Benice by Metin Karayaka

Illustrated beautifully by Rohan Eason, Benice is an enticing and gripping story on board a tiny boat. The great thing about this book is its illustrations are done equally well with the narrative plot. For the most part the novel has a lot of impressionistic aspects to it.

Ben Ice, a reclusive old gossiped-about fisherman with one hook for a hand, a peg-leg for a leg, a patch for one eye, and a parrot perched on his shoulder is a character who bodes well for Metin Karayaka’s great story, Benice. I’m sure one can speculate on Mr. Ice’s true profession, even without the grand illustrations provided by Mr. Eason. The young boy, Levend, who retells his tale later on in life, comes to the longed-for revelation appetizingly late in his telling. One has come to suspect by then that Ben Ice is but an allegory.

All in all it is a wonderful read worth giving the time. Adventurous and full of love and friendship.


All Time Best Children’s Classics

“Fairy tales in childhood are stepping stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. The value of fairy tales lies not in a brief literary escape from reality, but in the gift of hope that goodness truly is more powerful than evil and that even the darkest reality can lead to a Happily Ever After. Do not take that gift of hope lightly. It has the power to conquer despair in the midst of sorrow, to light the darkness in the valleys of life, to whisper “One more time” in the face of failure. Hope is what gives life to dreams, making the fairy tale the reality.” —L.R. Knost



Sleep, Merel, Sleep by Silke Stein

Title: Sleep, Merel, Sleep

Author: Silke Stein

Publisher: Caper Books

Date of Publication: 7 June 2018

Rating: 4/5


Falling asleep can be a tiresome process for some and Merel is trying hard to ace it. Sleep is leaning against the drawers and cannot wait for his chance to tug at the violin strings to spin a beautiful melody. But Merel is not the one who’s not willing to cooperate. Sleep knows too well how to put her to bed.  Merel’s agony makes her punch the headboard and throw around her plush toys in anger. Will she put herself to sleep eventually or will Sleep come to the assistance?

While a raging girl and her insomniac habits may seem to be a cliched story, Sleep, Merel, Sleep is an innovative children’s bedtime book with a set of really dynamic characters. Peeking into her parents’ room, she finds them sleeping peacefully as does her little brother. The story describes Merel’s attempts at finding something interesting to do at night while making sure that activity puts her to sleep as well. It is a challenging idea to find out which of the tasks will be best. However, she has an important reason behind not being able to fall asleep. She is having nightmares that horrify her.

Finding an address in an old mangled telephone directory, she ventures out into the night to look for the location. Adventure begins soon after. She is escorted to what seems to be a motel and is then asked to rent room number 8. Fun gets funnier though Merel is frightened out of her wits, the reader can’t wait to learn more of what is to happen next. Strange characters meet and greet her like she’s the guest of honor. Their wait is finally over as they have the privilege of her company.

Meeting Lolippo takes the story to a whole new level as the pace catches on. Things happen quite rapidly after that. They pass by orchards, skip and jump as they start to become good friends. The characters are described well with strange features. The characters impart important life lessons as the adventures take her places that allow her to become a better person. This quirky journeying will remain with her and the readers as time passes by and the book nears its dreaded end. Merel’s agony after all is a result of feeling neglected and left out upon the arrival of a new baby at home. As Steine’s imagination runs wild, the abilities of fiction know no bounds.

At times there might seem to be resemblances in terms of the characters or incidents to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland.  However, the situations and the functions of the characters are very different. Every chapter title begins with a streak of stardust flying across the top left hand corner of the page suggesting all things magical to come. The book cover is fascinating and Steine’s creative abilities as a graphic designer are well at display. The book is easy to read, light hearted and the fun filled language makes the book an interesting read for both young and old. However, it is more suitable for children of ages 8 who can read on their own at length. From the author of Trina Bell’s Humming Summer is yet another beautiful children’s book. Who knew trying to fall asleep can take one on such amazing night time escapades?

Cute is an understatement. So cute.

Exam Warriors by Narendra Modi

Title: Exam Warriors

Author: Narendra Modi

Publisher: Amazon Asia-Pacific Holdings Private Limited

Date of Publication: 3 February 2018

Rating: 3.7/5


Dedicated to the youth of India who comprise almost two-thirds of the population under the age of thirty five, Exam Warriors is written in a workbook style. It is an interactive and interesting book written with the annual Indian Board Exams in focus. Almost 2.824 million students will be appearing for the grade X and XII board exams in 2018. (CBSE class 10, 12 board exams to begin from March 5.) It serves as an extension of the February 2015 ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

The book is a unique experience and also highly engaging if used through the Narendra Modi Mobile App. The book has about 25 chapters which are short and are periodically interrupted by unique activities that include students to express themselves through writing, poster designing or drawing images. There are several puzzles, brain teasers and games centered around the examinations. The idea is to make the preparation for these exams casual though they are much anticipated and a matter of stress for both students and their families. They determine the streams the students will be able to take up depending on the scores they attain.

