Tag Archives: children’s fiction

And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness. Illustrated by Rovina Cai.

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Title: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
Author: Patrick Ness
Illustrated by Rovina Cai
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406385403
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Literary
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

I am a sucker for retellings or adaptations. A real-time sucker. Love the way some authors take a jab at it, make the classic their own, and then there are some who just cannot communicate what they want to. Thankfully, Patrick Ness belongs to the former category. And The Ocean Was Our Sky doesn’t read like a retelling. It doesn’t read like anything I have read before (yes you have heard this a lot, but this time it is really true). Alright, to cut the long story short: I absolutely loved And the Ocean Was Our Sky – loved the minimalist prose and the breathtaking illustrations. On a side note, let me also say that I loved how it veered away from the plot of Moby Dick soon into the book and I thought it was very refreshing.

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Now to the plot: The whales of Bathsheba’s pod live for the hunt. They hunt men. Men who hunt them get hunted. Men who don’t hunt also get hunted. They are led by Captain Alexandra, fighting a war against men. Till they attack a man ship and from it emerges a man who will lead them to the myth of the very devil – the most evil of all men. The one that will change their lives forever. That in short is the plot of the book. It is a story of whales and men and how when we take over their world, what happens in the end.

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What makes it different or interesting you ask? Patrick Ness is at the top of his game. This book may be sparse in terms of the writing, but every word lends gravitas. Every word that perhaps is not there in the story, is accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Rovina Cai. The story comes alive through another dimension as you read and experience the illustrations at the same time.

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The morality play of the book is strong and is much-needed in times such as these. It is a book for both children and adults. I would say more for adults, just to get the point across that every life matters. The twist in the tale will take you by surprise for sure, but that’s hardly the point of the story. And The Ocean Was Our Sky is so heartwarming (I found it to be) and heartbreaking in so many places – the kind of book that will make you question so many things about life, death, and the in-between.

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The House that Spoke by Zuni Chopra

Title: The House that Spoke
Author: Zuni Chopra
Publisher: Penguin Books India
ISBN: 9780143427841
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the longest time, “The House that spoke” lay on my bookshelf and somehow there was no inclination to pick it up. One of the barriers was that it is written by a teenager and somehow that thought kept becoming an impediment till it did not. Till I picked up the book and finished it over a weekend and enjoyed it a lot at that.

Having said that, “The House that Spoke” also tries to pack in a lot in one book which at times does feel tedious but eventually grows on you. The book is about fourteen-year-old Zoon Razdan who is instantly shown to be witty, intelligent and above-all perceptive. She lives in Kashmir with her mother in a house – which of course is a part of the title. The objects in the house converse with her. She isn’t new to magic. There are forces beyond her control that threaten to take over her life, the house and her beloved Kashmir.

The book has a lot of metaphors given Kashmir’s situation as of today and that is laudable. Zuni is very empathetic in her writing and that shows. I think that perhaps when you are younger you aren’t influenced by all the writing around you. Of course you read a lot but then again, it isn’t what drives your writing. Your experiences do and after reading this book, I think Zuni’s writing comes from a more personal space (as it should). The characters could have been culled out in a more interesting manner but I guess that can be ignored given it is her first book and she is only sixteen (I think). The writing though is powerful and I loved how the narrative of historic fiction was blended in seamlessly. “The House that Spoke” will charm you, move you, and also make you think about what we’ve done to heaven on earth.

The Midnight Gang by David Walliams

the-midnight-gang-by-david-walliams Title: The Middnight Gang
Author: David Walliams
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
ISBN: 978-0008164621
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 496
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I’ve always identified David Walliams with the show “Little Britain” and the tongue-in-cheek and absolutely obnoxious humour mostly and nothing else. Till of course I got to know that he wrote books for children a couple of years ago and I must say that he is quite a good writer. His latest book “The Midnight Gang” released last year in November and this is the one I shall be talking about obviously.

