By the Book: Himani Dalmia’s empathetic book focuses on the joys of reading, David Walliams returns with a supersonic adventure

Photo: Amazon.in

For book lovers and librarians of a particular generation in the country, Bandana Sen is a beloved name. Sen, who passed away in 2018, began her career working at the American International School in what was then Calcutta and, afterwards, spent close to four decades at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, building up its libraries. She was also instrumental in setting up libraries and reading programs across Pathways Schools in the NCR and nurturing librarians to carry forward her rich legacy of emancipation through books. Thammi’s Gift is her daughter-in-law Himani Dalmia’s tribute to Sen and to the beautiful imaginative universe she built up for her grand-daughters Devika and Yamini from before their birth.

Unlike her little sister, soon after whose arrival Thammi became a star, Devika had spent the early years of her life snuggled up to Thammi, hearing her read out stories from the vast library at home that she has so painstakingly built up with every possible kind of book. Yet, as she turns five, Devika is faced with changes all around — she has to leave her old familiar school and join a new one, she still misses her grandmother and feels confused and bewildered. But, her consternation turns into wonder when one morning, long before anyone is up, as she wanders in her room, a star shoots into her room and takes the shape of Thammi. Together, they embark on reading adventures at home and far away in Thammi’s new abode. It gives Devika hope and confidence in her new adventure to come — after all, Thammi has also told her of a friend who would await her in the new school.

Dalmia’s writing is self-assured and full of empathy — it is evident that this book comes from a place of love, not just for a beloved family member but also for a shared activity that runs through the family like a thread that binds. This is a book brimming with warmth and affection, and faith in the healing powers of reading. Priya Kuriyan’s illustrations, as always, are a world unto themselves, full of intimate details that tell a story of their own.

Spaceboy
David Walliams
HarperCollins
Rs 499
Suitable for: 7+ years

books, books for kids, children reading, books for children, reading, By the Book, 'Thammi's Gift' by Himani Dalmia, 'Spaceboy' by David Walliams, book recommendations, parenting, indian express news Photo: Amazon.in

Even as NASA’s long-awaited Artemis 1 mission moves closer to arriving on the moon on Monday, David Walliams’ new book Spaceboy plunges his fans into a supersonic adventure of a different sort, set in the American Midwest. It is the early 1960s and the space war between the US and the USSR is nearing a crescendo. After the death of her parents, 12-year-old orphan Ruth is sent to live with her relative Aunty Dorothy, who hates children and whose only use of Ruth is to see her to work on her ostrich farm. Ruth has never had the opportunity to go to school, but she has one secret ambition — to travel to space like her hero, Yuri Gagarin, along with her trusted three-legged stray pet named, what else, Yuri. But one fateful night, Aunty Dorothy discovers her only prized possession — a damaged telescope she had unearthed and breaks into two. It is the same night that a UFO bursts into flame near their farmhouse and Ruth comes across Spaceboy, an alien. Adventure is afoot and Ruth and Spaceboy will have the time of their lives, even if it is paved with hardships and challenges by heartless adults.

Obdurate adults, a child in need of love, and a series of rip-roaring, edge-of-the-seat thrills — Walliams has long proven himself to be a master of this time-tested formula, a man who knows how to give his readership exactly what it seeks. Spaceboy is no different, cranking up the laughter quotient as the adventure progresses. Adam Stower, who takes over the mantle of illustrator from Tony Ross, holds his own admirably. Together, the two ensure that Walliams’ latest book, too, will join his pantheon of bestsellers.

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