Adventurous Bilingual Books

Bubbly Kaur has published two Sikh children’s stories under the series of Sheru Puttar: Sheru’s Jalebi and Sheru & the Zoo Animals. She shared with Kaur Life her journey of brining Sheru to life for all children to joy. 

Sheru Puttar Bilingual Books

By Bubbly Kaur

Sheru Puttar bilingual books are all about learning Punjabi and Hindi in a way that’s fun and playful. So don’t be shy! Read the Punjabi or Hindi out loud and if you get stuck the transliteration and English will help. These books are perfect for parents who want to brush-up their language skills and great for children who are ready to speak basic phrases in Punjabi and Hindi. Teachers will also find these books useful for introducing grammar, key vocabulary and useful tips for sentence construction to beginning and intermediate readers. Sheru Puttar stories blend imaginative narratives with stylish illustrations to create an environment for learning that is fresh and up-to-date.

As with many female writers of children’s books, I started to write Sheru Puttar stories for my children. I wanted my kids to recognize Gurmukhi letters in stories that are fun and playful (and not too serious!) I also wanted the kids to start repeating short phrases and finding names for objects while learning verbs and aspects of sentence structure. It’s spoken Punjabi that I wanted to emphasize, not literary Punjabi (which is extremely beautiful, but a whole other thing). In “Sheru di Jalebi,” for example, Sheru’s mischievous little sister escapes with his jalebi. Sheru hunts for it all over the house looking under/on top of/inside different objects. Jalebis are, of course, the ultimate Punjabi treat, and I use it here to help children learn about placement of things and the different names for objects in the home.

In “Sheru and the Zoo Animals,” Sheru is excited about going to the zoo. Readers will learn the different names of zoo animals as well as the sounds they make. It’s kind of tragic that kids know how to say “roar” in English but very few know the equivalent in Punjabi: it’s dahaarna – what a cool word! Sheru can also help kids learn how to learn expressions like “trumpeting elephants” and “growling bears.” This is not every day Punjabi but when kids learn words that have an onomatopoetic quality to them, I think it can make learning a language really fun.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 5.00.18 PMSo, I wrote these stories for my kids, but once I had written them up, I knew they needed a fantastic illustrator to bring the characters to life. I eventually hired a NY-based Puerto-Rican artist to breathe life into Sheru. I think Eloy Claudio brings a lot of warm colors and appealing textures into the stories in ways that feel contemporary but also very Punjabi.

Something else that inspired me to write these stories: I learned how to read and write Gurmukhi while growing up in the UK. My parents taught me at home and I went to Punjabi school every week. Having grown up outside of India, and now, watching my kids also grow up outside of India, I am acutely aware that our experiences of Punjabi culture and traditions are quite different to those of children living in India. So I wanted to write stories and illustrations that are really relevant to diasporic living. I wanted Sheru to be a cute little Singh wearing a T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. He’s always running around here and there, happy being who he is, and ready to take on the world. His sister, who is a baby in the first two stories, is just as bold and curious and happy. The parents are working parents (like many!) and are both involved in raising the kids. In many respects, I think the stories will also appeal to kids in India, too.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 4.59.57 PMI have many more stories and will bring them out a few at a time if my readers want me to! My hope is that readers of Sheru Puttar will love the drawings and stories, and really sense a connection with the characters, their situations, and feelings. I think my end goal would be for kids (and their parents!) to enjoy speaking Punjabi and feel confident that they can do it without seeming self-conscious. And my dream would be to see lots of little kids (and grown-ups?) wearing T-shirts of Sheru saying, “Oh! Meri jalebi kithae gayee?!”

I am now based in Boston and am currently undertaking a project on female kirtaniye. I love kirtan, especially kirtan performed on traditional instruments.