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Kendriya Vidyalaya Port Trust, Kochi

Book Review: The Old Man And His God by Sudha Murty

Sudha Murty does not need introductions. After years of hard work she has successfully established herself as a force to be reckoned with. She is also one of India’s most famous and industrious philanthropists working in the key areas of development where it is most required. She is also a celebrated writer who has authored many fiction as well as non-fiction works. In “The Old Man and His God” she reflects upon various instances, chance meetings and experiences which she came across during the course of her life. And just as the blurb claims, the book is a mix bag of stories collected from a lifetime of experiences which delves upon the various facets of human nature and in a way provides a true reflection to the souls of people of India.

Though there are many instances which are inspiring and eye catching, certain ones do leave a mark on the minds of the reader. One such chapter which most fascinated me was the one in which Murty writes about an incident which happened when she was on a trip to a holy monastery in Tibet. A very old woman came to her and kept on thanking her devotedly, Murty couldn’t imagine why the woman would want to thank her until her grandson told Murty that her grandmother was pleased that she has finally met an Indian, offspring of the land which offered shelter and hope to the their revered leader Dalai Lama. Since she hailed from such a holy country, she deserved her thanks.

Though there were many such anecdotes and instances, this one truly touched my soul. I also liked the chapter which documents her husband Narayan Murty’s tryst with life in the communist countries and how after that his views on communism changed forever. Each incident is covered by a single chapter and most of the chapters talk about experiences which she had while working as a philanthropist. The incidents touched upon various facets of human emotions – love, care, friendship, selflessness, greed, hunger, poverty, devotion, jealousy etc.

The writing style is good and keeps the reader engaged. The brevity of the chapters also helps in retaining the
attention span and makes the chapters much more interesting. However, succinctness of the chapters does not in any way take away the underlying message which the author so beautifully brings out through her extraordinary writing. All in all, the book is an excellent read and a very good travelling companion (especially when you are in desperate need of one!). I thus recommend, “The Old Man and His God” to all my readers and rate it three and a half out of five stars.

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Book Review: Drama Queen

Book Title: Drama Queen
Author: Lara Bergen
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Series: Candy Apple

Candy Apple is a fresh, fun take on fiction for girls: a new line of single titles with pep and pizzazz targeted at the solid middle-grade reader.

Charlie and her best friend Nicole never dreamed that auditioning for the junior high’s musical would lead to this much drama! Charlie gets stuck babysitting her little sister — and her sister’s imaginary friend — at rehearsals. The school’s theater diva has it out for her. And who knew the cutest guy in school could sing and act?

But when the curtain finally goes up, the spotlight falls on something no one expected . . . especially Charlie.


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Book review: Charlotte’s web

Author: E.B. White

Summary: Charlotte’s Web opens the door to a magical world, which a young girl named Fern finds herself a part of. Fern spends her free time with Wilbur the pig whom she loves and the other barn animals who play a large part in the life of Wilbur. Charlotte A. Cavatica, the large grey spider, befriends Wilbur and helps him deal with the shocking news that his life will end as bacon on someone’s plate. Charlotte goes as far as coming up with an interesting plan that only this spider could carry out with the help of Templeton the rat (who never does anything unless there is something in it for himself) to help Wilbur escape death.

This book is especially good for first time readers who have taken the big jump from short stories to a real novel. It is easy reading and the talking animals captivate the young children.

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Book review: Life of Pi

Author: Yann Martel

Pi Patel is the son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry, India. He was given the full name of Piscine Molitor after a Parisian swimming pool frequented by a family friend. But when kids at school took to calling him Pissing, he shortened it to Pi, that familiar figure for the ratio of a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter. At one point he says: “And so in that Greek letter that looks like a shack with a corrugated roof, in that elusive, irrational number with which scientists try to understand the universe, I found refuge.”

Although occasionally uncomfortable at school, Pi is incredibly happy at home surrounded by a veritable wonderland. He learns that the zoo animals live by habit and, once their basic needs are met, are content to repeat the same rhythms and rituals every day. Change the routine in the slightest way, however, and the animal will express confusion, anger, or retreat into a safe place. He grows up knowing not to anthropomorphize — assign human characteristics — to the animals. In one very scary scene, Pi’s father demonstrates than animals are ferocious beasts who are driven by their hungers and passions. He also teaches the boy about how a circus animal trainer is able to control large animals by assuming the position of the alpha male, demonstrating dominance and an ability to provide for their needs.

Pi’s parents are secularists with no interest in religion. This teenager, who is a Hindu, finds himself also attracted to Christianity and Islam. Although he thinks that Jesus’ ministry can’t hold a candle to the exotic adventures of Hindu gods, his message of love seems very important. He begins to meet regularly with a Catholic priest and soon asks to be baptized. Pi finds Islam to be “a beautiful religion of brotherhood and devotion.” After meeting a Sufi mystic in the market, he puts a prayer rug in the garden facing Mecca and prays five times a day. However, once the local leaders of each religion discover what he is doing, they try to convince Pi that he must choose one over the others. But this ardent teenager refuses to give up his multifaith path of loving God.

