Tag Archives: children’s fiction

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond Title: Mouse Bird Snake Wolf
Author: David Almond
Illustrated by: Dave McKean
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0763659127
Genre: Children”s Fiction
Pages: 74
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There are times you read a book and cannot stop but think about what the author tried to communicate and how. “Mouse Bird Snake Wolf” by David Almond is all about creation and what happens when the Gods get lazy and do not wish to create anymore. Sounds fun, isn’t it? When humans are left to create? But what if children start doing that? Then what are the consequences? These are the questions raised quite well by Almond, through a wonderful story and even more arresting illustrations by Dave McKean.

You will be able to read the book in one whole gulp. There is no other way to read this book. Harry, Sue and Ben find their world empty. Of course they would! The Gods did not finish creating it. They did create a lot and then went about their business of merriment. And then the kids wanted to fill the empty spaces so they create something with twigs, grass and earth, and things begin to go out of control.

David Almond and Dave McKean are a killer team with this book. The illustrations are menacing and also wondrous when it comes to the Gods and their lives up above. This book is for both, children and adults according to me. It is about a world gone wrong and then made right. It is about what happens when control is taken over and how things change. A read for some introspection, for some fun and also just because you have to read a David Almond book.

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Mouse Bird Snake Wolf

Meeting Cezanne by Michael Morpurgo

Meeting Cezanne by Michael Morpurgo Title: Meeting Cezanne
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Illustrator: Francois Place
Publisher: Walker Books, Penguin UK
ISBN: 9781406351132
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 64
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I had heard a lot about Michael Morpurgo and his books before I started reading “Meeting Cezanne”. I now know why both kids and adults love him and his works the way they do. There is something about the way he unfolds a story. It transcends age. Both adults and children can read his works and feel that gooey, buttery feeling and be happy, even if it means that happiness is temporary. A reread will transport you back to the feeling nonetheless. If that is what one Morpurgo book could do to me, then I am definitely reading all that he has to offer.

“Meeting Cezanne” is for young readers. The setting is 1960s. It is about a ten-year-old boy Yannick, who has to stay with this aunt, uncle and cousin in the South of France, as his mother needs recovering from a treatment. Provence is the place to be, or so the paintings of his mother’s beloved Cezanne say. It is paradise on earth and all of it. Yannick is hesitant to stay with his Aunt Mathilde and yet in the process, he waits tables at his aunt and uncle’s restaurant, he befriends his cousin and makes an amazing discovery about an artist who regularly visits the restaurant. The discovery is made when he accidentally destroys a precious drawing.

This is the plot of the book. Now to the way the writer and the artist have presented it to the reader. The writing is very simple (but of course, since it is written for children). The illustrations by Francois Place are just perfect and one just wants to constantly gaze at them, way after the book is done with. You will most certainly finish reading the book in less than an hour or so. I think the beauty of this book is that its appeal is so vast and also the fact that anything told so simply has no choice but to be beautiful. “Meeting Cezanne” is a perfect monsoon read for children and adults alike.

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Book Review: Mr. Bliss by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: Mr. Bliss
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
ISBN: 978-0-00-743619-4
Genre: Children, Fantasy
Pages: 83
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

J.R.R. Tolkien could have written a twenty-page story and we will still love that, no matter what. He could have scribbled anything after LOTR and we would have lapped it up, against our better sensibilities. Because, but after all, he is J.R.R. Tolkien.

While we have all read and loved LOTR, do try reading his eighty-three page story, “Mr. Bliss”. It is simply written and beautifully illustrated by the man himself. It is a very simple story of a man named Mr. Bliss and his unseemingly weird adventures as he heads out one fine sunny morning to buy a car. He is the owner of an exotic pet named Girabbit (of course the combination of a Rabbit and a Giraffe which is quite funny when seen illustrated) and is well-known for his collection of tall hats. He lives in a house built specifically to accommodate his hats. The book is about his first drive to visit his friends, The Dorkinses and how disastrous it gets. How he meets three bears on the way, is car breaks down, and how he has to also give lifts to Mr. Day and Mrs. Knight. The ending is quite sweet and all Tolkien fans will for sure relish this book.

The book also includes the originally written story in Tolkien’s handwriting, which is a treat. The illustrations are also included – the ones he began with for the book. Mr. Bliss came about as a story that Tolkien told his kids and for the longest time wasn’t in print. I am only too happy that it is now and people can read this short and fantastical story.

What I loved about the book is its simplicity. It is one of the understated, subtle and sweet books which are a rarity in today’s time. I would highly recommend this one to most Tolkien fans and also the ones who haven’t heard of him before (which is rather rare). Mr. Bliss will charm and warm your heart. A must read for both kids and adults.

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Book Review: The Library by Sarah Stewart

Title: The Library
Author: Sarah Stewart
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
ISBN: 9780374343880
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 40
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

The Library by Sarah Stewart is a paean to readers everywhere in the world. It will be cherished by all readers and understood most by them. I picked it up on a whim; however, I am so glad I did. The Library is one of those books that you will finish in less than five minutes, and yet you will go back to it again and again.

The book tells the story of shy, bookish, Elizabeth Brown and her life-long affair with books, where nothing else or no one else is needed. She only buys books and reads and reads and reads some more. As time passes she accumulates so many books that she decides to turn her house to a public library, where people can read for free and the written word can be cherished.

I read The Library at such a time when the concept of libraries is dying. I don’t see one in my city or that many in my country for that matter and that is sad. The Library is a beautifully illustrated book as well and by none other than David Small, who is her partner and understands the essence of the story completely.

I have thought many times to open a library; however I cannot bear the thought of my books not being handled well by some readers. May be that perception will change someday. The Library touched by heart because of its simplicity and the fact that I could relate to it so well. All I can say is that The Library should be read by every book lover as it makes you see books for what they are – priceless.

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Book Review: Indra Finds Happiness by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik

Title: Indra Finds Happiness
Author: Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik
Series: Fun in Devlok
Publisher: Puffin
Genre: Mythology, Children’s Fiction
ISBN: 9780143331681
PP: 52 Pages
Source: Personal Copy
Price: Rs. 99
Rating: 5/5

So I set out to read these fantastical mythological tales churned for children by Devdutt and let me tell you a secret: Though the back cover of the book mentions that the book is for ages 6+ I immensely enjoyed them. There are 3 titles in this series, “Indra Finds Happiness”, “Gauri and the Talking Cow” and “An Identity Card for Krishna”. I picked up all of them knowing I would not be disappointed and trust me I wasn’t.

What is “Indra finds Happiness” all about anyway?

Little Harsha is sad as his parents are fighting, his sister is not speaking with him as she is too busy on her cell  phone, and he doesn’t get to eat ice-cream when he wants to. A cloud then takes him to the abode of Indra, and there he finds out that Indra – the god of gods is the unhappiest one around. Harsha on the course of his journey sees magnificent things – the six-tusked white elephant Airavata, the tree that fulfils every wish, the pot of never-ending gold and the potion that keeps Indra young and healthy and despite all this, he finds the god unhappy and miserable. He feels that all that he has achieved is under threat from everyone else.

Amidst all this, Indra decides to steal the sage Vasishta’s cow and gets caught in the act. It is the sage who teaches Indra how to be happy, however like they say, it is for the learner to decide whether or not he would like to apply what he has learnt and the question is: Does Indra realize and learn the lesson after all?

Now what I liked about the book: The story was told but of course quite simply as it is meant for children. It is the way it was told – the clarity of writing for children, with the precision and insight to be able to blend the traditional and mythological with the modern twist to the stories. I only wish the illustrations were done by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik themselves, considering he is brilliant with stick illustrations.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

We always have liked to believe that Alice’s Adevntures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is a book for children and while it is, one cannot ignore the fact that is a book for adults as well. I have just finished reading it and to be very honest, when I first read it as a child, I found it very boring. I mean at that age I did not want to read of a seven-year old girl tumbling down a hole into nothingness, and here I was re-reading it almost after 18 years and loved it this time.

We all know what Alice in Wonderland (as most popularly known) is all about. Alice is bored on a hot afternoon and follows the elusive White Rabbit down a rabbit-hole without thinking of how she will get out. She needs adventure and sure does get it. She tumbles into Wonderland, where animals speak, a baby turns into a pig, The Queen of Hearts wants to chop everyone’s heads off, time stands still at a party, Alice grows and shrinks by the minute, and it is here that Alice is lost, or so it seems.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was inspired by Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – I am so not surprised as to why he wrote under the pen name of Lewis Carroll) while he was making up a story for his young friend, Alice Lidell on a boat trip. It is from this girl he drew inspiration to write this gem of a book.

I loved some of the quotes of this book:

…and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

‘Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice; ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!’

‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
‘I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone: ‘so I ca’n’t take more.’
‘You mean you ca’n’t take less,’ said the Hatter: ‘it’s very easy to take more than nothing.’

Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. `Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked.

`Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, `and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’

The version that I was reading contained pictures from the original edition which were drawn by John Tenniel and they are brilliant. Here is my favourite one of the Tea Party. My one and only problem with the book is that Alice does not seem happy, she is sulking most of the time and I wonder why. Is it because her innocence was lost a little too soon? Keeps me thinking.