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Book Review: The History Mystery Series by Natasha Sharma, for tweens


photo (8)For today’s kids, it’s all about packaging!  Be it food, school, homework or daily routine activities…….they have to be jazzed up and made fun for them to want to do them! Well…we parents have to learn early that a direct approach can get us nowhere and that presentation is the key!

Last month we reviewed certain works of non-fiction for children, and while they are indeed great reads, not many kids take to non-fiction as well as fiction. The ideal way to get them to improve upon their knowledge quotient is to have them read books that present facts in a fun and an engaging manner; and what better way to do it than through the medium of stories?

Of course, there are plenty of options in the field of science fiction for children, but what if there was a historical fiction series that enlightened the children on history while entertaining them as well? Here comes the latest offering from Duckbill publications, a pioneering publishing house that has changed the face of children’s literature in India – the History Mystery series by Natasha Sharma, illustrated by Priya Kuriyan.

History, in a way, is a mystery, isn’t it? This delectable series unravels the enigma of the forgotten times with period drama/mysteries, set in the kingdoms of four of the most famous monarchs who ruled India at various points of time. The author spins hilarious and intriguing tales around the actions, achievements or the administrative policies the rulers are best remembered for. Though the publisher’s age recommendation indicates that this is meant for younger readers, who’ve begun to read independently, the narrative and vocabulary employed certainly competes with middle level fiction catering towards early teen readers. As always, the stories make good family read-alouds, with added explanations and elaborations.

Like any mystery series, the pattern of each of the stories remain more or less similar – with something troubling the emperor and prompting him or her to set the kingdom’s top secret super spies on the job. Imagine if  Emperor Ashoka finds his famous Rock Edicts inscribed with messages that are the polar opposite of what he wants to preach to his subjects and you have “Ashoka and the Muddled Messages” or what if the well established trade and commerce links between the Chola kingdom and China is at the brink of a break-down owing to someone messing up with the shipments, leading on to “Raja Raja and the Swapped Sacks”; or what happens when Akbar discovers a mole amongst his close coterie who is passing on sensitive  information to King Adhbhut of the neighbouring kingdom,  resulting in “Akbar and the Tricky Traitor”; and how does Razia Sultana, hell bent on gender neutralizing her role as the ruler of Delhi, deal with the so called gifts that are deliberately sexist in nature in “Razia Sultana and the Pesky Presents”! Starting with four such books, here’s hoping that there’s more coming in this delightful series.

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Divya Purandar is a practising advocate, wife to an IT professional and mom to an eight year old brat. She began blogging at http://divya-onestoryaday.blogspot.in/ .while living in the US as she was fascinated by the world of children’s books. The blog gave her a platform to share her reading adventures while offering a brief review of the book in question. She has also reviewed children’s books for other parenting blogs and forums. What started out as a penning down of reading experiences with her little one has turned into a journey of self discovery and a sounding board for Divya’s parental musings.


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