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Lights, Chimera, Action!

In front of my office is a children’s nursery school, and listening to the little ones recite their own patent version The Lord’s Prayer as part of their morning assembly routine always fills me with vigour for the new day .

Awah fatah , wu hat in efun
hallo be daih nem , daih kindon kon…

I would remember with bitter-sweet memory those times when my own children were in that phase of their lives. I would remember them for the lack of guile and intrigue that is unique to children. Those little ones just get up and do their thing not caring whether you applaud or disapprove. But they are grown up now, those children of mine. They’d grown up too fast and left home to start their own families and to have their own children. The greatest challenges of life may come, I think, when you are still in your early fifties and your children don’t need you to take care of them anymore and have all grown up and gone away, and you are at a loss as to what to do with the rest of your life. Writing for children solved that problem for me.

What is it that makes a good children’s writer? I have for long discovered that children trust me immensely. It is not unusual for a weeping child to stop crying on sighting me and I only need to stretch out my hands for the impossible toddler to willingly come into my arms even to the amazement of the parents. Often a child walking along the road would turn to look at me and find it hard to look away. This is sometimes an uncomfortable situation and it wasn’t until much later in life that I realized toddlers and young children may actually still retain much of the primitive communication ability that they possess while in the womb – they are able to feel a good person , to feel compassion and camaraderie even if they don’t understand what this means. Telling stories for children is difficult – it is the point where creative writing and creative reading meet without any hint of intrigue. You need to be compassionate with the child and to understand how they want to have their stories told to them .Unless you know how the mind of a child works, your stories will not make much sense to them.

Leopard and Galogalo is a longer story written for older children from six up. I say this only because it is usually required to define the audience for your work. I actually many kids as young as three should be able to follow and enjoy the story. The Leopard and Galogalo is about a strange and curious animal, feared by every other animal not only because of its chimerical appearance but also because it was cunning and evil. Somehow it became good friends with Leopard even in spite of warnings from the latter’s wife. Galogalo then persuades Leopard to be permitted to paint beautiful spots on Leopards cubs, but all he eventually does is eat them. All subsequent plans by Leopard for revenge come to naught and eventually lead to Leopards death. Galogalo celebrates his conquest too loudly however to the result that he is caught and executed for its wickedness

Folktales should always come with a moral payload however small, even though the primary objective is to entertain , to give hope and to become the pedestal of strong moral and life goals. To the reader, the child, there is assurance in the fact that the evil Galogalo is severely punished in the end.

From my coming book – a collection of essays , extracts from published books , autobiographical notes and more.

Read The Leopard and Galogalo

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