It is one thing to be born into a faith, but quite another thing to understand what your faith says and to live by the tenets of your faith. What better way to do this than by witnessing firsthand the episodes drawn from your holy book. Debutant author Shiny Babu attempts to do this in her book Enchanted Holidays – a story in which four children understand their (Christian) faith by visiting biblical times, when the stories of the Bible are playing out.
Elsa and Sherin spend their vacation with their cousins, Sam and Joy at their grandparents’ place in a village near Kollam. One day, they discover a magical Bible in their grandma’s attic – this Bible transports them to that period depending on the page of the Bible that is opened.
Starting with the Garden of Eden, the author takes us through various events/stories of the Bible. After living through each story, the children return changed in subtle or significant ways.
For example, the children meet God in the Garden of Eden. God sets them an interesting competition, of seeing who collects the most number of fruits from the trees in the garden. At the same time, he forbids them from taking fruits from trees on the other side of the river. However, some of them cross the river and collect fruits, so as to win in the competition. God punishes those who cross the river by making them go blind, but he rescinds the punishment, when they repent and atone for their sins. This story highlights the importance of obedience to God, that disobedience of God is sin leading to punishment. However, God is merciful and will forgive, if one believes in Him and atones for his/her sins.
The children experience several events drawn from The Book — they board Noah’s Ark, they meet Moses, they witness the duel between David and Goliath, they visit Baby Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem, they meet Peter hauling in his catch of fish. From each encounter they learn something – the virtues of faith, courage, giving, sharing, the joy of celebrating God, and above all find out that God is always with them.
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- The author has chosen an interesting combination of genres, successfully, I should say, the narrative alternates between the two.
- one is reminiscent of Enid Blyton’s school vacation stories, where cousins meet during school vacations. They go on outings, eat delicious food and also have adventures.
- the fantasy genre, reminiscent of C S Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which the wardrobe serves as a portal to the fantasy world Narnia. Here the Bible is the time portal to the biblical past.
- Every Blyton reader would remember the delicious food that children have during the holidays, mid-night feasts etc. Babu does the same, interspersing her narration with descriptions of Kerala food – Chakka appam, Avial, Fried fish, Mutton stew, Stir fried jackfruit seeds, Unniappam and Prawn masala, to cite a few. Though her descriptions do not match Blyton, I can vouch that Kerala food would far outmatch Blyton’s food.
- The characters are real enough. The characterization of the children is adequate and gives the reader a fair idea about the type of person each child is — the sincere, straightforward, empathetic Elsa; the smart and intelligent Sam; the naughty but jolly Joy and the somewhat insecure, but lovable Sherin.
- The language and narration are simple, and the stories interesting enough to keep the reader engaged throughout.
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- The editor hasn’t done a good job – there are numerous errors in usage of words and sentence structure that should have been removed by a good editor.
- The story alternates between the present and the biblical times. Though interspersed with interesting incidents from the past there is no overall compelling story in the present.
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- The story will have some impact on children having previous exposure to the biblical stories, but I wonder if the story would have the same impact on those who do not have exposure..
The book was sent for review by the author Shiny Babu. Thank you Shiny Babu.