The Boy Who Swallowed A Nail And Other Stories, written by Lalita Iyer, is a collection of 9 stories based on little anecdotes from Lalita’s life, while she was growing up. It is a nice, relaxing read, for both, children and adults alike.
Lalita lived in a house at the edge of a town sharing a border with a village. As a result there are an assortment of interesting characters, usually Appa’s (Lalita’s father) friends, like farmers who are in awe of convent school girls, strange carpenters who do not seem to do any work at all and laundrywalas who become successful politicians. The stories are particularly funny because of Lalita’s ridiculing commentary on various incidents and characters including herself.
Appa is a curious, eager to learn, trusting, good natured, easy-going person and a dreamer. Although Lalita tells a number of amusing tales of the crazy ventures Appa gets entangled with or hopes to undertake, she is clearly in awe of his enthusiasm and perseverance.
Amma (Lalita’s mother) on the other hand is a very practical, methodical, no nonsense kind of person. She keeps the crazy bunch grounded and the family smoothly functioning.
Some of the stories detail the experiences of Lalita and her twin siblings Cheenu and Chonu. Cheenu in particular seems to get in a lot of trouble including swallowing a nail, which is the title story.
The language is conversational and it feels like the author is sitting next to you and telling you the stories. The tone is that of amusing sarcasm with a hint of respect and love for the characters even while they are being made fun of. The stories seem quite real and comforting, like she is inviting you to hang out with her family.
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- Twin Trouble was the story I found most hilarious. How far the twins will go to keep their grandma placated and avoid confrontation is hilarious. But when the matter is resolved, they realize, they preferred the original arrangement.
- The Boy Who Swallowed A Nail is the most exciting story in the book and quite funny the way it is related.
- The Teacher’s Daughter is a cute story about the contrast between generally expected perks of being the Teacher’s Daughter, and Lalita’s actual experiences with a an extremely conscientious mother for a teacher. Her mother’s annoyance and embarrassment, with Lalita’s innocent mishaps will surely bring a smile to your face.
- Paatumami is a nice story of a child widow, who was Lalita’s Carnatic music teacher. The story has an actual recipe for a chutney which I thought was a nice touch.
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- Most of the stories are not particularly exciting, but they do have a certain charm that keeps you reading.
- I did not like the story, The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Farting. It seemed too silly for me and I have never cared for this kind of humour. But my 4 year old loves the story though, and Lalita claims in the introduction that it is her son’s favourite.
- Appa’s Weird Friends does not really have a coherent plot, but is a collection of anecdotes that loosely hang together.
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- Don’t go into this book expecting to roll on the floor laughing or be so hooked that you are unable to put it down. It is a light and entertaining read.
- The book left me feeling nostalgic for the times, when my grandparents told me stories of their childhood. The book also extracts a fair amount of chuckles and giggles.
- It can be read within an hour or two.