Review by Shwetha H S
Title: Jungle Nama
Author: Amitav Ghosh
Imprint: Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Genre: Mythology, Illustrated, Children, YA, Adults
If you are into reading books, then you would have probably heard of Amitav Ghosh. He is a prominent name in the Indian literary circles and is also a recipient of Jnanpith Award. I always stayed away from mainstream books. Amitav Ghosh’s books seemed so mainstream, I never thought of reading his works. But while browsing through a bookshop in Leh, Ladakh, a book cover caught my attention. It was Amitav Ghosh’s Jungle Nama. As you must have guessed, I bought that book to enter the world of one of the greatest Indian literary celebrities.
Jungle Nama is based on one of the chapters of The Legend of Bon Bibi. It is written in the form of poetry. This is a story of morals with a link to local mythology, anchored in reality, for both kids and adults alike. Particularly this story talks about greed – how a wealthy merchant makes a pact with a regional deity or a demigod, Dokkhin Rai, who often shape-shifts into a Royal Bengal Tiger and is restricted to the areas of Sunderbans, to leave his relative as food in exchange for honey and wax, but are punished by Bon Bibi and her twin brother Shah Jongoli.
I found it good to read Jungle Nama aloud. There are quite a few Bengali/Bangla words, so it is better to read in the same accent, for fun as well as it gives a sense of relevance. There are a few moderately difficult words used in the book, which make a good addition to the readers’ English vocabulary. Most of all, the Afterword of this book is as precious as the story. The last time I was so mesmerised by someone’s writing was while reading Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. There was no need for a bookmark while reading Jungle Nama as I finished reading it in one go! I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am no longer skeptical about reading a mainstream Amitav Ghosh’s book. While the writing is great, the illustrations aren’t so. Although the last few pages of the book praise the illustrations by Salman Toor, I thought they could have helped glorify the story better, especially because this is based on mythology. Nevertheless, I definitely recommend reading Jungle Nama.
Review by Shwetha H S
Title: The Velveteen Rabbit
Author: Margery Williams
Imprint: Doubleday, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
Genre: Children, Illustrated
I heard of The Velveteen Rabbit, for the first time, from Chandler Bing while watching him on the TV series F.R.I.E.N.D.S. It had stuck in my mind since then. When I found an edition of The Velveteen Rabbit in Goa, while looking for something else, I had to buy it. I had to read it.
A rabbit made of velvet cloth and sawdust stuffing feels insecure among other modern toys of a child, but another old toy tells it that a toy is not noticed by how it looks or what it can do, but by how much it is loved. The child eventually loves the velveteen toy so much that the two cannot be parted, making the rabbit look rather worn out yet making it feel like a real rabbit. But, when the child falls sick, all the old toys are discarded, including the velveteen rabbit. Does that mean the velveteen rabbit’s life has come to an end? What happens to the velveteen rabbit?
As I read The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, it taught me a good life lesson: sometimes, we are moulded/made by others, but our life does not end with what they do to us or how they see us, or when they pass away. This book is a precious one, written especially for children, but adults can learn from it too. I was so moved by this book that I don’t see this as a children’s book. Not to forget the beautiful illustrations by Erin Stead. She brings the decades old story to life.
Review by Shwetha H S
Title: Fortunately, The Milk
Author: Neil Gaiman
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Children, Young Adults
Neil Gaiman is not new to people already submerged in the literary world. But, for those who don’t know, let me quote The Times from the back cover of this book, Fortunately, The Milk: “Gaiman is the nearest thing children’s books have to a rock star. If you enjoy fantasy, he is irresistible.” Well, he is not limited to children’s books. Go on, explore his world. Many of his books are with illustrations by Chris Riddell. If Gaiman’s words spark the reader’s imagination, Riddell’s illustrations bring the imagination to life.
A mother goes to a conference leaving the father in-charge of their two children; a son, the eldest and a daughter, the youngest. They trio are fine on day one. The next day, there is no milk to have a decent breakfast. Off the father goes to buy milk. The children wait and wait and wait. When the father comes back and is questioned about the delay, he tells his children how he got caught up in time-travel and went back and forth to the past and the future with pirates, dinosaurs, tribals, a demi-god, precious stones, unicorns, vampires, dwarfs, aliens and, of course, a carton of milk that he bought. What is this new breakfast recipe instead of milk with Toasties? Do the children believe their father? It is for you to find out by reading the book.
I finished reading Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman in one go because I couldn’t put it down. As the Observer has made an observation and quoted, it is truly an entertaining story for adults and children alike. Chris Riddell’s illustrations are an added bonus. Anybody can pick it up to read and nobody would be disappointed.