The Diary Of An Indian School Girl (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 ) by Nandini Nayar have been reviewed on these pages earlier. The series is about Apoorva Joshi, a good-natured, fat, ‘misfit’, who eventually wins over the hearts of her antagonists. Her super powers are her ability to laugh at herself, and to recognise her short comings and failings and work on them. Her source of strength is her best friend, Avinash, who believes in her and makes her laugh.
- When I first started the books, I had misgivings about reading a series of diary entries, but Nandini beautifully weaves a story into the diary entries.
- The stories have an engaging plot and good character development. As the series progresses Apoorva discovers new things about herself, both through Mrs. Rani’s innovative projects as well as, through Mrs. Smitha’s unfair criticism.
- The writing style in the form of crisp to-the-point diary entries, makes reading easy. Even kids intimidated by novels or long form reading can start with this type of book.
- There are jokes aplenty to keep the reader engaged. Example
Why did the banana go to the doctor?
Because it wasn’t peeling well.
- The illustrations by Lavanya Karthik are cute and funny, and suit the stories well.
In the third book of the series, Apoorva’s class teacher, Mrs. Rani starts a wall magazine for the class, where the kids get to publish their jokes, poems and stories. There is also an agony aunt column. Much to Apoorva’s dismay, Mrs. Rani puts her in charge of answering the advice seeking letters. Apoorva tries to protest, but soon realizes she is no match for the combined forces of Mrs. Rani and Amma, and resigns herself to the unpleasant task.
To her own surprise, Apoorva finds that she is good at addressing the problems of her class mates. While this gives her a sense of satisfaction, the existence of so many types of problems, that she was completely unaware of, makes her feel depressed.
To add to that, she has problems of her own. A new girl in school, Nisha, seems to be trying to steal away her best friend Avinash, and ruining her best moments in school. Will Apoorva be able to apply her newly discovered problem solving skills to solve her own problems?
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- The author uses the agony aunt format to bring up a lot of little issues that heavily weigh on the minds of kids but are often dismissed by parents as silly and unimportant. However, Apoorva, being a kid, can empathize with them and provide helpful solutions.
- Once Apoorva has to deal with the other people’s problems, she becomes sensitive and learns empathy. She also becomes more observant and learns to interpret people’s moods, expressions and silences better.
- Apoorva also learns to practice what she preaches, and finds that it is just as rewarding as it is difficult.
. . .
- The book may help kids, open up about problems they may be facing in school or among friends, and also learn to understand themselves better. It may encourage kids to examine their own behaviour and motivations and see through self deception, that we are all sometimes guilty of.
To thine own self be true.
Laugh Out Loud
So far Apoorva has been lucky to have teachers who can look beyond her appearance and recognize her potential and good nature. But life is not always fair.
After a long and somewhat boring summer break, Apoorva is eager to get back to bus rides with friends and school lunches with Avinash. But she is in for a rude shock. She has a new school principal, a new class teacher, and a new physical education teacher. The Principal is pompous and annoying, and to her horror the physical education teacher decides to make a project out of making her fit.
However, none of this dismays Apoorva as much as her new class teacher, Mrs Smitha, who hates fat girls. Mrs Smitha can’t be bothered to conceal her loathing for Apoorva.
When it comes to casting people in the annual day concert, it is evident, that in addition to her prejudice against fat people, Mrs Smitha also suffers from a complete lack of imagination and firmly believes in stereotypes.
Poor Apoorva is cast as a demon guard in an ugly costume with no lines to say in a play. She is too ashamed to tell her family about it. But they will find out eventually. What is Apoorva going to do then? Everyone will be so disappointed, especially since Ria has told them that Apoorva has the most important role in the play. Ria, Apoorva’s staunch little friend, only did it to stop people from teasing Apoorva, but now she is in such a mess.
Two awesome friends, a good heart and a great sense of humour go a long way to making life easier, but can they get Apoorva out of this really sticky situation?
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- Although Apoorva’s life is a sorry mess for no fault of her own, she tackles the unfortunate situation with good humour.
- She shows admirable strength of character by encouraging Avinash in his glamorous role, even though she herself has a very small part in the school play. She does not give in to envy and bitterness, even though she is very sad.
- Apoorva’s way of coping with tough times, without losing her sense of self and the her values, is quite inspirational. Apoorva sums it all beautifully, in a joke she tells at the end of the book:
Why are elephants big and grey?
Because if they weren’t they could be anyone else
. . .
- Although quite good, this was not as engaging as the rest of the books in the series, but to be fair the other books raised expectations quite a bit.
Coping with humour.
A copy of this book was given me by the publishers, DC books Mango in return for an honest review. Thanks DC Books Mango.
|Title||The Diary of an Indian School Girl Vol. 3 & 4
|Editor(s)/Author(s)/Illustrator(s)/Translator(s)||Lavanya Karthik, Nandini Nayar|
|Publisher||DC Books Mango|