On the final day of Hindustan Times Bookaroo in the City powered by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust I was privileged to accompany Penny Dolan to the Gairatpur Baas Panchayat School, where we were joined by children from Baas State School and S D Adarsh Vidyalaya School.

Penny is a writer of picture books and novels, a storyteller and a playwright. She is based in Yorkshire, England and has performed in libraries, museums, art galleries and historic sites as well as schools.

Happy faces

Happy faces

The day started early and we only got a little bit lost going to Tikli Bottom. Even so, the first group of children was eagerly waiting and although not quite the age group Penny was expecting, she engaged them immediately with a fun, tongue-twisting, repeat after me game. Nonsense words break down all language barriers. Hand clapping, thigh slapping, actions and facial expressions, high voice, low voice, loud and quiet.

Penny used all these devices to captivate all ages through four sessions. The younger children were encouraged to share songs they knew and learn a new song with actions. They all joined in eagerly. I spotted one of the teachers transcribing the words. The older children were given an insight into how stories become books with illustrations and how things may change through the editing stages. The best part of all was the story telling.

Penny adapted stories for the cultural differences and made sure the language was at the appropriate level. I loved chappati man who was eaten eventually by the tiger. There were also readings and adaptations from Penny’s published books. Big Bad Blob seemed very popular. One boy said he loved stories about witches and Penny made one up on the spot, a variation of a Russian folk tale.

A discussion with the teachers who felt they had learnt so much was followed by the most delicious lunch, which we shared under the tree in the beautiful surroundings of Tikli Bottom.


Wendy Knight