Small children are one of the greatest sources of inspiration for writers of children’s literature. When my own children were little, they were my first critics, and they were extremely frank ones at that. When I would read out something that I had written to them, I would know at once if it had made the cut or not. Their short attention span meant that they would start to fidget if the first few lines of a story or poem had not caught their attention, and within a few moments, they would run away, but not before telling me the bald truth that my work was ‘so boring.’ I always paid heed to these first, in house critics because I know that little children are usually forthright and candid when expressing their opinions. When they clapped or giggled in delight when I was reading a new story to them, I would be pleased that I had written something that struck a chord with my listeners. When my son was about six or seven, and saw a turtle up close for the first time, he crept near it and lay down on the ground beside it. The turtle immediately withdrew into his shell, but my son, with one eye closed, kept trying to peer into the turtle’s shell.
“What are you doing?” I asked him in surprise.
“I want to see what the turtle’s house looks like inside,” he explained earnestly. Then he asked me, “What kind of furniture do you think the turtle has in his house?” I was astonished, and enchanted too, with this unusual question that I would never have thought of. Later, it became the topic for a poem that appeared in ‘Just Imagine - Stories and Poems,’ published by Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd., in 2002.
MR. TURTLE’S HOME
Though Mr. Turtle often opens his front door and peers out,
He never sets a foot outside his little home.
In fact, wherever he goes, he carries it about –
A little brown shell, shaped like a dome.
Since he’s always at home, I’m sure Mr. Turtle’s home must be,
A really cosy and comfortable place.
How I wish I could just peep in and see,
How he has filled up his own little space!
I wonder if he has an armchair, snug and deep,
And perhaps a small table and chair on which to dine.
Maybe he reads in the armchair before he falls asleep,
In a soft bed, lined with sheets so fine.
I wonder if Mr. Turtle has hung paintings on his walls,
And if he’s got curtains to shut away the glare of the Sun.
But I guess this is something I will never know at all -
For Mr. Turtle’s house has got room for just one!
© Santhini Govindan
My children have since grown up, joined the rat race, and quite forgotten what it’s like to live in the magical land of make believe. But small grandchildren have arrived, and they have begun to provide me with new ideas. My older granddaughter, five going on six, is currently captivated by dinosaurs, dragons, and monsters. Her conversation is dotted with references to them, and one of her interesting questions to her mother inspired me to write this poem…
DO MONSTERS HAVE MOMMIES?
I know that monsters are scary creatures,
Who can terrify and frighten people so,
But there’s something about little monsters
That I really want to know.
I wonder if monsters have mommies,
Just like my friends and I do?
And what are monsters’ mommies like?
How I wish I knew!
I wonder if monsters’ mommies wake little monsters up,
In the morning, when they want to sleep on,
Do monsters’ mommies holler, “Hurry up! Hurry up!”
When their small monsters stretch lazily, and yawn?
Do monsters’ mommies help out with homework?
When there are pages and pages to complete?
And when the homework is finally finished,
Do monsters’ mommies give their little monsters a treat?
Do monsters’ mommies read bedtime stories to little monsters,
Before the lights are put off?
And I wonder, do monsters’ mommies give them nasty medicine,
When they have fever, or a cough?
I know that monsters, being monsters,
Are supposed to be brave, and without fear,
But do little monsters sometimes feel afraid,
And want their mommies to be near?
Do monsters’ mommies scold their little ones,
When they say things that are quite untrue?
And do monsters’ mommies make cakes and sweets
For little monsters’ birthdays, just like our mommies do?
Do monsters’ mommies sometimes give little monsters,
A kiss and a cuddle too,
When monsters’ mommies want to tell little monsters
Those magic words - ‘I love you.’
© Santhini Govindan
Please do not reprint/publish this poem without getting prior permission from the author.