Chasing butterflies, mythology and a mix of ethnic backgrounds for picture book mini-adventures...

Today's tale is titled "Bimal Chases a Butterfly" and it's a sweet children's picture book tale in which a little boy attempts to catch a butterfly that he spots in his backyard. Exactly as the title says then, except that the butterfly leads Bimal beyond the apparent bottom of the garden into a fantastical exotic forest and starts growing bigger and more colourful until the kid encounters something phenomenal drawn from Hindu mythology.

I thought it'd be nice to channel a bit of Asian legend and religion into a story and Hindu mythology is such a rich, incomprehensible area that I'm keen to learn more about (I'm pretty ignorant in contrast to other cultures and spiritual traditions). I like the idea of a suburban British setting enveloping into an exotic subcontinental jungle with snakes and lotus flowers - the whole otherwordly and amazing appearing suddenly in the midst of the mundane idea.

It also gave me a chance to do something unique with a familiar story - the notion of a child following something and discovering untold wonders - and pushing some ethnic diversity into the action. I didn't set out to write it as a tokenistic thing with a specific "we shall have an Asian protagonist and represent this ethnic minority!" goal in mind. I do look for diversity though and want to write about a range of cultures and feature characters of different backgrounds, natures, creeds and colours. Things get a bit boring if everything's the same.

At school we were taught to read with The Magic Key books that made up the Oxford Reading Tree (I imagine that at the top of the tree there's a copy of The Lord of the Rings. In fact, the Oxford Reading Tree is probably an Ent.) and the books followed the adventures of Biff, Chip and Kipper. At a certain point in the series, Nadim and Annena showed up which gets a thumbs up in terms of positive representation and exposure for non-white kids in educational materials. It's important that young readers experience and empathise with myriad characters from a rich array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds and I'm keen to push that.

"Bimal Chases a Butterfly" is no doubt partly inspired by that wish and I'd like to think that down the line I could have a positive contribution in terms of alternative representations in the stories children end up encountering. Regardless, today's script also pushes one of my other passions which is making allusions to the supernatural and the mythical while also encouraging a sense of adventure and imaginative wonder in apparently unexceptional settings (as I've spoken about many times already on this blog).

I feel happy in that everything I've been writing has been authentic to me and what I want to write on the moment, on that day. When each story offers a nice opportunity to try something different and immerse yourself in another world - today in researching Hindu mythology and traditional imagery - it's even more enjoyable. Onward with chasing stories and following the creative spirit for the rest of the month. I'm almost at the halfway point in this odyssey, y'know...

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