Love in The Rice Boy
Disclaimer: love is one of life's great mysteries.
It is also one of the main themes in my children's book, The Rice Boy. Three children who live in a village called Parbatipur in Bangladesh must set out to find stories which prove that love and friendship are more important than hunger.
Not an easy task, especially when their guide is a magical bird who only knows lots of useless facts.
A mock-up sketch of friends, Protik and Protoyee, for illustration.
The friends have to travel far and wide to find these stories, on the back of a bird, far from home, into the scary mangrove forests of the Bangladeshi Sunderbans. They have to trust their judgement against the odds, and learn to negotiate with tigers, crocodiles, and kingfishers who refuse to be proven wrong.
One of my favourite stories in the book is the tale of the Seagull Prince, who spots a starfish on a rock one day when he is flying over the Andaman Islands, just beyond the Bay of Bengal. He is starving after flying for days, so dives down to gobble her up, but when he hears her singing, he realizes she is singing to him. He lands softly next to her and asks her if she minds if he listens for a while. She welcomes him and says that would be just fine. He falls in love with her and offers her his heart, which she accepts (who would say no to such a fine pair of seagull legs?).
The Seagull Prince's royal visit to Istanbul, Turkey. 2013.
Sadly though, things are rarely straightforward, and when he takes her home, his proud flock do not allow their prince to live with a starfish. They say it is wrong. The Seagull Prince is driven from his kingdom, and instead of accepting exile with his beloved, he almost loses everything - her life and his - by trying to have the best of both worlds. He realizes in the end that he must choose between living by what is right by his flock, and what is right by him and his heart.
And it all works out.
Though you'll have to wait for the finished book to hear the starfish's side of the story.
This is how author Jeanette Winterson describes falling in love to kids:
You don’t fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. And when you get there it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signalled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump.
Away you go, falling into someone else’s orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and call it home. And you can bring your dog. Or your cat. Your goldfish, hamster, collection of stones, all your odd socks. (The ones you lost, including the holes, are on the new planet you found.)
And you can bring your friends to visit. And read your favourite stories to each other. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without.
PS You have to be brave.
Wish you love this 2014!
If you're interested, you can read more about The Rice Boy on my Writing page.