Maya In A Mess by Meera Nair, is a nice read for 5 to 7 year old kids. The language is simple and casual with many Indianisms that should appeal to kids.
Maya, a little girl in class III, is thrilled to be made the cupboard monitor. She has longed for this coveted position, and it makes her swell with pride and importance. Her chief responsibility is to keep the class cupboard keys and distribute art supplies and stationary from the cupboard when required.
Maya is particularly thrilled that she was chosen for the job over Nidhi, a villainous, goody two-shoes, know-it-all. Nidhi vindictively predicts, that given Maya’s track record of carelessness, she is soon going to lose the keys. Maya is determined to prove her wrong and wears the key on her wrist. She is very pleased with herself. How could she possibly lose the key whilst wearing it?
But Maya does manage to lose the key. She is in a pickle. How will she handle the crisis? Nidhi, of course, is grinning triumphantly. This goads Maya into lying about losing the key. Now Maya is going to learn exactly what they mean by Oh, what a tangled web we weave. when first we practise to deceive!
Next, the teacher discovers that something has been stolen from the class cupboard. Oooh, the plot thickens. You need to read the story to find out the sinister goings-on in this primary school.
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- Maya is an excitable and enthusiastic girl with a fertile imagination, that yields everything from purple headless giraffes to conspiracy theories about inside jobs orchestrated by the principal. She is dramatic and reacts strongly to various situations.
- The competent class teacher, loved by her students, does a great job of resolving a fight between Maya and her friend about the existence of purple giraffes. The incident subtly conveys the importance of a good teacher, and that out of the box thinking and creativity should be encouraged. Forcing all students to produce the widely accepted notion of perfection stifles creativity. The book suggests that encouraging individual thought is a better way to mentor kids.
- Maya’s thoughts, and the dialogue between the kids, is expressed in language, that sounds a lot like what Indian kids their age would use giving it an authentic touch. Phrases like maha-superior, fatafat, flat as a chapati and pinky-swear are some that come to mind.
- A child’s perspective on situations, what children attach importance to, how it excites or upsets them, and how trivial these can seem to adults resulting in a communication gap, is well portrayed. The conversations between Maya and her friends, as well as the ones with her nemesis Nidhi are so realistic, that you really feel like you are in a primary class surrounded by 7 year old kids.
- I liked the caricature of the principal and the illustration of the gigantic omelette covering the car. The illustrations were done by Priya Kuriyan.
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- I noticed a couple of typographical or grammatical errors.
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- Maya’s choice of words and expressions (right royal pain) is influenced by her mother, even though she often rolls her eyes when her mother uses those expressions. I thought that was a nice touch. We are strongly influenced by our parents, even though we, sometimes, don’t like to admit it.
- My 4 year old liked the exaggerated illustrations of Maya looking, excited, angry, flustered and worried.
A copy of this book was given me by the publishers, Duckbill in return for an honest review. Thanks Duckbill.