Four Books of Children's Poetry by Rajiv Khandelwal

Ram Krishna Singh

Book Review: R. K. Singh

1.    CRAZY CLASS. Rajiv Khandelwal. Gurugram: The Poetry Society of India.  ISBN: 978-93-91091-14-9. $20, pp. 50; July 2021, HB

2.    ADVENTURE. Rajiv Khandelwal. Gurugram: The Poetry Society of India.  ISBN: 978-93-91091-13-2. $ 20, pp. 50; July 2021, HB
3.    MAGIC MOMENTS. Rajiv Khandelwal. Gurugram: The Poetry Society of India.  ISBN:  978-93-91091-19-4,  $ 20, pp. 50; July 2021, HB
4.    LET’S CRAWL. Rajiv Khandelwal. Gurugram: The Poetry Society of India.  ISBN: 978-81-949206-8-7, $ 30, pp.84, July 2021, HB

The nicely packed and attractively designed gift book set contains three books of poetry for children and one book on learning to write poetry. The set is imaginatively conceived and skillfully executed to promote verbal creativity among the present generation of children who have a wide variety of cultural exposure via TV, beginning with the cartoon channels to infotainment channels. Each book is also available separately.

Rajiv Khandelwal, an established Indian English poet, Electrical Engineer by education, and businessman by profession, seeks to arouse among children of all ages an interest in poetry reading and writing. He especially composes 50 poems for each of the three books and tries to make poetry accessible, as it appears to me, to post-primary and high school level students in the Second Language contexts where the medium of teaching/learning is English.

He and his poet and academic readers who offered their feedback about the suitability of the poems or their selections to him presume that the readers/learners have already acquired the basic knowledge of English language and grammar, are interested in poetry, and can be motivated to learn to write it, too.
So, Rajiv  Khandelwal presents an “exotic collection of poems” with diverse themes and verbal music, to quote Julia Devardhi, who assisted him in making his choices. No doubt, most of the poems are good to read, engage the mind, and are entertaining, but for my 7-year old reader, Jahnavi, certain words and expressions were not understandable: “pot of gold” (Rainbow), “pneumonia” (Alarm), “legit” (Business), “fiscal”, “referral”, “corporate office”, “ego” etc. Nevertheless, she said that in the book Magic Moments, “poems such as A Wise Box, True Tale, Battle With Corona, My Favourite Season, and Alarm are very good. I like them very much.”

I would like to quote a couple of examples that bespeak the relevance and appeal of the poems Rajiv Khandelwal has composed:
“Peter had a petrol pump/ But now a days there was a slump/ Due complete clampdown in town/ Citizens were in lockdown/ For in air virus did not fade/ So, there existed no trade./ Could not even go to bank/ Money in house shrank and shrank/ Till no money left, even for rice/ Now all paid, for not heeding advice.” (Covid and its Price, Adventure, p. 28); and  “If I were God, I would instruct mom/ To make this food plan for her son Tom./ No, to green vegetables,/ Allowed daily eatables/ Will be ice-cream for breakfast.// For lunch, pastry will be must/ Dinner will be doughnut/ Each day, get six glassfuls of Pepsi/ I as God, declare such foods healthy” (If I Were God, Crazy Class, p. 1).
The poems are, no doubt, readable and successful. Yet, the poet should have possibly graded the 150 poems for different levels of readership, and made his selections accordingly, instead of ‘mixing’ them in the four-volume set for ‘universal’ use, from pre-primary to secondary level students/learners.

The fourth book, Let’s Crawl, is aimed at teaching how to write a poem.  It particularly seeks to develop the skill for writing Acrostic poems, Syllabic poems, and using vocabulary.  The book is good in that it develops ‘word sense’ via different examples that are motivating and promoting one’s feel for the English language, it’s rhythm, rhyme, and other nuances.  The poems, prompts, and exercises in it are effectively designed to help, understand, and encourage young learners to produce their own verses in English.

Additionally, Rajiv Khandelwal, as a poet, and now, as a producers of children’s literature,  makes a strong plea for using poetry both as input and output in the language learning process, which is appreciable. His new books make a significant contribution to children’s literature and Indian poetry in English. Kudos to him for his fresh venture.

--Dr. Ram Krishna Singh (Formerly Professor of English, IIT-ISM, Dhanbad, India)

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