Someone asked me which book deeply influenced me. My first brush with books was way back when I was in the fourth grade. I came across my dad's classic edition of Bulfinch's Greek Mythology. I was thoroughly fascinated with stories of vengeful gods, goddesses, romantic trysts, heroic deeds. In Purasawalkam, Chennai, there was a lending library called Kumaran's. I remember reading a LOT of comics from there (Mickey Mouse, Amar Chitra Katha, Tintin, Archie etc..) Then I chanced upon Mario Puzo's Sicilian. Not that I understood anything from it when I was some 9 years old but nonetheless I plodded on for some pages before I threw it away in disgust! Then came a period of Enid Blytons. I really enjoyed the Secret Seven stories. After that, it was Agatha Christie for a while (and still is , in some respects). Of course, later I branched on to other books.
But if there was one book that really fired up my imagination and encouraged my reading, I should say it is K.M. Munshi's Krishnavatara. I chanced upon it over a summer vacation. I started reading with not much idea. Till then, Lord Krishna was a distant, awe-inspiring god prone to take revenge if I didn't say my daily prayers dutifully (and not eat my vegetables properly!). I guess this book changed my entire perspective about Krishna and his life. Written in simple style, lucid even to a child of 9 years old, it beautifully brings forth the god-like yet human existence of Krishna, his childish exploits, his growth into manhood, loves of his life and his struggle to always uphold Dharma at the cost of many things in his life. The vivid imagery and simple style caused my imagination to fire up and I could image the scenes before my eyes in great detail. I guess I could say I truly fell in love with the characters in the book, especially Krishna. From a distant God, he became a warm friend with his usual share of problems, dilemmas, troubles and happiness.
It is easy to capture the imagination of an adult because by then we have greater powers of analysis, understanding and taste. It is much difficult to hold the attention of young minds, much less inspire them to read more! Hats off to K.M. Munshi-ji for an awesome treat!
There are seven volumes in the book: The Magic Flute, The Book of Krishna, The Five Brothers, The Book of Bhima, The Book of Satyabhama, The Book of Yudhistra, The Book of Vyasa, the Master. They should all be truly part of a child's bookshelf.