Creature Chronicles: Creating Exciting Animal Stories

By Ashika Thusu Samuel, Educator

A masterclass on Day 2 of the Neev Literature Festival was overflowing with many participants and eager students wanting to join in and learn how to a creative animal story. The session was to be conducted by renowned, award-winning author Bijal Vachharajani and prolific, award winning illustrator Rajiv Eipe (out of the three books shortlisted for the Neev Book Award 2023 in the Emerging Readers category, Rajiv illustrated two, and won the award along with writer Chatura Rao for the book Sweet Shop Wars (Duckbill), a charming tale of friendship).  The excitement and eagerness could be seen in the degree of participation. Unlike an everyday classroom, children were enthusiastically sharing their views during the entire session. 

A classroom brimming with young readers and artists

Bijal and Rajiv started off the session by talking about the life of an animal who lives outdoors or on the streets. Street dogs, pigeons, cows, rats, insects, monkeys, cats and other creatures came up in the discussion. The session threw light on what it means to be an animal that lives outdoors whether on the street or in the sky. 

Bijal invited the children to think about how humans are the cause of some challenges that exist in our environment and hence have an impact on the animals as well. She was friendly, conversational and took the time to listen to the children’s take on different elements of the story. 

Rajiv demonstrated to the students the elements of writing a comic that include panels, speech bubbles, characters and setting the scene. His wordless picture book, Dugga (Pratham Books), describes the life and journey of a street dog. Beautifully illustrated, funny and descriptive in his pictures, Rajiv captures the essence of kindness and compassion shown to street animals that are injured and the role of humans who care for the dog and help it survive and heal after the accident. 

Students soon dived into creating a 3 panel story about an animal of their choice and added meaningful elements and details in their panel to add to the story. They visualized the scenes by employing their imagination and even ensured that each panel had a beginning, middle, and an end. 

Beautiful illustrations and stories emerged from the paper that was offered to the students, some students even decided to move onto 4 and 6 panel stories as they realized they have more to share and describe as young authors and illustrators! 

This masterclass was an opportunity to get the creative juices flowing for students who had a story to tell, share or contribute. 

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