The summer holidays are here and if, like me, you are averse to the idea of summer camps and prefer to let the kids run wild and free, here are some lovely reads for those rare moments of quietude that might come your way if you are patient enough.
Sticky hands, smiley faces and mouths stained yellow — if it’s summer, can mangoes be far behind? Mumbai-based Natasha Sharma, whose past work includes the hilarious Icky, Yucky, Mucky (2014) and Princess Easy Pleasy (2015), has come up with The Good Indian Child’s Guide to Eating Mangoes (Harper Collins; appropriate for: 6+) to talk about the fruit that makes the crippling heat only partially bearable. How does a “good Indian child” eat a mango? With a fork and a spoon, daintily biting into the succulent fruit? Or, do they attack it with the gusto of a barbarian, slurping and slobbering over it, loathe to share even the last fruit with anyone? Part of a series that aims to look at the myth of the “good Indian child”, the rib-tickling first book is redolent of Sharma’s whacky sense of humour and makes us look forward to the next in the series.
The riot that can be summer vacations is only tempered by the periodic appeals that come up for alleviation of boredom. Blogger-turned-prolific-writer Yashodhara Lal stepped into kiddie lit with Peanut Has a Plan (2016, Duckbill Hole Books, appropriate for 6-9), modelled on the antics of her three children — Peanut, Pickle and Papad. It’s summer break, but Peanut, the eldest of three siblings, is bored. She needs diversions and in the absence of her working parents, she creates some of her own that lands them in a tight spot. Her mother forbids her from further adventures but Peanut finds herself in a bind — she really does need one last plan to help the dogs in her neighbourhood. In this brief book, Lal also weaves in themes of civic responsibility, the necessity of learning to manage money early and how children are capable of unbound mischief and generosity all at once.
In Looking for the Rainbow (2017, Puffin Books), a brief memoir for younger readers (appropriate for: 8+), Ruskin Bond takes his readers back to gentler times — to his boyhood, to the brief time he spent with his father, Aubrey Bond, an officer in the Codes and Ciphers section of the Royal Air Force in the early 1940s. Following his parents’s separation, the young Bond moves to Delhi to be with his father. Delhi is a city of wonders for the boy from the hill and it becomes a summer of discovery for him as he revels in the joy that cinema, books, stamps and condensed milk bring. It’s a brief respite, though. Soon, he would have to return to boarding school in Simla, away from his father, who would be posted in Calcutta. It would also be the last time he would meet him. He would lose his father soon afterwards. Told with touching candour and full of a child’s wonder in the world around him and in his father, this is a book that continues to stay with you long after it’s over.
How does a bookworm make the most of summer? By running riot in the local library, of course! Puchku loves to read and when she runs out of books at home, she is introduced to the joys of a library. All’s going well, except, one day, she realises that she has worked her way through the books on the lower shelves and needs to reach up higher. How can she when she’s a tiny thing and the bookcase an enormous affair? Puchku turns to her friends but it’s an attempt doomed to failure. Will the books on the top shelves remain forever out of her bounds? An endearing story by Deepanjana Pal for beginner readers (appropriate for: 5+), A Book for Puchku (2017, Pratham Books) introduces children to the joy of local libraries (can we have more of them, please?) and the comfort of burying your face in a book.