All of this spiritual practice leads to a mystical experience which he describes this way: “I left town and on my way back, at a point where the land was high and I could see the sea to my left and down the road a long ways, I suddenly felt I was in heaven. The spot was in fact no different from when I had passed it not long before, but my way of seeing it had changed. The feeling, a paradoxical mix of pulsing energy and profound peace, was intense and blissful. Whereas before the road, the sea, the trees, the air, the sun all spoke differently to me, now they spoke one language of unity. Tree took account of road, which was aware of air, which was mindful of sea, which shared things with sun. Every element lived in harmonious relation with its neighbour, and all was kith and kin. I knelt a mortal; I rose an immortal. I felt like the centre of a small circle, coinciding with the centre of a much larger one. Atman had met Allah.”

When Pi’s father decides to leave India and move to Winnipeg, Canada, he closes the zoo and arranges to distribute its inhabitants to other facilities. The family and some of the animals board a Japanese cargo ship. Then the unexpected happens, and the boat sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Pi makes it to a lifeboat where his only companions are a zebra, a hyena, a orangutan, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The sixteen-year-old boy watches horrified as the war begins for supremacy between the animals. In the end, of course, just he and the tiger are left.

Luckily, the lifeboat is stocked with survival supplies and a detailed survival manual. Pi sets up equipment to collect water, learns to fish and catch turtles, and makes a raft for those times when he needs to stay some distance from Richard Parker. Everything he has learned about animals serves him well. In shark-infested waters, with no land in sight, Pi attends to the needs of the 450-pound tiger. This section of Martel’s phantasmagorical novel is absolutely enthralling, a true adventure where Pi’s physical prowess, intellectual courage, and spiritual perseverance are all tested. At one point, he observes: “For the first time I noticed — as I would notice repeatedly during my ordeal, between one throe of agony and the next — that my suffering was taking place in a grand setting. I saw my suffering for what it was, finite and insignificant, and I was still.”

Throughout his journey, Pi practices religious rituals — “solitary Masses without priests or consecrated Communion hosts, darshans without murtis, and pujas with turtle meat for prasad, acts of devotion for Allah not knowing where Mecca was and getting my Arabic wrong.” But these provide a stay against despair and loneliness and his grief for his lost family. The orst enemy is fear. He observes:

“It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then, fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy.”

One of the things that makes Life of Pi such an extraordinary read is that it covers so many fascinating subjects with aplomb. Martel provides overviews of animal behavior, survival at sea, the limits of reason, and a boy’s coming of age. The novel is a work of spiritual adventurism, a expression of mystical awareness, and a salute to the ample powers of imagination and the versatility of storytelling. During his long stay aboard the lifeboat with the tiger, Pi notes: “My greatest wish — other than salvation — was to have a book. A long book with a never-ending story. One I could read again and again, with new eyes and a fresh understanding each time. Alas, there was no scripture in the lifeboat.”

This ambitious novel is stuffed with ideas, interesting people, and exciting situations. Each reader could spend quite a bit of time pondering the spiritual implications of the deep relationship that develops between Pi and Richard Parker over the course of their confinement together. At first, the teenage is scared out of his wits that the animal will eat him. Then he tries to keep the tiger happy with food, fresh water, and regular routines. The final level of their interaction is a surprise that will only startle those who haven’t had the delight of close mystical relationships with animals.

Life of Pi is a multileveled exploration of the beautiful mysteries that light up our lives and have no rhyme nor reason of their own. Yet without them, we would be nothing more than wonder-deprived creatures.

Book Review by: Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

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Book review: Artemis Fowl and the last colony

Author: Eoin Colfer
Characters: Artemis Fowl, Artemis’ butler, Leon Abbot (Demon)
Brief summary: Artemis Fowl was a brave boy who fought against demons. Until recently he was the only human to have discovered that fairies to exist. But a second juvenile genius wants to capture one for scientific studies and not just any old fairy. The newcomer intends to trap a demon, the most human hating species unknown to man. He has brilliant mind. He used it for criminal activities.
I liked the book because it is really adventurous and I liked Artemis Fowl also and his brilliant mind.
Reviewed by: Antony Evan Alosius, Class 7-A

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Book Highlight

Told in diary form by an irresistible heroine, this playful and perceptive novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the May Bird trilogy sparkles with science, myth, magic, and the strange beauty of the everyday marvels we sometimes forget to notice.

Spirited, restless Gracie Lockwood has lived in Cliffden, Maine, her whole life. She’s a typical girl in an atypical world: one where sasquatches helped to win the Civil War, where dragons glide over Route 1 on their way south for the winter (sometimes burning down a T.J. Maxx or an Applebee’s along the way), where giants hide in caves near LA and mermaids hunt along the beaches, and where Dark Clouds come for people when they die.

To Gracie it’s all pretty ho-hum…until a Cloud comes looking for her little brother Sam, turning her small-town life upside down. Determined to protect Sam against all odds, her parents pack the family into a used Winnebago and set out on an epic search for a safe place that most people say doesn’t exist: The Extraordinary World. It’s rumored to lie at the ends of the earth, and no one has ever made it there and lived to tell the tale. To reach it, the Lockwoods will have to learn to believe in each other—and to trust that the world holds more possibilities than they’ve ever imagined.

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