Starr, the young black protagonist of The Hate U Give is just a normal teenager. But, one event changes her life completely. A white police officer shoots her unarmed best friend. Following his death, Starr struggles to come to grips with the situation.
She is torn between two realities- the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the fancy suburban school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered with this fatal shooting. Starr has been aware of these kind of radicalized killings. But, they always happened to someone else. Now, it has happened to her best friend.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.
Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.
That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?
She is drawn towards activism and wants to make her voice heard. But that’s no easy path either.
Intentions always look better on paper than in reality. The reality is, I may not make it to the courthouse in the morning.
The debut young adult novel is a timely look at some realities of our world right now- of which teenagers are very much a part of.
The beautiful relationship that Starr shares with each of her family members is also a running thread in the story. How they help her deal with the scenario in their own ways, is also a touching portrayal of family, and the role that family members play in our lives, no matter how flawed they may be.
This is a poignant story that deals with a conflict faced by a young teenager, in a social setting that young adults all over the world can identify with. Even if the incidents described in The Hate U Give happened in the USA, thematically and emotionally it is a novel that will connect with all people across cultures and social scenarios. In my opinion, it is a book that adults would love to read as well!
The book has been sweeping up awards, garnering critical acclaim and winning readers around the world! It won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2018. The novel recently also won the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, was declared a Printz Honor Book (of the Michael L. Printz Award, for excellence in literature written for young adults) as well as being selected as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book (the awards recognizing the African-American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults) at the American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards in the USA. The Hate U Give has also been shortlisted for the esteemed CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 in the UK. The Hate U Give is one book that lives up to the hype!
The ‘hOle books’ by Duckbill experiment slightly with the book form. As the name suggests, these books with a ‘hOle’, add a fun element to the book. There is a hole at the top right end of each book, which somehow younger children find very fascinating! Timmi and Rizu by Shals Mahajan takes on this format, and narrates a tale that many young children can relate to.
Timmi is a bold girl, and Rizu a sweet and quiet boy. He “sits on the last bench and pays attention, which is why he goes unnoticed”. But he has a problem, and a serious one at that! Three bullies lie in wait for him every day when they bully him and call him names.
Bullying is something that all kids face at some point in their school lives. Timmi réalisés that her friend is being bullied, and she wants to help him. With the good counsel of Idli-Amma and Juju the Giant, who help the two kids plan tactics against the ‘enemies’ the kids finally hit upon a plan to counter the bullies. The plan is fraught with its own challenges as well…at the end, do the children achieve their goal? Well, you’ll have to jump into the Duckbill Reading Hole for that!
In all, the book is a humorous take on how to handle bullying in school situations. Moreover, the apt illustrations by Shreya Sen accompany the text perfectly. The story is laced with humour that is quite appropriate for the young readers and will have them in splits!
‘Timmi and Rizu’ is a chapter book, and is a fun story to start-off your child on his or her independent reading journey as well.
Timmi and Rizu by Shals Mahajan
Illustrated by Shreya Sen
Published by Duckbill Books, 2017
If your child enjoys this book, do look at the following hOle books as well:
If your child adores Timmi (who doesn’t?) here is another one featuring Timmi’s exploits!
The book, as the name suggests, has 101 Haiku verses, carefully curated by the poet from his works. This is Raheja’s first attempt at Haiku, but his mastery over the form is quite apparent. Most of his poetry comes to him like a spontaneous burst of thought; flashes at unexpected times of the day and night, which can be lost if he does not record it at that moment. This explains why the words sound so natural and strike a chord in the reader’s heart.
Nature is undoubtedly one of the important themes around which he weaves his words. It is not only the beauty of nature that comes through, but also an innate wisdom that emanates through the lines. Mountains, seasons, fauna, animals, water bodies, islands, celestial bodies and hills and valleys- all these varied parts of nature find place in the Haiku.
Two of my favourite examples from the book…
A tree drops a leaf
Silently in a forest-
Trees don’t grieve lost leaves
Another Haiku I found particularly poignant…
Clouds empty themselves
Into seas pregnant with hope
One empties one fills
While the theme of nature is definitely important, Raheja uses the Haiku as a vehicle to comment on the current times, drawing upon themes that we all can identify with.
Take for example, the following:
Goldfish in a bowl
Opened a Facebook account
She loves the spotlight
These simple lines show so much- how social media platforms act as equalisers for expression irrespective of whether you are shy or outgoing in real life.
