Out of line but in your mind


What does a Chuppertyhoover look like? We know it makes a good pet once it’s been fished out of a chamber pot, because Jerry Pinto says so in Monster Garden : A Draw-It-Yourself Picture Book . And that means it can look like whatever our idea of a good animal companion is. The Chuppertyhoover could have eyes like a dog, ears like a rabbit, a face like an elephant, a body like a giraffe, and legs like an alien. Or it could look like a chapati that’s just been hoovered off the carpet. Or it could be a hoov that’s gone chup and ’ert. Basically, no one’s been told what it looks like. Then, there’s another conundrum. The Chuppertyhoover only eats Asumptivet. And that too, only if it’s fresh. No stale Asumptivet for our Chuppertyhoover. But again, what does an Asumptivet look like?

The answer is not in Pinto’s latest book published by Duckbill. Rather, it’s in your child’s imagination. Because that’s what Monster Garden is about: being imaginative and creative to draw and colour your own picture book. Pinto’s prose frolics delightfully across the pages with the help of Priya Kuriyan’s illustrations. There’s a tree looking slightly nervous and the child has to draw a Scrumpeelious under it, while a Sharmistickle has to be drawn to hover in the air. Hairy feet poke out in an Asumptivets field, as Pinto offers a hilarious, but complicated way to get to an Asumptivet. And in all of that, the child creates his or her very own monsters, plucking them straight out of his or her fancy.

Pinto said he wanted Monster Garden to be free of preconceived adult notions about what children like to draw and paint. “Do they really like to paint ducks who wear shirts and caps but no trousers,” he asks. “Do they like to paint lady mice in frilly knickers? Wouldn’t they like to imagine what a Chuppertyhoover is? And how it looks when it eats a Floover? I thought I would, so that’s the book I gave them.” That’s why there aren’t any kinda-obvious ‘Join the Dots’ or ‘Copy and Colour this Picture’ pages in this whimsical and quirky book. “I was given a series of dot-to-dot books when I was a child, by a peculiar aunt who kept giving them to me when I was way into my teens,” said Pinto, via email. “But even as a child, I could see what the dots were joining up to make and I couldn’t see the point of joining them. And then I could never decide whether to use straight lines or curvy lines — and if the latter, then should they be convex or concave or just plain wriggly.”

Monster Garden is a mischievous book, sparkling with humour and ingenuity. Children are fascinated and spooked by monsters, most anyway lurk in their imagination. Monster Garden brings that to the forefront. Priced at Rs 150, the book will make for a super goody bag filler as well. There’s a pull-out colour poster where Kurian has created a fabulous gallery of monsters including the Bubbleganoosh and Pinkiporous.

But what makes Monster Garden an important addition to the library is its spunkiness — it is a clarion call to get children to think outside the colouring lines, rummage through their own thoughts and create what they want. For a change, no one is telling them what to draw and how to draw it. Pinto and Kurian offer hints and nudges, but that’s about it. And that is a rarity in a world that’s full of staid, run-of-the-mill colouring and activity books, which are extremely popular with parents, who want their children to “be constructive” in their play or reading time as well.

Pinto hopes that parents will encourage children to get this book and draw all over it. “I hope they won’t tell their kids that you must draw a better monster than that, come on beta, I know you have it in you, because what is a better monster?” said Pinto. “I hope they will buy two copies and save one for themselves and draw the monsters themselves because Pama-Muppy also have inner children, starving inner children who must be fed.” Given the popularity of colouring books for adults across the world, and the universal appeal of Monster Garden , this might actually happen. As a child, Pinto said that he had poor hand-eye coordination, mostly because his bad eyesight went undiagnosed until eighth standard. “So I would get failing grades at drawing in school because I did not stay within the lines,” said Pinto. “So this book was designed for all those kids out there who like their colours to break out of the lines, who find that their washes wash everything else out, who have no sense of proportion. It’s for genius kids and we know from Picasso that every child starts out as a grandmaster and then they grow up and lose all sense of great art. This is for those children who did not grow up but who are chronologically called adults too.”

The author writes about education for sustainable development, conservation, and food security. She’s the former editor of Time Out Bengaluru .

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