Interview with Anushka Ravishankar, Author of “Vaccines for Smartpants”Explore the insightful interview with Anushka Ravishankar, the author of '' Vaccines for Smartpants" on Frontlist.
on Nov 13, 2023
Frontlist: Your works are celebrated for their unique style and whimsical narratives. What draws you to writing in this distinct manner?
Anushka: I suppose everyone writes the kind of books they enjoy reading. I love whimsy and nonsense; I like absurdity. I love the way words create sound and meaning. That's the kind of thing I want to read, so that's the kind of thing I write.
Frontlist: What was the thought process behind creating the SmartyPants series and explaining science to children through a cat?
Anushka: My editor Sayoni Basu asked me to write a series about science for small children because she knows I'm a science nut. She also knew that I would write something other than solemn science. So, the brief was wacky science books for small children. The cat wandered into it as cats tend to do. As I wrote the books, the cat assumed a definite character, and I had great fun with the wacky ways in which the cat responded to the science.
The SmartyPants series introduces children to intricate scientific concepts like Newton's laws of motion, vaccines, earthquakes, etc. How do you balance the need for scientific accuracy with making the content accessible and enjoyable for children?
While writing these books, sometimes I had to choose between accuracy and comprehension. I chose comprehension. A bit of fuzziness is okay if it means the child will get the gist of the concept. So some details have been dropped because they make it too complicated, sometimes the language isn't as 'scientific' as it would be in a textbook, because I've preferred the familiar word to the textbook one. The important thing for me was to communicate the essence of these scientific concepts through simple explanations and silly conversations with the cat!
Frontlist: Illustrations are a significant part of children's books. How do the illustrations in your series complement the narrative and contribute to the learning experience?
Anushka: I was very lucky that Sayoni asked Pia Alize Hazarika to illustrate the series. She has really done a marvelous job. On the one hand, she had to do diagrams and illustrations to explain the science clearly, and on the other, she had to manage the wacky cat conversations. And all this in a single spread because each spread has science and at least one silly cat joke. She's balanced it admirably, and the way she's used patterns and colors makes every page a joyful experience. She's managed to convey the cat's character with minimal and stylized lines and colors. Pia's illustrations add to the comprehensibility of the book and to the enjoyment of the reader.
Frontlist: What do you hope the lasting impact of the SmartyPants series will be on young readers, both in terms of their understanding of science and their love for reading?
Anushka: I hope the children who read these books will become science nuts and bookworms. Then, my mission on Earth will be done. Okay, that's too ambitious. I just hope they have fun. If they enjoy the silly cat conversations and not the science, that's okay, too.
Are there any unexplored genres or styles you would like to venture into in your future literary endeavors?
Oh, many. I'll try everything except horror. I draw a line at that.