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

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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.

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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!

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

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