Category Archives: Puffin

The Girl who chose – A new way of narrating the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik

The Girl who Chose - A new way of narrating the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: The Girl who chose: A new way of narrating the Ramayana
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin Books, Puffin
ISBN: 9780143334637
Genre: Mythology, Children’s Fiction
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

So I was a fan of Devdutt Pattanaik’s books when I first read “The Pregnant King”. It was in 2007 or 2008 I think. I remember calling him and chatting with him for hours about it. Maybe that is also one of the reasons why we turned out to be good friends. But that has got nothing to do with the review of his latest book “The Girl who chose – A new way of narrating the Ramayana”. I was waiting for this book since forever. Why? Because I think if you are going to tell a mythological tale for children in a different manner, then I sure would like to know about it.

“The Girl who chose” is about Sita and her five choices and how they impact Ramayana and everyone else in the story. This isn’t Devdutt’s spin or take. It is just an interpretation given what happens in Ramayana. It is about sometimes things being planned out even before you can think about them or about the choices actually that you make and its consequences.

This book is about Sita for sure, but it is also about the other central and not-so-central characters of the Ramayana. The illustrations by the author himself make the book something else. Devdutt’s illustrations are simple. They are easy to comprehend and perhaps one doesn’t even need text while deciphering them. The illustrations speak a language of their own.

I also would like to add here that there is no feminist angle in this book, so don’t be fooled by the title. It is a given that like any other human being, Sita had the power to choose and she made the choices that she did. For a children’s book it perhaps may not come across so clearly, but the understated meaning can be inferred. The tale of the Ramayana always depends on Sita – on what she does, because it is ultimately she who leads the story. No one else has that kind of power in this Indian epic.

Devdutt Pattanaik does it again – simply and with a lot of brevity. He takes on portions of the Ramayana and serves it to you in bite-sized nuggets. The footnotes with additional information only enhance the reading experience. This is a great start for children to know and understand Indian mythology. I think it is the perfect book to gift a child to expand his or her horizons about Ramayana which has been passed down from generation to generation.

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The Secret Sanctuary by Stephen Alter

The Secret Sanctuary by Stephen Alter Title: The Secret Sanctuary
Author: Stephen Alter
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 9780143333982
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 136
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It is not easy to write children’s books. It is definitely not easy to write a children’s book on nature and the environment. Stephen Alter does it though and it seems while reading it, that he has written it also with as much ease. There is a lot of research done to write this book, given it is a mix of both fantasy and nature (took you by surprise, didn’t it? It sure had me all wondering about the plot) and interspersed is almost a quick lesson in nature for young readers.

“The Secret Sanctuary” is about three children who are lost in the jungle and before they know it, the jungle is magical and full of surprises and shocks at every turn for them. The book is extremely readable for young readers, between the ages of six to ten and quite riveting too.

The book is more than about just three children who are lost. It is about the preservation of nature and how as humans we tend to overlook and ignore it – that it has no choice but to appear only when seen through new eyes.

“The Secret Sanctuary” is a delight to read. I was majorly disappointed when it ended so soon. I wish it had gone on longer. At the same time, I also felt that may be the book could have had more dialogues.

The descriptions though are fascinating – whether it is about sleeping in a bear’s cave or listening to a concert at dawn which is not orchestrated by humans or whether it is about going in search of a rare mountain quail, Mr. Alter does a splendid job of making you want to lose yourself in his idyllic world and make you want to be a part of it.

Squiggle takes a Walk : All about Punctuation by Natasha Sharma

Squiggle Takes a Walk by Natasha Sharma Title: Squiggle Takes a Walk : All about Punctuation
Author: Natasha Sharma
Publisher: Penguin Books, Zubaan Books
ISBN: 9789383074013
Genre: Children’s Book, Knowledge and Learning
Pages: 70
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Squiggle wants to belong. Squiggle does not know where she fits in. She is confused. So she decides to find herself in the pages of a notebook and discovers the world of punctuation, until she finds someone her own kind. That is the plot of “Squiggle Takes a Walk” by Natasha Sharma – a delightful tale of Squiggle and her introduction to punctuation.