The colourful illustrations are done well and add to the interest of the book and function as stress busters. The book cover shows the Prime Minister waving the National Flag making the kids empowered with their weapons like pens, pencils and other stationery in hand. They skate and glide on segways to the finish line. The back cover also has a real photograph of the Prime Minister being greeted by young students and shaking hands with them. Though the book is highly interesting, it is difficult for a young and playful mind to stay away from the rat race that lies immediately ahead after the board exams.  With sky rocketing cut offs each year, eligibility for higher education is largely becoming a matter of fortune telling.

The book is highly relevant considering the time of release and also very technologically advanced. It has frequent QR codes presented in the book that can be scanned and uploaded to the Prime Minister’s Office directly. The tips are more or less what is usually told to students in terms of mental health, sleep, maintaining a schedule and being organsied with their study and exam day plans such as keeping their hall tickets and stationery in place. Most of it is presented in a fun manner. Along with the moral lessons stating examples of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Rani Laxmi Bai and Subhas Chandra Bose there is almost a mini yoga book in the end with some easy to practice and simple asanas explained with illustrations and simple steps. It is almost a back to school experience (for those who’ve not revisited their school in a long time) as one makes their way through the tasks. Keeping the cost of the book in mind, the quality of glossy pages is amazing.

The Prime Minister’s usual charisma is maintained and reflected which is undoubtedly the reason behind the book’s warm reception especially among the student community. It is definitely the first of its kind but how far it will sustain amidst the re-examination hullabaloo is hard to determine. An audiobook to go along with the paperback is a personal suggestion.

The Curse of the Ancestors With Jamie James by Roy Aronson

Title: The Curse of the Ancestors with Jamie James

Author: Roy Aronson

Publisher: Amazon Asia Pacific Holdings Private Ltd

Date of Publication: 4 May 2018

Rating: 5/5


A young boy of 15, Jamie is like any other boy his age. He enjoys playing sport and loves to be greeted by his parrot who can talk Afrikaans with him. Jamie is in for a shock when one fine day he returns home to receive an email from his father asking him to visit Nelspruit immediately. Jamie’s parents had chosen to separate a long time back. Jamie has vacations ahead and his mother leaves the decision up to him. With few days at hand to come to a decision, Jamie half -heartedly chooses to go.

The Curse of the Ancestors has an easy flowing narrative with a good choice of words. Aronson is highly descriptive and there is a right balance between the vocabulary and the descriptions. The surroundings add to the story which moves with a moderate pace that is easy to follow. Told from a first person narrative point of view of a 15 year old boy, it sounds very much authentic of the musings, fears, feelings of a young boy and everything that he questions and is curious about. There is a good blend of the city and the country side with Jamie being a Cape Town boy visiting his father in the exotic Nelspruit. South Africa is brilliantly portrayed which will be interesting to any reader that is not too familiar with the African continent and the sights it offers. The chapters find breaks which mark a shift in the story with a herd of elephants running behind one another that serve as a page breaker. It only goes on to add and anticipate the flavours of African Safari.

Much to his disappointment, Jamie’s father does not come to pick him up at the airport. Rather he sends Lexi whose appearance is that of a pretty woman in khaki shorts and a khaki shirt. She takes him into a mud caked Land Rover. Much to his oblivion, Jamie’s adventure has already begun. As the car roars so does the events of the story and vet Lexi takes him along to game reserves and vet hospitals with strange African names that he’s not known before. Along with this, his inner turmoil of being more his father’s son or his mother’s son leaves him emotionally confused. He seems to be receiving equal love from both of them but doesn’t know whose side to take. He has grudges about their separation and he learns to acquire skills from his dad and enjoy some father son time. Ten years without a father is a long time but he’s not too excited to meet him and calls him ‘sir’. Their interaction and bonding is a sub theme that grows alongside the adventures. Jamie receives some ground breaking revelations from him father that completely changes the purpose of his visit. Humour is used discreetly, it is neither hilarious nor rib tickling but adds to the story. Meeting Xoliswa makes him miss his mother less.

Things take a sudden turn with the episode of a black man being beaten for being accused of theft by a white man till he dies and it brings out the grim reality of the indifference the law has towards coloured people giving room for more racist attacks and incidents. It allows some people to take the law in their hands. The white master thinks that he’s only administering justice. The only retaliation that the mother of the black slave has is a bunch of ancient curses. She prepares the pot and gets in touch with the spirits of the ancestors. With revelation from the trance she is prepared to confront her son’s murderers. This white man turns out to be none other than Jamie’s grandfather and now it is incumbent on Jamie to do something to prevent the curse from rolling. Having a scorpion hurled at him is a supernatural trick of the mind to prevent him from starting his work. Enough attention has been given to building dialogues and exchanges between new characters. The plot is not cluttered with too many characters except those that are essential. Jamie has to go hunting with his dad and his team and learns that he too has sharp instincts for wildlife. Nostalgia prevails as he comes face to face with his history, heritage and his childhood friend-all that he’s missed in the ten years away. With some Marxist and post colonial leanings, the book is a good insight into the culture of countryside South Africa through the eyes of a city boy visitor making the story highly relatable. It makes him take the decision of becoming a professional vet. Despite supernatural elements and curses, the story is not all superstitious. The central focus remains on the growth of the protagonist from a diffident young boy to a matured chap taking on the challenges of manhood. The ancestors constantly pester him and try to dissuade him but he must remain steadfast on his path to wipe away the curse from his bloodline and help as many animals in need as possible. How far does Jamie succeed? Read to find out.

