Dada's Useless Present
Nalini Sorensen
Allen Shaw
age group: 
5+ yrs
Number of pages: 
Karadi Tales
grandparents birthday presents humour
fiction, picture book

HOW many uses can this paper have? With children, this is an easy and delightful game to play – how many uses can a plate have? Or that swing have? Or that spoon? It is a powerful imaginative device and in Karadi’s new picture book by Nalini Sorensen (illustrations by Allen Shaw), we can visually see how.

When Panu’s grandfather (strangely looking like he just arrived from the town of Malgudi) gets a walking stick as a present from his son for his 82nd birthday, he thinks it a useless present. Till he finds he can change the channel with it when the remote is lost, or use it as a spade in the garden, or to pluck mangoes, or to drive crows away, and even as a make-shift stand to hang clothes – the stick becomes useful in many ways, with an unexpected ‘twist’ in the end – more precisely, in the ankle!

The energy of the book, despite being centred on the grandfather and his walking stick, is young and childlike, with curiosity and enthusiasm effortlessly walking hand in hand (no stick required here, either). The illustrations are bright and colourful, with many of them giving us top-angle shots of the scene that somehow gives it an almost cinematic gravity.

My only reservations with the book were the unnecessary inclusion of too many characters in the beginning as part of the birthday celebration – aunts and cousins – who are immaterial to the story; and not enough attention to detail. For instance, when Panu’s grandmother complains of being allergic to the dust in the carpet, Panu’s grandfather takes it out into the garden to beat it clean with his stick and her grandmother is standing right behind him with a smile on her face. Or when the stick is used as a spade, I would have liked to see that part illustrated rather than a static conversation in the kitchen.

But, I think, the real review was when I read it out to my son – aged 6 – he kept muttering ‘walking stick’ under his breath, and for a brief moment in time, I do believe he was with Panu and her grandfather.


Reviewed by Praveena Shivram