Ashok Rajagopalan’s book is an imaginative read that will take you on a flight, while Shalini Satish and Raam Baranidharan’s book is an informative read you will want to keep close.
Gulgul in Saregamma
Appropriate for: 8+ years
In 2010, when Gajapati Kulapati was published, it would be the beginning of an enduring love story. The antics of the lovable temple elephant who catches a cold and is wary of inconveniencing his friends became an instant hit with early readers, its alliterative refrains and colourful images making it a perfect book for storytelling meets or independent reading. Much to the delight of its very young (and some old) fans, a whole series of books followed, that regaled readers with a ringside view of Gajapati’s escapades. Published towards the end of 2020, Chennai-based writer-illustrator Ashok Rajagopalan’s The Adventures of Gulgul series is meant for a slightly older audience but its intent remains much the same — to offer a romp of a read. A space fantasy, set in the imaginary planet of Green, the new series follows Gulgul, a precocious little girl, as she embarks on intergalactic adventures. The first three books in the series, Gulgul in Jungalu, Gulgul in See-Saw Gara and Gulgul in Parapara, have now been followed by three more — Gulgul in Up-Up-Purra, Gulgul in Papadom and Gulgul in Saregamma.
As with Gajapati Kulapati, or even Gulgul in Jungalu, elephants and other fantastic creatures abound in the series. At the heart of Gulgul in Saregamma is Nisha the niliphant, a flying yellow elephant with pink wings, whom Gulgul and her classmates encounter on a school excursion to the Saregamma, the planet of music. Nisha is training there under the tutelage of Gaanaguru, the grand maestro, but she’d much rather be back home in Nila with Ninimama and Ninipapa, eating bamboo, bananas and jackfruits. It is up to Gulgul to convince her to return and complete her training, but not before there is a musical performance or two to entertain everyone. It’s a simple linear narrative, one of the reasons why its appeal might be greater for a slightly younger readership, but the clever puns and laugh-out-loud moments are all characteristic Rajagopalan trademarks, sure to delight readers of all ages.
The Little Handbook of Cool Technology
Shalini Satish and Raam Baranidharan
Appropriate for: 9+ years
According to the 2019 Unicef report, “Growing Up in a Connected World”, one of every three children under 18 years happens to be an internet user, while one in every three internet users is a child under 18 years of age. In the years since, of the many changes that the pandemic has wrought, one has been the sharp increase in the number of children using the Web for educational and recreational purposes in the wake of prolonged lockdowns and school closure. The Little Handbook of Cool Technology, the first book in the Young Techie series, introduces readers to not just the wonders of the internet — the way it stores data and disseminates information, how it differs from the human mind in the way it works out problems — but also to fun trivia, always so attractive to nerds young and old (The familiar history of the term Google, for instance: a misspelling of “googol”, a mathematical term meaning 10 raised to the power of 100; or, the fact that at the time of writing the book, Antartica was “the only continent not wired to the internet with submarine cables” — the network that connects 33 countries across four continents in the world).
From artificial intelligence to extended reality to the internet of things, the book touches on important topics with clarity and brevity, providing information in capsules and breaking it up visually with graphics and animation.
But as with all technology, the Web, too, comes with its own dangers. Across the world, the last three two years have seen a record precipitation in cyber crimes against children. In India, the National Crime Records Bureau reported a 400 per cent increase in cyber crimes against children in 2020 in comparison to 2019. While various sensitisation programmes and security measures are being undertaken at an institutional level, given the fact that digital exposure is only likely to increase in the coming years, one effective way of making children aware of the boundaries of the web is to break down the way the internet works to showcase both its advantages and its limitations. While the way the web functions and its miraculous capacity to shrink the world into a device are deftly told, the chapter on cyber security and the Frequently Asked Questions that act as coda are particularly illuminating. There’s a nifty list of dos and don’ts and advice on avoiding malware and strangers who strike us as intrusive. A timely book, this is essential reading not just for children but also for those interested in learning more about the technology that has become routine in our lives.