Manisha Jayatilleke – Tales of Big Emotions and Fitting In

Dec 11, 2022

Manisha Jayatilleke is an author of two children’s books – ‘The Quiet Tree’ and ‘The Tale of Nagutti and Sindu’. Her first book, ‘The Quiet Tree’, introduces us to Saira, a young girl that if afflicted – nay, cursed! – with BIG EMOTIONS. She comes from a large family that keep telling her to ‘calm down’, or to ‘let things go’, or to ‘learn to take a joke’. Saira finds some solace up in the leafy boughs of the large mango tree… her Quiet Tree.

Manisha’s inspiration for ‘The Quiet Tree’ came first from being a relatively new mom in a lockdown, dealing with a toddler who was missing her family and playmates, and secondly, from memories of her own childhood and her struggle with her own Big Emotions and how to express them.

As Manisha says, “Much of the advice Saira is given in the story is strategies or coping mechanisms I concocted for myself as a child, a teen, and even as an adult. I guess that’s why The Quiet Tree reads like a little self-help book as well as a story – and help is exactly what I want it to do – I would love my book to help kids (and parents) navigate the so very normal (but also often the so very difficult) Big Emotions we all feel.”

‘The Quiet Tree’ is a magical tale that helps both children and adults understand that having Big Emotions may not necessarily be a bad thing, as long as you have a plan – a way forward – to deal with them… and it certainly helps if you have your very own magical emotional support fairy!

Manisha talks about her younger years: “I grew up in two worlds. The world of school and living with my grandparents in Colombo, and the carefree world of estate life in the holidays (my father was a planter). My mother and grandmother were both enthusiastic advocates of fairyland (fairies are real and they’re everywhere) and my father introduced us to the great, wild outdoors. This is where my inspiration for Aunty G came from in ‘The Quiet Tree’, along with my obsession with trees as seen in both my books.

Manisha’s second book, ‘The Tale of Nagutti and Sindu’ was inspired by the Koskale Forest Reserve on the Kurunegala Road. This area has always captured my imagination and we would drive past it quite a bit as children on our way to our favourite holiday destination – Habarana. The story popped into my head when we recently took our daughter there (full-circle moment) and we saw monkeys running along the telephone wires alongside the road. Initially, the story was meant to be a picture book for very young kids, about a monkey who was different, but did great things, but the character of the girl, Sindu, just exploded off the page and I had to rethink the entire story and the age group it was meant for. Sindu just had to be in it! And what an opportunity to showcase another character – a young girl – overcoming her limitations, finding her voice and coming into her own!”

Her second book centres around the two characters – Nagutti, the toque macaque monkey who wishes he looked normal, like all the other monkeys in her troupe, and Sindu, a talented and clever little girl who doesn’t feel she belongs anywhere, spending her days roaming the jungle and hiding from her teachers and the bullies at school.

When Nagutti and Sindhu find their beloved jungle in danger, the duo do whatever it takes to save themselves and those they love.

Manisha Jayatilleke’s are fun to read, relatable, adventurous and therapeutic; a rare talent for a writer of children’s tales.