I was under the impression that Dr. Seuss is the only author whose books, with its funny characters, weird sounding names and crazy rhymed verses, appeal to all age groups. And, then I read Bharat Shekhar’s Talking Tales and I realized how wrong I was. For Talking Tales, a collection of six stories that talks about dinosaurs, giants and elephants to dwarves, zebras and turtles, is an endearing book for young readers as it is for adults, because it has something for all.
In Sally Saltopus Stops Being Silly About Her Size, Bharat talks about a tiny dinosaur who is bullied by her classmates for being very small in size. However, there comes a situation where she is able to save one of her bully’s sister because of her small size. Sally is lifted and carried high by her friend. “For once Sally was taller than the tallest dinosaur in her class.”
In Giant Gargantuan Gongurra, my favourite story in the book, a giant named Gongurra is a lonely creature who likes to hit, bite, push and fight. He likes to scare people until one day he meets a little girl, Mercy. Mercy tells him, “I like you. I care,” and the giant loses all his hatred. All his life he has been hated, and so he learnt to fight hate with hate. But, these kind words take him by surprise and Gongurra turns a new leaf.
In the Tiger, the Toy Cupboard and the Tiny Twitch, which might or might not have been named after CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there resides a toy tiger. But he is no ordinary tiger. He is the terror of the toy cupboard. Even Balu and Shalu are terrified of the tiger. No one knows from where the tiger came into the cupboard. One day, Shalu is chased by the tiger in her dreams. Instead of cowering down in fear, she faces her foe. And lo and behold, tiger’s eyes lose their lustre and his jaws and claws clamp tightly. From that day onward, the tiger is not seen again.
It’s a beautiful take on the classic tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Snow White is trying to wake the seven dwarves one morning when she realizes there’s an eighth one. She is not actually a dwarf, but a little girl in a ponytail, “twinkling dark brown eyes and even browner complexion – the colour that parched earth is when it first receives welcome rain”. No wonder, she is named Brownie. She doesn’t know who she is and why she is there, but she helps Snow White to get rid of the wicked stepmother once and for all.
A Common Royal the Princess Loses Her Pet Peeve in which the soul of a commoner and a princess get exchanged. Post switch, the bad-tempered princess learns a lesson in humility.
In Whim World, a young elephant Fatty Hatty is enamoured by the idea of visiting the Whim World because he has heard that all of one’s wishes get fulfilled there. Once there, he realizes that he likes his old world better. He wishes to go back and vows never to talk about the Whim World again.
Bharat Shekhar has a wonderful way with words which are full of wit and wisdom. His stories deal with important themes of bullying, vanity, loneliness, fear, greed and desire without being preachy. The poet in Shekhar has penned some lovely rhyming verses:
The world of dreams
Is not what it seems
A drop of moonlight falls
As it spreads its silver it calls:
Wake to dreams, in dreams awake!
And there are some whacky humourous ones too that would appeal to the young adults:
Can you think of anything worse
Than being a Silly Salty Purse?
On her two little legs,
Those skinny tiny pegs,
She bends and begs,
Night after night,
For higher height.
My 6-year old cranked up at ‘Thally? Thave me. I am here.’ Her only complaint – why couldn’t the book have had colourful pictures?
The tales do talk. Packed with delightful rhymes, funny names and strange things, Talking Tales is a great book to read aloud.
My rating - 4/5
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Also read: Book Review: Twitt-er On A Saddle
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