Some of the themes also deal with the journey of life.
take the road and find yourself….
it leads nowhere
and the following lines that echo a much-felt feeling…
I realised this
wasn’t where I wanted to be
when the road ended
Words which appear simple to understand are actually quite full of insight and meaning. The beautiful words have equally lovely illustrations to go with them. It is a book that you must read and re-read.
101 Haiku by Dinesh Raheja
Published by Om Books International
Navigating the complex world of start-ups requires a very different set of skills. Who would be more acquainted with this skill-set than those who have been there… done that? Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory, a popular media-tech platform and T.N. Hari, adviser and mentor to numerous young entrepreneurs and start-ups, get together to provide a unique insight into the world of start-ups in the book Cut the Crap and Jargon: Lessons from the Start-up Trenches, published by Penguin.
A key aspect makes the book different from other books on management- it recognizes that sometimes hindsight analysis cannot give all solutions to prevent problems. Most books on management analyse big business giants who have either succeeded or failed. They then draw conclusions and generalise these. However, here the authors have followed a different approach. They question if such a strategy is actually useful for start-ups who have a completely different set of problems. Here is where the book actually scores.
It dives into the world of start-ups and looks for the smaller mistakes or smaller decisions that go on to have a larger impact in the journey of the start-up. This is what makes this specific book relevant for start-ups. The book caters to a global audience but there is also specific information tailored to the Indian scenario.
There are several assumptions that the book makes which works well in its handling of issues related to start-ups. For instance, the requirements of agility, necessity to pivot in some cases, constant work on a shoestring budget and so on.
For all of us interested in start-ups, the mad rush for funding and the sheer hype surrounding the funding scenario can be quite difficult to understand. One of the interesting chapters, The Funding Craze takes an unbiased look at this so called circus of funding and presents an informed picture of the scenario.
The insights on bootstrapping versus external funding are also very relevant. The book devotes substantial space to understanding the dynamics of funding and valuation of start-ups, often taking a dig at the hypes created in the process. It gives a realistic portrayal of the scenario in India as well as helpful tips to understanding this aspect.
A lot of examples make the reading very relatable. The authors use famous start-ups as examples to illustrate the case they make at different points in the book. The information is presented in a variety of ways- interviews with an expert in a particular domain, as a case study or simple narrative with examples aplenty. This makes it easier for the reader to navigate through.
Having the right team is most crucial for a start-up. The book provides an understanding into the process of hiring, leadership, communication with team members, giving feedback and well, even firing! Right from hiring correctly, scaling up after starting up, the changing role of founders as the organisation grows and key habits that entrepreneurs need to have, Cut the Crap and Jargon: Lessons from the Start-up trenches, is a guide those who are involved with start-ups.
Cut the Crap and Jargon: Lessons from the Start-up Trenches
Penguin Random House India (1 October 2017)
Soul Warrior is the first book in the trilogy, The Age of Kali, a mythical fantasy fiction series by New York based novelist Falguni Kothari. Soul Warrior, published by Om Books International, draws from the rich character base and events from the Mahabharata, but presents them in a completely refreshed format (Quite literally since they all enter the 21st century!). There is the fictional law-governed Cosmos made up of heavenly, demonic and human realms and its protagonist, Lord Karna, the legendary guardian of the Human Realm, is coerced into training six godlings into demon hunters against a rising demon army.
There is a struggle between the Light and Dark forces of the Cosmos, and also the inherent question- how exactly do you know who are the light forces and which ones are the dark? Then there is the race to control the one soul capable of total cosmic annihilation- demi-god Karna’s and Draupadi’s secret child!
I wanted Karna and Draupadi to have a happily ever after, or some version of it. Karna is the quintessential tragic hero, the man who was wronged for possibly every moment of his life and yet he was generous and honorable in his dealings – well, honorable in most cases except in Draupadi’s, especially during the vastra haran. Despite that dishonorable act, Karna comes across as sympathetic and deserves an eternity of happiness. As you can tell, I am a little bit biased toward him.
Having also read mythological adaptations such as the Palace of Illusions and Jaya and Yuganta, and Mrytyanjaya etc, I felt justified, surprised and confident about writing an adaptation of Karna and Draupadi’s stories.
I’ve lived with Mahabharata all my life. Growing up in Mumbai, surrounded by our myths and legends, immersed in our culture, I’ve always questioned the meaning, the motivations of all the characters. I’ve always looked at the stories from different angles. I grew up listening to these myths and legends from my grandmother and her malishwalibai. And only later, when I was in middle school did I realize they’d told me the unconventional versions—the feminist versions, the versions where the women had a voice, even the center stage! In their versions, the women were equal protagonists and fate-changers as the men. It was only later, after I grew up, did I truly appreciate this unique female-driven point of view, which I hope I’ve managed to weave in through Soul Warrior.
