Planet Picture Book

Hic!

A young girl experiments with all sorts of crazy remedies in a bid to shake off a pesky case of hiccups.

Is there a known cure for hiccups? When I was growing up, one standard remedy was to reach for a glass of water and drink it backwards, i.e. from the opposite rim of the glass. Another was to scare the living daylights out of the hiccupping victim with a loud ‘Boo’ she likely knew was coming. Neither option worked (in my experience).  Now, having read ‘Hic!’ a 2017 release from Tara Books, I have come to an important conclusion: these classic cures are seriously lacking in the creativity department.

‘Hic!’ features a young girl trying to cure a pesky bout of hiccups. The remedies she explores are fabulously inventive and utterly crazy. They include sticking mustard up her nose, holding her breath for half a day, and shouting out the best word since supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (I actually spelt that without looking it up!) Author Anushka Ravishankar is known for her nonsense verse and she’s totally in her element in this story.

Do any of the madcap remedies work, you might ask. Nope! Try as she might the young girl cannot shake those hiccups. Each time she attempts something new, her efforts end in a super-loud ‘HIC!’ and the scene descends into mayhem: mustard spurts out over a double page spread, a shoal of fish fly out of a pond, and a tree load of mangoes falls on her head. And somewhere in each chaotic double spread, the word ‘HIC’ appears – just the one word in varying sizes, configurations and positions, including one instance where it appears upside-down. It’s a fun extra feature in the story, which I think young readers in particular will enjoy.

Text alone, the story could be about any hiccup sufferer anywhere; it is the fabulous illustrations that set ‘Hic!’ firmly in an Indian context. The young hiccuper is dressed in a salwar kameez, as are the other female characters in the book. A street seller in thongs wheels a barrow laden with oranges along a street, while a large bull takes a rest on the pavement. Then, in the next beautifully chaotic street scene, terrifyingly overladen rickshaws jostle for space with roaming elephants, ladies in saris, cars – and the bull and orange seller we have just met. This is definitely not Sydney’s CBD! Illustrator Christiane Pieper has so much fun with the artwork; the pages burst with personality, energy and humour. And the limited palette comprising black, blue and mustard yellow (cover aside) against a white background is striking too.

If you’re bored with standard hiccup remedies, this is the book for you!  You might not find a cure in its pages, but you’ll enjoy a light-hearted, hic-larious read with lovely glimpses of Indian culture.

The Book
Hic! by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Christiane Pieper (Tara Books, 2017)

The Author
Anushka Ravishankar is a very popular Indian children’s author, who is particularly well known for her nonsense verse. She has published more than twenty books, including a number with Tara Books. In 2012, she founded the children’s publishing house Duckbill together with Sayoni Basu.

The Illustrator
Christiane Pieper is a well-known German children’s book illustrator, who has illustrated over 30 titles, including Hic!, Alphabets are Amazing Animals and Elephants Never Forget for Tara Books.

Note: Tara Books has experimented with Risograph, an eco-friendly printing system using organic soy-based inks, to print Hic! I’m no expert but I think the end result is fantastic: vibrant colours, sharp detail and lightly textured pages.

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