Hic! Book coverAuthor Anushka Ravishankar’s nonsense verse gave illustrator Christiane Pieper the opportunity to not only faithfully visualise the text but, more interestingly, create her own scenery.

  • Title: Hic!
  • Author: Anushka Ravishankar
  • Illustrator: Christiane Pieper
  • Reading level: From 6 years
  • Date published: September 19, 2017
  • Publisher: Tara Books
  • Country: India
  • Country printed in: India
  • Eco-friendly Printing: Printed on a Risograph using organic, soy-based ink
  • This book bought from Tara Books building in Chennai, India

1. Simple story met with big, full scenery

Author Anushka Ravishankar is frequently referred to as India’s Dr Seuss. With Hic! she delivers a hilarious nonsense verse of eight full lines that alternate and rhyme with seven hics and one big burp at the end. The story is simple: an unnamed little girl has the hiccups and is driven to try any crazy way to get rid of them. The illustrator did three things:

  • (A) She faithfully visualised the parts with direct and clear actions, e.g. “Drink a pail of water, standing on a brick.”
  • (B) She took the opportunity to expand on these instances by drawing up full scenery around them. Pieper depicted different familiar scenes and aspects of India, complete with floods and a teacher in a kurta.
  • (C) She grabbed the opportunity given by some of Ravishankar’s lines that were open-ended, to match the nonsense text with her own pictorial stories. For example, one of the most vivid two-page spreads is a street scene complete with overflowing tuk-tuks, a buffalo and elephants.

I’ve read a lot of books that do (A) and (B) but not as many are given the room by the text to co-create.

Tara Books works with designers, artists and illustrators from around the world, often incubating collaborations. When I had the good fortune to visit the publisher in the week of Aug 22, 2018, it was when one of its artists-in-residence, Anais Beaulieu, was presenting her embroidery works in progress for a textile art book project.

Ravishankar and Pieper have partnered on at least two books before. Longer-term creative partnerships often develop a level of familiarity and trust in each person’s work, by the publisher and/or the author and illustrator themselves. In the case of Hic! it’s a joy that the reader is able to not just read the story textually but also pictorially.  

1. Hand-bound book, eco-friendly printing

Tara Books is a Chennai, India-based independent publisher that is well-known for its hand-bound books. It is primarily a visual arts publisher, which lends itself very well to picture books, children’s books included. Tara says its print shop employs over 25 bookmaking artisans on a fair trade basis. Hic! was printed on a Risograph, an eco-friendly printing system, using organic, soy-based inks. The pages are hand-bound in Tara’s book-making workshop. 

Note: This post expands and is adapted from the original on Aug 22 on the Instagram @emmyloveschildrensbooks