“Some people feel the rain , others just get wet” ~ Bob Marley
The pitter patter of raindrops, the fresh petrichor, the dance of the peacock… the sound, smell and sights of the monsoon usher in magic and have long been an inspiration for writers. Children’s literature abounds in prose and poetry drenched in various hues of this wet and vibrant season.
Seen as an end to an oppressive summer, many children’s books depict a yearning for rain. In Little Frog, a tiny frog counts down the days leading to the arrival of black clouds in the sky that promise a downpour. Meanwhile, in Monsoon a young girl readies her paper boats and tries ringing the temple bells in a bid to end the melting heat. The joy is palpable, when it finally begins to rain.
In Peacocks and Pakodas, Meenu celebrates the season singing Raag Miyan ki Malhaar and gobbling hot pakoras. Others like the young boy and his grandfather in Monsoon Afternoon take their time to linger, laugh about the ‘pearl earrings’ the water drops form on Dadaji’s ear, notice the ants disappearing and slowly realize that the monsoon would continue even when the little boy would be as old as his Dadaji! ‘Ooo! Ooo! Shay! Shay! Zzzak! Zzzak! Gadaam! Gudoom! Sittasitta! Pittapitta! Sittasitta! Pittapitta! Plip! Plip! Plip! Plip!’… in Sunu-Sunu Snail: Storm in the Garden, a tiny snail narrates the many sights and sounds of the monsoon to its mother.
Colourful raincoats, printed umbrellas and boots are among the many timeless visuals of the monsoon. In Ruskin Bond’s Blue Umbrella little Binya’s silky, bright umbrella fascinates everyone and becomes an object of envy even for adults! A restless Manu in the Red Raincoat just can’t wait to don his new rain gear, to run out and splash in the puddles, and hilarity ensues when seven animals attempt to find shelter from the rain in Nandini Nayar’s Red Umbrella.
Rains also play spoilsport, sometimes. In Mina vs the Monsoon, Mina is angry at being stuck at home without soccer. But she soon discovers other fun things to do at home on a rainy day and an unexpected companion to play. Little Anju in Raindrops, looks out wistfully from her window, mesmerized by the magic of the rain until she notices a puppy without any shelter.
Although the rain can be fun, sometimes, ‘lots and lots and lots of rain’ is frightening. Big Rain is a lyrical account of the devastation unleashed by the monsoon. When the Rain Comes vividly paints the drama and danger of the wind, rain and flash floods as Malini valiantly tries to protect her rice seedlings. Rain: A City Through a Season paints a visual journey through the monsoon, drawing attention to the pernicious effects of rain in urban spaces – the leaking roofs, slippery streets and building collapses. Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy juxtaposes the life of two children in a poignant verse on the vagaries of extreme weather and its impact on human lives.
Narratives on climate change are difficult to ignore in any discussion on the monsoon. As the planet heats up, floods and droughts become increasingly common. In Unruly Waters: How Mountain Rivers and Monsoons Have Shaped South Asia’s History, Sunil Amrith highlights the tale of drought, flooding, famine, water management and mismanagement in the Indian subcontinent. A Cloud called Bhura – Climate Champions to the Rescue brings out the heavy cost of extreme weather on the underprivileged whose lives are thrown out of gear by flooding. Set in the future, The Little Rainmaker presents a grim portrait of an acute environmental crisis where ten-year-old Anoushqa has never seen rain and doesn’t believe in the stories that her grandfather tells of rainbows, thunder and lightning.
All these accounts point to an urgent need to conserve rainwater that replenishes the underground water table and is a vital source of potable water. Using the simplest of words and visuals, Let’s catch the rain tells the youngest readers that rainwater is free, pure and precious and we must save it. The Case of the Missing Water depicts the effects of water shortage and allows readers to ponder about water management. Pedru and the Big Boom deftly brings out the effects on mining on the water table and I Spy a Lake! opens up opportunities to discuss how to protect our water bodies from pollution.
The monsoon has a tremendous history in India. Festivals like Teej, centre around the rain. In addition to literature, many movies and songs have immortalised it. In the past, as rivers raged and broke their banks, and the ground turned to slush, armies simply could not march. So warfare came to a halt, making this a season of peace. In fact, extended dry spells often paved the way for war! As a drought-prone region, the Indian subcontinent has valued the rain and continues to rely on it for agrarian prosperity. There are countless ways in which the monsoon is a giver of life and children’s literature is the best place to begin vital discussions on the miracles of this season and the impact of climate change.
List of Books
- Peacocks and Pakodas! by Mala Kumar, Manisha Chaudhry
- Rain: A City Through a Season written by Vinitha Ramchandani, Illustrations by Kripa
- A Cloud Called Bhura: Climate Champions to the Rescue by Bijal Vachharajani
- Sunu-sunu Snail: Storm in the Garden by Sandhya Rao, Illustrations by Ashok Rajagopalan
- Little Frog (Bilingual) by Ranjitham Paul, Illustrations by T R Rajesh
- Red Umbrella by Nandini Nayar, Illustrations by Soumya Menon
- Raindrops by Vaishali Shroff, Illustrations by Ruchi Mhasane.
- A Monsoon Afternoon by Kashmira Sheth, Illustrations by Yoshiko Jaeggi
- Peacocks and Pakodas by Manisha Chaudhry and Mala Kumar, Illustrations by Priya Kuriyan.)
- Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami, Illustrations by Jamel Akib
- The Red Raincoat by Kiran Kasturia, Illustrations by Zainab Tambawalla.
- Mina vs the Monsoon by Rukhsana Guidroz, Illustrations by Debasmita Dasgupta.
- Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Daiman, Illustrations by Archana Sreenivasan
- The Case of the Missing Water by Shalini Srinivasan
- I Spy a Lake! By Menaka Raman
- Boondi’s Story-Water by Shubhangi Goel, Sankhalina Nath, Rajasee Ray, Anushka Kalro
- Let’s Catch The Rain! by Vinod Lal Heera Eshwer
- The Little Rainmaker by Roopal Kewalya
- Unruly Waters: How Mountain Rivers and Monsoons Have Shaped South Asia’s History by Sunil Amrith