Roald Dahl Day Special Book Review : The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake

The Magic Finger

Story – Roald Dahl

Pictures – Quentin Blake

Puffin Books

Roald Dahl, the amazing author who brings a smile on our face, and makes us twist our tonues and sometime our mind too had his birthday on 13th September. Every year, this day is observed as Roald Dahl Day, in celebration of the author and his stories. On this occasion, we have a guest post from Sruti, an avid reader from our library and a book worm. So, here goes Sruti:

We are just a week away from Roald Dahl’s Day. And since, this year, I am going to do a few things related to dear ol’ Mr. Dahl on Sruti’s BookBlog. We are going to do a review this week, about ‘The Magic Finger’, then on September 13th, which is  next Sunday, which is Roald Dahl’s Day, we are doing a storytelling on another one his books on Roald Dahl Day at Easy Library, Hyderabad. There are a few other secrets too…
The story begins with a little girl, who is eight years old, who lives on a farm. Her neighbours are eight year old Philip and eleven year old William, who live on the farm next door with their parents, Mr and Mrs Gregg.So, in this one, we have the review of ‘The Magic Finger’. First thing about Roald Dahl is, he makes me smile. 🙂 So, when I firstly saw the book, it contained an illustration of a little girl pointing upwards, and with her finger all golden, as if to show a spark coming off it. So, I wondered how Mr Dahl and illustrator, Quentin Blake could get me laughing this time round. So, I read on…

All the three kids are good friends, except on Saturdays, when the Greggs, go hunting with their father.  Even the little boys have guns and they are off to shoot birds and animals. One Saturday, the little girl tries to stop the Greggs from going on their hunting trip. And they should have listened to her because she has a fairly big secret…

The little girl is the owner of a magic finger, which she almost never, intentionally uses. The magic finger is something which, she promises herself not to use, like she happened to, on her teacher, Mrs Winter.

Mrs Winter happened to ask her to spell cat, and the girl spelt it as ‘kat’,

putting Mrs Winter in a temper. But poor Mrs Winter had no clue that the magic finger would be used on her. Mrs Winter ended up with whiskers growing out of her face and cats’ ears and a bushy tail. And the funniest thing is she never got better!

So, whenever the little girl gets mad, her forefinger begins to tingle and lo and behold, a spark comes out of it. She was so mad at the Greggs that she happened to use it on them, as well. She did not even know what would happen to the Greggs.

The Greggs come home that day with sixteen dead birds and four live ones, which refused to stop following them. They come home and go to sleep for the night, only to wake up in the morning with duck wings. Things move fast, as they discover they are meant to live as birds and be hunted down too!

By four huge birds, who have decided to take over their house, and everything in it! The best part is, the guns too have been taken over by the birds and the Greggs happens to see them, carrying and pointing them at the Greggs.

What would happen now? Were the guns to be used on the Greggs? The little girl, who is the owner of the magic finger comes in and discovers the whole scene, the next day…

It is a fun book, with all the lessons it had to teach the folks, who happen to take out guns and shoot at innocent creatures. It is very exciting, as you are compelled to turn the pages. One can see how the events unfold and how they work for the little girl and the ducks. It is an amazing story, and does the job for kids and adults, too.

The best part is not just the story, but the illustrations too. Quentin Blake does a superb job of them, as usual. You can see the spark on the little girl, the cat’s tail on Mrs Winter, the wings on the Greggs, and the gun holding birds and much more.

Because it never is a true Roald Dahl book without Quentin Blake’s work in it, is it? It will have you laughing and teaching the kids a little something too; this book does, doesn’t it?


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Book Review – Walk the Rainforest with Niwupah by Aparajita Dutta and Nima Manjrekar

Walk the Rainforest with Niwupah

Text – Aparajita Dutta and Nima Manjrekar

Pictures – Maya Ramaswamy


Once in a while, you come across a book that makes you look at it wistfully, making you wonder – how nice it would have been if I had this book to understand things back in my school days! They explain the facts that looked monstrous during school  so beautifully and simply, that you can’t help but marvel at it.

