There was a time when conventional adventure and mystery books for children were all in rage. Inspired by The Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew Series the Mystery Crackers Series by Jinal Doshi brings forth a group of clever problem-solvers who happen to be children.
So far, she has written two novels in the series: The Mystery Crackers: A Chest’s Tale and The Mystery Crackers: Tattooed Music and is currently working on The Mystery Crackers: The Ritzy Maartle.
The Mystery Crackers: A Chest’s Tale follows twins Prash and Nish as they try to find their Dad whose gone missing. The answer may just lie in an antique chest, which incidentally is also missing! In the second book, The Mystery Crackers: Tattooed Music, an innocent look at the dazzling replica of Daulihaam (A Blue Diamond Gold Choker) and a precious bloodstained pure silk handkerchief lure fraternal twins – Prash and Nish in to a fascinating mystery of old ships, tattooed music and a thirst to excavate the real Daulihaam’s mesmerizing history. Both brothers plunge deeply in to it to place the identity of a deadly pirate. Unaware about the dangers that lie ahead, the teen detectives get into a stunning adventure connected with a royal couple and a precious stone.
While the first novel is available as a paperback and on Kindle, the second novel is a Kindle Version. “I wished to touch the hearts of global readers. Thus, I chose the Amazon Kindle option,’ says Jinal. “I think e-readers have surely changed the way today’s generation reads. However, there are still readers who choose to hold a physical book in their hands and take in the special fragrance of the pages. So, physical books are here to stay for a long time,” she adds.
The Prophecy of Rasphora is a story of three girls- Vandana, Afreen and Tara. The protagonists of this magical adventure story are not the typical affluent or upper middle class characters that one often encounters in books of this genre. The girls run a tea stall on the hills and they live a hand-to-mouth existence. They are alone in the world, with no one but each other. However, poverty in childhood does not really have to rob it of its magic right? The girls often escape into a self-created magical world of dreams. Little do they know that their lives are also in for a magical transformation.
It all starts with the sight of a mysterious man who does not look quite as if he belongs to ‘normal’ society. One of the girls spots him, and makes it her mission to find him out. What starts off as a curious search for this man, leads the girls to one of the most beautiful places on earth-Rasphora. This place is where the magical adventure story is set. But once they enter this land they have a tough call to take. According to an ancient prophecy, they could stay and save the land that may be doomed or leave and let it wither.
The story follows the decision that the girls make and the repercussions thereof. The land of Rasphora is mesmerizing, and is sure to tickle the imaginations of the young readers. The story has been written in a simple and lucid manner. There are enough surprises for the child to keep turning the pages or find out what happens next. The book is apt for children around and above ten years of age.
BOOKS BY Varsha Seshan
Title: The Prophecy of Rasphora
Author: Varsha Seshan
Illustrated by Lavanya Karthik
Genre: Fiction, Children
Age group: 10 onwards
It all starts with the name really. The humour I mean. The little smirk and smile that appears right after you read the title will carry on right through this witty tale by Arundhati Venkatesh.
Pushkin aka Petu scores an epic win (or so he says) while playing a board game with his friends at school. Thus begins a series of lies or half-truths- as observed by his friends. Naturally, this gets them worried. His regiment of dedicated friends embark on a journey to transform him. The hilarious and exasperating attempts of the four friends to transform Petu are a source of great amusement. Do they finally succeed? The story spirals towards a surprising conclusion!
Writing a humorous book for children by incorporating the humour subtly in the language is a commendable skill. This is what Venkatesh demonstrates quite smoothly in this book. The understated humour weaved in the language respects the intelligence of children to read between the lines!
The illustrations by Shilpa Ranade beautifully complement the story, bringing out the emotions expressed and the subtle humour as well.
A great chapter book for beginning readers! Being a hOle book just adds to the fun! Duckbill’s Petu Pumpkin Cheater Peter by Arundhati Venkatesh is a must have addition to your young reader’s book collection.
