‘Kal the Adventurer’ by Manesha Udawatte
Kal the Adventurer: Explorer of the Ocean is a children’s picture book written by Manesha Udawatte and illustrated by Sean Abeyewardene. This book blends fiction and scientific facts about the ocean. The story brings the five ocean zones and its inhabitants to life using wordplay, rhyming, and characterisation. It is aimed at children aged eight and above for self-reading; however, children from the age of two upwards too could enjoy this story as a bedtime tale or for activity-based education.
It follows the adventures of Kal, a little boy who finds a magic portal at the bottom of his bathtub that leads him to the ocean. At each level, as he explores the zone, he meets a variety of unfamiliar creatures that are specifically adapted to their environment. “The book includes a glossary for advanced words and building vocabulary for young children,” said Udawatte.
“It also includes instructions/suggestions to parents and teachers on how to use this book for bedtime reading or learning through play. The illustrations are vivid and try to be as true to life as possible, while remaining colourful.” Another exciting aspect of this book is the addition of a QR code that allows the user to download the accompanying audio book into their electronic device of choice. The audio book is narrated by the author and professionally produced with sounds and music to enhance the literary experience.
The book aims to broaden the scope of literacy by not simply focusing on the written word, but by including auditory learners/visually impaired book lovers as well. “I was inspired to write this story by observing my own son Kal- EL who loves all things of nature, especially animals,” explained Udawatte. “The main character is based on him, including the illustrations done by my husband Sean. It has been a real labour of love.” Udawatte has also collaborated with local entrepreneurs on Instagram and created customised merchandise such as kid friendly soap and learning tools like wooden stackers/ figures and puzzles to create interest among young children about the ocean zones. “I wanted to highlight local talent and I have had a tremendous response and support for these customised products which include sensory activity ideas and even a pancake recipe featuring the ocean zone from one of our collaborators,” Udawatte said.
The author is an early childhood educator who has worked at schools in both Sri Lanka and Australia. She is currently a visiting lecturer and corporate trainer in English and communication skills for universities and corporates in Sri Lanka. She further elaborated: “My forte is using literature and linking it with learning concepts. I love extending learning through inquiry and play/activity-based learning. The idea of writing about the ocean zones germinated after some holiday programmes I conducted at the British Council Library last year, where we explored ocean zones and conservation through hands-on activities with great success.” The book will be launched in October 2020.