What I Read In October

October Books

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

The audiobook of Truckers was my first foray into non-Discworld Pratchett was so fun and I can’t wait to read/listen to the other two books in the Bromeliad trilogy

I had been looking forward to reading A Snicker Of Magic for ages. It has rave reviews on Goodreads. I liked the cover and the title and the synopsis long before I actually read the book. But once I did start listening to it, I almost instantly realised this wasn’t doing it for me. I really expected to love this book. But it was far too twee and whimsical for me (and I’m usually a fan of both those things). There are obviously a lot of other readers this book is meant for. It has some interesting ideas but it ended up being quite a disappointment for me.

Doctor Who Time Lord Fairy Tales is a combination of two of my favourite things – Doctor Who and fairy tale retellings. It features 15 familiar (and some lesser-known) fairy tales set in the Whoverse. Some of the stories even feature a few Doctors. This was a lot of fun to read.

YOUNG ADULT

The premise of The Girl With The Red Balloon sounded so fun – a mix of fantasy and historical fiction. But ugh the characters and plots bored and annoyed me in equal measure. The book has so many ardent fans according to Goodreads so I think it just wasn’t for me. I was quite grumpy about the disappointed expectations though since I read quite a few disappointing books this month.

Highly Illogical Behaviour was another book that just wasn’t doing it for me. I’m not the biggest fan of YA to be honest, particularly realistic fiction. I think the only reason I got through this was because I needed a book to keep me company on my daily audiobook walks. I’m going to be more selective next time though. Right after I returned this to the library, I borrowed All The Bright Places, another glowingly-reviewed realistic YA nook, listened to a couple of hours, grew increasingly sad about my life choices and decided to abandon it. So I suppose I have this book to thank for encouraging me to hit the DNF button on disappointing books? It’s still a lesson I’m slowly learning though.

ADULT FICTION

I had such high expectations from The Paying Guests because I absolutely loved Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, only to have them cruelly dashed. Another book with great potential whose characters and plot bored me senseless and left me feeling really grumpy.

NONFICTION

I borrowed The Library Book from my library on the last day of Libraries Week in the UK so that I could read essays celebrating the wonder and importance of libraries. I now feel an even stronger sense of joy and love for public libraries than I already did.

I squealed in delight when I found Terry Pratchett’s A Slip Of The Keyboard in the library because I love his writing and  I didn’t know this collection of his essays and articles existed. As I expected, they were great.

Hope & Glory: The Days That Made Britain was a fun way to learn about contemporaryish British history – an engaging travelogue exploring significant events of the 20th century.

30 literary costume ideas from Indian children’s books

I wanted to dress up as a bookish character for a Halloween party last weekend. At a party a couple of years ago, I put together a last-minute outfit and went as Julian from the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton (complete with ginger beer). This year I wanted another homemade costume and was mulling over two possibilities – Mosca Mye (from the Fly By Night series by Frances Hardinge) and the Faraway Tree (from The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton) but tragically in the end it all came to naught on account of not having the time to work on anything properly (I ended up going as a pink dragon because I own a pink dragon onesie. I know).

But as I was researching potential fictional character ideas, I also considered some from Indian children’s books. So here’s a list of some fun fictional people to dress up as. These would be great for kids (or adults!) who celebrate Halloween, Book Week in school, or who’ve even just been invited for a costume party and want to be fabulously bookish!

MONSTERS AND RAKSHASAS

 

Karimuga – You can dress up as this friendly rakshasa who may have hairy legs, red eyes, purple skin and an enormous belly, but he also has a large yellow-toothed smile to greet friends with.

 

Bookasura – All you need to be this book-eating rakshasa is an assortment of heads and an armful of books (which you must nibble at regular intervals to lend an air of authenticity to the proceedings).

Moin’s monster – The hilarious banana-eating, silly-song-singing, bright pink monster with auto-rickshaw-horns as ears offers such fun possibilities for a costume.

 

Monsters from Monster Garden – This book is full of monster costume ideas – either Do-It-Yourself ones inspired by writer Jerry Pinto’s nonsense verse or colourful ones inspired by illustrator Priya Kuriyan’s monster gallery.