“The Midnight Gang” ideally may not even be for me (given the target audience and all that) but I thoroughly enjoyed it, just like his other works and cannot wait for the next one to be released. Lord Funt Hospital in London is the setting of this novel and it only gets exciting. It is a children’s hospital but not the ideal place for children to stay at. And yet, the kids who come here manage to have midnight adventures which are quite unusual and thrilling. Tom is the latest entrant and he is going to embark on an adventure of a lifetime, once he meets the other kids of the ward.

The ideas and the writing are splendid. I mean I would even go this far and say that Walliams needs to be placed close to Dahl when it comes to storytelling where children are concerned. He takes a simple idea and turns it around magnificently – thereby just giving the reader so much to look forward to with every turn of the chapter.

The characters are the usual – you might even find them in every other kid’s book, however the illustrations are superlative – done specifically by Tony Ross for this book. “The Midnight Gang” is all sorts of heartwarming as well – when you least expect it. The humour will make even a grown man laugh out loud (as it did in my case). Read it if you’re in the mood to read something light.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

circus-mirandus-by-cassie-beasley Title: Circus Mirandus
Author: Cassie Beasley
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1910002575
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 306
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The book “Circus Mirandus” has a very interesting premise. A boy who is all of ten or eleven I think – Micah Tuttle. He lives with his grandfather Ephraim. He has spent all his life till now – ten years that is, hearing tales of a magical circus. Grandpa Ephraim is now very ill. What he does is, he tells Micah that all tales about Circus Mirandus were actually true and the circus does exist. He also lets Micah know that the Light bender or the Man who bends light gave him a wish which he wishes to use now. Micah has a purpose and plans to make things happen one way or the other.

Thus begins the tale of Micah and his friend Jenny Mendoza and how they battle to get Micah’s grandfather his wish come true. At the same time there is Micah’s great Aunt Gertrudis who thinks magic is all bollocks and nothing good ever came out of it. She is one character you will not like very much. I know I didn’t.

Over all, the premise is a good one that makes you turn the pages. At some points you think the book is long and could have been cut short but maybe it is worth it as the story progresses. I am almost sold on reading only children’s fiction because it is at least feel good and doesn’t get me all wondering about the big issues of life and living. The parts of the circus are interestingly written, so much so that you just imagine you’re there or want to be there.

“Circus Mirandus” is one of those heartwarming books that make you want to believe in magic and everything nice. The book is simply magical and the illustrations are stunning. Please read this book to believe in things that you did as a child.

The Robber Hotzenplotz by Otfried Preussler

The Robber Hotzenplotz by Otfried Preussler Title: The Robber Hotzenplotz
Author: Otfried Preussler
Translated by: Anthea Bell from German
Publisher: NYRB Children’s Collection
ISBN: 978-1590179611
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 128
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I steer clear from most children’s fiction. I don’t know why but that has always been the case – more or less. There are some books though that catches my fancy and I happened to literally bump into “The Robber Hotzenplotz” by Otfried Preussler online and couldn’t resist getting my own copy (on request from publisher) and I was more than pleasantly surprised by the book.

The story is simply told. The plot is of two boys – around eight or nine year olds – who are best friends – Kasperl and Seppel and of the robber Hotzenplotz who works very hard to hide in the woods and wait for his next victim. His next victim happens to be Kasperl’s grandmother, who he attacks and steals her coffee mill. The boys then head out to rescue the mill from Hotzenplotz and find themselves in the midst of one adventure after another.

Preussler’s writing is funny – in the sense not only for children but also for adults. The translation by Anthea Bell is simple and works with every single turn of the page. The illustrations are magnificent and won’t let go of you that easily. I loved the simple and yet so human like illustrations.

To me the book was a breeze of a read and will be the same for you. I was just wondering also of the numerous tales that we do not pay attention to, either because we aren’t familiar with them or because our culture doesn’t expose us to them. NYRB Children’s Classics plans to change that I hope with the publication of such classics that more children will read from different countries and know more. I know, I for one will lap them all.

“The Robber Hotzenplotz” is a funny read for both children and adults and I highly recommend this one.