Would you like to do a book reading? What a question to ask a ‘just published’ writer. How can I refuse? Vanity gets the better of me and I say YES – it’s all in a good cause, of course! And I now feel like a ‘proper author’.
With time on my hands when I first moved to India, I started rediscovering the joys of Rudyard Kipling and the Jungle Book. To my amazement I then discovered that my favourite Just So stories were not available in an easy to read format. Now, here was something I could do to fill my days….retelling the Just So stories for Ladybird's Favourite Tales.
Retelling the stories were easy with RK (as I fondly called him) looking over my shoulder at each step of the way. His marvellous language once more reminding me of the wonderous world we live in and the joys of imagination. What fun he must have had creating the stories and telling them to his children. What fun did I have retelling them for our little ones of today and reading them aloud to just about anybody I could get to sit still long enough to listen!
The beauty of the books lie in the imaginative world Kipling creates – and the fantastic pictures created by the illustrators for the Ladybird editions. I feel like a fraud for my part in it all.
Still fraud or not, the book reading is booked and the day arrives. I choose two books to read (How the Camel got his Hump and How the Elephant got its Trunk) and nervously turn up wondering what will happen. Eureka, the specialist children’s bookstore in Alaknanda, are marvellous. 20 parents signed up their children to savour the delights of the Just So stories – or to have a Sunday morning in peace – but the results are the same: 40 deep brown eyes looking up expectantly at me and happy to go on their own journey of self discovery into the world of Kipling. How magnificent. If only adults could suspend all judgement and go with the flow. It was magical and good for the soul. The children were enthralled in the stories, joining in as appropriate, asking questions, being concerned for the hero (the baby elephant having his nose pulled in this case), delighting in the world Kipling created. They made my day.
Thank you Mina for persuading me to do the reading, thank you Ladybird for publishing the Just So stories, thank you children for just being you.
Oh, and I’ve now agreed to do a reading at Bookaroo, the Children’s Literary Festival in Sanskriti Anandgram, on 28th and 29th November. See you there!
Editor - Penguin Portfolio