 

VAMPIRES

Vikram-and-the-Vampire-388x600

Vikram and/or the Vampire – Inspired by this modern, hilarious retelling of the ancient tale of Vikram and Betal, you can choose to dress up as the harried king Vikram who just wants to bring down Betal – the spirit who hangs out in trees and lives in and as dead bodies – and deliver him to a sorcerer. Or you can dress up as Betal, the aforementioned vampire-zombie hybrid. Or for more hijinks, incorporate both Vikram and Betal into your costume.

vee loved garlic

Miss Vee Nonie – Dressing up as Vee, the garlic-loving vampire girl, offers the perfect excuse to first make, then tote around several garlicky dishes to snack on through the day.

vampire boy

Kris, the vampire boy – Or you could dress up as a blood-hating, bread-loving vampire boy who is forced to go to school and mingle with human children. Carry lots of bread and tell all the humans that they smell like eggs.

 

OTHER FANTASY BEINGS

when santa went missing

An elf from the North Pole – Three of the protagonists in When Santa Went Missing happen to be North Pole elves. Gilmore looks more like an old-fashioned elf with a belted tunic, tights and a long beard he tucks into the belt; Coral dresses in a snazzy black suit and thinks he’s an evil villain; Bean is the youngest and clumsiest and wears an alarming amount of scarves draped in every spare part of her body. Pick whichever one fits your mood (and outfit choices).

the magicians of madh

People and creatures from Madh – There’s a range of character costume options in The Magicians of Madh – including Chitralekha the Celestial Dancer, a griffon (with the appearance and appetite of eagle-lions),  a Sprite, The High Priest of the Sun God, a Free Bow (an initiate Free Bow is a common criminal and a Free Bow is a deadly assassin – both offer their services for hire). Since there are no illustrations or detailed descriptions of this assortment of characters, you’re free to unleash your imagination when you’re figuring out what they may look like.

 

GIANTS, DINOSAURS AND ALIENS

 

The colour thief – A grouchy, grey giant with a grey dhoti, a grey vest, a grumpy expression and a net to steal all the colours from the world with.

 

The dinosaur-as-long-as-127 kids – You can choose to be the cheerful dinosaur who loves giving kids rides (and have fun figuring out how to incorporate exactly 127 kids into the costume) or you can be Adinasura, the wildly colourful demon who cursed the dinosaur instead (I mean if a dinosaur hid my book, I might cast a couple of curses too).

oops the mighty gurgle

Oops, the alien – Oops, the time-travelling gurgle from outer space who intends to save Planet Earth from alien invasion, resembles a three-foot pumpkin – so that’s the costume you should work on.

 

MARINE CREATURES

vanamala

Any sea creature Vanamala encounters – When Vanamala sets off to rescue her sister (who she accidentally sold) it leads her to an underwater world full of a variety of sea creatures (many of whom used to be humans). Choose any one to portray or dress up as the underwater kingdom with all the characters  (including Vanamala) on display.

Rot8, the octopus sept-opus – This underwater superhero is an octopus with seven-and-a-half limbs whose accidental foray into a laboratory leads to a number of cool attachments to compensate for his missing half-limb. He spends his time foiling jewel heists and rescuing his friends from killer whales. It’s a costume idea which holds heaps of possibilities.

 

MISCELLANEOUS CREATURES

Gatila – This otherwise black cow is forever trying to paint herself in different colours so you could look into creating cow outfits which are either green, blue, black-and-yellow striped or multicoloured.

 

Squiggle – Squiggle’s woeful quest of trying to discover which punctuation mark she is ends with her finding out she’s a doodle. Outfit choices can range from a solitary Squiggle doodle, a page full of Squiggle doodles or one filled with different punctuation marks including Squiggle grinning in delight.

toto

Toto the auto – If you’re feeling really adventurous, dress a toy up as Toto’s driver, Pattu, who you can carry on your head/neck/back.

 

COOL YOUNG HUMANS

 

Puchku – Exuberantly illustrated Puchku’s outfit is an easy one to put together with the added benefit of being able to carry a pile of books around and ignoring the world to read them to stay true to your character. You can also read the book for free here.

Janice – Janice’s outfit should be pretty simple – black buckled shoes, a blue dress (maybe with some flowers on it) and plaits in the hair. But dressing up as Janice provides an excellent opportunity to learn about another culture. Read the story here and go on a quest in search of purple plum candies, huge-ear-shaped black fungus, a gulmohar-flower-coloured lantern, scrumptious-sounding dumpling soup and baozi buns and mahjong-playing lessons.

Ari – All shy Ari wants to be is a lion in the class play. You can dress up as Ari pretending to be the lion. You need a paper bag for the lion head and a grey sock-mouse to wear on your hand. Growl at the sock-mouse and crawl around whenever you can.

manya learns to roar

Manya – Alternatively, you can dress up as fierce Manya who desperately wants to dazzle everyone by playing Shere Khan in her school’s adaptation of The Jungle Book. Wear a tiger costume and roar.

Neelu – Neelu has two ponytails on her head and dreams (and glasses) in her eyes who’s dying to make a fort out of the cardboard box, her mother’s dupatta, walking sticks, and a basket of fruit is an easy outfit to put together. Maybe you can try making a fort of your own.

A monster hunter – You can dress up as Abhay or Nitya who are prepared with a monster hunting kit in their backpack to aid their search of monsters as well as to store any evidence they stumble upon. Make your own kit to carry.

 

FUNNY ROYALS

the princess with the longest hair

The princess with the longest hair – This princess and I share a name (albeit spelled differently) and I’d like to think that if I were a princess, I’d also get fed up of my long hair and give it away to random fishermen (to make nets) and birds (to make nests) and whatnot until I was happy and bald. A bald princess would also make for such a fun costume idea – or maybe a short-haired one for a tamer option.

IckyYuckyMucky-COVER-AI

Maharaja Icky – King Icky loves food and hates table manners so here’s your chance to dress up as a king with food-stained clothes and spend the day licking curry from your hand and juggling rosogullas whenever things get too quiet.

 

Princess Easy Pleasy – Accessorise your princess outfit with a  suitcase (or cardboard aeroplane) filled with a cow, a chef cut-out, bedding, and an assortment of pet animals.

 

AWESOME GRANDMOTHERS

 

Ammachi of the lost glasses – A white dress, a pink dupatta, and a nearsighted squint are all the things you need to inhabit Ammachi’s character. For bonus points, carry a pair of glasses around that you can keep accidentally losing.

 

Ammachi of the amazing machines – This gadget-inventing, coconut-barfi-making grandmother is one of my favourite children’s book characters. A sari and large glasses should make for a good beginning but adding a tool belt and a helmet will complete the outfit so perfectly. Maybe even carry a plate of coconut barfi to chomp on. You can read the book for free here.

 

Ninja Nani – Another cool grandmother to join the list, you can dress up as the crime-fighting nani of Gadbadnagar

 

FUNNY DETECTIVES 

captain-coconut-MB-cover-1

Captain Coconut – All you need to dress up your child as this bumbling detective is a pair of khaki shorts, a white t-shirt, a khaki shirt, bright red socks and a turban (a dupatta wrapped around the head will work too). Top it off by arming yourself with six bananas, a calculator and a vaguely perplexed expression.

 

Image sources:

All book cover photos were sourced from the publisher websites 

Bookasura illustration from this review of the book on Indian Moms Connect

Moin’s monster illustration from the Duckbill blog

Monster Garden monster gallery from illustrator Priya Kuriyan’s blog

Adinasura illustration from this Behance gallery 

Puchku image from here

Janice illustration from illustrator Kalyani Ganapathy’s website

Princess Easy Pleasy illustrations from illustrator Priya Kuriyan’s blog

Ammachi’s amazing machine illustration sourced from here

 

Book List: Indian Children’s Books Which Speak Out Against Injustice

These days, the news – both Indian and international – often sends me spiralling into the depths of despair. To escape the sense of doom and gloom the real world offers, I turn to fiction to offer me comfort and hope. Obviously books are my constant companions but I also love TV shows (despite being an atrociously slow watcher of things). My Sunday evenings are currently dedicated to Doctor Who. The latest episode of the show featured the protagonists time-travelling to Alabama in the 1950s, bumping into Rosa Parks, and realising they needed to guard history against being tampered. You know, as one does.

