My first glance through ‘Nani’s walk to the park’, written and illustrated by Deepa Balsavar, I thought, ‘hmmm sweet book, nice for younger children.’
Then something made me go back and read it again, drawing my eyes to the illustrations which reminded me so much of the characters in my childhood Bal Bharati text books, which I found so charming. I had it laying on the table and found the book call to me. I kept picking it up now and again and browsing through the pages, smiling and enjoying the walk along with Nani and Venki.
Then I wanted to write a review, pronto, like I always do when a book touches me. But since I had received this copy to review from a friend who works with Parag, and she had mentioned that I must use it with my students, I held back. But holding back from writing was struggle and I soon got engrossed in my ‘grown up’ reads.
But what are grown up reads?
Picture books often bring so much of inspiration as does ‘Nani’s walk to the park.’ A detailed book, one could pore over it for days and keep finding some new detail. It reminded me of the detail in the Richard Scarry books my son used to enjoy.
The storyline is simple but as I used it with my students, I soon learnt...also rather profound.
Nani takes Venki for a walk to the park. Although Venki knows the route as well as short cuts, Nani has her own route. Each of the streets that they walk down has been named by Nani.
The Lane of Treasures is the road on which the bazaar is located. It is filled with treasures of all sorts, from chappals to brooms, from samosas to Chinese Behl and soooo much more.
Each street that Nani takes Venki through is named for a special reason. I am going to leave you to discover the names and what they hold. All I can tell you is that you cannot help but smile and think of the lanes in your neighbourhood. But when I did that, all that could come to my memory were the streets of my childhood and I realised that I had lost the joy of just walking and soaking in my surroundings as I got older. Nani helped me realise that we don’t notice the details any more and as a result miss the joy around us.
My students come from affluent families and most travel to school by car or school bus, heads often buried in a device. I felt this was a great book to help my students notice their surroundings and planned an activity around that idea.
I read aloud Nani’s walk to the park to my 5th and 6th mixed age group classes. Initially they were a bit ho-hum, probably thinking it was a ’baby book’. But from the first lane itself, I could see their interest mounting and with every flip of the page I found some children waiting with bated breath for me to flip the page while others shouted out the meaning of Nani’s name for the next lane. There were smiles and lots of craning necks to look at all the details. The children loved the book and the chatter about the details and the exclamations of wonder at the connections of the lane names and the meaning depicted by the illustrations.
At the end of the read aloud, I asked them to lie down and close their eyes. I took them through a guided visualisation of a walk through their school. I took my time as I guided them, stopping briefly at each location so that they could visualise it. When they opened their eyes, they were eager and receptive to what I wanted them to do. I asked them to choose a spot in the school which made them feel the happiest, to draw it and name it just like Nani.
I chose the school for the exercise as it was common to all, and their classmates could see and appreciate the different parts of the school that they saw in each others drawings. I didn’t expect the depth with which the children did this exercise. They were completely involved and came up with some brilliant names and unusual spots around the school which they enjoyed being in.
The most popular were the football field, the library and the primary section playground, but there were quite a few who thought up many other interesting places which I share in these few images.
For homework, I asked them to take a walk around their neighbourhood along with their parents and notice the details around. Some of them looked forward to drawing and renaming the streets.
This book is fascinating for children as young as 3-4, but I can vouch for it engrossing my 8-10 year olds too. Great to build vocabulary and get the children to narrate the story and the details, its illustrations add so much to the text and can be read without the text too by any child who cannot read words yet.
Besides, I loved the message of a lovely slow paced life, the connection between grandparent and grandchild, the details in the ’small stuff’. I couldn’t help but think when we soak in the small stuff, we won’t ‘sweat the small stuff’.
Nani’s walk to the park….a wonderfully detailed book about enjoying the small stuff and creating your own joy.
Nani's Walk to the Park, written and illustrated by Deepa Balsavar and published by Pratham Books