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The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: The Velveteen Rabbit
Author: Margery Williams
Imprint: Doubleday, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
ISBN: 9780593382103
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.

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Fortunately, The Milk
Author: Neil Gaiman
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN: 9781408873021
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.

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? By Dr. Seuss

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?
Author: Dr. Seuss
Imprint: Harper Collins, UK
ISBN Number: 978-0-00-824000-4
Genre: Children’s Book, Onomatopoeia

Most of us don’t need an introduction to Dr. Seuss, but I will still give a brief introduction to this great personality for the benefit of others who are not aware of him. Dr. Seuss is a pseudonym or pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel. Apart from being a writer, he wore many different hats like animator, political cartoonist and poet to name a few. Even if you have not read his books, you would have definitely heard of or watched the movie based on his books Horton Hears a Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and The Lorax.

There is no story in Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? It is more of a booklet to help children learn to read and progress with their pronunciation skills. While reading this book, I couldn’t help singing along. Why? Because all the lines in the book rhyme!

I recommend Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? to parents who are reading to their children who have begun to speak now as well as to children who have learnt to speak/read on their own. Enjoy the book!

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Carmilla
Author: Sheridan Le Fanu
Imprint: Pushkin Press, UK
ISBN Number: 978-1-78227584-8
Genre: Classic, Fiction, Horror, Gothic, Vampires, Sapphic/Lesbian

Sheridan Le Fanu is an Irish writer, who lived in Dublin in the 1800s. He is touted to be Stephen King of his times. His work, Carmilla, is said to be the cult classic that inspired Bram Stoker to write his cult classic, Dracula.

Young Laura and her father live in a schloss (German for castle) in a place called Styria where families live very far from each other, but would like to visit each other. Laura doesn’t have any friends of her age, except her governesses who are of course older than her. She awaits visits from her far away neighbours hoping they would bring in their young nieces or friends with whom she could be friends. One such visit of an elderly neighbour with his niece gets cancelled at the last moment due to sudden death of the niece, for reasons unexplained to them by the neighbour. One night, in an accident outside their schloss, an injured girl of the age about that of Laura, is taken in after a lot of discussion with a lady who claims to be her mother. Joyed to have a friend at last, Laura spends a lot of time with her new friend, Carmilla, who is always tired, languid and tantrum-throwing. As Laura becomes closer to Carmilla, the more the former girl becomes weak. Unable to understand why Laura is weakening and getting nightmares, her father searches for answers. What answers does he get? What happened to the neighbour’s niece? Who is Carmilla? What happens to Laura? Read the book to get your answers.

If you have already read Dracula by Bram Stoker, you will find Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu a little pale. But, on the other hand, Carmilla is an easy read compared to Dracula. I personally don’t like epistolary novels. Dracula took me a very long time to finish reading. I struggled with it. Although Carmilla is in a similar form, it is a short read and hence tolerable. But, that is just me. Apart from this, I must acknowledge the fact that while writing one of the early fictions of vampirism, Sheridan Le Fanu also included homosexuality in it. Must have been too much to handle for the people of his era. However, it is very subtly handled in the narration. That might have avoided any furore. We don’t know what might have happened at that time. Sheridan Le Fanu is more dead than Carmilla now to answer our questions.

All in all, I neither recommend nor reject Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. You are on your own with this.

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Epistolary
Imprint: Penguin, UK
ISBN: 9780141325309

Johann Wyss was a Swiss author. I am not sure whether he has written more because when I tried to search for more of his works, nothing came up in the results except The Swiss Family Robinson, the very book I am reviewing now. Although I couldn’t find any other works of Johann Wyss, I found a trivia that he was inspired by Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe, that he started writing The Swiss Family Robinson with an intention to teach children a thing or two through it.

