Story: Roopa Pai
Illustration: Archana Sreenivasan
Published by: GAIT
If you lay your hands on the siblings Taka-Dimi starrer My Space, My Body, do not make the mistake (as I did) of jumping straight to the story before reading the note to the parents. For in it lies the blueprint for extracting the maximum you can from this lovely illustrated story book.
The book is there for a purpose. It is the first in the series developed as a resource material for children enrolled with GAIT (Grooming Artistic Innovation and Talent), a niche player in the field of creative movement in education. It aims to bolster a reader’s understanding of her own body and how it can be used as a tool to express herself – through music, dance, theatre, and creative movement where the body itself, more than the words, becomes the medium of expression.
The two stories in this book handle subjects that even adults find difficult to make sense of – personal space and body awareness. As concepts, both work in tandem, as an understanding of one would lead to an acute awareness of the other, whether in its use or its violation. And so, I was happy to see both these tricky subjects being addressed in the same book. Indeed, the world we inhabit would be a far gentler, happier, more hospitable place if people were to try and understand the basics of personal space. Also, the more at ease we get with our physical bodies, the more it frees up our minds.
Roopa Pai excels, as always. The crisp slice-of-life dialogues make the pages believable, real and full of warmth. And oodles of fun too. We all have a Taka or a Dimi or the Mama or the Puppa in our homes. The pages throw enough relatable every day vignettes of a pair of siblings (squabbling, loving, sharing, inquisitive, et al) to make the kids feel one with them. As parents, we are always confronted with the task of explaining difficult intangibles in a way that leaves a lasting impression on them. I loved the idea of introducing the concept of an invisible bubble in ‘Take-Dimi Win The Game’ surrounding each of us that pops when personal space of others or oneself is disregarded. Don’t we all love popping bubbles?! The trick is in training our minds to not do so at the cost of another person’s bubble (read, personal space). In ‘Taka-Dimi At The Zoo’, it takes the siblings a visit to the local zoo to appreciate that ‘I think I’m happy just the way I am.’
Archana Sreenivasan’s endearing, playful, vibrant illustrations are a sure winner in this handsome hardcover. The two double spreads that extend as fold-outs at the end of each story are brilliant in their detail. The first one is my favourite; each time I look at it afresh, I discover something new. Other engaging activities also follow the stories. And then there is the adorable pet cat that breezes in and out of the frames (in the first story) – the kids are sure to love her.
My Space, My Body will engage a young mind in ways more than one. Read it often to or with your kids to enable them to be more aware of their bodies, selves, of the spaces around them. And read it often also to keep them fascinated with their bodies and see them grow into confident happy beings. The back cover blurb puts it beautifully:
‘As we become better with words, we become more stilted in our movements, more uncomfortable with our bodies, and more constrained in our expression.’ A positive body image is one of the strongest tools you can arm your child with.
Click here to learn more about the GAIT program.