This week across our MOP sites, we have been reading Basava and the Dots of Fire by Radhika Chaddha and illustrated by Bhakti Phatak. An old Bookworm favourite, published by Tulika.
The story builds on a simple logic of the web of support. Children identify with that value seamlessly even though they might break the web or have their own fragile web strings pulled apart consistently by lack of support. They intuitively know that being gentle is the human way. that we are all connected and get trapped and set ourselves free from time to time. Through multiple story sessions in the Library program and almost incessant reflection most of of our children find stories like Basava easy to understand and logical.
I asked if Basava might be a true story and most hands went up. The ones who did not think so, Rahim being one, said, ” insects – can they talk ? ” He was concerned about something more pedantic not the logic of the narrative and I felt he had a point, to which Ishrat said, in the story anything can happen. Another logical response to make sense of the story world. And so the discussions continued.
We are big on visual language at Bookworm. For us in the Picture Book, the story rides on the illustrator and her/his art and Basava and the Dots of Fire is outstanding in its visual representation. So, while reading at Chimbel yesterday, I told the children we were painting that day and Bhakti would be our inspiration, in how she represented the story.
So keen eyes looked at the illustrations as the story unfolded. They absorbed many nuances, got one where the text says ” .. behind butterfly was dragon fly ..” while the illustration shows the opposite. We wondered aloud if the angle of the visual might place the insects differently and enriched our creative minds with many ideas about how to tell the story in colour.
For most children collaborative work is becoming harder. Our education system is pushing them more and more into competitive frames and individual ways of working that when we settle them into a painting together, arguments are bound to happen. But learning happens too and paint and paper have magical properties that consume and unite. So despite scuffles and arguments about how to represent, whom to represent where and one group needing to be split up, our illustrators took Basava and the Dots of Fire to heart and produced visuals that will keep the story alive for a long time.