Bungee Cord Hair Ching Yeung Russell, Scholastic, R175. Ages 12+. Books in verse seem to be the newest form of young adult fiction to be lining the shelves of bookstores. Right after Inked’s Karma, comes another one, this time all the way from Hong Kong. A 12-year-old girl has to leave her grandmother in Mainland China to rejoin her family in Hong Kong. The narrator finds herself lost in this strange city, striving to continue her education while grappling with questions of identity and trying to understand where she actually belongs.
Set around the time when the Chinese government closed the door to Hong Kong, the book is a forceful read that deals with complex issues of immigration, displacement and growing up in the backdrop of political upheaval. In her author notes, Russell confesses that the protagonist reflects the struggles she faced as a child – “When I first came to Hong Kong at age 12, like most people who first immigrate to a new place, I faced quite a bit of discrimination (I didn’t even know that term then), which I had never anticipated.”
Russell writes compellingly, using simple words to sensitively portray how children feel when uprooted from familiar spaces and how little choice they actually have in matters that impact them hugely. Winner of the Scholastic Asian Book Award 2012, the book’s a sequel to Ching Yeung Russell’s Tofu Quilt. There’s a helpful glossary at the back which explains the lesserknown Chinese references.
The Diary of Amos Lee: Lights Camera, Superstar! Adeline Foo, Hachette, R225. Ages 12+. Yet another edition of Amos Lee’s out, the Wimpy Kid doppelganger who is based out of Singapore. This time around the school kid finds that his diaries have been stolen and the thief has gone ahead and published them online. Things start looking up when Lee gets tons of fan mail, thousands of people clamouring to be his friends on Facebook and a television director offering to make a show on his diaries. Of course, it’s Lee, so there’s plenty that can go awry, and it does. The end is kind of predictable, but by then we were too busy cracking up to actually mind. Adeline Foo’s writing is funny in parts, and there is a lot of restrained toilet humour predictably. But she manages to bring out tweenage angst well. Stephanie Wong’s illustrations make the book an easy read.
Hole books Duckbill, R125 each. Ages 6+. When we were children, a hole in our books would send us scurrying to our mommies in order to get rid of the culprits, those evil weevils and horrid silverfish in our cupboards. And now, Duckbill has introduced books that come with a hole. Only they aren’t of the alarming nature. Instead, the idea, as explained on the back cover is for kids to “Jump into reading through a Duckbill hole”. We couldn’t help but do that given how inviting the books looked. There are four books to choose from – Meera Nair’s Maya Saves the Day, Asha Nehemiah’s Trouble with Magic, Parinita Shetty’s The Monster Hunters and Sharanya Deepak’s The Vampire Boy. The books are beautifully illustrated, with an international feel.
The Maya of Nair’s imagination is a little girl who manages to meet an escaped tiger, rescue her little sister from being lost in a giant mall and also help out a few puppies along the way. In Shetty’s book, Abhay and Nitya take on a school project and decide to hunt down monsters which of course lead to some funny moments. Nehemiah writes an adorable tale of Veena and how her cockamamie ideas usually land her Aunt Malu into trouble. Deepak’s story tackles the familiar world of vampires, but with a quirky twist. All in all, a fun set of books. What’s the point of the hole? We will leave that to the kids to figure out.
By Bijal Vachharajani