OTHER ‘PETU’ BOOKS
Title: Petu Pumpkin Cheater Peter
Author: Arundhati Venkatesh
Illustrator: Shilpa Ranade
Publisher: Duckbill books
Genre: Fiction/ Children
Age group: 6 – 8 years
Fantasy fiction is a very popular and populated category. However, in the context of literature for children, this genre seemed grossly understated in India, though not anymore! The Magicians of Madh by Aditi Krishnakumar takes the reader into a magical realm set in Madh, a bustling magical metropolis.
In order to stand out from the scores of books in the genre, a novel needs to be really gripping. The original fantasy universe of Madh is the perfect canvas for this story to play out.
Madh is a fictional city set in the Free Lands. The Royal Academy of Science, Magic and the Arts is located here. This is the finest institution of higher education in all the free lands. But, something dark and sinister seems to have gripped the Academy. There is a creature in the vault. Is there terror waiting to be unleashed?
The brilliant Meenakshi and her foster brother Kalban are at the heart of the story. The story alternates between how both of them move towards resolving the issue that has struck the academy. With the help of Chitralekha, a celestial dancer, they work towards freeing the Academy from this pervasive evil that seems to have been unleashed. The book has a host of endearing characters, magical beings in their own right.
Paras, Meenakshi’s father is a Master Sorcerer, always immersed in his work. I found his character most interesting. He is serious and impatient..and fiercely dedicated to his craft. His actions and words also lead to a lot of subtly humorous situations. For instance, when an attacker comes to attack Meenakshi, but is caught, she turns the attacker into a tortoise. Instead of being worried about who sent the attacker and why in the first place, the father and daughter are busy discussing how she turned him into a reptile!
There is a lot of humour in the language and that adds to the charm of the book. I found myself chuckling on every page thanks to the humour that is quite intricately woven into the language. It’s subtle, but clever.
The sense of mystery and excitement builds up gradually and it is after half the book that things start really moving fast. Several knots tie up, many things come together and the mystery spirals towards its conclusion.
Normally, fantasy books have clear villains with well-defined motives. What I found interesting in The Magicians of Madh was the fact that the entire solving of the mystery takes on a philosophical angle. It delves into a bit of psychology, the understanding of which is crucial to solving the problem.
There is mystery and excitement in the book but it is not sinister and dark. Loads of humour thanks to the language and situations adds an element of fun. A worthy addition to the genre of fantasy fiction for young adults.
Title: The Magicians of Madh
Author: Aditi Krishnakumar
Publisher: Duckbill Books
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Age group: 10 upwards
Are you set for flights of fantasy?
Age: 9-10 years
Tilly, a seven and a half year old, is just like any other girl. But, she wants to travel back into time to her sixth birthday. And, it just so happens that her dad has made a time machine that might just make her wish come true. So, what happens when she goes back in time? She meets a really special loved one. But wait, now she is stuck there! Does that mean she’s going to be 6 forever? Will she be able to return?
What we love: We love the manner by which Tilly, despite her age, manages to overcome her fears and fight every situation that comes her way.
What kids will love: Kids will love Tilly and her Dad’s Time Machine so much that they’d feel they travelled back in time too, with the book. They will, for sure, love the imaginative spin that takes place in the story.
Age: 9 to 10 years
This is a story of two brothers; Magnificio, the greater of the Onions and Alfie, the younger of the Onions. Magnificio has set out on a journey that will win the Onions their HAPPILY EVER AFTER and Alfie has joined him to only carry his ‘baggage’, as he calls it. But, what happens when Magnificio loses his courage midway into the journey? Will Alfie be able to help him out?
What we love: We love how, even after being the younger one, Alfie motivates and keeps up Magnificio’s spirits to help him through his journey, no matter how hard it is.
What kids will love: Kids will love the meddling magpies, and the talking horse and of course, Alfie’s extremely loyal dog.
