Sowmya Rajendran

At first glance, the book resembles those old classics retold, with its dark green cover and title in a narrow black box. But the dimensions and the picture on the cover make it different. The tagline suggests it is part of a series. This bodes well because we don’t have too many good series for young readers.

Reviewed by: Sandhya Rao
Rukhsana Khan

Duckbill Books’ Not Our War (NOW) series is just what Indian young adults need. The series, in the publisher’s words, ‘deals with children growing up in times of conflict—powerless, vulnerable, and yet, against all odds, brave and hopeful of a better future’.

Reviewed by: Nithya Sivashankar
R.J. Palacio

‘My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’ A usual middle school life has fights, punches, suspensions, bullying, name-calling, dating, pranks—but when August Pullman a boy who loves ice cream and plays Xbox like any other kid goes to school, we see the true colours of children.

Reviewed by: Vishesh Unni Raghunathan
Ruchi Banerjee

Writing about the future can be fraught. It is deceptively simple to conjure up futuristic fantasies, simply linear progressions of events today. But there is a very real danger of over-reaching—of creating scenarios that just become unbelievable. Ruchi Banerjee seems to have reined in her imagination at just the right time in her novel Infinitude.

Reviewed by: Sharad Raghavan
Arefa and Raza H. Tehsin

Why do crocodiles have stones in their bellies? Do you know how long they have been around on earth? Here’s a hint—an ancestor of the crocodile was so large that it ate dinosaurs! A gross but effective method of self-defence—a turkey vulture defends itself by bringing forth foul smelling vomit of a semi-digested meal.

Reviewed by: Andal Jagannathan
William Sutcliffe

Bad Influence is one of those books that you don’t have much faith in, when you pick it up—but once you’ve gotten past the first five pages, suddenly you’re invested in the characters and the story to such a point that you desperately need to find out what happens next, even if you have a fair idea. And that, in truth, is the book’s real success.

Reviewed by: Pavithra Srinivasan
Hanne Bramness

If you like your young adult novel sepia-tinted, then this book is for you. The beautifully detailed cover illustration of lilies in shades of grey, beige and the cleverest touch of red captures the mood of the book. It is a sombre account of twelve year old Evelyn’s journey from Argentina to war-torn England.

Reviewed by: Manisha Chaudhry
Kate Darnton

The Misfits by Kate Darnton is the heartwarming story of eleven-year-old Chloe and her new life in New Delhi.
Exotic and enigmatic, yet crowded and dirty, India is indeed a daunting challenge for the American family that has moved in here. ‘Everything in Delhi was the opposite of Boston—the heat and the smells and the noises and the colours and the tastes. Everything was totally different.’

Reviewed by: Nita Berry
Eva Ibbotson

Set around the time of World War II, young Tally Hamilton lives with her father and two aunts in a slightly shabby house in a slightly shabby street in England. The threat of war is in the air, and when an offer comes for a full scholarship for Tally in a private boarding school from a patient, Dr Hamilton gratefully seizes it, seeing it as an opportunity to see his daughter to safety in the countryside.

Reviewed by: T.C.A. Avni
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle’s Brilliant is less than a brilliant book. Ray and Gloria live with their parents and granny in the outskirts of Dublin. Their uncle Ben arrives one day to live with them (for a while, their mother adds). The kids learn that Uncle Ben is in financial trouble and cannot continue to live in his house even though the house is his—the banks won’t let him use it.

Reviewed by: Magesh Nandagopal
Eva Ibbotson

The story is set in 1910, where young and orphaned Maia has to voyage all the way to the Amazon from England, to go live with her only family, the Carters. The gruesome depictions of Amazon, of man eating alligators, blood thirsty piranhas and yellow fever inducing mosquitoes by her boarding school peers doesn’t deter Maia from fantasizing…

Reviewed by: Vijetha Rangabhashyam
Eva Ibbotson

The Star of Kazan won the Nestlé Children’s Book Prize Silver Award and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Iva Ibbotson’s tribute to the place where she was born—Vienna, makes the first part of the book magical. We are taken through the streets of Vienna, introduced to its people and watch the emperor’s Lipizzaner horses perform.

Reviewed by: Vishesh Unni Raghunathan
Charles Dickens

Selected Stories By Charles Dickens contains eight of the master’s stories. Primarily known for his novels dealing with the industrial revolution and child labour, this collection reveals what range Dickens had and reminds one (after reading and forgetting his prose in school/college) what a terrific storyteller he is.

Reviewed by: Magesh Nandagopal
Shalini Srinivasan

Author Shalini Srinivasan certainly has a weird and wonderful imagination. It’s almost as though mere words cannot do justice to the way her thoughts spiral out, creating bizarre characters and new worlds, fabulous realms and fables that might rival the ones found in our own Upanishads.

