While I'm Away

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REVIEW

While I'm Away

By : Maegan Dobson Sippy  /  2017

While I'm Away

while-i-m-away.jpg
While I'm Away
Author:
Christy Olson Kennedy
Illustrator:
Prashant Miranda
24 pages
English
Rs 375.00
ISBN: 978-8193166833
Little Latitude, 
2016
Tags : 
Board Book,
Picture Book,
School,
Sharing,
Siblings,
Overall Rating : 
8
Story/Content : 
4
Illustration : 
5
Language : 
4
Design : 
4

The latest addition to Little Latitude’s popular ‘Anahi and Vir’ series is a charming day-in-the-life story that manages to completely capture the nuances of sibling love. Over the course of just five books, these two have become well-known characters in the world of Indian children’s books. Working in an independent children’s bookstore in Bangalore, people frequently drop by and ask for the ‘Anahi and Vir’ books—really quite special, considering that the first was only published in 2011.

Apart from strong writing across the series, this ‘brand identity’ partly has to be credited to Prashant Miranda’s iconic illustrations, which are instantly recognisable. His watercolours are whimsical and stylised, yet manage to show the children’s expressions and feelings, and the world they inhabit, to great effect. It’s not surprising to find out that the characters are modelled on real children, as there is a depth to the way in which they are portrayed which would have been difficult to achieve otherwise.

In this latest offering, older sister Anahi is delighted to be starting school, but sternly warns her brother Vir to ‘make sure to stay/out of my room and/away from toys’ while she spends her day with the ‘big girls and boys’. Vir, of course, is happy to do quite the opposite—reading his sister’s books, playing her games, and renaming all her animals in her absence. Somehow though, as the day goes on, both siblings realise that there are certain things that are much more fun together, perhaps demonstrating that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

The structure, which narrates each sibling’s day separately before they come together at the end, works well, and overall this is an excellent example of how to pace a picture book. The way in which both Anahi and Vir experience the excitement of doing things alone before realising that they miss the other is cute but entirely believable.

As with all of Little Latitude books, the design and production are excellent, and well worth paying slightly more for. Hand lettering throughout by Miranda is a wonderful final touch, and this sturdy board book will certainly withstand multiple handlings by small paws.

It’s always a good sign when you pick up a rhyming picture book that you can easily read aloud without stumbling. Olson Kennedy’s verse scans beautifully throughout and doesn’t feel contrived. This will be perfect bedtime reading for anyone wanting to talk to their kids about sibling relationships, sharing or starting school.

A freelance writer, Maegan came to India to work with Tara Books in 2010, and has had a soft spot for visual books for children ever since. Together with Bijal Vachharajani she now runs the Instagram handle BAM! Books, which curates children’s book recommendations with a South Asian focus. Her first picture book, Rats Bigger Than Cats, is due to be published by Karadi Tales shortly. She lives in Bangalore with her husband, daughter and cat.

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