Age Group: 11 to 12-year-olds
This story is about a very confused boy, Alex, who wants to know where he’s from, what he’s supposed to do, what’s his role in the universe and where he belongs. WOW!! Now, that’s an intriguing series of questions for a little boy. How about we solve them with Alex, one by one? Alex is on a mission. He wants to send his iPod in space so that people out there won’t feel lonely and out of place. Go on an adventurous journey with him with this book!
What we love: We love Alex and we love his beautiful spirit. We love how he is always looking for answers and always trying to learn something new.
What kids will love: Kid will love Alex’s recordings and Zed, who surprisingly doesn’t talk much. Kids will absolutely love knowing all the cool stuff about space. Maybe, they’d find where they belong!
Age Group: 11 to 12-year-olds
Alex wants to be a magician and has really cool friends. Zack is a pickpocketer, Sophie’s a hypnotist and Jonny is spectacular with Science. These four, together, want to be real life magicians and have enrolled in a secret school of Magic. But, as soon as they get in, strange things begin to happen. Now, the gold from the Bank of England is stolen. What is this, really? Is it a heist? Or is it a detective story? Well, you’ll find out what it really is…
What we love: We love how the book takes us on a thrilling adventurous ride filled with magic and science and consequences, altogether.
What kids will love: Kids will love the magic spells. They’ll go bawling over the hilarious hypnotic tricks that Sophie executes like convincing her Brown Owl that all Brownies are in fact Jelly Fishes!
Well, these books are sure to take our young adults on flights of fantasy! These books are at the cusp of the world where lines between imagination and reality blur!
Books let us live and explore places we have never seen before. They make us experience situations we might consider impossible. In all, books allow us to live many lives all at once. Here are some books that will take children for a very enchanting ride! Read on…
Age Group: 5 to 6 years
More often than not in life, we don’t value the things we have. We value them only when they get lost! Something similar happened to the royal teddy bear, Gilbert! Rosie, the little princess, thinks she’s not so little anymore and ought to stop playing with the teddy. But, the teddy is lost! Did someone steal Gilbert? What will Rosie do?
What we love: We love how Rosie and Gilbert, through their friendship, teach us to value things that we own in our lives, in a beautiful manner through the book.
What kids will love: Kids will love Gilbert, the teddy bear, and his adventurous journey of meeting new friends and traveling across the city. They will love the quirky and funny illustrations in the book.
Age Group: 5 to 6 years
This book is about Rufus, the monster who absolutely loves dancing. He is invited to the Grand Ball at The Glittering Palace. However, there’s one problem. He has two left feet and that creates a mess while he dances with other monsters, leaving him with no partner. Finding a partner in time for the Grand Ball is going to be very tough. Does he find a partner in time? Does he go to the ball alone?
What we love: We love how Rufus, with all his differences, learns to accept himself and heads to the Grand Ball.
What kids will love: Kids will love the monsters and funny illustrations that play as part of the book. They will also love Rufus’s dance moves.
Age Group: 7 to 8 year olds
Now, do you know who a pirate is? They are evil pillagers that ride stolen ships. Well, you know what a baby is? A cute little cuddly ball of love! But wait! What’s this talk about a pirate baby? Is this a cute and cuddly baby or a misinformed pirate? And who’s Marge? And what are Marge, Jemima and Jake going to do next? Find out in Isla Fisher’s ‘Marge and The Pirate Baby!’
What we love: We love how Marge, the babysitter, manages her job at handling the annoying baby, Zara, and we love how, no matter what, she sticks to her job.
What kids will love: Kids will love the hilarious antics that baby Zara pulls to keep Marge on her toes all the time.
Age Group: 7 to 8 year olds
Now, have you ever met someone with an annoying laugh? Like a guffaw HAHAHAHA or a screeching HIHIHIHIHIHI? Doesn’t it make you wanna run away? Well, that’s exactly what Shnipp, the dog, did. She disliked the way Julie and Lark and Sadie laughed all the time. It was so annoying that she ran away and then met an incredibly kind lady who fed her bagel on a daily. But, Shnipp now misses home and wishes to go back. Will she be able to find her way back home to Julie and Lara and Sadie?
