Once in a while, we get a book that comes like a breath of fresh air–a new, completely unusual perspective and a style of writing that is not usually encountered in children’s books. Shals’ book came like a blast of fresh air! Here was a book that dealt with the little troubles of childhood, but with such a sensitive eye and such gentle, wry humour that we immediately knew we had to do it. The other thing I love about Timmi in Tangles is the way it subtly cocks a snook at the gender-inequitable, class-ridden world we live in. We also struck gold in the illustrator–Shreya Sen read the book and identified with it totally! She’s brought a joyous playfulness to the illustrations, that go perfectly with the mood of the book.
I love Timmi, and I love her world. Her mother and Kamal-masi and Idli-amma and Juju the Giant feel like old friends I know well.
Perhaps because Shals started off with no thought of target age group or publication in mind, there was a special quality to the stories which one finds very seldom. Somewhere, when one writes for children, because there are real or imaginary people in the writer’s mind, this tends to influence the way the story reads. In our first reading of Shals’s stories, this awareness of missing in the writing–and that gave it a certain magical flavour.
Some of the dilemmas that Timmi faces are quite complex ones, but Shals approaches them so entirely from a child’s point of view. As an adult I read them (and the stories) joyfully but I was quite interested in the response when I read them with a seven-year-old–who laughed at the funny bits, but also got very stressed in a couple of parts–because he identified so whole-heartedly with Timmi’s problems. And that, I thought, was the mark of absolutely spot-on writing.
Shreya’s illustrations add so much joy to the book! Her Timmi and Idli-amma (my two favourite characters) are exactly as I had imagined!