When I had almost started doubting my ability to appreciate books meant for very young readers, I got a chance to read “Big Bully and M-me” by Arti Sonthalia, published by Duckbill, one of my favourite publishers. This book is the latest one in the hole books, the other ones being the two Petu Pumpkins, the Monster Hunters and the award-winning Timmi in Tangles.
Written by Arti Sonthalia, a first-time author of a children’s book, this book is the story of Krishna, preferably called Krish by friends. Krish (yes, I want to be friends with him) has low self-esteem, probably because of his short and thin stature or because of his stammer or because of his high-achiever big brother, one would never know.
Some of the other characters in his class are Green, the best friend of Krish, Ishaan, the big bully and Kushi, the girl who figured out Krish’s escapades to avoid doing things he was nervous about.
When their class teacher, Mr. Dennis announces an extempore contest to be contested in pairs, Krish is not at all enthused by it. To add to his misery, he gets paired with the big bully, Ishaan. To top it all Mom deals with his request for a new bicycle by assuring him one in exchange for a good performance in the extempore.
How does Krish prepare for the extempore? Can Ishaan and Krish work as a team? Can Krish open his mouth at all?
What happens during the extempore contest to which parents are invited?
Read the book to find out. Yes, we all know that the protagonist must win. But how he does that is what keeps this book interesting till the end.
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- Arti Sonthalia has published a lot in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, says her bio. This book closely aligns to a chicken soup story. The idea of dealing with low self-esteem by emphasizing on trying is a winner.
- The flow of the story is very good, and I did not stop or pause even once in between.
- The characterization of Krish and his classmates are genuine.
- Sebin Simon has to be mentioned for his brilliant illustrations. There is one which caught my attention in particular: The family of Krish cheers him at the end. His father, his mother and his elder brother are shown in the picture. I was surprised and glad to see the mother slightly taller than the father. This is a small detail, not mentioned in the text. But Sebin, with this small detail has broken a big stereotype. It is not unusual to find such families in reality, but very unusual to find such families in books. Three cheers to Sebin Simon.
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- Though I had decided on my rating as soon as I finished this book, my 11-year old did not seem to agree with my rating. I wonder why!
An emphatic read!