You’re Strong With Me
Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry
For her third ‘With Me’ book Chitra Soundar sets her story on the scorched African grasslands and features a pair or giraffes – a mother one and her baby – taking for her repeat refrain ‘You’re strong with me’; and as with her previous titles, Chitra has done her background research.
Gently and reassuringly, the adult giraffe offers encouragement, advice and information as her little one begins to explore the world around.
There is so much to learn: the little one is unaware of the special symbiotic relationship between oxpeckers and giraffes and so attempts to shoo away the oxpecker that has landed on his mother’s back.
Mother giraffe explains its role (eating ‘itchy insects’ and cleaning her fur) and saying that what hurts her baby’s skin now will feel a mere tickle once her skin thickens. “Until then you’re strong with me” she comments.
The dangers of fire and its role in renewal are also explored,
as is the importance of being acutely aware of any sounds around; that way is to be forewarned of other animals be they foe or otherwise.
Further lessons follow as sunset comes and baby giraffe needs help reaching the water to quench her thirst
and then soon it’s time to stop for the night.
As always, intricately patterned composition and colour palette are key in Poonam’s illustrations. For You’re Strong With Me a multitude of brown and golden hues predominate, strongly evoking the arid landscapes of the setting (I have some curtains from India in a pattern and colour very similar to the endpapers.) and when appropriate she adds teal shades for the creek wherein the little giraffe encounters baby fish and is instructed how to quench her thirst, doing so safely under her mother’s watchful eyes.
The Chitra/Poonam partnership goes from strength to strength: whither next? I can’t wait to see.