Tag Archives: Walker Books

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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Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo Title: Because of Winn-Dixie
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 9780744578294
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 181
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There are a lot of authors who write about animals and humans, but I doubt if any of them write as well as Kate DiCamillo does on the topic. I was first introduced to her when I read, “Flora and Ulysses” and since then I have not turned back. Kate DiCamillo’s stories are heart-warming and each of them features an animal and then the love between humans and animals is most visible.

“Because of Winn-Dixie” is a book about a girl and her chance meeting with a dog that changes everything in her life and in the new town she and her father move to. Ten-year old Opal learns 10 things about her long gone mother from her preacher father. That happens because of Winn-Dixie, the dog she finds at a departmental store and things are then never the same.

I love DiCamillo’s writing. There is of course the simplicity, which is needed for a children’s book but her books are also accessible to adults, when it comes to emotions and feelings. This book made me want to watch the movie. DiCamillo packs so much in less than two hundred pages and with every turn of the page, you either smile or choke up or both. If you want to start reading children’s books, I strongly recommend you read Kate DiCamillo.

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The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo Title: The Tiger Rising
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406357639
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I got introduced to Kate DiCamillo’s books when I heard of Flora & Ulysses. That hooked me. I read and reviewed it, and could not stop talking about it to everyone I met. Well, almost everyone. Kate DiCamillo’s books have a charm to them. They leave you with a gooey feeling in the pit of your stomach. They somehow manage to heal you at various levels and this is what I call “magical” books. Books that do something to you, that perhaps change the way you feel and make you a better person. Yes, books do that as well.

“The Tiger Rising” was first published in 2001, her second novel, after Because of Winn-Dixie. I read it in 2014. The first book of the month and the month could not have started in any other way. There are books which I always believe come to you when you want them to. They cannot happen to you before a designated time. “The Tiger Rising” is a heartfelt tale of a ten-year-old boy Rob, a girl Sistine and a tiger.

Rob and his father have relocated after his mother’s death. They now stay at a motel. Sistine and her mother are starting anew, after Sistine’s father left them. Sistine waits for her father to return. Rob finds it hard to speak about himself. His secrets are locked. His is bullied at school. He doesn’t want to go to school. And then suddenly, he discovers a tiger and life changes.

The book is heart-breaking. It is sad. It is happy. It is bitter. It is hopeful. It will make your heart sing and also wrench it at times. I had no idea where time flew by as I immersed myself in this novella. “The Tiger Rising” needs no validation. It needs nothing, but more readers to read it and be amazed by the power of words.

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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: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo Title: Flora & Ulysses
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 9781406345186
Genre: Children
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have always wondered what it is about children’s stories that immediately draw me to them. The need to read almost all of what is written in that genre and still crave for more. It is always so calming – the reading of stories written for children. At one point or the other, it almost makes you want to believe in everything and everyone – all over again. It makes you want to be a child – all safe and sheltered.

“Flora & Ulysses” by Kate DiCamillo is one such book I stumbled on this year and I cannot be gladder than having read it before the year ended. “Flora & Ulysses” is about an eleven-year old girl, who is a cynic and a squirrel with superpowers. It seems wonderful, doesn’t it? It is more wondrous than it sounds. It all begins when a squirrel gets sucked into a Ulysses vacuum cleaner (hence the name), almost dies and survives because of Flora and before you know it, he has acquired super powers (which I will not discuss here) and also an archenemy that must be stopped. Besides this, the squirrel knows how to type and write poems (he loves poetry after all).

In all of this, there is Flora’s neighbour, her parents (divorced and estranged), a lamp most hated and a boy who will not remove his sun glasses, because he thinks he is blinded. To read such a story is always heart-warming. I could see myself fawning over the characters just as soon as I began the story. The book is all about hope and love and a heart that can change.

To me, the book was just right and came to me at the right time, when probably I was in danger of becoming a cynic. Sometimes you need the required optimism and belief from other sources and what other way to get it than through a wonderfully written book of young children, squirrels with superpowers and characters who want to change the world – one day at a time.

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