What I Read In October

October 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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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!)


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?



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.




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. 








There and back again – blog update

I have a confession. I’m a serial abandoner of blogs. I’ve had two (or was it three?) blogs over the years, all of which I’ve eventually left to languish. It’s a definite problem. Since I stopped updating this blog about three and a half years ago, I’ve been up to quite a bit book-world-wise (all of which slowly but surely contributed to the abandonment) so I thought I’d post a quick update as I attempt to Frankenstein my blog back to life (in the hope that it won’t someday turn against me and bay for my blood):

1) I wrote another book! It’s called The A – Z Djinn Detective Agency and was out in January 2017. It was a lot of fun to write but I’m forever feeling guilty that I haven’t promoted it enough and I’m forever promising myself I’ll do better.

the a to z djinn detective agency
Psst! How does one talk about one’s own books?

2) Actually I wrote more than one book. I wrote three picture books too – none of which are out yet but all of whose promised existence fills me with both delight and disbelief. I never thought I’d write a picture book and I still don’t think I’ve quite gotten the hang of writing them yet but experimenting with a new format has been all sorts of wonderful.

Screen Shot 2018-08-21 at 6.35.15 PM
When I saw this spread for my very first picture book about a pig with a runaway tail, I may or may not have spent the day bursting out into excited squeals

3) Another excellent experiment experience (say that five times fast!) was the year I spent developing a reading programme for a school I fell in love with. I had no prior experience with education but being wildly enthusiastic about books was enough for them to bring me on board. Every week, I met students from standards 1 to 8 and we explored books in lots of creative ways. I learned so much from my time with the kids and can’t wait to do something of the sort again.

4) I helped a primary school in Mumbai – one that was unfamiliar with contemporary children’s books – set up a library and conducted workshops with the teachers to help them incorporate books into the curriculum in fun ways. Working with adults instead of kids for the very first time made me feel very grown up.

teacher workshop
I had to conquer my public-speaking phobia (which only comes into effect in front of groups of adults) but the teachers here made it really easy

5) To balance this feeling of grown-upness I also got to do a bunch of mad workshops with kids. These included fantasy writing, mystery workshops, retellings of old myths, fairy tales and popular stories in new formats (all of which led to some hilariously inventive and brilliant narratives) but my favourite one was the time I got to create a board game with a group of kids based on elements from our favourite children’s books.

All the elements were homemade
I know I look super-serious explaining things here but I also got the kids to call me Overlord all morning

6) I moved to Scotland and discovered and fell in love with the public libraries in Glasgow (a detailed love letter to them is coming up in my next post).

7) I moved to study for an MEd in Children’s Literature and Literacies. The plan was to study for a year and then move back to India. I did move back to India but realised that a year was much too short a while to spend studying something I loved and that I missed university life very much.

One of my first sights at the wonderful, ridiculous, beloved University of Glasgow

8) Which brings me back to my last update. I returned to the UK a little over a month ago to be a student again – this time as a PhD researcher studying children’s books. (I know!)

When I returned to India, I was instantly welcomed back – in different capacities – as a member of the children’s book world I had left behind. That’s when I realised that while I had loved the intellectual stimulation offered by turning an academic gaze towards children’s literature when I was in Glasgow, I had missed being a part of the non-academic children’s book world. The one filled with reading-for-fun and creative conversations, and children’s books enthusiasts like myself. These are things the academic world is also full of, of course, but I had unknowingly managed to separate both these identities (being a Master’s student is intense you guys, so I don’t entirely blame my past self).

I’ve heard rumours that being a PhD student is marginally easier (let it not be a lie, universe!). So I’m reviving this blog in part to remedy my tendency to separate my academic life from my reader life. I plan to fill this space with a mishmash of all my different-yet-connected bookish identities so that I can keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to do all the things I love.