Koobandhee - The Adventures of Bala and the Book-Barfing Monster
Priya Kuriyan
age group: 
9+ yrs
Number of pages: 
humour monsters siblings
fiction fiction, fantasy, humour


CHILDREN’S literature is filled with books about books, about the quiet joys of reading and the energy-filled silences of libraries and the soaring imaginative pages of adventure and books that talk and books that breathe and books that linger in old bookshelves waiting to be discovered and books that preen and books that dream. But nothing brings all of those diverse filaments of thought together in a delectably unpredictable mix of mythology, humour, family, and of course, books, as Koobandhee does.
I haven’t read the first part of this series, so I am guessing a part of my enthusiasm for the book is because the concept of a book-eating asura is as spell-binding as Mary Poppins flying into the world with her umbrella. And just as with Mary Poppins, Koobandhee is also so much more than just that dramatic entry.
Young Bala, having conquered the many-headed book-asura with orange-robed Chota Bheem on TV in the last book, is back in his grandparents’ village – the setting of the book-asura series – with his baby sister, Meera. He is looking forward to meeting the now-friendly and harmless asura, but instead meets another headless asura – a female this time, and a delightfully feminist one! – Koobandhee. She is a descendant of book-asura, but we don’t know how because she doesn’t want to be known as anyone’s daughter or sister, and she is set on taking revenge on Bala for destroying the many-headed splendour of book-asura. How Bala conquers Koobandhee with unlikely help from Meera, and ends up befriending Koobandhee too, forms the rest of the story. Along the way, we have little doses of mythological stories that Bala connects to his life with the speed and dexterity of a young imaginative mind, and other interesting characters like Kala Aunty and Navneeth Uncle, and the mysterious Mrs. Shashee, the library teacher.
Anuradha’s skill of storytelling is like a train maintaining its momentum till the very end with unpredictable twists and turns flashing by. You are completely invested in this world and its characters. But despite scenes meant to invoke laughter – the baby sister biting toes, the loud monster farts, Bala’s interweaving worlds of imagination and reality – I found them more organic to the adventure itself than as specific moments of hilarity. Priya Kuriyan’s illustrations were the perfect foil to this adventure adding just the right amount of visual to the narrative, though her rendition of the Paati was exactly like the Paati in her fantastic picture book with no words, Ammachi’s Glasses.
I only wish Thatha had finished his story to Bala about Rama and the asura Kabandha, but I am hoping it finds its place in next book.

Reviewed by Praveena Shivram