A Swiss family of six – father, mother and four sons – sail to the nearest island after the crew of the ship in which they were sailing abandons them. The island has no signs of humanity. On the island, they start with a temporary home at the shores and then go deep into the forest looking for suitable places to build a permanent home. On the shores as well as inside the forest, the family of six come across different types of flora and fauna. The father teaches his children – Fritz, Ernst, Jack and Franz – about the plants and animals and their uses. Some are scary and some are pleasant. They also use the livestock they had on the ship to breed them on the island to keep a good and constant supply of their food. They pray to Jesus on the island too as they are a very pious Christian family. As the months pass, they building house and make caves for various purposes and settle properly on the island. Eventually, a crew of one of the detouring ships visit the Swiss Family Robinson. Will the Robinsons go back to the civilization with the crew? Or will they stay back on the island? Read the book to know.

I personally could not enjoy reading The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. It is not a bad book. I felt it is too preachy at times. Johann Wyss has written the book to teach something about making a living in the nature, but he forgot to make it interesting. I listen to audiobooks for those that I can’t spend anymore time reading so that I can just listen to it and finish the book soon. I did the same for The Swiss Family Robinson too. Now I understand why some people don’t like classics.

I don’t know whether I should recommend this book to anyone in any manner.

Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge by Norman Whaler

Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge by Norman Whaler

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction
Imprint: Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC, USA
ISBN: 9781682543054

Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge by Norman Whaler is a sequel many years into the future from the time in which A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is set.

The storyline of Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge is sustained mainly by the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge. If you have read A Christmas Carol, then you would know that Tiny Tim is the character that melts the cold heart of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge. In the sequel that we are discussing, Tiny Tim is a grown man, who is still unmarried in the memories of the love he has for a woman who was married off to someone else because Tim didn’t have much wealth. Tim is a depressed young man. Just like the three ghosts appeared to Scrooge on the eve of Christmas to make him a better man, Scrooge’s ghost appears to Tim on the eve of a Christmas, but not to make him a better man because Tim is already a kind-hearted man, but ill-tempered. Then why does Scrooge’s ghost appear to him? Read the story to know, or not. I will tell you why.

If there was a need to write a sequel, the storyline adapted is definitely not the best as there is no story in there. Not wanting to sound cruel or rude, but the writer of this sequel probably wrote this as a tribute to his late wife. Yes, he does mention her in the dedication and in the About the Authors section. It also might be a dedication to his father who went by the same name as the author himself. Wife, the lost love, and the father as Scrooge. I am just guessing. But there are irrelevant double and single quotation marks combinations making reading a struggle. Though the story has already taken place, the narration fluctuates between past and present tenses. Also, the narrator doesn’t even mention Cratchit’s other children i.e. Tim’s siblings, not even once.

I enjoyed reading A Christmas Carol, but not Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge. I read both the books as an adult, liking one and not the other. I would not recommend this book even for a one-time read.

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Review by Shwetha H S

Imprint: Penguin India
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism
ISBN: 978067088485

Salman Rushdie is an author more famous for the fatwa issued against him for writing The Satanic Verses than for any of his books. Of course, his writing is good and his books are famous too, but there is always the comparison.

There is a millenia-old face-off between dead philosophers. They just can’t leave the world alone even after their death. Then there is the jinnia princess, Dunia, who gives birth to so many children of one of the philosophers that their offspring almost single-handedly populate the whole world. They are called Duniazat. In the present day scenario, when something eventful happens and all the progeny of Dunia start displaying magical powers that were unknown to them. Ifrits, that were banished from the earth, step into the human world again. It becomes a fight between the Duniazat and the Ifrits. But what is the role of the philosophers and Dunia here? For that, you need to read this book.

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is a mesmerizingly beautiful story. It is as mesmerizing as a magical realism story should be. This is the first book of Salman Rushdie I had picked and I was not at all aware of his style of writing. In the beginning, the story bored me. But two chapters into it and it completely engrossed me. I was raving about the book everywhere. I still do. Don’t miss reading this book.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Review by Shwetha H S

Imprint: Alfred A Knopf, USA
Genre: Non Fiction, Family, Memoir
ISBN: 9781524732721

Dani Shapiro is an author known more for her memoirs than her fiction works. Her other works are Hourglass, Family History and Playing With Fire among others.

