Shalini Srinivasan’s “Vanamala and the Cephalopod” is a book that associates with a reader in many ways. Firstly, it kindled my curiosity with its title and thus started a fun class in marine biology.
Vanamala, a regular customer of Kanti stores of Basavakere, run by Thambi, puts up her sister and her boopy for sale, because she finds her pesky.
Lo and behold! Pingu is gone the next day and Vanamala thinks it is her fault. There is proof in the form of a letter from the Cephalopod in Thambi’s magical trough, which gave him gifts.
Basavan, the bull, or the zebu to be precise, Bos indicus, comes to her aid and leads her on a strange journey.
The adventure that begins on land, soon becomes an underwater odyssey where the mythical, the magical, the zoological and surprisingly the real, weave in and out leaving the reader in a trance. This utterly fascinating story made it to the White Ravens 2014 list compiled by the International Youth Library, Munich.
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- The fantasy story is set in an underwater ‘Wonderland’ having the Cephalopod and Basavan, a deep-sea nagamani-polishing factory, children-turned-sea-creatures that are slave-workers under a Boss, the Lettuce Grower and his fables. I found myself grinning and smiling all through the book.
- The aesthetics and the design of the book deserve special mention.
- Illustrations by Sebin Simon complement the story perfectly.
- The real world issues that surface at times is the icing on the cake. Finally, an author has satisfied my angst that the children who are on adventures do not seem to have real needs.
Vanamala nodded impatiently, wondering how long it would be before she could return home to her nice bathroom. All this going behind bushes was very worrisome, she found.
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- I couldn’t help but feel lost at the very beginning. Until the pattern emerges out, it is a melange of various incidents that just do not fit together. One has to be patient to get into the flow.
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- The range of vocabulary with lots of marine terminology thrown in could make it slightly difficult for young readers – I was googling for some terms, whereas my 11-year old got discouraged within a few pages. It is equally possible that it stimulates the curiosity of the readers thereby expanding their vocabulary.
A copy of this book was given me by the publishers, Duckbill in return for an honest review. Thanks Duckbill.