 

The episode not only delved into historical issues but also included explorations of contemporary prejudice. And the narrative did these things perfectly – it was timely, it wasn’t preachy, it offered a good balance of solemn reflection and frantic action, and it managed to resonate deeply with most of the audience. Of course, I sobbed through most of it. And then I went online and encountered parents discussing how their kids were now asking questions about Rosa Parks and social justice thanks to the show, I sobbed some more.

Fiction for children offers a safe space to explore contentious real-world issues. Not only can children’s books provide young people the tools to understand the world, but it can also empower them to question the way things are. The Rosa Parks episode was a mix of fact and fiction (pretty  sure the actual events didn’t include a time-travelling alien), included contemporary and historical perspectives, and showcased different kinds of resistance both explicit and subtle. It inspired me to round up a range of Indian children’s books which reflect the same themes particularly the one which underpinned her most famous action – how ordinary people can do extraordinary things to question established norms and resist injustice.

PICTURE BOOKS

bhimrao-ambedkar-the-boy-who-asked-why-englishBhimrao Ambedkar: The Boy Who Asked Why

Why do I have to sit separately in a corner of the classroom?

Why can’t I drink water from the tap like other children?

Why do the teachers never touch my books?

The ‘whys’ shout louder in little Bhim’s head as he grows up, trailed constantly by the monster of untouchability. They catapult him into a lifetime of struggle for equality. They shape the remarkable ideas that are the cornerstone of the Indian Constitution, which he drafted as India’s first Law Minister.

The book follows the life of an extraordinary man, ‘Babasaheb’ Bhimrao Ambedkar, who energised the struggle against caste prejudice. His fiery speeches and writings urged Dalits to protest against the inhumanity they suffered, and continue to suffer. This straightforward telling, visualised with quirky imagination, brings to children a man whose story will raise their awareness of discrimination — leading them, perhaps, to ask their own whys.

chipko takes rootChipko Takes Root

Here is a story set in the hills that shows what bravery and grit can accomplish. Dichi, a brave Bhotiya girl takes part in the Chipko movement to save her beloved trees. Everybody in her village knows that trees give them all the important things in their life. Rapid deforestation in the Himalayan region of Alaknanda river caused floods in the 1970s and gave birth to a movement to save trees by hugging them. Read this heartwarming tale to learn the power of collective action as seen through the eyes of young Dichi.

You can read the book for free here.

 

 

i will save my landI Will Save My Land

Mati pesters her grandmother and father for her own plot of land in the big field. When she does get it, she works hard. And then she hears that a company wants to make a coal mine in their village – the enormous black pit that will eat up all their lands, like it has in the next village.

The little girl’s anxiety about losing her land to “a monster machine” cuts close to the heart as it takes head-on an issue that is ravaging tribal Chhattisgarh, where this story is set, and every other place where there is ‘development’ at a cost. The earthy tones of the illustrations take us straight into the fields, while strong lines etch out the determination of two feisty females – Mati and her Ajji – who will not give in.

the case of the missing waterThe Case Of The Missing Water

When the tank in Ranj’s village dries up, she sets out on a mission to find the missing water. Join Detective Ranj on the case.

You can read the book for free here.

the why why girlThe Why-Why Girl

Moyna lives in a little tribal village. She cannot go to school because she has to tend the goats, collect the firewood, fetch the water. But she is so full of questions that the postmaster calls her the ‘why-why girl’! Mahasweta Devi is one of India’s foremost writers. In this delightful story, her first picture book, and the only children’s book she has written in English, she tells us how she meets Moyna (and her mongoose!) and helps her find answers to all the why-whys – in books, that Moyna herself learns to read.

(Thanks for the tip, Asha Nehemiah!)

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS

tiger boyTiger Boy

Neel’s parents want him to win a scholarship, and go to the big city to study. But Neel doesn’t want to leave his beloved Sundarbans, with its beautiful trees and its magnificent tigers.

And then a tiger cub goes missing from the reserve!

