I’m delighted to be hosting this stop on the blog tour for You’re Safe with Me, a stunning picture book which celebrates the wonder of nature. I think we can all remember being frightened of thunder storms when we were little and this story captures that feeling and how a little bit of comfort and wisdom can allay our fears. The beautiful, intricate illustrations will mesmerise young readers and the poetic narrative will calm their minds, making this a perfect bedtime story.
You’re Safe with Me by Chitra Soundar & Poonam Mistry
When the moon rises high and the stars twinkle, it is bedtime for the baby animals of the Indian forest. But tonight, when the skies turn dark and the night grows stormy, the little ones can’t sleep. SWISH-SWISH! CRACK-TRACK! FLASH-SNAP! goes the storm. Only Mama Elephant with her words of wisdom can reassure them. “You’re safe with me.”
You’re Safe with Me is written by Chitra Soundar, an Indian-born British writer and storyteller who is inspired by the rich epics and folktales of India. She has published over 30 well-loved picture books in India and the UK. The story is stunningly interpreted with artwork by Poonam Mistry who is a UK-based illustrator of Indian heritage. Her work is heavily influenced by nature, folklore and traditional Indian art.
Today, author Chitra Soundar will be sharing her insights and inspiration for You’re Safe with Me. Welcome to the blog! The story is a wonderful celebration of nature and nurture. Can you tell us the inspiration and influences behind it? This story was inspired by my training as a storyteller. I wanted to tell a story about thunderstorms – that’s both real and poetic. I wanted to evoke the beauty of nature and at the same put little children at ease about thunderstorms. Secondly I wanted to have an elephant in the story – I love watching elephants. Their gentle nature, their family relationships and how they look after their young makes them ideal storytellers too. These two things came together to bring this story to life.
The narrative text and artwork come together seamlessly; how did you work with the illustrator to make this happen? You might not be aware but writers and illustrators are not always introduced to each other while they’re working. This is because a picture book text is re-imagined by an illustrator. Poonam read the story and came up with the illustrations with some guidance from the publisher. She then incorporated my text into the pictures as if they were moulded together. So hats off to Poonam Mistry for this!
‘You’re safe with me’ makes a wonderful bedtime story. What were your favourite bedtime stories when you were young? I’m not sure we were read to during bedtime. Growing up in India, bedtime was random and late. We also lived in a tiny apartment with our grandparents, aunt and uncle. So I slept on the living room floor on a straw mat, next to my grandmother and listened to the radio. Sometimes she’d tell us stories after the lights were switched off and they were mostly stories from the epics or trickster folktales.
The story has the feel of a folktale; what do you think children can learn from folktales? Folktales carry universal truths. As a child I was heavily influenced by folktales – from ghost stories to trickster tales, most stories that were told were passed down orally. As an oral storyteller, I find that some stories have travelled the world and are available in many different cultures in different forms and shapes. Children learn about truth and justice, what’s right and wrong and more importantly life lessons from folktales. Whether they are Aesop fables or Anansi stories or Native American tales, Mulla stories or Panchatantra stories from India, folktales give us a funny view of the world and puts a lesson in it for those who can find it.
Of all the many books you’ve written which are you most proud of and why? That perhaps is the hardest question to ask any writer! Every book has achieved a milestone in my life as a writer and storyteller. I’m proud of You’re Safe With Me because it was an original story that came from my experience as a storyteller and I believed in the story. It waited over two years for a publisher to find it. But it has been worth the wait. And more importantly my two nephews have an advance copy and want to read it over and over again. And that to me, is my proudest moment of all.
Thank you Chitra for your inspiring words and we wish you every success with You’re Safe With Me!
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour!