Tag Archives: reading

The Three Questions: Written and Illustrated by Jon J. Muth

the-three-questions-by-jon-j-muth Title: The Three Questions
Written and Illustrated by Jon J. Muth
Adapted from a story by Leo Tolstoy
Publisher: Scholastic Books
ISBN: 978-0439199964
Genre: Picture Book, Short Story
Pages: 32
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

This was the next book in the Story Cure challenge. The Three Questions is mentioned as a book for grown-ups in the book and rightly so. For anyone who has ever questioned life and its workings, this picture book is definitely for you.

“The Three Questions” is a book written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth and based on the same story by Leo Tolstoy. At the heart of the story, there is a boy named Nikolai who just wants answers to three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? He sets out to seek the answers from Leo, the Turtle, after having received no assistance from Sonya the Heron, Gogol the Monkey and Pushkin the Dog.

The answers of course are but obvious but I cannot reveal them in this review. Also, notice how the names of the creatures and Nikolai himself are modeled either after literary characters or historic ones. I loved that while reading this picture book. And yes, rightly so it is a book for grown-ups because it is only we who are constantly seeking answers and never learn to stay still.

P.S: I’ve also read the short story by Tolstoy but hands down I prefer this version by Muth.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

a-child-of-books-by-oliver-jeffers Title: A Child of Books
Authors: Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406358315
Genre: Children’s Books, Picture Books
Pages: 40
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Books will always remain the most inexpensive way to get access to other worlds. They always have been and always will be. I was very lucky that my parents introduced me to books when I was only five years old. I haven’t looked back since. Books and I have a relationship that will never die or fade. I am glad that I am sure of this.

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So when I saw ‘A Child of Books’ slated for release, I knew I had to get my hands on it and read it – not just once but again and again and again. It is not a children’s book – it looks and reads like one but I don’t think it is a children’s book. If anything, it is for adults who have forgotten what it’s like to be a child. I am also biased to Oliver Jeffers’ books – to me, he cannot come out with a bad book. That is something which isn’t possible.

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This book is simple – it is a picture book – with words and sentences that are so profound that it will make you sit back and contemplate about whether your child is reading enough or not. It is a love letter to reading and how it does really save us. A girl is besotted by books and reading and helps a tiny boy to take the proverbial plunge to this world of words and emotions.

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The book is about their journey – through magical lands, fairies and castles and places where anything can happen and those places are only found in books. I think this is the most fitting tribute to books, literature and the books that are so quirkily placed within this book. ‘A Child of Books’ should be read by anyone and everyone who loves books and reading. It is that essential.

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Flipkart: A Child of Books

At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

at-hawthorn-time-by-melissa-harrison Title: At Hawthorn Time
Author: Melissa Harrison
Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus
ISBN: 978-1408859056
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

For the longest time I couldn’t understand books which had nature as an integral theme. I don’t know why but I couldn’t. Then I read “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert and it changed my view of “nature novels” forever. I was intrigued by the genre. I had to read more about the beauty we are surrounded by (albeit what we do with it) and our close connection to the flora and the fauna to speak of.

Human beings, most of them have not understood nature and its significance. It is so out of their line of thought and vision, that it doesn’t even cross paths with their day-to-day life or routine of it. Come to think of it, it is rather sad, isn’t it? To not think of what we are surrounded by and I am also one of them. I am equally to be blamed, however I hope to change that by observing, and perhaps by saving what is left.

“At Hawthorn Time” by Melissa Harrison is not the kind of book that can be read in one sitting. Not because it is difficult to read, but because you need to ponder and mull over what is written. At times, you might even feel that this book isn’t for you, but I beg you to give it some time and you will see its beauty and what it’s worth.

Let me quickly get to the plot of the book: Howard and Kitty is an ageing couple who have moved to Lodeshill, after spending a lifetime in London and their marriage is falling apart – day by day, without a word or indication. They do not have the will to do anything about it and that’s heartbreaking. Harrison has this wonderful knack of blending the ordinary with the extraordinary moments and this is where nature plays a major role in the book. Everything happens languidly, at its own pace. I even thought that the couple’s marriage was like the turn of seasons – that carried out for 30 years and now had just given up.

