Another sizzling summer is upon us. But, in a few months, the raging heat will give way to a thundering monsoon and eventually, the coldness of winter will close our year. With its varied landscapes, India enjoys a rich heritage of seasons and children’s literature offers a vibrant insight to this cyclical pattern of life.
“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
— Yoko Ono
Changing seasons are probably the simplest reminders of the rhythm of nature and a silent lesson that there is nothing as certain as change. With its varied landscapes, India witnesses various hues of the six seasons – spring, summer, monsoon, autumn, pre-winter and winter. Even the youngest children notice this change as they put on nice hats, fluffy warm sweaters or sturdy raincoats, depending on the weather outside. Children’s literature is replete with books that capture the significance of seasonal change for young readers.
Among the most common are books that tie in weather change to the diverse traditions and festivals we celebrate. Pratham’s gorgeously illustrated series Indian Seasons & Festivals by Mala Kumar and Priya Kuriyan is a great introduction to this theme. The books in this series:
‘Everything Looks New’, ‘Hot Tea and Warm Rugs’, ‘Kheer on a Full Moon Night’, ‘Lassi, Ice-cream or Falooda’ and ‘Peacocks and Pakodas’ take the youngest readers on a joyous ride through spring, winter, autumn, summer and monsoon. The series begins with the young protagonist planting a little sapling in spring. This reappears through the various books, as the wide-eyed child watches the changes around her. From changes in nature outside, to festivals, clothing and food at home, the text is rich in details that readers would relish.
Rachna Chhabria’s Festival Stories Through the Year is another book that uses storytelling to offer readers a rich insight to seasonal change through the festive lens. Meanwhile, Avanti Mehta and Nirupama Sekhar’s The Kite Tree is a poetic ode to the seasons and the wondrous changes they bring to a tree on top of a hill.
Seasonal eating provides a rich palate that is a healthy and sustainable way to encourage local farmers. In Bijal Vachharajani’s What’s Neema Eating Today? little Neema finds herself chomping through a delectable spread all year long. From juicy mangoes and slippery lychees in summer, to sunny corn in the monsoon and sour tamarind in winter, the book is delicious reminder to embrace variety rather than sticking to favourites and staying in our comfort zones.
While talking of seasonal change, it is impossible to ignore the impact of human-induced global warming on seasonal patterns. As trees are felled, the perfect weather of Shajarpur slowly undergoes a change, with a few extra days of summer, winter, or some extra rain. But the townsfolk are too busy to notice, until air conditioners are suddenly needed to quell the rising temperatures. In Savi and the Memory Keeper Bijal Vachharajani, among India’s most well-known writers of stories on climate change, weaves a funny and thoughtful narrative on resilience in the face of personal loss, grief and an ever-warming world.
Like the mountain goat in Alison Byrnes’ poignant At Least I’m Okay! if we remain unaffected by the changes around us, until trouble hits home, it may indeed be too late. Yet, through its pattern of changes, nature continues prompting and prodding us – if only we notice. In the words of the American writer, Daniel Abraham “We say that flowers return every spring, but that is a lie. It is true that the world is renewed. The flower that wilted last year is gone. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid. And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.”
List of Books
- Indian Seasons & Festivals Beginner Reader Series by Pratham Books
- Everything looks new! by Mala Kumar, Manisha Chaudhry
- Hot Tea and Warm Rugs by Mala Kumar, Manisha Chaudhry
- Lassi, Ice-cream or Falooda? by Mala Kumar, Manisha Chaudhry
- Peacocks and Pakodas! by Mala Kumar, Manisha Chaudhry
- What’s Neema Eating Today? by Bijal Vachharajani
- The Kite Tree by Avanti Mehta
- Festival Stories Through the Year by Rachna Chhabria
- A Cloud Called Bhura: Climate Champions to the Rescue by Bijal Vachharajani
- Grrrs to Hisses and their homes’ by Katie Bagli and Paramita Mullicki
- Savi And The Memory Keeper by Bijal Vachharajani
- At Least I’m Okay! By Alison Byrnes
- Seasons with Zayn and Zoey by Tvisha Doctor
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