This week I read a charming collection of stories, meant for preteens and early teens. It is good to see that children and teens today have a wide range of books to choose from. When I was a child, I had to make do with comics, not that I complained. Then there were the Enid Blytons and adventure series for teens but nearly all of them were by foreign authors.
It is heartening to see many Indian authors writing for children. It is a good way to introduce them to the richness and diversity of our country and culture. I like to read these books along with my daughter and we talk about the different customs and viewpoints she encounters in these books. It is not only a learning experience for her but also a time for us to converse from the heart and bond.
The book that we read is called Diwali Stories. Published by Scholastic (I find their books very educational and entertaining), it is a collection of four little stories. Here is what we liked about them.
Rocket of Doom by Kaushik Vishwanath
It has the wildly funny, crazy antics of Thatha, the sort of crazy Paatti, that is reminiscent of Roald Dahl. I loved it for its impossibility. My daughter loved it for its craziness. The nostalgia of large families, plenty of cousins and mindless fun reminded me of my carefree childhood.
Dracula’s Diwali by Monideepa Sahu
This story is about special bonds between strangers and of kindness. On a visit to Kolkata, the little girl Chandana befriends the old and sick Dragomir, who lives across the street. It is an unlikely bond, one that is sweet and emotional. This story is the only one with a neat ending which my daughter liked very much. In a way, it was eye opening to me. Children like things to be definite, we adults like slices of life.
Lights against the darkness by Umakrishnaswami
This one is my personal favourite. It is because of the theme of innocent friendship. Deepa and Bani are neighbours and bff. They fall out due to a little misunderstanding. The language is lovely; the shifting moods so well described, the emotions that the young girls don’t even know they have and cannot express. This is the only story that is set outside India, talking of the Indian diaspora. My daughter liked the concept of ‘unfriend’.
Jugnu’s ‘out of the world’ firecrackers by Vivek Tandon
This story is an out and out fantastic story of 6 yr old Jugnu, with a three armed, three legged and single eyed ET like Bluebob who has crash landed his space craft on Earth. The situation and the firecrackers are fantastical. But the child gets his celebration of Diwali-in-advance. This is the only one with an overt message.
The stories are bound together by the theme of the festival of Diwali. The settings and the characters have a wide and delightful range of settings. The stories are not overly moralistic. The language is appropriate for the age group it targets. It is an entertaining and engaging book. A good read for preteens.
Next on the reading list is Eid Stories. My daughter is already excited.
Do you read books to your children or along with them? Let us talk about your experiences.
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