Anjana Neira Dev
THE CASE OF THE NEW PLANET by By Ananya Dasgupta. Illustrations by Mandar Mhaskar Pratham Books Level 3, Bengaluru, 2023, pp., INR 85.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

As soon as you read the title, you know there is adventure and a mystery to look forward to and that is a made to order recipe for a delightful reading experience. Ananya Dasgupta’s story and Mandar Mhaskar’s illustrations segue to make this a story that you almost wish was not fiction. A clever trick is the fun that the typesetter has had with the fonts, as they fluctuate in tandem with Anvi’s adrenalin, when she spots a spaceship in her backyard! We all know the adage about curiosity, but our intrepid explorer is undeterred by any such thoughts and steps right into the spaceship and travels with the aliens, bald red blobs with three eyes and two noses, to their home. Of course, it is her best friend (and not some sceptical adults) whom she shares the details of her nocturnal adventures with and gets to know that she probably visited the exoplanet Proxima Centauri B. This book made me want to immediately look up all I could find about the Solar System, speculate about the possibility of a world beyond it and imagine it peopled by aliens who are as curious about our world as we are about theirs. The blurb labels this as a High-Low book for older readers who want to increase their reading fluency and with such an engaging story, that is bound to be the happy outcome, especially since there is enough fiction in the science to make it interesting and enough science in the fiction to stimulate the reader’s imagination and curiosity.