When the crocus was announced this year, it sort of made me think of a book I just read, in a totally different light. We all undertake journeys, almost all the time. Children take the school bus and we go to work in different modes of transportation, we all walk to the park,market and such “mundane” trips are undertaken on a daily basis. Then, of course, we welcome holidays to get a break from this monotony and we go places, new or old. However, we often return – sooner or later – to the place we started with a different mindset.
It is also possible that many of us move to a new destination, that is known as migration, but carry our old mindset with us? The angst of
immigrants has been well documented in so many books, for adults and children, alike. The book being reviewed, Wisha Wozzariter, has a life altering journey as its central theme and even though the protagonist returns”home” in the end – she is much changed in her thought and outlook! The simple story revolves around a ten year old girl, after whom the book is named. I do not want to explain the choice of the title, except for the fact that the book is full of such smart names, for people and places.
The other characters include humans and animals, alike, with Bookworm being the only one to make recurring appearances. The plot is crafted in great detail and the book will work well for readers in the 7-12 age group. What is most special about this book is the fact that the situations and emotions have universal appeal – pot of gold at end of rainbow, sandwich as a snack, circus acts, train ride – all could take place anywhere in the world. So, there is no need to give names such as which city or country or village? For example, children who pass comments upon reading books exist everywhere as well – don’t they?
According to Penguin, “Payal Kapadia studied English Literature at St. Xavier’s College, Bombay and Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. She has worked with Outlook in Bombay and The Japan Times in Tokyo. She now lives in Mumabi with her husband, two daughters,
and their three imaginary friends: Klixa, Pallading and Kiki. Her first book, Colonel Hathi Loses His Brigade was published by Disney in 2011”.
By completing the story in 77 pages – there is not an extra word used! Risking generalization, I would like to share one of my pet peeves here – many authors, including those of Indian origin, that write for the “tween” age group (8-12) start well but lose steam midway! The ending might be good but it never makes up for the loss of interest the reader feels at some stage, soon after starting a book. Many a time, immense effort needs to be made either by the young reader (given that the only option might be acute boredom) or through coaxing from an adult who might be privy to the ending, to complete the book.
That is why, I often ask myself “What is the role of the editor? Why can she/he not “tighten” the story so this stage can be skipped? What is the purpose of presenting a half baked idea to readers if it can be worked on and improved with time?” Well, Payal and her editors at Puffin, do not disappoint on this front, either. I can see young readers being encountered with many “what next” moments and luckily they do not have to wait for long. All teachers of creative writing could make their students’ lives more enriching and their own lives simpler by introducing this book to young readers and budding writers. If it were written for adults, it would have fast found its way to the “self help” category. Fortunately, by choosing to write in the fiction genre – the author has perhaps accomplished a double feat – of children enjoying what they read and also learning without the usual rules or do’s and don’ts style!
Children who are not keen on reading books because of the jump in the level of vocabulary or volume, or complexity in the plot, as they transition from chapter books to novels (typically in grade 3- 5), are most likely to embrace this one as it has none of those “issues”.
This review would be incomplete without reference to the unusual line drawings that accompany the text. Here is what The Japan Times website has to say about the book’s illustrator, “Roger Dahl has been contributing editorial cartoons and his Zero Gravity strip for The Japan Times since 1991. An American from Seattle, he is a graduate of the University of Washington.” The expressions of the various characters are extremely well captured.
I would have loved to reproduce the poem that beautifully summarizes the plot of the book, but I consciously do not wish to get into the specifics as I want readers to get a first hand experience of how well the author displays her craft of book writing. It is with great difficulty that I am writing this review deliberately without quoting any of the amazing passages, that the book is full of, to keep the element of surprise intact. So, let me not keep you from checking this book out for yourselves.
By Rachna Maneesh Dhir