During the pandemic, Sudha Murty’s books have served as a source of joy and comfort for children, whether it is the Grandma’s Bag of Stories or The Bird with Golden Wings. The style of storytelling might be simple, but the tales themselves are layered with wit and emotions. Her new book, How The Earth Got Its Beauty, carries forth in a similar vein. Just like her previous stories like the Gopi Diaries, this one too is a tale of transformation, about trying to tap into one’s inner goodness. Published by Puffin, the book is aimed at 5-8 year olds, and features illustrations by Priyanka Pachpande. They are vibrant and tap into Indian motifs and folk forms to bring this story to life.
How The Earth Got its Beauty prods kids to observe and appreciate the natural beauty all around us. Murty got the idea for the book during one of her travels, when she began to think about the artist who “made this delightful chaos” And this story came to her in a flash.
The book is set in the decades following the creation of earth. Humans can be seen living in harmony, making use with the resources at hand. Mother Earth decides to find out if humans are indeed leading a good life and comes to a village in the disguise of a ten-year-old girl. As she meets three sisters, Sunaina, Shyama and Seeta, she realises that there are tremors of discontent in their souls—a longing for something different from their present realities. While one sister wants to see snow-capped mountains, another wants a big blue waterbody and fruits that tasted like nectar. The third wants to see animals, birds and insects in the most vibrant colours possible.
Is their wish fulfilled? As the story unfolds, one comes across consequences of letting arrogance and ambition take over ideas of greater good. It also shows the perils of counting one’s chickens before they are hatched. There are several such ideas underlying the story, but at no point does Murty allow the book to get preachy. The message to kids is to always be compassionate towards nature. “Whenever humans become selfish and uncaring towards Mother Earth, she makes her presence felt and restores the balance in the world…” writes Murty. There couldn’t be a wiser lesson, perhaps, at a time when the world is witnessing the perils of climate change.