Eating The Alphabet

Eating The Alphabet

In Chitwan Mittal’s picture book J is for Jalebi (AdiDev Press; 2021), fluffy idlis, piping hot khichdi, a mount of yakhni pulao and vadas swimming in sambar take over from the ball, the alphabet.

In many ways, the book is an ode to her five-year-old foodie son, says Mittal. When he was three, she was keen to introduce him to picture book. She recalls walking into bookstores in Singapore, where the live, and feeling like the options on the shelves simply wouldn’t work. The images looked like they had been downloaded off the internet, or were entirely alien to his world, she says.

She decided to make her own book for him. Should she use colours, animals? “Food! That was the book, I realised. My son already loved good food.”

Mittal, who has run the Gurugram- based publishing house AdiDev Press since 2020, teamed up with artist Ambika Karandikar to illustrate words that were already part of his vocabulary, and his menu.

Each food sketch – the titular jalebi, a glass of milk, a pair of coconuts – is accompanied by a sketch of children engaging with the ingredient, A little girl giggles with the glass, and a white milk moustache. One child uses the coconuts as tables.

“Children are really tickled play with each food item,” Mittal says.

Up next for the publishing house: A seek-and-find board book called 1,2,3… Idles in a Sambhar Sea by Ashwitha Jayakumar, which aims to introduce children to numbers, through iconic dishes from cities across India.

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