I picked Inheritance without knowing what it is about. I don’t have the habit of reading about a book before reading the book itself. I didn’t check the book blurb and I am glad i didn’t. I usually avoid non fiction and I would have definitely dropped this book the moment my eyes glanced the blurb. I would have missed a fantastic life story.

Dani Shapiro, the author, is a Jew, or that is what she was taught until a DNA test reveals that she is not related to her only half sister from father’s side. This DNA test sets a lot in motion for Dani and her husband. They reach out to a lot of people to find answers for the questions that she had never thought she would be faced. She tries to get answers not only from her biological father but also from her dead parents, her social father. She herself is old. How old would be her biological father? Would he accept her? What were her parents thinking? Why did they not tell her about her origins even after she grew up? Is she still her social father’s daughter or now of biological father’s?

Inheritance is no lesser than a thriller. Only difference is it is Dani Shapiro’s real life story. She still continues to write. I looked up Dani Shapiro on Google after reading the book completely. She looks the way I imagined her while reading the book. Every person struggling with identity crisis must read this book. It is a must read for everyone.

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy

Eat That Frog! By Brian Tracy

Review by Shwetha H S

Imprint: Collins Business
ISBN: 9781609946784
Genre: Self-Help, Non Fiction

Brian Tracy is from the field of self-improvement training, for both individuals and companies. In this book, Eat That Frog!, Brian Tracy has put in all methods to avoid procrastination. A very good read that teaches how to eat that frog.

Here, the frog denotes the most difficult task that is in front of you among many more. If someone asks you to eat a frog, you wouldn’t do it. But if this task makes things easier for other task completion, then you would do it. It is a simple concept. Finish the most difficult task first and it would make other minor tasks more easier than they are. Brian Tracy has explained twenty-one different ways to cut down on procrastination. All are proven methods, the ones that many companies and individuals have implemented in their day-to-day life.

Eat That Frog is a must read for everyone. It is not for working professionals, it is also important in domestic life. Go for this book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Review by Shwetha H S

Imprint: Dial Press
ISBN: 1984801813
Genre: Historical, Drama, Fiction, Humour

The late author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, passed away due to cancer a few months before the book was released. Her niece and co-author, Annie Barrows, stepped into her shoes to complete the book and make it see the light of the day. I am glad it happened. If not, I would have missed one witty book by female authors.

Juliet Ashton is a writer with few books to her name. She is not the typical girl of the WW2 era. Not coy, not timid. She is a person of her own mind and that mind of hers makes her pursue things that lead to her betterment. Wow. I love her. I see myself in her. I would totally do whatever she did in the situations she faced in the book. Getting back on track, she is an orphan but has close friends to call family, Sophie and Sidney. Under certain circumstances, she befriends the members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on the island of Guernsey under the nationality of England. When she gets to know the problems they faced during German occupation of the island and more intriguing facts about a few people, she decides to go to the island herself leaving behind a suitor, Mark, and her book publicity tour. There she finally meets her pen pals with whom she had developed a bonding over the letters. Amelia, Isola, Eben, Dawsey, Elizabeth, her daughter Kit, and Will are the prominent characters from the island. They all are present in person except Elizabeth who is in all the narrations of others. What happens between all these characters is the rest of the story. Each character in the story is different, but I kind of didn’t gel well with Isola. She was too much for me. If she were real, I would not have tolerated her bubbly nature.

I have personally never liked the epistolary format of books. Robinson Crusoe, Frankenstein, Swiss Family Robinson, they all bored me to death and I came alive by finishing them with audiobooks. But The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is different. I fell in love with the way letters are written. The narration is witty. So humorous that I want to wake Mary from her grave and kiss her and surrender to Annie for the prowess they exhibit in this book. Chuck the movie. Read the book. The movie does zero justice to the story and doesn’t even follow the same storyline completely.