Learning and chocolate cake

OVER THE past few years children's fiction - especially in English - has seen a spurt, and numerous titles have flooded the market. Prices vary according to binding, printing quality and the publishing house, but whatever the investment, the accent is on well-produced colourful books that are likely to entice the young ones. Yet brushing aside the truism that a book is not to be judged by its cover is bound to lead the discerning reader into trouble, for the simple reason that English is not a language easily handled, and often the prettiest children's books are couched in language that the English teacher or careful parent would want the young readers to unlearn.

"Guddu in Chocolate-Cake Land" by Jagannath Sharma - a recent publication of Minerva Press Private Limited - is the story of a rather typical little boy who is fonder of chocolate than his mother would have. When teeth and tummy rebel and the little glutton has to be banished from the sight of the sweets he is still tempted by, he goes off to console himself in the garden, and that is where his adventures begin. As in the case of many a hero, it is Guddu's fault that leads him on to higher things.

A temptation for many children's authors - perhaps thought a duty by some - is to put a moral into the tale. This one is no exception, considering how parents have to lay down the law regarding snacks as opposed to `proper food'.

In his distress, Guddu meets a tiny old man whose unbridled desire for chocolate has led to his possessing a completely toothless though bright grin. Contrary to expectations perhaps, the old man leads Guddu not into a sweet-deprived penitentiary, but into a land where even the bridges and furniture, the grass and the buildings are made of chocolate and cake and ice cream rains from the sky.

In such a wondrous place does Guddu find that sometimes the most difficult tasks are laced with sweetness. This is a fantasy tale that should attract young readers.


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