The perfect book, to paraphrase the author’s words, 'Is one in which the all the tiny little bits jiggle into place and settle in the mind.'
And this is exactly what this little book does. It has many little ‘bits’ – friendship, respect, generosity, caring, greed, activism, all of which meld perfectly together into a gem of a book. A book that entertains, educates and amazes.
Nine-year-old Yasmin has decided to read a book a day for the rest of her life, thanks to the encouragement provided by Book Uncle, an elderly gentleman who willingly shares his collection of books with anyone who wants to read – all for free!
One day, he gives her a book of fables, in which birds trapped in a hunter’s net realize that if they were all to flap their wings in unison, they could rise up, net and all and vend their way to freedom.
A story that stayed deep within her, only to emerge one day, when the amiable Book Uncle is served a notice by the Mayor’s office asking him to get a permit for running the library. Yasmin is understandably very agitated. To her and a lot of other people Book uncle is an institution, who happily lent books to all and sundry. What could she do to remedy the situation?
And then, Boom! In a Eureka moment she finds the answer in the book of fables. If many wings beating together could achieve freedom, would many hands working together achieve similar results? Yasmin starts garnering support from family, friends, friends of friends, family of friends. Slowly, the circle of supporters grew in a gigantic ripple-like effect, so large and so determined that eventually the powers-that-be had to relent.
Like Yasmin’s campaign, the book is fast-moving with never a dull moment, the action building up through word after bouncy-word that somehow seamlessly blend action and humour together to make one hellluva read.
To give an example, ‘He knocks on the pot (ghatam – a musical instrument) with his knuckle. It rings. It sings. It has a voice all its own,’ or, ‘People are slapping (election) posters on walls and lampposts. They are slapping posters on everything that they can find, I’m sure that if I was standing still reading by the side of the road they would slap a poster on me.’
And to add to the charm of the story are the delightfully quirky illustrations by Priya Kuriyan. There are several images on each page, big and small, each one adequately reflecting the mood of the book as well as bringing to life not just the story but also – the city of Chennai.
A great read!
Young India Books recommends.
Note: This book has won the Scholastic Asian Book Award 2011.