Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Book Review: The Boy Who Swallowed a Nail and Other Stories by Lalita Iyer.

Book: The Boy Who Swallowed a Nail and Other Stories

Author: Lalita Iyer

Illustrator: Shamika Kocharekar

Publisher: Scholastic India

Pages: 72

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: A little over an hour

Plot Summary: Appa is busy trying to buy a buffalo, Amma is wondering where to hang a clothesline in Dhanulti, while Cheenu has happily swallowed a nail! 

Lalita Iyer’s family is always up to something. Read about their quirks and adventures in this charming collection of stories.

General Thoughts: I won't lie the darling little illustration on the cover drew me in. Plus the premise of the book and it's general vibe made me think of my childhood and I had to give it a read.

Things I Liked:

1. The Boy Who Swallowed a Nail is such a charming little collection of stories! The book is classified and marketed as a children's book, but it contains life lessons and little jaunts down memory lane for those of us who were kids in the 90s and 80s (and perhaps even 70s) in India. So, this is a book that even the parents of 8-12 year olds can read, laugh out loud at and re-live their glory days of childhood!

2. The stories are simple and very heartwarming. There are stories about Appa trying to buy a buffalo, the author's reflections on being a "teacher's daughter" in her school, a jaunt down memory lane to a fun-filled, crazy summer vacation to Dhanaulti, memories of an old and kind music teacher and, of course, the author's brother swallowing a nail! I pretty much loved all the stories but I, especially, loved reading about the author's Appa- an idealistic, trusting and kind man, who reminded me a lot of my own Baba (father).

3. The book takes you back to being a kid in pre-liberalisation India- lots of middle-class hat-tips and even references to kids coming back home alone from school using public transport. My sister did that during her school exams in the late 80s and it was perfectly safe to do so. Now, sadly, it is totally unimaginable to have a 10-11 year old come back home alone in a BEST bus or an auto.

4. The book is full of characters that all of us would have come across- the eccentric laundry guy, doodhwala, the selfish 'users'- ones who take advantage of someone's kindness and never return the favour, kind strangers and just grumpy government/ guest house staff. The author's family is really likeable and their anecdotes are really amusing.

Things I Didn't Like: Nothing really. I, honestly, don't think this is a pure children's book. The stories are narrated in a very adult voice- like any of us would narrate family vacation misadventures or some hilarious childhood anecdote to a group of friends over coffee (or something stronger)!

This is a book that can be enjoyed by "grown ups" and kids alike!

Rating: 4/5 
A quick and fun read. A great fix for your childhood/ 70s-90s nostalgia cravings! 

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