Ten Sheep to Sleep by Nidhi Kamra

Title: Ten Sheep to Sleep

Author: Nidhi Kamra

Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing

Date of Publication: 30 June 2017

Rating: 5/5

Baa baa pink sheep.

Putting a child to sleep is a strenuous task especially if the little one is a highly imaginative kid. Every parent is familiar with these challenges. Hence, the importance of bed time stories and lullabies. But that’s what age old proven tricks are for. Counting cows in the air is one of them.

Sammy Jo is one such restless toddler struggling to fall asleep. She also relies on the trick of counting things in the air until she drowses off. But this time something isn’t going right. Sammy Jo’s imaginary sheep have surrounded her bedside. They’re far more in number than the ten she’d counted before. Surprised and excited after seeing them, Sammy Jo cannot fall asleep anymore.

Illustrated brilliantly by the very talented Eugene Ruble, the sheep mostly come in various shades of striped pink. They usually zip by on their skateboards as they head towards Dreamland. They are woolly, jolly and love Sammy Jo. Tonight they’ve overcrowded her bedside and are accompanied by ten more polka dotted sheep. They introduce themselves as next door neighbour Mary’s sheep who has abandoned them. They’re upset, crying and have no place to go. Sammy Jo decides to help. But her brother and parents don’t need them either. They count other things to sleep.

Sammy Jo desperately needs to find a solution before the sheep jump on her bed, hide in her closet and tear at her books. It’s then that an idea hits her. She asks the sheep to line up in pairs so that she can count them by twos. So clever, Sammy Jo!

Though aimed at kids aged 5-8, this picture book can be offered to kids who have not yet begun reading. The hand drawn sketches on the page margins will definitely arouse the interest of all kids. Mother of two, an engineer and author, Nidhi Kamra, weaves a delightful tale in the manner of a picture book with big bright illustrations and a tinge of kiddy humour that will leave parents and their little ones asking for more.

Guess what Sammy Jo’s brother and parents count to sleep? Read to find out.

Click the book cover to grab your copy. Happy Reading!


The Santa Corner by Jakie Rodriguez

Title: The Santa Corner

Author: Jakie Rodriguez

Publisher: Mascot Books

Date of Publication: 6 December 2016

Genre: Children’s Literature

Rating: 5/5

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Merry Christmas!

Meghyn and Gracie are very close school buddies. Meghyn loves going over to Gracie’s house at playtime. And what do two girlfriends do when they get together? Sure they giggle. And they giggle more.

Amidst the fun filled chaos of stuff toys, dolls, tents and toy trains, Gracie discovers a toy that stands out from the lot. But Meghyn won’t let her play with it. What is this toy and why does Meghyn snatch it away from Gracie? Aren’t they the best of friends ever?

A brightly coloured book of barely thirty pages, The Santa Corner is a great conversation starter with your little one about the joys of playtime, friendship and the toys they own. The book is easy to read and directed at elementary school children who may have just begun to read or are yet in the process of reading seriously in class or at bedtime. With its fabulous illustrations by the very talented Bee L Hannah, the characters of Meghyn and Gracie are brought to the forefront of a striped pink and white background. Thematically the book focuses on the idea of “sharing is caring” but it extends this moralistic indication to sharing out of and despite one’s human limitations to those underprivileged and in need. “Santa Corner” then becomes a metaphor for charity and selflessness that are to be inculcated at a young age. It does not denote merely a corner to put aside their old used toys that they do not enjoy playing with anymore. Keeping in mind the readership group, the language of the book is easy with no difficult vocabulary except perhaps the introduction of a few new words. Most pages have only 2-3 lines. The illustrations cover most of the pages and are done with such accuracy that almost every written word comes to life. “Santa’s letter” and “Santa’s Nice List” (with the names of all good boys and good girls) are put beside a roly poly Santa who sends his helpers only at night to collect the toys. So, much like the tooth fairy, he’s never seen by the kids which only gives them more reason to be curiously attentive about the entire process. Though the book is a fun read for all ages but it is more oriented towards little girls taking their primary education.

Has your letter from Santa arrived in the mail too? Find out.

Sweet, simple and splendid.

Click the book cover to grab your copy. Happy Reading!