Having easy, yet interesting, books to read at a young age play a great part in getting children interested in reading. And if these books are part of the class readers at the primary level, then it turns boring school work into a pleasure.

Here are two books that are ideal for the bookshelves of children who get thrilled by not just reading interesting short stories, but also looking at expressive illustrations that are as much responsible for storytelling as the words in a book are.

Zainab Mahmood Ahmad’s Tinga’s Car and Tinga Meets Purple Pete, by OUP, revolve around Tinga, the clown. The first one, Tinga’s Car, is for kids three years and older, and so the words have a very musical quality about them, making them ideal as a read aloud book. I can visualise a group of Kindergarten children enjoying the “Pa-parra-pa-pum-pum” of the car and the almost lyrical lines that lead to a poem at the end.

It is so relatable when Tinga goes on a ride in his car and gets impressed with anything he sees moving — a bus, a hot air balloon and then an aeroplane — and thinks everything else is better than his own old car. Don’t we all get fascinated with what others have and then what we possess starts to appear so ordinary and dull to us?

Ahmad’s experience as an educationist is well reflected in how she imparts subtle lessons that deal with emotions children feel, but are too confused to handle them well. Thus they get swept away by feelings easily, without always differentiating right from wrong.

This is more apparent in her next book, Tinga Meets Purple Pete, for readers five years or older, about a very relatable situation at school dealing with being a misfit and being made fun of — which I would not call bullying as that is too strong a word to be applicable here.

Here Purple Pete is a new boy in Tinga’s class, who is made fun of on the first day of school for having tiny feet. The other kids notice this and just start laughing and joking, while Purple Pete gets sad at this. Tinga finds this upsetting and wrong, and the next day something happens as part of their lesson that swiftly changes the other children’s perception of Purple Pete, thanks to Tinga’s smart thinking and support for his new friend.

The lesson that it is our differences that make us unique is a useful one in this story. And what I liked most about it was that the kids who had made fun of Purple Pete were not painted as bad and they were not badly put down for their behaviour because, many a times, especially at a young age, children do a lot of things without purposely meaning to be mean. They just don’t realise the hurt they are causing and they quickly make up for that once they are made to see and do things differently.

Ahmed has other books in the series coming up and they sure are going to be a good addition to books for the early years as these two are.

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 1st, 2020

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