What we love: We love the play of words and the definitions given in the book for kids to better understand a much BIGGER word.
What kids will love: Kids will love the foxes that Shnipp comes across when she’s out and about. They’ll absolutely love Shnipp and her serious cravings for bagels!
We hope you enjoy reading these books! Don’t forget to share your experiences of reading these books in the comments section below and Click on the link below to enter an enchanted world of reading!
Classics are forever. Today, with quick books that kids can skim through and the limitless releases of easy-to-read stories, it seems that kids may be moving away from classics. Classics for children are significant.
Yes, classics do have endless accounts of long descriptions, words that have fallen out of fashion today, depiction of rural scenery, and so on. For children, the settings may feel dated. Some children today may not be able to relate to the world and the society described.
Despite all the superficial reasons, classics play a strong in shaping your child as a reader, a learner and a human being.
There are many reasons why you should read classics to children.
Some classic tips that will help you in getting your child read classics….
What are the titles one could pick up? It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Yet, to start I would recommend the following stories. As children get familiar with these you can move to others.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
The war of the worlds by HG Wells
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
This is by no means exhaustive. It is not even the tip of the iceberg, but these are good starts for embarking on an exciting and never-ending adventure.
Do share your suggestions and experiences of classics for children in the comments section below!
Ruskin Bond is undoubtedly a writer equally loved by children and adults. The award winning author has delighted generations of readers with his simple and moving stories set in the beautiful mountain environs of North India. As he turns 83 today, he is all set to delight his fans with two new books- one for children and the other for devout bibliophiles.
“Looking for the Rainbow”, his book for his young fans, chronicles two precious years of his life spent with his father, who clearly remains to be the most influential person in his world, even as he crosses his eighties. He mentions in the beginning, that contrary to popular opinion, his memory has not faded with age. He remembers his childhood days very clearly.
Through the eyes of the child Bond, the book reveals a very simple and timeless parenting lesson:
Not many fathers are capable of tenderness towards their children. They are usually too busy ‘earning a living for the family’—or that’s the excuse! So I was lucky to have a father who gave me nearly all his spare time, who brought me books, took me for walks, shared his interests with me and held my hand in the dark.
Ruskin Bond’s writing is so simple that it almost makes one feel as if he is chatting with you over a cup of tea. The book starts off when Bond was an eight-year-old boy, delighting in the fact that he would be taking a whole year off from school. He describes his adventures, which of course, have a healthy dose of animal and plant life woven in.
Bond describes the period of pre-independence India and through the memoir he recreates India of the 1940s through the eyes of a child. Of course, the global context of the world wars also echoes in the narrative. Little things like how difficult it was to obtain a tin of processed cheese in the war days, will attune the current generation of readers to the life of a boarding school boy during the time of war.
Who would have thought there was a war going on in Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Pacific? Who would have thought India would be an independent and sovereign nation in two or three years’ time? There I was, enjoying chocolate milkshakes, while British and Indian civilians were trudging through the jungles of Burma to escape the Japanese advance.
The book also glides through his boarding school days. Another feature, always present in Bond’s books is the overwhelming presence of nature. Harmless trysts with animals and trees, and the innocent experiences of the natural world is also something that young children will relate to.
Pain and humour can be strange companions, but a stalwart like Ruskin Bond makes them come together with relative ease. He talks about the ‘painful’ memories in a matter-of-fact way with a dose of the quintessential Bond humour. Take for instance the lines below where he describes his parents’ separation:
It was 1942, the middle of World War II, and my parents too had been at war with each other. They had, in fact, separated, and my mother was about to marry again.
However, when he describes his father’s death, it is in tender touching words. It is honest, but not at all bitter.
What shines through most strongly in the book is the simple pleasures of life that the father and son share- looking at stamps, going for ice-cream or going to see movies at the local theatre. Despite the absence of his father for most part of the year, he holds fond memories of the man because of a strong bond that surpassed physical presence. He recalls the postcards that his father sent to him, often scribbled with recommendations of books to read, which he did read in due course.
