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Croc Star

  • http-blogs-fandm-edu-wp-content-blogs-dir-29-files-2012-04-mongia-jpg
  • Padmini Mongia reads her book at the Bookaroo festival in Delhi.

     
  • http-blogs-fandm-edu-wp-content-blogs-dir-29-files-2012-04-pchak-jpg

Pchak! Pchak!

That’s the sound a baby crocodile makes when she opens and closes her mouth.

Or should make. But what happens when Baby Crocodile refuses to open her mouth?

In Padmini Mongia’s delightful new children’s book, Pchak! Pchak!, crocodile parents fret about their new baby who just stares and stares, but won’t open her mouth.

The story has received positive reviews in the Indian press and was a hit at the Bookaroo festival held in November 2008 in Delhi.

Mongia, a professor in the English department at Franklin & Marshall College, said she wrote the book after telling the story to her 4-year-old niece, Naira.

“I just made it up as I went along,” Mongia said.

Set in a swamp in southwestern India, the story tells of a happy crocodile family with a serious dilemma. Their cuddly new baby refuses to open her mouth and make the “Pchak” sound that baby crocodiles are expected to make.

Mama and Papa’s crazy antics aimed at getting Baby Crocodile to Pchak fall flat. Desperate, the Papa calls Grandma Crocodile, who comes to the rescue with her own bag of tricks.

“My niece wanted this story repeated often,” Mongia said. “Later, I decided to write it down.”

Illustrator Anita Varma has given readers extra fun with her vibrant use of colors and imagery, including jumping fish and dancing frogs.

“I wanted the atmosphere of the place to be vivid and I wanted the crocodiles to be different from each other and to have a range of expressions,” Mongia said. “I think Anita Varma did a great job with the creatures. She has managed to get fear and authority and tenderness across, and I think that’s amazing.”

Mongia is the author of Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader and has taught classes on gothic novels, English literature in the late 19th century, Indian fiction and women’s literature. She also has taught courses that included children’s literature.

Quite a jump from postcolonial theory to Pchak! Pchak!? Not really, Mongia explained: “Just different places on two different roads.

“Any individual has several interests at once, although people don’t always get the chance to explore their many interests. I’m glad I did. I’ve been telling stories for a long time. When I had some extended time off for other research, I was able to find the space to write down some of my stories. Pchak! Pchak! is one of them.”

Pchak! Pchak! is available through the Oxford University Press or through the college bookstore.