Review: Four Books

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FROM THE BOOK REVIEW ARCHIVES

Review: Four Books

By : Arthi Anand Navaneeth
1.
Growing Up In Pandupur
2.
Postcards From Ura

Postcards From Ura

Author:
Savita Rao
Tulika Publishers, 
2010
3.
Where is Amma?

Where is Amma?

Author:
Nandini Nayar
Illustrator:
Srividya Natarajan
Tulika Publishers, 
2010
4.
Mala's Silver Anklets

Mala's Silver Anklets

Author:
Annie Besant
Illustrator:
Tulika Publishers, 
2011

Growing Up In Pandupur, the title itself holds the promise of  nostalgia and brings forth memories for the older reader and fills the younger ones with anticipation.

Set in a fictitious town, rather like a contemporary Malgudi, Pandupur lies somewhere between Mysore and Bangalore by the river Dhun. There are thirteen stories in all split among the two sister authors.

The stories range from the cute to funny, from the sensitive to shocking, filled with the bitter-sweet and the innocence and cruelty only children are capable of. Everything is not always rosy but there is always hope of a better tomorrow. Across various stories, there are references to broken families, poverty, sibling rivalry, low self-esteem, senility and child sexual abuse. But the children emerge stronger and find a way to smile through all  this with a little help from some encouraging adults of course.

What is lovely is the characterization of the children with their concerns, flaws and courage. The occasional wit and humour is never over the top and makes the stories very real.

Pandupur comes across as a typical town with its localities of poverty and riches, a mix of locals and outsiders who have made it their home. There are many who love the town and then some who are still trying to find a foothold and long for the city.

Young Zubaan has a winner in this book. And the inviting cover illustration by Priya Kuriyan prompts you to pick up the book.

Postcards From Ura transports the older reader to the era of pen pals and innocence and wonder at all things foreign. It is relevant in today’s world of email when children view letters as exotic rarities and treasure them.

This story opens with a rather reluctant writer Dorji, a class five student, from a place called Ura in Bhutan. At the behest of his teacher, the protagonist corresponds with Toto who resides in urban Bengaluru.

The local food, attire, play, pet dog, natural surroundings, housing, school all form the topics of the various letters. There are little fact bits on every page along with photos to simplify and explain things for the reader who wants to know more.

Sure to arouse curiosity from the first letter itself, there is a lovely flow and continuity to the letters. You never get to see the letters that come to Ura from Toto, but you can guess what Toto must have written based on the responses that flow from Dorji.

A part of Tulika’s Where I Live series this style of presentation can help introduce places to children in a more relatable fashion, offering a glimpse into a life and place not so known.

Bhutan is indeed fascinating and becomes even more inviting after reading this book.

Some observations would help inspire tolerance and curiosity about things strange to us. For example,  ‘Bumthang is not funny, Bengaluru is a funny name’,  ‘P.S. You can bring me idli.’

It is indeed sad that the author of this book passed away so soon. But she left a lovely piece of her around in this book. ‘…..Bhutan is ranked the happiest place. I certainly felt like it…’

Nandini Nayar’s Where is Amma?  is a delightful seek and find tale of a little boy, Kiran, looking for his mother at home.

In his quest for his mother, Kiran is accompanied by an adorable cat that reminds one of Garfield. The cat is in hot pursuit as well and it either mimics Kiran’s expression or does funny things of its own such as sleeping under the blanket reading Where is Amma? upside down.

Kiran and his cat look everywhere for Kiran’s mother—near the computer, bedroom and even some odd, unlikely places. Finally Kiran enters the kitchen and spots Amma’s slippers in front of the fridge.

Assuming she is inside the fridge, he begins to wonder whether she is devouring his favourite jam or getting cold without footwear.

Amma in fact turns up and the story ends with a relieved yet concerned Kiran and an amused and moved Amma hugging each other.

Srividya Natarajan’s watercolour illustrations filled with many details make this book a captivating experience for the young reader.

Mala’s Silver Anklets by Annie Besant and illustrations by Nancy Raj is about a girl Mala who is naughty. She is feared and dreaded by many. She frightens and troubles all her family and outsiders, even the postman. Fortunately the mischief is never anything too damaging.

In a bid to curtail her antics, her mother gives her silver anklets. The idea being that their tinkling sounds will announce her arrival and warn people to anticipate that trouble is round the corner—Chik Chik Chum.

Filled with onomatopoeic sounds this book will engage little kids and they will revel in Mala successfully overcoming the seemingly difficult restraints on her heels.

Nancy Raj’s work brings alive this simple tale be it the lovely conventional dotted mardhaani (henna) of Tamil Nadu or Mala’s folded plaits and mismatched ribbons. In fact her handiwork lends the story a lot of character—the father cleaning his scooter, Mala’s kohl-lined eyes, the little brother seated in the kitchen eating while his grandma cooks and of course, the gorgeous anklets themselves.

Tulika Publishers seems to spot the best contemporary illustrators around. This makes their picture books visual treats.

Arthi Anand Navaneeth is a marketing professional with a fragrance MNC. A regular blogger, she writes a monthly serial story for Chandamama.