‘Walk the Rainforest with Niwupah‘ by Dutta and Manjrekar is one such book. It is a non-fiction book, but instead of just throwing textual information as a bundle of facts, it has a very friendly and comprehensible tone, with beautiful illustrations to go with it. As you read the book, you can actually feel that the authors are talking to you. The richness of the text and illustrations together instantly transports you to a rainforest, and you can see it coming alive in front of your eyes.

The book has been written in a conversational tone, and you can imagine it serving as your guide through the rainforest, introducing you to the various inhabitants of the place, and the rules of the house. There are tiny boxes of facts containing very interesting information – for example, did you know that cocoa beans actually came from the rainforests? The hero of the book is the Great Hornbill or Niwupah, and the write-up about the hornbills makes for a very fascinating read. The book also draws attention to the threat to the rainforests and its inhabitants, especially the hornbills because of the deforestation. We keep clearing the forests to make our homes, but we do need to spare a thought for the creatures who are the rightful inhabitants of that place. The book also inspires the young ones to take up wildlife activism, and gives them quite a few ideas and tips to get started at their own level.

The artwork in the book by Maya Ramaswamy is very eye-catching, and very detailed. The illustrations are so vivid and exact, that they look more like a photograph. The pictures have also been labelled to help identify the birds, animals and insects, and can serve as a starting point for a whole new exploration altogether. The world map at the end with the rainforests marked on it is a very useful addition too.

Get and read this book, pronto! It’s a treasure worth enjoying and cherishing.

This post first appeared on Indian Moms Connect, where we partner with them for giving you monthly recommendations for books.

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Book Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs

Story – Judi Barrett

Pictures – Ron Barrett

Aladdin Picture Books

Ah, rains! And the things from the childhood that are associated with rains!! The rain dance, jumping in the puddles, school holiday for ‘rainy day’, and staying indoors with the aroma of food wafting from the kitchen. In fact, if you ask me, the food memories are always high up in the list of things that come to your mind when somebody says ‘rain’. But what if it actually started raining food? Bliss, or maybe not so?

‘Cloudy with a chance of meatballs’ by Judi Barrett is a tall tale about food that rains from the sky. So, the people in the town of Chewandswallow don’t really cook, instead they wait for the ‘weather’ to come thrice a day – bringing different foods with it. It rains milk and juice, it snows mashed potatoes and there are storms of burgers and sandwiches. People store the leftovers if they would get hungry between meals. The weather forecast tells people what to expect for the food the next day, to help them plan. But one fine day, or on a not-so-fine one, the weather turns for the worse. The kitchen high up starts messing, and nobody wants to eat the kind of food that was raining. There are storms of salt and pepper with tomato tornado. What happens to the people of Chewandswallow? How do they come out of the mess? If you have seen the movie, you’d probably know, but it’s worth reading the book.

The imagination and description of the weather is hilarious, and Barrett has literally cooked up a storm. You can’t help but marvel at the way things have been thought of. The illustrations by Ron Barrett are very impressive, and come with their own quirky details. The boy drinking juice from his umbrella and ‘Ralph’s Roofless Restaurant’ will make you laugh out loud. The text is quite simply brilliant, but with the illustrations, you are actually transported to the town of Chewandsawallow.

The book was first published more than 25 years ago, and it remains popular even today because of the absurdity and silliness, that is so convincing it is almost believable. It will definitely make the kids imagine and think about what impact does the change of weather has on people’s lives. A very fun, imaginative, creative and thoroughly enjoyable book!

What’s your favourite rain or food memory?

This post first appeared on Indian Moms Connect, where we partner with them for giving you monthly recommendations for books.