The evil Gupta wants to sell the cub and sets his people to search for it. Neel and his sister Rupa are determined to find the cub and take it to safety before Gupta and his goons find it.

Racing against time, and braving the dangers of the dark, will Neel succeed in saving the little tiger cub?

 

YOUNG ADULT BOOKS

a gardener in the wastelandA Gardener In The Wasteland

In 1873, Jotirao Govindrao Phule wrote Gulamgiri (Slavery), a scathingly witty attack on the vedas being idle fantasies of the brahman mind which enslaved the shudras and atishudras. A hundred and forty years hence, Srividya Natarajan and Aparajita Ninan breathe fresh life into Phule’s rather graphic imagination, weaving in the story of Savitribai, Jotiba’s partner in his struggles.

In today’s climate of intolerance, here’s a manifesto of resistance.

 

 

bhimayanaBhimayana

What does it mean to be an untouchable in India? Why do some Indians despise the touch of others? Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956), one of India’s foremost revolutionaries, recounts his experiences of growing up untouchable and being routinely discriminated against: in school at the age of 10, in Baroda after his return from Columbia University, and while traveling. Battling odds, Ambedkar drafted the Constitution of India and eventually embraced Buddhism. Experiences similar to Ambedkar’s continue to haunt a majority of India’s 170 million dalits. They are still denied water, shelter and the basic dignities of life.

In this ground-breaking work, Pardhan-Gond artists Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam interweave historical events like the Mahad satyagraha with contemporary incidents. Defying conventional grammar, they infuse fresh energy into the graphic idiom through their magical art mounted on an epic scale.

big hero size zeroGender Talk Big Hero Size Zero

The perfect male-female bodies — says who? Aren’t sex and gender the same thing? Either male or female, right? Of course men and women are equal — but who calls the shots at home? Who makes the ‘rules’ we are all supposed to follow? Does what you wear ‘invite trouble’? Do women need to be ‘controlled for their own good’? Why is being different from the majority such a problem?

As gender issues hit the news hotspots more and more, there are questions and confusions, and the answers are covered by a smog of stereotype and convention. So how do teens make sense of all this?

Uncovering truths, untruths, semi-truths and myths, using everyday examples as well as references to popular media, the book explores what it means socially and culturally to belong to a certain gender. This book helps you find some answers, and raise more questions with better information. Being aware is a first step towards gender equality.

sita's ramayanaSita’s Ramayana

The book shifts the point of view of the epic – the saga of a heroic war – to bring a woman’s perspective to this familiar tale. Narrated by the heroine Sita, it is a powerful meditation on the fate of women, as they become pawns in the wars between men and kingdoms. Patua artist Moyna Chitrakar and book designer Jonathan Yamakami deftly rework the traditional scroll form to create a dramatic visual narrative.

 

 

 

sultanas-dream-cover-1Sultana’s Dream

Sultana’s Dream first appeared in 1905, ten years before the American feminist and novelist Charlotte P. Gilman published her feminist utopia Herland. An appealing story of how peace-loving women overpowered aggressive men through the power of their brains, this slim book anticipates radical ecological and feminist themes that continue to engage our attention to this day. This edition is also a fascinating dialogue across time and cultures: Durga Bai, a brilliant woman artist from the Gond tribe of central India, has drawn her response to Rokheya Hossain’s startling feminist fable from the early twentieth century, adding a new layer of meaning to a classic text.

 

year of the weedsYear Of The Weeds

Korok lives in a small Gond village in western Odisha. His life is in the garden which he tends every day. Anchita lives in the house which has the garden, and is an artist.

Then one day, the government tells the Gonds they have to leave the village because a company is going to mine the sacred hill next to it for aluminium ore. The Gonds oppose it, but the mighty government, led by police officer Sorkari Patnaik is determined to win. Korok knows a lot about wild flowers, and nothing much about the rest of the world, though the two friends are not going to give up.

But how long will the Gond resistance last, when everybody, from politicians to activists and even Maoists turn up at the little village?

What can a lone gardener and a girl with a computer do against the most powerful people in the land?

All the synopses have been taken from the publisher’s websites.