Books aplenty for children
Children of all ages have plenty to read nowadays. It's particularly good that more and more local stories are being written for them. Another welcome trend is that they are being made available in Sinhala and English. At a time when the accent is on the teaching of English, children are getting a chance to enjoy reading stories with a local touch.
Among the most recent children's books released are two by author P.G. Punchihewa continuing the Mahi Pancha (small fly) series. Mahi Pancha is a popular character created by him. The English book is titled 'Mahi Pancha and Ali Pancha'. As the name suggests it relates the story of Mahi Pancha meeting a small elephant for the first time. Mahi Pancha does a round riding the elephant and observes various parts of the elephant's body. Punchihewa cleverly describes the functions of these for the little reader.
The book has two more stories - one on Mahi Pancha enjoying a treat at a child's place and Mahi Pancha's adventures on a Vesak night. Here again the writer creates a vivid picture of the happenings on a Vesak night - the pandals, 'dan salas' and so on.The new Sinhala book - 'Mahi Panchai Mahi Pancheei' relates the story of Mahi Pancha's wedding.
He is now king and has enough and more work to attend to. His mother wants him to get married. With reluctance he agrees. The wedding is described in detail in the story Punchihewa has created. The beautiful illustrations by Sybil Wettasinghe make the story colourful and intereting.Incidentally, Sybil has done the illustrations for the English book as well.
Kumaratunga's first reader
Eminent scholar Kumaratunga Munidasa wrote 'Kiyavana Nuwana' - the first reader 72 years ago - in 1938. The book was out of print for a long time and has just been reprinted.
Accepted as a great contribution towards moulding a child's growing mind, 'Kiyavana Nuwana' is a lively book written with the intention of getting the child to learn the correct usage of the language. The book has been written in a very absorbing style. It is a mix of stories, little poems and basic exercises after each lesson. It is an adventurous journey for the child as he enters school. He meets friendly animals, he learns about the day to day happenings in school, he observes the environment around him and picks up interesting incidents.
The ever-popular poem 'Ha ha hari hawa - Kele median aawa' which is included in the book brings back memories even to the elders who used to recite it in their young days. The charming story of the hare noticing a dog is related in several poems intermingled with questions the reader has to answer.
Illustrator Shantha K. Herath's drawings make the new edition a most pleasing one.
In another Visidunu publication titled 'Api', Saumya Kodagoda along with Sybil presents a beautiful little lesson on love and affection. It highlights the need to love one's mother, father and family members as well as the family pets and flowers. It also carries the message of respecting elders.
Delightful song book
A delightful book of children's verses and songs is Sunil Sarath Perera's 'Mal perahera'. The collection describes incidents and happenings which children observe in their daily life. Easy to remember simple words have been used in the songs which can also be sung easily.
A lot of imagination has gone into Sunil's compositions. A child climbs on to a hillock in the village. His desire is to go up and wave to the train that he can see below. The story of the four blind men describing an elephant is presented imaginatively as is the gamarala's visit to the heavens.
In his creations Sunil cleverly introduces sounds that children hear often thereby creating a vivid picture in their minds. The 'kuchu kuchu' noise of the upcountry train, the noise created by incessant rain, the drum beats in the 'perahera','sata sata' sound of the winds, - they all add feeling to the subject.
A most interesting composition is the one on the Sinhala alphabet. In 'Akura' he uses words creatively with the particular letter he explains. The letter's shape and form are also described.