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Book Review: First House/ Pehla Ghar : A Santhali Folktale

First House/ Pehla Ghar

Retold by Jane Sahi

Translation – Shivnarayan Gour

Pictures – Ranu Titus

Home, sweet home! But how did the home come to be about? Who thought that we could build a roof over our heads? What was the inspiration for the pillars, the structure and the roof? If you have ever wondered about these questions, this Santhali folktale will give you the answers.

How the inputs from each of these brought together the house is a nice story, and helps you see the sense in the ideas.

The story starts as two friends in the really, really old times get tired of taking shelter under the trees and in the caves – the changing weathers not being very helpful. So they think up the idea of having something more permanent, and start taking suggestions from the creatures around them – the elephant, the snake, the buffalo and the fish. How the inputs from each of these brought together the house is a nice story, and helps you see the sense in the ideas. The art work is marvelous – the illustrations have been done with the Santhali inspiration in just orange, white and black colors, and instantly take you into the world as it was in the stone age. The details in the artwork are quite interesting, and the observant kid can spend quite a lot of time pointing out the different features on each page of the illustrations.

The details in the artwork are quite interesting

The fact that the book is bilingual also helps the beginner reader in the second language. Though the story is quite short, the subject will be appreciated better by a kid 6 years and above. Read it up, and think of the other stories behind the things that we use everyday, and take for granted. I remember reading a similar story about the invention of the wheel when I was a kid – just an idea to get started 🙂

This post first appeared on Indian Moms Connect, where we partner with them for giving you monthly recommendations for books.

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Book Review: Mooncake (Moonbear Books) by Frank Asch

Mooncake (Moonbear Books)

Frank Asch

Simon & Schuster

Now that science has spoiled the game for us, and we know that moon is nothing but a land of craters, with perhaps some water lying around, we would not dream of ‘tasting’ the moon. But for the kids, moon is still something of a mystery. And on a full moon’s day, it probably looks good enough to eat!

Frank Asch’s ‘Mooncake’, a part of his Moonbear stories series, is all about the Bear wondering what the moon tastes like, when he is chatting to his friend Little Bird. And he doesn’t stop at wondering, instead thinks of ways how he can get a bite of the moon. He then decides to build a rocketship, so that he can go to the moon to taste it. Meanwhile, winter is approaching, and the Little Bird flies down south with the rest of her flock, and Bear is alone in his efforts. He does build the rocketship though, but does he get to taste the moon? Read up to find out – it’s such a lovely story.

The story is most suitable for kids around 3-6 years. There are so many new things that you can introduce to them through this book – how the animals behave differently in winter, with the birds flying away to warmer places, and the bears going in hibernation, the rocketship, the value of perseverance and the apprehension around trying something new. And it’s a simple, endearing story that would definitely appeal to them. The illustrations could have been better though. They serve the purpose, but not really exciting or attractive.

And now I want to read the other Moonbear stories too. I’ll look for them while you enjoy this one, and see if the moon is as delicious as it looks 🙂

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Guest Post : Book Review – The Kerala Mystique

In the series of the book reviews, today, we are putting up a guest post by our long-time patron, Anuradha – who read and liked the ‘Kerala Mystique’ series from Mango Books. So, here goes – over to Anuradha:

I needed a cushioning. Two books that I picked up to read back to back were difficult though interesting. So I could not keep the Norwegian Wood aside, but wanted a more pleasing book to read, lighter, brighter, with some pictures and illustrations… Had recently read Sethu Learns to Smile from the library, a series called Kerala Mystique, written by Vinitha Ramchandani and illustrated by KR Raji. What appealed was the core of the book, how the child feels, what goes on inside that little head, each time, in so many overt and covert ways, we tell them to do something, to be something, to follow certain ways, to mould into accepted ways of the world. So I bought the entire series, six of them! It says Read aloud for ages 7+, Self reading for ages 10+. This may matter only if you are thinking of ‘age appropriate’ in gifting books. 🙂

In the circle of my kid friends, I get asked “did you bring me a book?”

