Arundhati Venkatesh: My Favourite Children’s and Teen Books in 2018

Arundhati Venkatesh is the author of many wonderful books like the Petu Pumpkin series, Bookasura and Junior Kumbhakarna.
Any book I finish is a good book, given my abysmal patience levels. Books that move me (read make me smile or leave me misty-eyed) and get me to reflect are the best. Here are a few I read this year and liked.
Rain Reign
by Ann M. Martin

This book stayed with me long after I had turned the last page. Is it about autism? About divorce? About parental neglect? A book shouldn’t be about a theme. Or two, or three. Rain Reign is a wonderful story, beautifully told. It’s about Rose Howard who loves homonyms, prime numbers, rules, and of course, her dog. She’s a middle-grader with high-functioning autism. I love that her borderline abusive and alcoholic father is not painted as a villain, but as a struggling individual. Rain Reign is a book I wish more people would read. It ought to be in school libraries.

The Invisible Boy
by Trudy Ludwig
Illustrated by Patrice Barton

This picture book is best suited for kids in primary or middle school. The book gets the reader thinking about exclusion, whether s/he is the excluded or the excludee. There’s no preaching, only a situation many will identify with. As someone who went to seven schools, and was “the new kid” every couple of years, I certainly did. The flow and the pacing are just right, so, by the time you get to the end, you really care about the main character. The gradual shift as Brian goes from invisible to visible is nicely done, visually. I enjoyed the humour tucked away in the illustrations.

Shh! We Have A Plan

by Chris Haughton
Sparse, repetitive text; a limited colour palette, dramatic page turns, humour and other picture book elements come together to create a fabulous experience for the reader. The characters are masterfully illustrated – from eyeballs to feet – and the fonts appropriately chosen.
The White Zone
by Carolyn Marsden

How does war and the Shia-Sunni conflict affect friendships? Can Nouri and Talib be friends like they’d been before, despite their differences? The White Zone describes life in war-torn Baghdad without getting mired in details. If you’re wondering what view an American author would take of the U.S. role in the Iraq war, take my word for it and pick up the book. In just a couple of lines that don’t detract from the story, Carolyn Marsden brings out the bare essentials that everyone needs to know. And yet, The White Zone is essentially a story of people and their lives. The book is a masterclass on how to write fact-based fiction, without letting the research overwhelm the story.
The Big Book of Boochandis
by Pavithra Sankaran
Illustrated by Rucha Dhayarkar

A delightful picture book — Text and illustrations that work well together, tongue-in-cheek humour, and a teeny-tiny dose of horror. Check out the gifs on Pratham’s Storyweaver platform.
Nani’s Walk to the Park
by Deepa Balsavar
Why I liked it: a) This is exactly what happens when I step out. (And why there is much moaning and groaning from others around.) b) The visual detailing – there is a lot to pore over on every page. c) When I was done, I wanted to give someone a hug.
Flying with Grandpa
by Madhuri Kamat
Illustrated by Niloufer Wadia

This is a story of relationships — Xerxes’ relationship with his ageing grandfather; with his parents, Sonji and Noshir Wadia; and Grandpa’s relationship with his daughter, Sonji. While this is a book aimed primarily at young readers (and possibly their grandparents), the book made me introspect about what I’m like as a parent. The illustrations are by Niloufer Wadia, so the details have got to be authentic. I wondered, at first, if the illustrations were a tad too realistic, but as I progressed, I realised the style suited the story. The writing reminded me of TV/film content, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw the author writes scripts. My eyes welled up when I got to the end.

I haven’t read Unbroken, Magicians of Madh and several other promising books yet, thanks to a self-imposed book buying ban (that I’ve managed to stick to, for once).


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