Wonderful illustrations by Mihir Joglekar accompany the book. They liven up the words and indeed, are quite commendable. This is one of those books where the illustrations and the text work seamlessly and harmoniously with each other.
Despite the sad event of losing his father, the narrative ends on a positive note.
‘Bye-bye rainy day, bye-bye snow,
We are on our way—here we go!
Rolling round the world, looking for the rainbow
We know we’re going to find some day!’
Looking for the Rainbow encapsulates two beautiful years’ worth of memories. These are memories about father who left an indelible impression on his young son. Now, at the age of 83, they remain tender moments which stand out clearly in his mind and heart.
It may be a children’s book, but adults will also connect with it in a deep way as well. This book is a birthday gift that Ruskin Bond fans will surely cherish for years to come!
In The Dog Who Wanted More, The Rulebreakers’ Club has just been formed. But, they are a gang of five…without a dog! Well, they are the Rulebreakers and since gangs without dogs are just not cool, they decide to steal a pug named Spike. Spike has his own plans though, and is by no means an easy dog to reckon with. What’s more, he leads them to uncover a terrorist operation! Read on to see how they handle Spike (and the challenges that come with him such as his unsatiable appetite and habit of pooping constantly).
In the second book, The Ghost Who Wasn’t There, the five children are still stuck with Spike and just can’t seem to get rid of him. There is one way, and it involves the following: catch a ghost, rob a bank and save the world. How would The Rulebreakers’ Club pull of this feat? To make things worse, Spike makes a new friend in Subramaniam the accountant and finds an admirer in Prasanna, the world’s greatest bore, and is constantly at war with his arch-enemy, Kunti Devi the pissed-off cat. Well, you’ll have to read to know how they finally manage to sort things out (or do they?)!
Urban Indian youngsters are a special group in themselves and the five child protagonists mirror realistically the language and appearances of this unique readership. This is heartening indeed as is the fact that the book does not fall back on any cliches, especially related to gender! (For example, the two girls in the book, Monica and Keerti reflect the young girls of today, who are intelligent, brave and individualistic in their own right). The boys, Tejas, Rishi, and Jagannathan have their own idiosyncrasies as well. The interactions between the five are fun and interesting, taking the story forward in a humorous manner.
The formula of “secret clubs” formed by kids who then go on to have adventures may not be new, but Rajendran gives it a fresh and unique spin. The result is two hilarious adventure stories that will have young readers in splits even as they try and guess what happens next.
The Little Gardener is a very simple story. Like in any good picture book, the pictures take the story forward, with minimal but very effective text.
The detailed illustrations make the garden look like a fascinating jungle. Thanks to the highly creative drawings, the garden looks like a lush and rich forest! Fascinating details, such as the little earthworms (and many tiny natural objects that you can find in the artwork) will appeal to readers!
There was once a little gardener and his garden meant everything to him. He worked extremely hard as he tended to his garden. However, he felt he was too little, and the garden was very big. There was a hint of disappointment. Yet, he continued to labour day in and day out. One single flower did blossom. It was that one flower that gave him hope. He worked hard to save the garden from dying. One night, he wished he had a little help, before he went to sleep.
While no one heard his wish, the blooming flower caught the eye of a little girl who lived in the house nearby. It gave her hope and she started to tend to the dying garden. While the gardener slept out of weariness, when he awoke there was a big surprise in store for him. His garden was alive and blossoming!
The Little Gardener is a book that can be used with children as a simple story, complete with wonderful artwork. It can also be used as a starting point for discussions that are more philosophical in nature- for instance, the nature of hard work, value of persistence and nature of hope.
Without appearing moralistic, The Little Gardener echoes the eternal truth that it is important to persist, against all odds. As human beings, we need to do our duties and relentlessly pursue what we have set out to do. Just like the little gardener, we are all batting our own weeds in life! But, there is always help at hand, if you ask for it, and work for it. It also brings in the notion that sometimes help can be found in the most unexpected of places.
Flying Eye books, 2015