I read all the books that I buy for the kids. One, because I enjoy them, two, to expect the questions, and three, to be able to have conversations with them  (and not ask questions like, how was school, what they want to become when they grow up, who do they like more, the father or the mother and such like….). Am also awed by how beautifully the genre of children’s books is coming up of late in India.

The Birdman: Few months back I read Rumi for the first time, a book named Birdsong. I have come across references to Rumi in many occasions but so far never followed any particular philosopher, thinker, mystic. Nothing against, but I like to read life’s lessons though a story, gives me a context. Birdsong was really good and Birdman got picked up first! Birdman here, referred to as Praandan-Pishashe (Mad-Devil) because of his long hair, unkempt and walking about aimlessly, and Lakshmi, who is the bully of the gang, her close encounter with him.The Birdman


Krishna and the Ducks: lovely story of a young boy, Krishna, the day he was born, rain created havoc in the little island, and it was thought that some of that rain trickled into his head and so he was dull. How Krishna takes to the ducks and changes the impressions of others about him when he finds something that he loves to do and does it so well.

DSC_0008This story reminded me of Tsunami in 2004. While working in the affected areas of Karunagappally in Kerala, close to the Arabian sea, people told us that a flock of ducks came in the waves to this small strip of land near the sea, and the community had no idea what to do with them, they have never reared ducks! That was a pretty sight, flock of them quacking away, each reference to them brought in some laughter in difficult times.

Mallika and the Cobra: A story to get over your fear of snakes. You see sometimes it is not the person who gives himself his name, but the other way around….because of the stories that were built around him.

Turtle Tales: Keertiverman is the name of the turtle and Priyanka is the name of the girl. How she rescues the turtle and brings him up and in the process bonds with her grandmother.

The Tiger Charmer: about a pretty plump girl named Neha and she has a way with animals, which how, no adults understand.


How do you know the way? Sometimes I don’t. But there are signs all over the place. Sometimes it’s the birds that tell me and sometimes it is the sun that does. Most of the time, I follow my heart. I seldom go wrong.”(The Birdman)

“The baby leaves have the brightest green. That’s because they’ve just caught the rays of light inside them. As they get older, the leaf gets darker and it takes less and less sun. Then the leaf gets wise again, learns to love the sun, and turns yellow – the colour of the sun. This is where it frees itself forever and decides to play with the wind, following it from place to place, resting when it rests.” (The Birdman)

When it rained in this island, it never just rained. Lightening cracked the sky in angry flashes and when thunder followed soon after, its powerful sound was worse than a canon exploding. After the light and shower show that the heavens put up, came the rain. (Krishna and the Ducks)

Didn’t I teach you that no animal will hurt you unless you threaten it or it felt threatened by you?         (Mallika and the Cobra)

Priyanka’s good behaviour was that she was happy. She felt loved and had someone to love. (Turtle Tales)

Grown-ups never figure things out 🙂 (The Tiger Charmer)

Little things like a squint eye, bullying, slow to learn children, their interests, countering all sorts of stereotypes, the books beautifully say things differently. I liked to see how animals, birds feel a natural part of life in these books. In today’s overprotective world, they are so refreshing to read.

Lovely illustrations, brilliant colours, leaving a lot to the imagination, how trees, forests, birds and animals can look like. Each book has translation of the few words of Malayalam used in the book.

They all end well, in peace, happy endings, and that’s lovely too. Whether reading children books as an adult, one reads too much into them? Am unable to go back that far to imagine myself back then and what these books may have meant.

These books were nice, goose-bump-ish nice!


Thanks Anu, for the guest post. We look forward to more from you.

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Book Review : The Elephant’s Child and Other Stories by Rudyard Kipling

The Elephant’s Child & Other Stories

Rudyard Kipling (Edited by Sudhakar Marathe)

Puffin Books

Most of us have grown up hanging on to every visual of ‘The Jungle Book’ TV adaptation – I still sing the title song to my son when he is roaming around wearing his undies! And then I discovered that it was actually a book, that I could read over and over and make my own adaptations in my mind every time, and that though the TV adaptation was very nice, it could never do justice to what the stories were  – and I just fell in love with Rudyard Kipling.