I’m glad you find the concept interesting. Well, from the moment I started writing this story or even before…when I was thinking of using myths as the platform for a story, I was very clear about not wanting to simply retell the myth with a twist or two. The Mahabharata has been retold, revisited so many times, that one more version of it didn’t appeal to me.
One of the questions I repeatedly asked as a child was, “If they are all up there in Devlok right now, what exactly are they doing there?” This series is an attempt to answer that question!
Not at all. It happens almost unconsciously for me. I’m humorous and philosophical in parts on a daily basis. Having said that, I did choose to tell the story in terms of a comic book. I think it would make a great comic book, right?
My contract with OM Books is for a trilogy.
For Indians, mythology is their backyard. They’ve played with these stories, grown up surrounded by them, the gods and the goddesses, the key players of the myths, even the demons have become their invisible friends, maybe even their family members. Mythology is at once fun and entertaining, and a serious life lesson for Indians. It’s simply a part of our lives. This genre is our comfort zone because we recognize it, and identify with it. That’s what’s so appealing about this genre.
I’d say I have a 50/50 readership between US and India. While Indians do connect with this story on a visceral level, my readers in the USA are equally fascinated by it. Karna appeals to everyone. That’s his superpower. Of course, the readers unfamiliar with the Mahabharata or Indian mythology lose out on so many nuances that Indian readers treasure. I usually tell them to think of Karna as the Indian Achilles.
Plenty. Indian readers are super excited that I’ve brought the Gods into the 21st Century. While non-Indian readers have thanked me for introducing them to this whole other mythology that they never knew existed. I’ve had readers Google Karna, Draupadi, the Mahabharata and email me about their findings. It’s amazing how much joy a story can bring into our lives!
Soul Warrior by Falguni Kothari
Publisher: Om Books International (July 2017)
What can a little boy do if his Nani turns into his favourite cartoon character? Deepu is faced with a strange predicament. On a perfectly normal evening, he is fighting for the television remote with his grandmother in a perfectly normal way. Something happens. Then, she turns into a Ninja with Ninja superpowers! What follows is an eventful night filled with adventures. Nani takes her Ninja calling quite seriously. Welcome to Ninja Nani!
Lavanya Karthik introduces the very loveable Ninja Nani in two books, meant to be read one after the other. Ninja Nani & the Bumbling Burglars presents Nani’s fantastic transformation and Ninja Nani and the Zapped Zombie Kids builds on the adventure.
The language in both the books is extremely hilarious. There is an inherent humour in the language (for example, The Schoolbag Of Endless Sorrow as a word to describe his school bag). The situations described are also hilarious (Nani acting like Ninja, soumersauting in celings, backflipping quite efficiently and so on). Both these aspects combine to make for a comical read.
There are many illustrations throughout both the books which add to the fun of reading. In some of the key sections, the books also assume the form of a graphic novel. This is a very novel and interesting aspect.
In the first book Deepu and Nani take on a gang of robbers who are all set to rob a bank. In this book, both Deepu and Nani have just discovered the fact that Nani has Ninja powers. Both are coming to terms with it, and the adventure story forms a part of the entire story.
However, the second book, Ninja Nani and the Zapped Zombie Kids has a very confident Nani take on a huge challenge. She is the Mystery Hero of the town using her great powers quite responsibly for helping the residents of the town. Only Deepu knows her secret, and both of them work in tandem. This time round though, the challenge is bigger and tougher. Mrs.Godbole’s tuition class has something strange going on. Deepu’s friends who are a part of the class are acting like sleep-deprived zombies. Worse, Deepu may just join them! It’s all up to Nani to save the day. A lot more fighting and lots of excitement in store!
While the book is a fun adventure story on the surface, at a deeper level it also shows the beautiful grandson and grandmother relationship in the context of modern times.
Ninja Nani & the Bumbling Burglars
Ninja Nani and the Zapped Zombie Kids
Both books by Lavanya Karthik
Published by Duckbill Books, 2017
As children, all of us have indulged in colouring activities. Well, growing up and colouring books apparently did not go well together for many years, until recently when the market saw a surge in colouring books for adults. Suddenly a whole new world opened up. Adults found the therapeutic benefits of simple colour pencils and intricate drawings. Gods and Goddesses of India by Kanika Gupta adds to this exciting world of colouring books for adults.
