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Book: Horrid High
Author: Payal Kapadia
Publisher: Puffin Books
Price: Rs 299
Suitable for: 10+
Born to parents who are not particularly interested in raising a child, 11-year-old Ferg Gottin is dumped in a residential school called Happy High. Only, it is really Horrid High, where orphans and abandoned children are sent to be forgotten, and where the teachers specialise in being, what else, but horrid. As Ferg flounders through Master Mynus’s Maths lessons and chokes over Chef Gretta’s obnoxious cooking (her larder is stocked with maggot-infested cheeses and rats’ tails and crow feathers, for starters), he also makes firm friends with four other gifted, but unloved, children. Together, they must figure out a way to stop Principal Perverse’s wicked plan of spreading horridness near and far and making more children miserable. The first book of Payal Kapadia’s Horrid High series (her previous work Wisha Wozzariter won the 2013 Crossword Book Award for Children’s Writing) is a rollicking read, a throwback to the good old school series by Enid Blyton. Roger Dahl’s illustrations have a life of their own and do full justice to the storyline. The only gripe, if one can nitpick, is the rather conspicuous absence of an Indian context — Horrid High could just as easily be in the British countryside as in the Indian NCR.
Book: Survival Tips For Lunatics
Author: Shandana Minhas
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: Rs 275
Suitable for: 10+
Who would forget their children behind on a camping trip to the Hindol National Park in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest wildlife reserve? For that matter, who would name their children Changez and Taimur, after famous warriors “who changed the course of history by killing lots of people…”. “I don’t think my parents like the world as it is,” mulls 11-year-old Changez Khan, as he considers the predicament his nine-year-old brother and he find themselves in. An earthquake brings on a landslide and seals off the only exit route, and now, they have to negotiate crocodile-infested rivers, herds of velociraptors and other forbidding and endangered animals to find their way back to Karachi. Keeping them company through their misadventures is a spiffy sparrow and a warm-hearted Balochistan black bear. Pakistani writer Shandana Minhas’ book should have been a riot, filled as it is with talking birds, a fire-spewing, “bad poetry”-hating dragon, a narcissistic Chiltan Markhor in love with the said bad poetry, and a group of humans who prove more heartless than the fiercest of animals. But despite all the right messages — the need for conversation, the inanity of warfare and the avarice of man — the book fails to sustain its pace. Minhas tries too hard to be funny and the effort shows, making it a rather patchy read.