‘The Elephant’s Child and Other Stories’ is a compilation of stories divided in three parts, and gets progressively challenging in terms of content – Part 1 has all the imagination bundled up, as you think of the elephant with a really short stubby nose, the kangaroo walking on all fours, and a butterfly who could stamp the garden. There’s also the very engaging account of how the first letter was written and how the alphabet was made, and about the plus and minus in Gods’ world. Part 2 has the stories from the eternal favorite ‘The Jungle Book’ – ‘Mowgli’s Brothers’, ‘Tiger-Tiger!’ and ‘Rikki-Tikki Tavi’. You can never have enough of them. Part 3 moves on to more serious and thought-provoking stuff – ‘Little Tobrah’, ‘Tods’ Amendment’, ‘An Unqualified Pilot’, ‘The Story of Muhammad Din’ and ‘Lispeth’ – they are stories of children, but need to be dealt with carefully, as some of them are quite sad. Be sure to be around the kids to talk them over should they want to.

The stories are a storyteller’s delight – they have not been written, they have been told, with appropriate addressing throughout. When you read ‘O Most Beloved’, you can actually hear Kipling telling the story to you in your head. The language is almost lyrical, and he plays masterfully with words.The Part 1 stories especially have a lot of repetitive text, which is a bucketful of fun when you are reading aloud, and boosts the confidence of a budding reader immensely should she choose to read on her own. In fact, it is a great book to be read aloud to all age groups – the kids will grasp the word play better when they are hearing the words rather than reading them. There are a few tough or archaic words, but you don’t stumble upon them.

Read this book and indulge in some clever word-play, some imagination, a dash of humour and a bit of introspection with your kids!

This review first appeared on Indian Moms Connect, where we partner with them for giving you monthly recommendations for books.

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Book Review: Three Friends by Indu Harikumar

Three Friends

Story & Pictures : Indu Harikumar

Eklavya Publications (2013)

There’s something about the picture books that takes your breath away. No matter what you might be doing – the moment your hands fall on a picture book, you just HAVE to read it. And more often than not, the story pulls you deep in the admiration of something told in such deceptively simple way. Indu Harikumar’s ‘Three Friends’ is one such book, and you must get your hands on it.

The three friends in the story are the colours red, blue and green. How these three long for more friends, and come together to create new colours is what the story is about. Nothing that you don’t know already, but think of it from a kid’s perspective, and you’ll see how much sense does it make to tell them about the primary and secondary colours this way. There’s not one superfluous word in the story, nor has it been over-simplified. But what really impresses you is the unique way in which the book has been illustrated – the author has done it herself, creating the book on cloth with fabric paints and embroidery – marvellous! The applique, the designs and the stitches – it is all so mesmerising.

And at just Rs 45/-, the book is much, much better than a steal – go for it, pronto! The book is a wonderful starter for colors for ages 2 and above.


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Book Review : Custody by Manju Kapur


Manju Kapur

Random House India (2011)

In the bitter divorce battles that are becoming all too common these days, the power centres are the children, who are ironically powerless. By warring over their custody, the parental ego claims victory or otherwise – but all too shallow at the end of it all. Don’t you think so?

It is this bitterness and upheaval in the families that Manju Kapur has attempted to depict in her novel ‘Custody’. Shagun is a very beautiful woman, married to a ‘successful’ man Raman, who seems to have it all – a good job in a very respectable company, great salary with perks and two lovely kids Arjun and Roohi. In comes Ashok – Raman’s suave, handsome and dashing boss, and Shagun starts finding her husband too boring, and is drawn to his boss instead. Things get serious, and Shagun leaves Raman to be with Ashok. The messy divorce battles begin – the biggest contention being the custody of the children. How the custody battle ends, and new bonds are being formed while the old ones are scrambling to end with dignity is what the novel is all about.