Bangalore based illustrator, Kanika Gupta, has explored a very novel idea in the genre of colouring books for adults. This eye-catching therapeutic colouring book – Gods and Goddesses of India, captures the essence of deities worshipped in Hindu mythology.
Kanika Gupta’s expertise in doodling and detailing simply adds on to its beauty. Rest assured, getting your hands on this creative piece won’t just give you an insight into the oldest religion of the world, but the vibrant colours and mesmerizing patterns will help you connect with your divine self!
Detailing is my addiction! I can’t stop once I start drawing, so that’s a style that I have developed. The process was tricky, as it’s a little sensitive to go all imaginative with the Gods. I felt a little restricted at the same time. However, here there are no limitations as well. These Gods have 100 hands, 10 heads and so on, which makes drawing them a fun process! The process was first to shortlist the Gods, as there are so many and each is very interesting. I found shortlisting them the most challenging thing!
Hence, I took to a sequence, with Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. With Vishnu, I made the ‘Dashavtar’. Along with these three Gods were the corresponding Goddesses. I ended with Hanuman as he is said to be immortal, sort of depicting that creativity doesn’t die.
With a couple of references, I drew basic skeleton figures. Once stratified, the inking starts which gets tough to control. I had to tell myself stop the detailing and make it a little simpler for colouring!
I have always seen my mom write “Ram” as part of her meditation practice. This made me think: Why not do a colouring book on this theme? If you can write the Gods name, why can’t you colour his forms?
It’s nice to know a little about what you colouring!
They definitely heal a certain part in you. I run a colouring club on Sunday in a blissful park in Bangalore. people who come to colour there definately feel at ease and relaxed. You are so engrossed in making something beautiful , you are one pointed ..that is mediation
It’s sort of a compliment and a feedback- many have said the book is so pretty that we don’t feel like colouring it and spoiling it! What touched me was that an old client of mine has ordered books for her mother who is 70+ and her friends, and they have been colouring diligently with all the details!
I guess it’s the need. Anything that destresses is popular as in today’s world everyone is so stressed. A lot of people have been focusing on physical health which is good. But now, they do realize its time to give some attention to your mental health as well!
This colouring book for adults is Kanika Gupta’s second colouring book. Well, it’s never too late to experience the healing and creatively motivating effects of colouring.
Gods and Goddesses of India by Kanika Gupta
Published by Bloomsbury
For those of you who are familiar with this very famous form of artistic expression, this is certainly a book you should pick up and read. Those of you, who are also fans of art or artists, should definitely read this soul searching book, which is itself a work of art. B.A. Shapiro has merged the tale of the evolving of Abstract Expressionism, with the tale of Alizée Benoit, whose family is stuck in France due to problem of getting visas to America. They want to flee France, their homeland, because they are Jews, and believe that Hitler will take over France. The family of Alizée Benoit, flees France with a impressive number of other Jewish refugees, most of them innocent children, on the ship SS St. Louis, to Cuba and from there to the USA. However, once the ship reaches the shores of America, they are not allowed to dock, and are literally and metaphorically turned back to Europe, to their death, or as Alfred Lord Tennyson would put it, into the Valley of Death. This happened, because the US President and his Assistant Secretary of State Long, felt that that their applications for visas were not acceptable. They did not wish to take on the responsibility of housing refugees, especially Jewish refugees, for they wanted no part of the war in Europe, they did not trust the refugees, and lastly, they were most concerned that these refugees would take up all the jobs in the US, which rightfully belonged to the American citizens. (Now, where have I heard that before???)
The story, which is gripping and intense, gives us a glimpse of the USA of the late 1930s and early 1940s, as well as the story of Danielle in 2015, who is trying ways and means to find out what happened to her family, the Benoit’s, during World War II, and how Alizée Benoit had a major role to play in Abstract Expressionism of the ‘30s and ’40s. The novel is racy but a tearjerker in parts. The characters are more than real, and the plot is tight with no loop holes.
The Muralist by B. A. Shapiro, speaks to the readers soul, and shows us that at times, we are, or find ourselves, so helpless to save our loved ones, that even something as small as a painting or a mural is used to tell the deaf, mute, and blind world, about pain, grief, and death — meaningless death. Alizée is a very strong character in this novel, and for those readers who love strong female characters in their books, this is the book for you.
I am an Indian, born in the late ‘80s, so I am technically not so familiar with contemporary World War II and American History, and the heroes and villains of this part of history. Nevertheless, B. A. Shapiro’s explanation in the form of a fiction novel is so easy to comprehend, that I began to appreciate many people I came across in this book, especially people like Varian Fry and Eleanor Roosevelt.
