'Look Out Look Within' explores the world of inclusion through the lens of friendship
Mia has super senses, which means that though she cannot see the world with her eyes, her sense of touch, feel, smell and hearing allow her to explore life around her to the fullest. A process that best friend Anya closely watches as she discovers ways to learn about the world in unusual, unique ways.
Their bonding and friendship is the theme of the storybook Look Out Look Within, one that explores inclusion through the lens of the friendship of two little girls, both wonderful and special in their own ways.
The idea of writing the book was triggered off by a conversation between Upasana MakatiFounder Editor of White Print, India's first lifestyle magazine in Braille.
Ahalya Momaya, who is the Co-founder of Trilogy, the curated library and bookstore, and I were casually chatting over tea and she raised a very relevant question of 'where are children with disabilities, why don't we find them playing in parks with sighted kids, why aren't they at bookstores, malls etc.' It was a perception issue that we had to deal with, changes in mindsets. - Upasana Makati, Founder-Editor, White Print
That question led to the idea of writing a story for children, one that would plant the seed of inclusion in young, open and curious minds. "It would be a perfect way to take a step further in encouraging inclusion and what better than letting a story do the needful", adds Makati.
Momaya then reached out to sister Vandana Naidu, a writer. This being her first project for children with disabilities, Naidu did thorough ground work to capture the nuances. "Thanks to a wide range of resources available, I was fortunate to find first person accounts on how parents and kids have crafted their journeys to achieve successful careers and the ways in which technology helps them lead normal lives".
The result is a beautifully written, thoughtful account of the journeys Mia, a blind child, and Anya, who is sighted, undertake as they go about their daily tasks together, helping and learning from each other. The theme of inclusion is woven within rather subtly, with no overt messaging.
The words are aided with some beautiful illustrations by Neha Talesara, who has also worked on Tactabet, the tactile Braille alphabet book brought out by White Print.
"For Look Out Look Within, it was more about pouring my heart out with reference to deciding the design path of the illustrations", says Talesara. "I used the appropriate symbols to clearly indicate to the reader that Mia is visually impaired, for instance the white and red colors for the cane. Apart from that both Mia and Anya have their own distinct dressing styles which are maintained throughout the book. For instance - the flower in Anya's hair stays with her even when she sleeps. The illustrations have the hand drawn feel to it too, something that children can relate to."
To make sure it is accessible to all, Braille versions of the book have been distributed to 100 schools across India free and a sign language video is available on YouTube.
The sign language version can be accessed here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSDvPBsdLUk
Illustrated versions for sighted children are available for Rs 299 and can be ordered from firstname.lastname@example.org. They will also be available at the Trilogy bookstore in Mumbai. You can also order it online on Flipkart and Amazon soon.