been out on. Details below.
Will be best enjoyed by: 5-7 years.
For those who love ratings:
Ha Ha! Quotient: 2
Touches The Heart: 3
Cuts Through The Clutter: 4
Visual Appeal: 4
Encore Quotient: 3
Thank God it’s not moral science: 4
Show, don’t tell: 2
Hey, this is a really important book!: 3
Want to Read More?
Visuals: Here’s why Fazel’s artwork counts amongst the best I’ve seen in the Indian market (Fazel, and the book though, are fromIran). What’s of special note is that all of the points I’ve mentioned here are mere ‘suggestions’ from the illustrator that throw up infinite interpretations. Everything is implied. You see it, if you look at a page closely, you miss it, if you don’t. And believe me, kids are far more acute observers than us adults. Give the child something engaging to hold, and you’ll be stunned at how sharp their minds work.
1) We get a glimpse of how gifted an artist Fazel is simply by looking at her pages. Every element on any of the pages looks as if having been actually painted by a child herself. While most illustrators hope to be able to accomplish it, it’s only a handful of them who can actually manage it. In this case, we could very well be looking into a child’s own drawing book, and wouldn’t tell the difference.
2) A judicious yet magical blend of the real and fantastical. Look at the sad forlorn girl surrounded by the cobwebs of negativities in her mind – nobody’s playing with me / nobody loves me / nobody has time for me, and so on. In each of these frames, we have a sad looking girl trapped in a cobweb full of anger and frustration on the one hand, but also of the lovely things she would want to do with her family. These cobwebs clear once her anger and frustration start easing when she starts painting.
3) Look at how skillfully Fazel makes the cobwebs clear gradually – bit by bit, almost in tune with the little girl’s mind warming up to the idea of giving her creativity a chance…and yes, some of the threads change into useful ladders to help her pull herself out of it.
4) And naturally, if there are cobwebs, there have to be spiders around! Look out for a most adorable blue spider having a field day while she frets. Kids can remain engrossed in the spider’s antics for hours, trying to spot it on every page. So there we go, we have a neat little parallel plot running, done in a splendidly subtle way. Her spider pal, of course, hangs around even later when the cobwebs have cleared, making it, as one child pointed out, her ‘friend-good-spider’.
5) The spatial orientation of the pages is such that it gives the child the vantage point of being at several places at the same time – for eg, Daddy on his way back from office, the happy moon, the birds about to sleep, the ticking hours, the quiet streets, the eagerly waiting girl, but also the predominant figure of the disappointed girl once finally with her father. All on one double spread, but on different special coordinates, giving it a sense of time and depth.
6) The magic colour pencils hover around the frames all the time, from the beginning to the end, busy in their own world! Again, it gives the reader hours of absorbing fun trying to keep pace with these little rascals!
7) And look at how her life is filled with colours (=happiness) by the end of the book!