You must read this book as soul tonic. Watch out for Shapiro’s depiction of Eleanor Roosevelt, as you are definitely going to love it. It goes without saying, that if you as a reader are interested in a different and unique novel, which is part non-fiction, set in the time of World War II, then this is a book you should read.
For those of you who have been and are being persecuted for your beliefs, beliefs which do not harm anyone, then this book is soul curry for you, to know that you are not alone. The Muralist is evocative and mesmerizing. The book poses a lot of questions to us, questions that are uncomfortable and need to be answered, questions about morals and ethics versus politics and selfishness. One question cut me to the core: Do innocent refugee children, who have come to seek shelter in your country, look like political spies to you? I had to cry, because I am proud of my country, India, who is definitely like a Mother, for she accepts everyone who comes to her for help. There is a saying in India, that you will find a duplicate of everything, except a duplicate of Mother India. We have given shelter over the ages, and over centuries, to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, etc., and now they are as much a part of India, as the original Harappan people were. I am proud of my country — Are you?
All these questions can be answered in The Muralist, through its characters, and history and art behind its evolution into a work of perfection. Though I have read a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the Holocaust and World War II, this was the only one to bring a lump to my throat, as it dealt with something that is part of the horrible present. Alizée, Henri, Danielle, Babette, and others, come alive to you through the pen of the master literary artist B. A. Shapiro. It questions, it entertains, and it paints — most importantly, it paints.
The Muralist is a must read for everyone, but especially for those writers, artists, poets, journalists, etc., who are being persecuted for expressing their right – their right to freedom of expression. I loved this book. Buy it. NOW!
This story first appeared on www.insaneowl.com
All those of us who love Ruskin Bond know one thing for sure- nature is omnipresent in all his works. His books, short stories, musings and non-fiction features all exude an inherent love for nature. Words From The Hills captures the essence of a lifetime of great writing, and crystallizes it into few interspersed sentences. These appear on the exquisitely illustrated pages of this journal.
What immediately entices the reader are the lyrical watercolour paintings and illustrations by Ahlawat Gunjan that appear throughout this journal. Again centred around the theme of nature, they are mesmerizing to say the least. The falling of leaves from deodar trees, moments of love and loss, beautiful flowers, gentle skies, few isolated objects and shapes, buzzing dragonflies, stained and torn pages of forgotten notebooks…these are just some of the multifarious pictures that you will see in the journal. Amidst these images are simple but deeply meaningful lines and musings from Bond- in true Bond-style! Words From The Hills consists of many blank lined pages for the reader to fill in.
Prolific is a term that describes Ruskin Bond well. He has written over 500 short stories and articles. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1992, the Padma Shri in 1999 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014. He just celebrated his 83rd birthday this May and still has something exceptional to offer each time!
Developed around the life, works and philosophy of Ruskin Bond, Words From The Hills is one collector’s piece you cannot miss!
Words From The Hills by Ruskin Bond
Illustrated by Ahlawat Gunjan
Published by Penguin Random House India, 2017.
Oh…the turmoils of a 10-year old! A lot goes on in the minds of children and they have their own set of serious challenges to overcome. Manya Learns to Roar explores this. Manya, a lovable young girl badly wants to be Shere Khan in her school play. The Jungle Book is her favourite film. Moreover, she knows all the lines by heart. The only issue? She stammers.
She may want to act, but not everyone has faith in her ability. Her classmate Rajat openly makes fun of her stammer. Even her English teacher thinks it’s risky to let her get on stage and her principal seems to agree. To make things worse, her stammer worsens due to the anxiety. The book follows Manya’s journey through this very tough and sensitive situation.
The story is quite delightful and is told in simple engaging language. It is easy to read and quite accessible for most kids. Children have their own set of challenges and this book will be highly inspirational thanks to its powerful message. It will not only inspire readers but also sensitize them to the thoughts and feelings of other children who may face a problem or a disability.
The pictorial code language between Manya and her friend Ankita adds an interesting element. The dialogues are also laced with humour which makes the book a very light read.
It is a story that comes straight from the heart. The author, Shruthi Rao, has also grappled with issues related to stammering and the book boldly targets the stereotypes associated with it. The beautiful illustrations by Priya Kuriyan make the reading experience all the more enticing!
Manya Learns to Roar was a winner in the Children First writing competition, organised by Parag, an initiative of Tata Trusts, and Duckbill Books.
Manya Learns to Roar by Shruthi Rao
Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan
Age group: 6 years onward
Published by Duckbill Books