A Magical Tale
Laila Tyabji
THE MAGIC STORE OF NU-CHAM-VU by Shree Kumar Varma Puffin Books, 2009, 132 pp., 175
November 2009, volume 33, No 11

When editors start sending one pre-teen books for review, it’s a sign that second childhood is imminent. The Indian Express did it to me not long ago, and now it’s The Book Review’s turn!

Old age has its advantages, and so does children’s fiction—it has the fantasy, fun, and distinct story line that most adult fiction today eschews in favour of the darkly psycho-analytic and introspective. It also has happy endings! I am all for the latter—both in life and in literature.

Actually, The Magic Store of Nu-Cham-Vu doesn’t exactly have a ‘happy’ ending—it has a resolution. In this, as in other aspects, it is rather a grownup children’s story, though targeted at the 9-plus age group.

It contains numerous stories within stories rather than a single story line, and there is no one hero or heroine—or even a main protagonist. Nu-Cham-Vu, the ‘Bad Guy’, is actually, in many ways, the most endearing and certainly the most rounded and fully realized person in the book. He dominates every scene and his colour, vigour, and appalling nastiness can reduce the other characters to two-dimensional cut-outs. Rather like that other monstrous beast—Toad, in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows!

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