Thiruvananthapuram: Children’s author and creator of the famous character Butterfingers Khyrunnisa A. said that we can make children read by reading them stories until they start reading own their own. She was talking in the session ‘The Butterfingers Effect: A conversation on the spell of creating the popular Butterfingers series’ to Aiswarya Thara Bhai at the second edition of Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters (MBIFL’19) at Kanakakkunnu here on Friday.
Khyrunnisa, who was an Associate Professor of English at All Saints College in Thiruvananthapuram, started her career as a children’s author with the character ‘Butterfingers’ in 1996. She said that she chose the name for the protagonist who is a 13-year-old clumsy boy because he drops things often and makes a mayhem everywhere he goes. The character appeared in the magazine Tinkle published from Mumbai after its associate editor happened to know about Khyrunnisa’s unique character.
She also said that Butterfingers was named after her son Amar, when it was published in Tinkle. Also she shared the experience of seeing her long story in the form of a comic strip with much of the content cut short for fitting in the slot. However, her style of writing helped the script writer to make the comic strip as it maintained a conversation-driven format.
The story was transformed into the comic strip through three stages: first writing the story, then preparing the script and then illustrating the comic. She talked about the importance of illustration and images in a children’s book. The illustrator Abhijeet Kini played a key role in making the character and the story popular. The images and colours always attract children and even adults, which is why the Butterfingers gained popularity.
Later, when Penguin decided to publish Butterfingers as a book, Khyrunnisa made it a novel ‘Howzatt Butterfingers’ which was published in 2010. This was followed by two other novels ‘Goal, Butterfingers’ in 2012 and Clean Bowled, Butterfingers’ in 2015, and three short stories ‘The Misadventures of Butterfingers’ in 2016, ‘Run, It's Butterfingers Again!’ in 2017, and the latest ‘Of Course, It’s Butterfingers’ in 2018.
While talking about bringing messages of gender quality in the stories, Khyrunnisa replied that she did not deliberately added such elements in the story. She clarified that she opted for a boys’ school to set the background of the story, only because the Butterfingers was a boy and they main plot was surrounding games like cricket and football. She also said that she plans her next novel in the series to be centered on shuttle badminton.
Khyrunnisa highlighted on the point that she mainly intends to write for enjoyment and not for discussing grave social issues in a children’s book. Khyrunnisa reminded the parents who do not want children to read except for getting better results in exams that reading is not only for fun, but it influences brain power, boosts imagination, shape their character and thereby help perform better in academic activities. So, parents need not hinder their children from reading.
She emphasized on the point that children will start reading on their own when we continue to read stories to them at a young age. She even quoted her own experience that her son started reading by himself after she kept reading stories to him even when he fell ill.
During the question and answer session, Russian author Andrei Kurkov asked Khyrunnisa if she wants to adapt her books into film and to be in control of her the story in the adaptation as well. She said that she would like to see the film adaptation but would not want the characters being distorted to the choice of the film makers. “I want the characters to remain as they are. If the film makers are not willing to keep them as such, I don’t want them to adapt the book at all,” she said.
After the session, Andrei Kurkov handed over Khyrunnisa a token of gratitude. The programme was conducted at the Bamboo Grove at Kanakakkunnu at 10 in the morning. Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters 2019 is conducted in eight venues here from January 31 to February 3.