Book Review: Mostly Madly Mayil by Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran

mostly madly mayilMostly Madly Mayil

Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran

Pages: 140

Price: INR 175

Publisher: Tulika Publishers

Rating: 4/5

Thirteen-year-old Mayil Ganeshan is back. She’s armed with plenty of spunk and a diary full of opinions. Her entries range from creating fake Facebook profiles to talk to the cute senior at school to tales of her madcap family, from discussions on social discrimination to dealing with sexual harassment. And the voice that emerges is wonderfully, uniquely Mayil. The entries paint a portrait of a teenager than teen me would most definitely have wanted to be friends with.

I don’t know if this book fits into the YA genre. That confusion may be based on how much I enjoyed reading this book. Usually I’m not the biggest fan of the genre. But my YA qualms aside, I genuinely think it’s difficult to slot this book; for me, it creates a distinct corner of its own. Yes, Mayil writes about serious issues in her diary but she’s also irreverent and fun. Even when there are sombre topics at hand, a few pages down she’ll write about dog ghosts or about pretending to be a boy called Liyam.

The entire book is told through a series of diary entries. There is no huge plot that needs resolving, no problem that needs addressing or even a play that needs rehearsing. There are no sparkly vampires or the-fate-of-the-world-rests-on-Mayil’s-shoulders scenarios. And that’s exactly what I love about the book. It is full of glimpses into the life of an average teenager. The entries are contemporary and true to life and perfectly depict a teenager’s mind, with all the highs and lows in tow. Mountains are erected on molehills while problems the size of planets are crushed into peas – perfectly compatible with what I remember of my teens. Another great thing about the book is that it perfectly reflects the times and the geography it exists in. Mayil, and by extension the book, lives in and exudes Chennai and India. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else – the jokes, the references, the problems manage to be globally relatable while at the same time being inherently local.

Pick up this book to add a tremendous dose of fun and irreverence into your reading list with a smattering of insight thrown in. And pick up the first book – Mayil Will Not Be Quiet! – too. You don’t have to read the first book to be able to understand this one. With my very poor memory, I barely remember the first book’s contents even though I read it less than a year ago. But the first book is equally wonderful so you might as well put it on your to-read list too.


Book Review: Read Aloud Stories By Various Authors (Illustrated by Ashok Rajagopalan)

read aloudRead Aloud Stories

Various Authors/Illustrated by Ashok Rajagopalan

Pages: 92

Price: INR 200

Publisher: Tulika Publishers

Rating: 4/5

A few weeks ago, I happened to ask my mother how I became such a bookworm in a family of non-readers. Apparently, when I was about four years old, she had brought home a few books from a shop near her office. When she showed one to me, I stared at the pictures for ages. So she used to sit and read out the stories to me while I looked at the pictures in glee. I have absolutely no memory of this. My first bookish memories involve rooting through stacks of secondhand books at one of my favourite places in the city and fishing out a bunch of Enid Blytons. All this while I never thought of how I was introduced to books in the first place.

This recent revelation has reinforced the idea of shared reading as a means to creating young book lovers. And Read Aloud Stories is a great choice for those who want to give picture books a temporary breather. The book is an anthology of 15 stories and poems written by some of the best children’s writers in the country. And, as the title suggests, they’re perfect for reading out loud.

Disclaimer: I am not now nor have ever been a parent. I don’t read children’s books thinking of how much children will enjoy them; I read them purely on the basis of how much I will enjoy them.

The book is a mix of contemporary stories, retold folktales and simple verse.  And, speaking from experience, it is a lot of fun reading them out loud. The tales are full of fun sounds, quirky characters and are a blast to dramatically read out (I’m pretty sure that my imaginary audience had fun too). My favourite story of the bunch was the one that came at the very beginning – A Poo Story by Zai Whitaker. It’s not what it sounds like, it’s a hundred times better.

Ashok Rajagopalan’s illustrations really bring the stories alive but the stars of the book are the words themselves.

Long Reads Pick of the Week: January 18, 2014

Tyler Hadley’s Killer Party

One of the scariest, spine-tingliest stories I’ve read – half because teenager Tyler Hadley killed his parents and then threw a party with their bodies locked in the bedroom and half because of this concluding paragraph:

On the morning after the party, the news of Tyler’s arrest spread rapidly among the teenagers who had attended the party. Mike Young and several of his friends had just returned from the beach when their phones started buzzing.

“I was like damn, brother,” says Mike. “That’s creepy as hell. I can’t believe we partied last night where there was dead people.” After Mike gave an interview to a local news reporter, he got 30 Facebook friend requests. “They were like, “I seen you on the news, bro!’ I was like, ‘Yeah, it was awesome!'”

“I wasn’t upset when I heard,” says the 16-year-old cheerleader. “I wasn’t scared, or disgusted. It’s not like I knew him personally. I was just in awe.”

When Anthony Snook found out about the Hadley murders, he thought, “Wow. I just went to the party of a lifetime. It’s messed up what he did, but 20 years from now, I’ll be able to say I was there. I hate Port St. Lucie, but that’s kind of cool.”