The Clever Tailor
Written by Srividhya Venkat and illustrated by Nayantara Surendranath
Having lived in New Delhi for 3 and a half years, picture books set in India always have a big draw for me and my family. ‘The Clever Tailor’ is no exception.
‘The Clever Tailor’ came out last year from award winning Indian publishing house Karadi Tales, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It didn’t disappoint either and if I am right it won the Peekaboo Children’s Choice award last year and I can definitely see why.
Srividhya Venkat has taken a traditional European fairytale and turned it cleverly on its head, not only by setting it in India but also in terms of its linguistic style. On most pages there is a Hindi word used, which gives the writing a rich texture and sound. Srividhya Venkat has been clever though not to overdo it. She has written it carefully to make sure it never feels alienating to non-Hindu speakers. Instead the Hindi words are slipped into the story seamlessly, offering opportunities for all children to learn new words, even foreign, without batting an eyelid!
The illustrations do admittedly help, they tell the story well. They are bold and colourful and full of the unique textile designs that remind me of my time in India. If I could transport the block-printing textiles from Delhi to my current location I would be so very happy. Nayantara Surendranath has maintained a bright and joyful colour pallet, which helps lighten the Tailor’s personal struggle in the story, just like the fabrics that thrive throughout India. The illustrations weave and billow just like fabric throughout the story so cleverly. It really is a fun way to engage in the rich history and culture of gorgeous India textiles.
One thing that I particularly loved was the variety of pattern and colour used. In India, men often wear flower patterns and bright colours such as orange and pink without any issues. How refreshing that is! Only the other week my 7-year-old son sadly got teased as there was a small mark of pink on his trainers. Let’s hope we can learn a lesson from Rupa Ram and his fabrics.
The story itself is well written, about a tailor who despite his skill has never had enough money to make something beautiful for his own family. With the gift of a saafa his luck changes and we are taken on a journey with him as he stiches beautiful things for all his loved ones. Srividhya Venkat writes with simplicity and ease using repetitive language and wonderful page turns to engage young readers. It has a strong theme of family love and pride in ones work throughout and the universal message we journey to at the end is powerful – unlike the tailors fabric, a good story never gets worn out!