Squiggle Takes a Walk  - Image 2

I wish we had such books while we were growing up. A book that would talk to us about punctuation and the English language without being a bore like those Wren and Martin books. Natasha Sharma makes punctuation fun through the story of Squiggle and also the easy to understand concepts for children, not to forget the activities at the end of the book. The format of the book is delightful, as it is in the form of a notebook, which will only generate more excitement among kids.

Squiggle Takes a Walk  - Image 1

“Squiggle Takes a Walk” is the kind of book that can be read by children in less than half an hour but stays in the memory and the punctuation uses and points stick. Natasha Sharma has also with this book reached out to an adult who always had a problem with punctuation and still does. I plan to change that soon enough. Read it and so will you.

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Squiggle Takes a Walk: An Adventure in Punctuation

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Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig

Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig Title: Second Star to the Right
Author: Deborah Hautzig
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 9780141305806
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I am back to my reading project of ‘The Novel Cure’ and this time since I finished D, I began with E – the first ailment being “Eating Disorders” and the first cure was “Second Star to the Right” by Deborah Hautzig. I didn’t realize the book was a young adult novel till I started reading it and since I love Young Adult Novels, I was completely bowled over.

Leslie Heller is a bright, attractive and a regular teenager who lives a life of privilege in New York City. Her life takes a drastic turn when she begins to diet in her quest for happiness and that becomes an obsession with her, to the point of death by starvation. She and her family struggle with it and at the same time Leslie also has to battle with her past and her Jewish roots.

The book deals with the emotional and mental trauma that an anorexia nervosa patient goes through. It is autobiographical and therefore the writing becomes so strong and emotional. Leslie as seen through Deborah (because she is based on her) is raw, intense and confused. The writing is heart-breaking as you see Leslie and her family coping with anorexia and coming to terms with what can be done to cure it.

“Second Star to the Right” puts a lot of things in perspective for teenagers, mainly about the issues of fitting-in and acceptance and what it takes in our world to be what you want to be. I think I will for one gift this book to every teenager I know to make him or her understand that life is not always about being accepted. It is about being who you want to be.

Next Up on the Novel Cure Reading Project:

Ailment: Egg on Your Tie
Cure: Restoration by Rose Tremain

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The Lunar Chronicles : Cinder: 1 by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer Title: The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder: 1
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 9780141340135
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales Retold
Pages: 400
Source: Product Manager
Rating: 3/5

I have never been a fan of fairy tale retellings. Something just does not seem right in them. Something always seems amiss. More so, because of the different perspectives that are always trying to battle it out in the novel. It just does not seem right. However, when I heard of “Cinder” and how everyone was raving about it outside of India, I decided to give it a shot.

“Cinder” is the first volume in “The Lunar Chronicles” and the debut of Marissa Meyer. For a debut novel, it sure has got all the attention and acclaim which has surprised everyone. Now to talking about the book. “Cinder” is a retelling of “Cinderella”. It is set in the future. The story unfolds in China and Cinderella is Cinder, the cyborg. The world is where humans, androids and cyborgs co-exist. Earth is now a different place. Though some things still remain the same. There is the step-mother, the step-sisters and of course, the prince, Kai. Their love is forbidden, but of course.

And then there is the twist in the tale – the ruthless Lunar people want to take over Earth and everything then depends on Cinder (as usual, the heroine will save the day) to make things alright. There is a secret running throughout the book, which you will guess soon enough.

Meyer’s writing is fast-paced. You literally turn the pages and get absorbed in what she has to say. Moreover, at some point you distance yourself from the original fairy-tale and become a part of Meyer’s story. To me, that was enough to go on and start reading other books in the series and they are all inter-linked with different fairy tale characters making an appearance in each of them. “Scarlet” is about Little Red Riding Hood and “Cress” about Rapunzel. There are other two books as well, to be released next year.

All in all “Cinder” is a book meant for teenagers and adults alike. For people who have already discovered their fairy tales and for those who could also do with a retelling or so.

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