While childhood implies simplicity and innocence, nothing about children is easy. Not bringing them up, not teaching them, entertaining them nor writing for them. Certainly not writing for them. As a mother to a 3-year-old, I see that only one in every 10 books can hold my son’s attention from cover to cover.
When I discovered Kanika G in the neighbourhood – a young mum of two adorable girls – who writes paperbacks and e-books for toddlers, I was delighted. And, yes, very intrigued. Kanika G has been her pseudonym over the last two-odd years, over which she has churned out gems of toddler literature that are impressive by their sheer sincerity and simplicity.
“I always wanted my older daughter, to develop an interest in books,” she says, “but not too many would hold her attention.” Kanika’s became a dilemma of pushing a young one towards reading but without creating any aversion to the activity. The inventive mother then started penning stories about her daughter’s daily shenanigans, adventures and experiences. Developing the plot, dialogues and even the illustrations together immediately engaged the little girl and soon The Tania Quartet was born.
Simple activities that are really exhibited with great sincerity and eagerness by children come alive in a delightful anthology in this series – making pancakes, tending to a kitten, and more such. Tania, the protagonist modelled on Kanika’s daughter, is discovering the joys of childhood with her mother, absorbing all that each day of toddler-hood brings in its myriad forms. A new bicycle, a safari vacation, a costume party – all being chronicled in short and very relatable story formats. It’s the sheer realism that’s attracting a growing readership, who reviews Kanika G’s books as perfectly suited for reading to and with children. This 4-year-old now contributes as Pell G – the editor with constructive criticism.
“Fantasy is great but I think when a child sees that they can make things that are real and palpable happen – like a delicious pancake – then that stays with them and within them for far longer,” says this young mother and author.
When one soul-searches and re-assesses what one would want to offer to one’s child as a meaningful activity – one that enriches and substantiates the time spent on it – these are a few points that come up: Creativity and inventiveness, a sense of intrigue and then one of accomplishment for the child, a sense of security that ensues and the refrain from stereotypes. The last would be all kinds – gender-based, moral, social, economic and so many more. In Kanika G’s short books, I find stories that tick these points off the list. As Tania grows and discovers more about her life in the city of Mumbai, celebrating festivals (Tania’s Diwali Celebration); witnessing weddings (Tania Attends a Wedding), faces serious toddler crises (Tania’s Dilemma) the reader sinks comfortably into her shoes and is content. Not because some fantastical dreams have been realised in vivid technicolour but because the challenges and travails of daily life have been dealt with in a respectful and true manner.
More so, the illustration – sketches by the author and her daughter and photographs by them – bring the visual experience very close to normalcy.
Readers abroad are appreciating Kanika G’s books for their depiction of the life of a child in Mumbai. Parents find appeal in the ways of learning (Tania Gets Spectacles and Eureka!) in which the author, a PhD in Physics from Washington State Univeristy introduces the basics of science to young minds.
Kanika has also developed a Beginner Reader series, using simple three and four-letter words, for kids to read themselves. She regularly visits her daughter’s primary school to engage the children in story-telling and illustrative learning activities. “Watching the delight on their faces is reassuring and pushes me to come up with more books and sessions for them,” she says.
Every day is Children’s Day because every day holds something new that can delight and excite the child in you. More so when you have kids of your own. Here’s to Kanika G and Tania, who find magic in the daily moments and chronicle them for so many of us.
Do check out https://sites.google.com/site/kanikagebooks/ for more on Kanika G and Pell G. You can order paperbacks online or read ebooks for free. Very reasonably priced – about ₹85 per book – they make for great gifts too.