Archive for the ‘Children’s Classic’ Category


Unceasing Gladness for Everything

Review of Pollyana; Eleanor H. Porter; Puffin Classics, first published by Harrap 1927; pp 269

– Shana Susan Ninan

I haven’t seen many people who can remain ‘glad’ even in the darkest of times. And here’s a teeny girl, cheerful and with unbounded joy, looking optimistic at life. This was my second reading of the book (the first being in my teenage), and as an adult, I now see the story from Aunt Polly’s and the other adults’ eyes.

Pollyanna Whittier – her mom named her after her two sisters, Polly and Anna! – a recently orphaned girl, comes to live with her aunt, Polly. Now, Ms Polly is a stern spinster, who rarely smiles, let alone have the capacity to be glad about something in her life.

The little girl spreads cheer to all around her, whether at home or in the neighbourhood. And Aunt Polly finds it amusing, and irritating, that Pollyanna would even be happy to be punished! The young girl’s laughter and bubbling nature fills the house, to the point where when an accident befalls her, the whole place goes quiet and sad. Pollyanna’s optimism sees her through the dark days, giving strength to those who tend to her, too.

Pollyanna’s story is set in a time when mirrors were called looking-glass, and cars, motor-cars. The soothing narrative has a serene countryside and typical characters in it. And as a classic, it definitely scores. It made my day, once more.



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Rating: 6.5/10 (6 votes cast)

Wings to your Dreams

Review of The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly; Sun-Mi-Hwang, Translation by Chi-Young Kim, Illustrations by Nomoco; Penguin USA 2013 (published in Korean in 2000); Rs 299; pp 134

– Shana Susan Ninan

If the English translation had been published two years ago, and I’d read it then, the effect it had on me would have been different. Having experienced birth pangs and then blissfully enjoying motherhood, now I can relate to Sprout the hen much better. The protagonist is an egg-laying hen, cooped up in a box that’s home to her. Laying an egg doesn’t mean that the hen gets to hatch it. Her eggs are taken away by the farmer’s wife, minutes after she laid them, warm and still soft.

Sprout (a name that the hen gave herself) has just one dream – to hatch an egg, to hold the baby dear to her heart. The story is about her will to realise this dream. Her struggles include having to escape the coop, facing the barnyard animals headed by the rooster and guarded by the dog, sleeping on the fringes of the farm almost falling prey to the weasel and finally, accepting the fact that the Baby she hatched isn’t one of her own, or might never look or feel like she does.

Human emotions and egos find life in the animals and birds in the plot. Avarice, hatred, low self-esteem, pride, jealousy, complacency, tolerance, love, grief, sacrifice… and more. Pointing a finger at the authoritarian mindset and system of the country, Hwang reveals much about the nation through the characters in her book. This is the first novel of the author I’m reading, and I hadn’t even heard about her earlier. I was casually ordering books online when this book popped up and reviews called it the South Korean version of Animal Farm. And, in a way, it is. Though more poetic and empathising than Orwell’s work. A little grim at times, and horrifically visual, Hwang’s work reflects Korean society and people.

The illustrations are typical of a person wielding the graceful calligraphy brush. And after Googling the name, yes my instincts were right – Nomoco is a Japanese artist and illustrator. Thoroughly enjoyed the book! A classic worth reading and sharing.


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Rating: 6.5/10 (6 votes cast)

The Journey to Smaug

Review of The Hobbit; J.R.R. Tolkien; Harper Collins 2012; First published by George Allen and Unwin 1937; Rs 299; p 365

– Shana Susan Ninan

With fanciful illustrations and well thought out maps, and a superb adventure plot, Tolkien’s book doesn’t fail to please kids and adults alike. Whenever there’s news of a movie adaptation of a novel, I try to read the book before heading to the cinema. Here, too, I’m sure the book’d prove to be better.

Bilbo Baggins the hobbit is woken up to a rather hilarious morning after a visit by Gandalf, announcing that the hobbit is to ‘assist’ certain ‘somebodys’ in tracking a certain treasure. Little does he realise what he’s in for as the dwarves start trickling into his neat home. All this thoughts of a quiet bread and bacon breakfast is ruined as he finds more than a dozen dwarves swarming into the hobbit-hole, and super-hungry ones at that.

Talk about food, as you read along, you get this nagging feeling that this plot was once upon a bedtime story the author probably told his kids. Where else would hobbits have bacon for breakfast? And other processed foods. But the story is an absolutely engaging one, taking us through a journey across forests, mountains and rivers.

The hobbit isn’t one for adventure, he’d rather prefer his comfy bed and warm hut to facing the dangers in the wild. At first, even the dwarves don’t take him too seriously. However, as they travel together, confront dangers as a pack, and finally when the hobbit’s instincts are honed in the jungle, and he saves the dwarves many a times, they’re convinced of his innate powers.

The finding of the ring by Bilbo turns events on the head – armed with the power to be invisible, he takes things a step further by venturing to lead the group. And rightly so. The various escapades and active narration keep us glued to the pages.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (6 votes cast)

A Class Undivided

Review of To Sir, With Love; E.R.Braithwaite; Jove books; Rs 149; pp189

– Sharon Pradeeptha

Life’s a battlefield. You need to be a fighter to live in it, not exist and, mark you, live….

After his demobilisation from the Royal Air Force in 1945, E.R. Braithwaite was turned down from the numerous job opportunities that he applied for, not because he was incapable but because of racial discrimination which existed so strongly in the community.

Heartbroken and unable to drag on with life, he applied to the Ministry of Education as a teacher.

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Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)

Black Is Definitely Beautiful!

Black Beauty; Anna Sewell; Penguin Classics

– Shana Susan Ninan

Written by English author Anna Sewell, Black Beauty is a heart-warming autobiographical tale of a horse. It is divided into 49 small chapters across four parts. The story is narrated in the voice of Black Beauty a beautiful horse that grew up to a kind master but saw many hardships and cruelty during his lifetime. Sewell was inspired by Bessie, her brother horse, to write Black Beauty. She completed and published it in 1877. Her mother, an established children’s author, helped Sewell to finish it.

Sewell, in a fall when she was 14, injured her knees. This left her a cripple for life. Sewell grew up around horses and was even a great driver.

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Rating: 9.2/10 (5 votes cast)