Getting down to the brass tacks about table manners was never this much fun. Icky, Yucky, Mucky is Natasha Sharma’s tale about a messy king’s dilemma, brought to life by Anitha Balachandran’s vivid illustrations
At first glance, this children’s title might come as a surprise. A shock, actually. Soon enough, you are bound to see the point of it all.
Maharani Yucky would bite her nails while Princess Mucky
loved to dig her nose.
Ask co-conspirators, writer Natasha Sharma and illustrator Anitha Balachandran, who have worked on an outlandish fairytale set in Ickhtarpur around King Icky and his dilemmas.
Add a few juggling rossogullas, a nail-biting wife and a nose-digging baby, and you have a story that drives home the point of the importance of table manners, using an unconventional approach.
Kids love it, while parents are amazed by the impact it has already created. We find out what went into creating the icky, yucky, mucky world!
Where did the idea to create non-fairy-tale-like characters in a modern-day kingdom, complete with newspapers, prams and cosmetics emerge from?
The story of Icky, Yucky, Mucky! emerged from the habits themselves. Horrible table manners, nail-biting and nose digging… I would be wrong to point only to children as inspiration! I wanted to present these in a funny, incredibly mucky way as to make a child reading it go YUCK! The horrendous royal family of Ickhtarpur seemed a perfect fit – an antithesis of what one expects royalty to be like, which I felt would make it even more amusing for children. From that point, the characters of Maharaja Icky and Maharani Yucky seemed to slurp and nibble away into their role rather well! The kingdom of Ickhtarpur is timeless for me… it has been around for ages and is still around to welcome anyone who has horrible habits like those of the royal family.
How did Anitha Balachandran and you decide on the illustrations?
Anitha surpassed anything that I could have imagined for the book! As an author, while one has a visual in mind, it often works really well to leave the illustrations to the editor and illustrator. Anitha and my editor at Young Zubaan Anita Roy, each lent their fresh perspective to the story. With the splotches and penciled-in edges Anitha took the story to another level. I know that she enjoyed the story tremendously and with her absolute brilliance, Icky, Yucky, Mucky! has such endearingly messy characters.
What have been some of the initial reactions from kids to this tale?
I have been overjoyed at readings to hear the children say, ‘Yuck!’, ‘Disgusting!’, ‘Show me! Show me!’, ‘EEEEE!’ and have them rolling in hysterics as I’ve licked curry from hand to elbow. Parents have written in to say that their children are trying to identify icky, yucky and mucky siblings. Children have come up to me and said that this is the funniest story they have read and they love it. The book has sold out at all our readings so far. Most have asked for a sequel to it and wondered what Princess Mucky turns out to be like in years ahead. Above all, as much as the children enjoy the gooey tale, it is delightful to hear them say, ‘No! We are not Icky, Yucky or Mucky.’ The message to refrain from these habits has been conveyed with the unexpected twist in the tale and without moralising.
Fingernails, nose dirt, splattering food… what can one expect from your next book?
Stickiness, stinkiness, scratchiness… I’m working on it for the world is so full of messy stuff!
Natasha Sharma will read excerpts from the book at.
Crossword, Turner Road, Bandra (W).
ON March 11
FROM 11.30 am to 12.30 pm
Brush strokes with Anitha Balachandran, Illustrator
STORY BRIEF: I had a brief (!) discussion with Anita (Roy), the editor, at the outset, about keeping the illustrations messy. Then, I worked on a couple of samples, developing a style that I felt would be in keeping with the blithe spirit of the text… using loose pencil lines and splashy watercolours.
COLOUR PALETTE: After Anita and Natasha had taken a look, and we felt the images were working; I went about making the rest of the illustrations. I’ve splattered on practically every colour in my paint box, so I can’t say I had a palette! As an illustrator, it was an unexpected treat to work with both Natasha, and Anita.
I’m often snowed under a mountain of feedback from editors and authors… “let’s change the spots to stripes, can the dog get bigger, the horse sort of horsier?” It can be quite soul-killing really – making the horse, horsier.
I’m thrilled to report that my author and editor on this one were wonderful, wise, trusting of my judgment and allowed me to do as I would. I feel this made for really fresh, inventive illustrations.
THOUGHTS: For picture books, images are every bit as important as the text. You can’t have a picture book without pictures.
Icy, Yucky, Mucky!
by Natasha Sharma; illustrations by Anitha Balachandran; Young Zubaan/ Saadhak Books, Rs 195. Available at leading bookstores.