Manju Kapur’s forte is her nuanced writing of the human follies. Her characters, especially women, are very well etched out. Unfortunately, she loses her touch in this novel. In her effort to be non-judgemental about Shagun’s character, she does not go deep in the description of her character or the reasons of her choices. Raman is reduced to an object of sympathy, for the other characters of the novel as well as for the reader. While not going into the details of the relationship between Shagun and Raman is understandable, there’s not much being said about Shagun’s bond with Ashok either. What was it that Ashok was offering that Raman could not, and she was happy to leave behind her stable home? Ashok and Ishita, the woman in Raman’s life after Shagun, are caricatures at best. Shagun’s mother is again reduced to a very superficial character, going along with her daughter’s wishes like a puppet. While Roohi is too young to understand what’s going on around her, Arjun is a bit grown up, and Kapur does some justice, bringing out his fears and apprehensions, and giving space to the bonding between Ashok and Arjun. You do feel sorry for the kids, embroiled in the battle of egos between their parents, reduced to pawns – amounting to not more than pieces of papers of communication between the two of them.

Kapur’s description of the upper and middle class lives in Delhi in the 90s is spot on, and you can imagine it going on right in front of your eyes – the nosy neighbors, the jealousy between families, the swish set planning holidays abroad, and of course ‘the Brand’, where Raman and Ashok work. But all said and done, ‘Custody’ is not a patch on Kapur’s earlier work – ‘Difficult Daughers’ and ‘Home’.

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Book Review : Cricketmatics by Anshumani Ruddra


Story  – Anshumani Ruddra

Pictures – M Kathiravan

Audiobook Voiceover – Rahul Dravid

Karadi Tales – 2009

The looooooong summer season is upon us, and so is the season of cricket (which never seems to end these days, isn’t it?). And when you mix the two, what ensues is fun, and then some more fun. But the kids still need to be kept indoors when it is blistering hot outside, and what better than books to do so – especially if the book is about Cricket!

The book is a surefire hit from the word go, as it blends in the world of mathematics and cricket very smoothly and effortlessly. Anirudh is an ardent cricket lover, and is the star of his school cricket team – never missing a training camp or a championship. But then, there is a problem. His love for cricket overpowers his interest in studies and he starts lagging behind, flunking in Mathematics. He is now faced up with an ultimatum – pull your Mathematics act together, or give the summer cricket camp a miss to repeat the course. For his love of cricket, he does try hard, but the harder he tries, the more confused he gets – he can’t quite strike a boundary when it comes to the problems of Mathematics. And then comes his cricket coach Vasu. Does he get him a waiver from the Mathematics exam, or does he make things more difficult for him? Read up – you’ll enjoy the story, and will be cheering for every strike Anirudh makes!

The story is written very well, with the characters etched out perfectly. Anirudh’s fan moments, or his grappling with the problems of Mathematics are all very real and relatable, and you are silently rooting for him in your heart. The simplicity of the narration makes it an easy read, and even a cricket ‘non-fan’ will not have any trouble understanding the various situations. Anshumani does full justice to the story and subject, and it is no wonder he is a hit with the tweens and teens for all his books. The illustrations are spectacular, and you fall in love with Anirudh as many times as you see his pictures.

The book came from the house of Karadi, and is a part of the ‘Will You Read With Me?’ series. Which means that it comes with an audiobook, with a narration by the cricket legend Rahul Dravid. The kids could read along with him, or just listen to the story – the audiobook with all the music and arrangements is a wonderful thought and a much needed gesture, to bring the kids back to books and reading. I wonder why are they not doing it any more!

Do read it – I bet you would have loved the subject Cricketmatics too, if you had a chance!

This review first appeared on Indian Moms Connect, where we partner with them for giving you monthly recommendations for books.

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