Lodeshill is a fictitious village (I read this in an interview as I finished the book and was surprised to read that). Having said that, it is as real as any village could be – the mannerisms, the locales and the landscape of village life are accurately and beautifully captured by Ms. Harrison.

So there is this couple whose marriage is on the rocks (or has completely fallen off the cliff so to say) and then you have Jack, a rebellious modern-day hippie who has skipped imprisonment and all he wants is to go back home and reinvent his life, keeping his body and soul together.

And to forget that there is Jamie, a nineteen-year old man who is coming of age and doesn’t know what to do with this life. There is no direction or purpose so to speak and all he wants to do is leave Lodeshill for good. At the same time, he is taking care of his grandfather who is facing dementia and just disappears one fine day, leaving Jamie wondering what happened to him.

Before the reader knows it, there are paths that cross (but eventually) and incidents occur and life isn’t what they all thought it is. At this point, I would have to talk about nature and the big role it plays in the book – it is there – bright, dark, daunting and as varied as you’d think of nature to be. The landscape in which Harrison writes is real, not brutal but definitely bordering the lonely and the aspirational and Harrison just makes us realize the worlds we inhabit. A book you must buy, read, keep, and reread.

This book was also a shortlisted title for the 2015 Costa Novel Award.

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At Hawthorn Time

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The Gifts of Reading by Robert Macfarlane

The Gifts of Reading by Robert Macfarlane Title: The Gifts of Reading
Author: Robert Macfarlane
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0241257340
Genre: Non-Fiction, Bibliomania, Books about Books
Pages: 64
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Robert Macfarlane is a travel writer more than anything else. He writes about his adventures in walking, trekking, climbing and camping in the wilds above all else. This latest book of his however is different. It is about the joy of receiving and giving books as gifts. The book primarily centers on the relationship he shared with a long departed friend whom he worked and travelled with in China. This relationship was about book gifting.

He recounts his love for Patrick Leigh Fermor’s books and also how he gives away the books he has loved to people he knows and doesn’t know. Macfarlane always has a stack of books ready (which he buys on the side) in his office which people can come and pick up. I loved the idea but I don’t know if I can do this. Maybe someday I will.

Macfarlane has this wondrous style of explaining things so simply – he doesn’t need to exaggerate life and that’s why you need to soak in whatever he offers. All his experiences with reading are one of a kind and while you may relate to them at some point, you wish you’d live them. If a book manages to do that to you, then it is a pretty good book, according to me.

“The Gifts of Reading” is full of anecdotes about books, reading and the lives that perhaps we should be living compared to what we are. I wish the book were longer. I wish it didn’t end so soon. I would love to read more of Macfarlane’s books for sure after this essay.

The Village Indian by Abbas Khider

The Village Indian by Abbas Khider Title: The Village Indian
Author: Abbas Khider
Publisher: Seagull Books
ISBN: 978-0857421012
Genre: Literary fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Seagull books are most interesting. There is something about the list that makes you want to read everything they publish. Their fiction is superlative. Their non-fiction mesmerizes you as a reader. Their concepts and what they choose to publish is beyond anything that I have seen come from other publishers. So when I started reading “The Village Indian” by Abbas Khider, I knew I had struck gold.

“The Village Indian” is not an easy read – in the sense that it is difficult to get your teeth into – yes it is a difficult read from the look of it, but when you immerse yourself in the book – then you cannot get out of it, till it is done and finished with.

The novel though is drawn from the author’s experiences as a political prisoner and the years he spent as a refugee. It will not be easy for some to stomach this, but there is no sugar-coating in this book at all. The hero Rasul Hamid describes the eight different ways in which he fled his home in Iraq and how in those eight different times he failed to find himself a new way home.

This is the summary of the plot – so to say but there are so many layers to this book that will take you by surprise and throw you off-guard. The humour bites you and at the same time it has you wondering about the refugee condition and what happens to those who do not make it – what about the people living on the margins? Do they have a future at all?

Khider’s writing is razor-sharp and doesn’t miss a beat in any sentence or page for that matter. It is a joyride of a novel – that takes you through various turns and twists, and at the same time at some level makes you see what the world really is like, and surprisingly I was a little hopeful, a little bittersweet and a whole lot of happy after reading this book.


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The Village Indian (English)

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The Village Indian (The German List)