Reviewed by: Pavithra Srinivasan
Payal Kapadia

If you started reading this book without taking a look at its cover-page, you may think it’s been written by Roald Dahl. Mean and stupid parents, adults who are dumb as soup, grown-ups who are outrageously wicked, a granny who is wise and can stop them all (remember The Witches?)—they are all here.

Reviewed by: Sowmya Rajendran
Rick Riordan

In a world where the Greek gods are real, the legends about them must be real as well. And what were the Greek gods best known for? Two things: defeating the Titans, and coming down to Earth to have demigod children. Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series sees an old favourite hero—Percy Jackson, the demigod son of Poseidon…

Reviewed by: Sharad Raghavan
Karthika Nair

It’s a very eye catching cover—a purple and gold tiger with a huge lolling, shocking pink tongue springing out of a forest. Then the blurb on the back cover tells you it is a story set in the mangroves of the Sundarbans and you know you are in for a treat. Karthika Nair has set the story of her picture book in a very unusual location—the ‘beautiful forest’ of the Sundarbans…

Reviewed by: Subhadra Sen Gupta
Saurav Mohapatra

I cried. I cried a lot.’ says Saurav Mohapatra in the introduction, talking about his reaction as a young child, when he first heard the story of Abhimanyu. Most of those who grew up on the Mahabharata would identify with the experience. Abhimanyu is the son of Arjuna, one of the five Pandava princes; and the nephew of Lord Krishna. He is also perhaps the most poignant figure of the Kurukshetra war…

Reviewed by: Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan
Chitra Anand

Adolescence is a stage of life termed as ‘full of storm and stress’ by many. The ‘negativities’ that are linked with adolescence very easily range from conflict with adults, mood swings, mood intensity, irritability, criminal tendencies, risk-taking behaviour, attraction towards and seeking of thrills, and so on. No doubt this phase of life has been studied by psychologists for many decades.

Reviewed by: Tultul Biswas
Harsha V. Dehejia

There is such a disconnect between the books and toys Indian children read and play with, and the realities of Indian life. Even the materials are alien. Instead of clay, cane, wood and papier-mache, everything is plastic or moulded polymer, and the virtual world of the ubiquitous laptop or tablet rules all. The world of Harry Potter or Superman is more familiar than an Indian village to an average urban kid.

Reviewed by: Laila Tyabji
Peter Hepplewhite

In these lines Owen captures the monumental losses of a generation. In the four years of the War about 10,300 people died everyday for four and half years. Yet many who lived to tell their tales made places like Somme, Flanders and Gallipoli enter the domain of popular mythology across the world. There are no veterans from the War alive today…

Reviewed by: Debashis Chakraborty
Anu Kumar

History is not a hot favourite with students. Most look upon it as a monstrous subject that is not just voluminous but also irrelevant. Why bother memorizing names of people long dead and their complicated, boring histories? But history can become interesting if you pick up the right book.

Reviewed by: Sowmya Rajendran
Vithal Rajan

Who are the Baigas? The author explains that the Baigas are Gonds, a tribal community that inhabits the forest areas of central India. Like the author, I have spent some years in the area around Raipur, now part of Chattisgarh, as well as in the forested areas of Jharkhand.

Reviewed by: Nilima Sinha
Ruskin Bond

The simultaneous publication of two anthologies of the works of Ruskin Bond, Uncles, Aunts and Elephants, and The Very Best of Ruskin Bond is ample proof that he continues to be one of the best loved and admired writers today in India. While a few stories and essays, such as ‘Wilson’s Bridge’ and ‘Bhabiji’s House’ appear in both the selections, the first published by Puffin, is evidently meant for a younger audience.

Reviewed by: Ranjana Kaul
Premola Ghose

Books for children cater to a range of interests, with stories of worlds distant and familiar, often with a mixture of fable, myth and the modern world.

Reviewed by: Maria Aurora Couto
Phool Singh Narvaria

Have you ever pondered the pleasure and excitement of solving a riddle? Would you like to explore a book on riddles? Riddles for the English Classroom is a unique collection of fifty-seven riddles by Dr. Phool Singh Narvaria, who is an experienced teacher educator from Gwalior, India and has documented numerous folk forms to use in the language classroom.

Reviewed by: Ajit Kumar Pradhan
Kavitha Mandana

You plunge directly into the story, which starts with the birth of a girl called Sundari and an elephant called Lakshmi—at about the same time, and at the back of the palace where the elephant stables are. Sundari’s father is a mahout and so, naturally, she and Lakshmi practically grow up together, Sundari marking the milestones of a human being, and Lakshmi, those of an elephant.

Reviewed by: Sandhya Rao
Preeti Singh

A children’s book on all the books that children can read! Preeti Singh’s Great Books For Children is a compilation of books (including Indian ones) that might be of interest to independent young readers and parents or elder siblings of very small children who may want to introduce books to them.

Reviewed by: Sowmya Rajendran