Sakshi Singh’s book of poems, Jalebi Jingles, appears to have been inspired by Shel Silverstein’s anthologies of verse for children. Or maybe it wasn’t – it’s quite tiresome for writers to create something that they believe is original, only to be told that they sound ‘inspired’. It isn’t our fault that we were born so late…bah.
There are 38 poems in this collection. The poems are short and whimsical – Watch Yoga, for example, is about the ways in which a wristwatch can twist itself. The black and white illustrations by Sushil Jangam that accompany each poem are fun and useful for the child reader to grasp the meaning of the lines. And how nice to see a Papa in a lungi for once (The Pencil Got a Shave)!
I’m confused about the audience for the book though – some of the poems get into tedious explanations that appear to be for a foreign audience and some of it assumes that the child reader is already familiar with Indian contexts.
Take the poems Peri Pauna and Math Teacher. The first starts with ‘If you see a bunch of kids in India’ and goes on to tell the reader about the practice of children touching the feet of elderly people in the country. However, this practice is prevalent in most parts of India and it’s not called ‘peri pauna’ everywhere, obviously. The author says in a footnote that this is a ‘Punjabi’ expression but the poem suggests that this is what all Indian kids call it – a bit of unnecessary homogenization that we could have done without.
The second is about a child who gives up Math because her teacher hits her – with a ruler, no less. The cheerful casualness with which the subject is treated makes one suspect that this scenario is out of an Indian classroom from the 90s or earlier… and that the author doesn’t expect the reader to be shocked or surprised by it.
The tone of Indian Roads with its description of cows, spitting people and beggars, borders on exoticizing a perfectly ordinary experience for Indian children, while My Help is Missing is a lament about an errant domestic help. Not sure why the last one appears in a book that’s meant for children.
Singh’s writing is most effective when she isn’t encumbered by the need to explain ‘culture’ or what people in India do. I liked the silly, somewhat philosophical The Blue Mug That Broke – it’s about a child who buys a blue mug knowing very well that s/he is going to break it. But the child buys it anyway and the mug breaks just as the kid had known it would.
Stairs and A Hole in my Shoe are others that I enjoyed. These are simple, imaginative poems that made me smile. Poems like Nom Nom Nomkeen and Plum-Plink-Phish! have onomatopoeic words that will work well as read-alouds. Mani and Mohan, which is about two boys who are travelling on a plane for the first time, is quietly insightful.
The book could have done with some serious proof-reading. For instance, ‘it’s’ almost always appears as ‘its’ – and unfortunately, the misuse and abuse of the apostrophe gets on my nerves more than it should. On the whole, Jalebi Jingles is a worth a read but it could have been a better book with some tighter editing and redrafts.
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- Short, whimsical poems that are easy to memorize.
- Fun illustrations.
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- Could have been conceptualized better.
- Needs another round of proof-reading.
This book of verse… some of it is better, some of it is verse.
A copy of this book was given to Plus Minus ‘n’ More by the author in return for an honest review. Thanks Sakshi.