A good reason to get the newspaper Indian Express is that most Sundays there is an article by Ranjit Lal on the animal or plant world. These articles look with gentle humour and a different perspective at fellow inhabitants of our earth: bugs, birds, animals. They may be creatures we have just read about, or even those we see every day, mostly unnoticed by us as we whiz past busily through our very important lives, sometimes destroyed by us deliberately or unthinkingly.
Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean is an anthology of feminist fiction from Australia and India, some of them collaborations between writers and artists from both nations. It’s an interesting mix of graphic stories, short stories, and plays. The Introduction is a sort of story too—why and how this book was made.
The rise of indigenous graphic novels in India is not entirely steady or even smooth. While the premise of a graphic novel is exciting, it’s not easy to come across a writer-illustrator duo who can pull off the task with panache. In the case of The Cobrapost Affair, one can say they almost accomplish it, if it only weren’t for the absurdity of the tale that ensues.
Recently, an Australian television channel telecast a documentary about an Afghan now domiciled in Australia, returning to Kabul to revive a music school. The success of the school, scored not just in terms of the music the students and teachers create, but the unique stories of desires and struggles, testifies to the tenacity of the human spirit.
It’s not very often that one gets access to the rarefied world of boys who are on the cusp of becoming men. This is a precarious world they occupy, often populated with insensitive adults, jeering peers, and unfathomable fears—some imaginary, some unfounded—that threatens to come all undone at the slightest provocation or insult. Thankfully, Being Boys is a refreshing revelation of the male adolescent psyche that doesn’t resort to stereotypes of what boys should be like or aspire to become.
The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers takes us into spaces that Young Adult fiction usually does not go. Here it is a village in the Jaffna area of Sri Lanka that is bombed during the civil war and then a refugee camp for Tamils with its unique horrors. As the back cover says, ‘in all places where human deaths are reduced to numbers and guns do not differentiate between adults and children.’
This delightful collection brings to life in translation the magical world of Satyajit Ray’s science fiction for children. Through the character of the maverick scientist Professor Trilokeshwar Shonku, these narratives explore the frontiers of science and technology but also of the human imagination. Satyajit Ray (1921–1992) is best known as a film-maker, but he was also a writer, publisher, graphic artist and music composer. He was fascinated by mysteries. Apart from the scientist-adventurer-explorer Shonku he also created the sleuth Feluda whose exploits became the subject of several successful films.
There are books, and there are quick-reads, as my schoolboys call them. Lavanya Raghunathan Fischer’s first work of fiction definitely belongs to the former category: it has to be read with time on your hand, a fully-charged attention span (no weak battery will process this), and patience to connect the very many dots that flow out of the author’s tropical imagination. No 45 minute skim read is ever going to do justice to this unusual offering, from a ‘lawyer who moonlights as a philosopher’, as the book introduces her.
What a delightful glimpse into the world of animals and birds, their follies and foibles! This is a heartwarming collection of three amusing stories. It could well be a read-aloud book for young listeners around 3 , while the 6-8 year age group would enjoy reading the stories for themselves.
In terms of publishing, the most interesting thing about Pishi Caught in a Storm is that the story was inspired by an entry to an illustration competition that Pratham Books held. The fact around which this book is woven is that manta rays visit so-called cleaning stations, where small fish eat parasites and dead tissue off their bodies. This information is provided in a note at the end of the book, and it sets your spine tingling, especially when you remember that it was a manta ray that killed the charismatic Australian television personality and conservationist Steve Irwin, also known as ‘the crocodile hunter’.
It’s nice to know that India has finally woken up to the concept of original graphic novels—imagine what a story does to a kid’s mind when it is packaged along with whimsical sketches in vivid colours? In Mara And The Clay Cows author and illustrator Parismita Singh takes the reader to an unusual, magical territory of North Eastern India where an orphaned boy called Mara lives.