Tara and the Friendship Theorem by Chitra Soundar – A Review

Tara and the Friendship Theorem by Chitra Soundar – A Review

TITLE: Tara and the Friendship Theorem

AUTHOR: Chitra Soundar

PAGE EXTENT: 126

PUBLISHER: Puffin Books

GENRE: Middle Grade

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tara and her best friend, Farida, are experts at the traditional Indian game of Pallanguzhi. But when Tara’s family relocates to the UK, Tara has to say goodbye to her best friend. Who shall she beat at Pallanguzhi now?

As Appa and Amma get the new home ready, Tara and her brother check in to a weekend retreat, Camp Wilderness. Wow. Do Tara’s parents even know who she is? She’s more what you’d call an indoorsy person, with her love of coding and maths. 

To distract herself from all the trees and animals and general wildlife – shudder – she sets out to find a new friend. No one can ever replace Farida, but Tara’s determined to find someone almost as awesome. This is the perfect opportunity to test her Friendship Theorem!

Maths has never let Tara down before – surely it can help now? But as Tara applies her theorem at Camp Wilderness, could she miss a friendship that is blossoming right under her nose?

It should come as no surprise that friendships are my favorite aspect of Middle Grade books and a book with ‘friendship’ in the title itself which revolves around making new friends? Sign me up already!

Tara and her family move to the UK from Chennai and she is not one bit happy about having to leave her bestie Farida behind. When her parents enrol Tara and her brother, Kapil in a Wilderness Camp in the woods, Tara makes it a point to use the Friendship Theorem from a book gifted to her by her grandmother(also called the Professor) and test it out at the camp, while making a new best friend in the process. Will Tara find the said best friend? Will the Friendship Theorem work? Is it foolproof? Read the book before I end up spilling the beans!

Reading a book with a nerdy, geeky protagonist made my heart swell with joy! 10-year-old me would have squealed with delight while reading about someone who is proud to be a nerd! This made me want to leap into the pages of the book and give Tara a nice, warm hug!

Full disclosure: I am someone who has detested maths since the very beginning, to the extent of mugging up entire derivations and regurgitating them all out on the exam paper(shhhh)! Not only does this book have fun math factoids at the beginning of every chapter, it also made me realise how maths can be fun too! Did you know that 3 is the only prime number preceding a square, or that 7 is the only prime number preceding a cube?

The entire story revolves around friendship and how friendship can be logical and not at the same time. No two friendships are the same and at times, friendship transcends logic too. Follow Tara on this journey of discovering what it means to have a friend and how sometimes, some of the best friendships you make in life lie just outside your comfort zone! Annada Menon’s adorable illustrations peppered throughout the book only make the reading experience better!

I am all for mental health rep in books: there are times when I have added an extra star to my rating simply because the mental health rep is executed perfectly, and needless to say, this book is one of them! Having lived with severe anxiety for quite a while now, the discussions of anxiety and therapy in this story and how they formed the basis of friendships had me beaming with joy! #friendshipgoals! Mental health representation is so important in Middle Grade and I can’t emphasise this enough. Kudos for the same, Chitra Soundar!

Pallanguzhi(called Alaguli Mane here in Karnataka) is a game that originated in South India and forms an integral part of the story. Reading about it took me back to my crèche days where we had a pallanguzhi board with tamarind seeds as counters! #nostalgia 🥺

This book was indeed a breath of fresh air! If you’re in a reading slump which you’re struggling to get out of and want to lighten your mood with a fun, cute read, this is right up your alley! Visit the woods of England with Tara and get to know Millie, Chloe, Toby, to name a few, because “Strangers are friends we haven’t come to know yet”! 😉

What was your favorite subject back in school? Let me know down below! My favourites were geography and biology!

Gupshup Goes to Prison by Arefa Tehsin – A Review

Gupshup Goes to Prison by Arefa Tehsin – A Review

TITLE: Gupshup Goes to Prison

AUTHOR: Arefa Tehsin

PAGE EXTENT: 80

PUBLISHER: Duckbill Books (Penguin Random House India)

GENRE: Elementary Readers

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Khalid’s cat Gupshup has run away to a prison. An open prison, it is called, but everyone knows that prisons are full of horrible, evil people. Or are they? And how on earth will Khalid get Gupshup home?

Did you know that there are prisons where the inmates aren’t locked up in cells but are actually allowed to live freely and even seek employment OUTSIDE of the prison? Before you look at me like I’ve grown an extra head, let me tell you: yes, they’re a thing! They were started in Rajasthan back in the 1950s to help the inmates adjust back to the normal way of life towards the end of their term. How cool is that! Okay, before I go all info-dumpy on you, let me tell you about the book, hehe.

Khalid moves to the town of Sanganer and has heard all about the infamous jail for criminals. So, what happens when, one day, his cat Gupshup runs over the wall of the dreaded prison and hops over to the other side and Khalid has no choice but to enter the prison in order to retrieve her? What follows is a fun, action-packed tale full of new discoveries and jaw-dropping surprises with Shubhangi Chetan’s quirky illustrations making it all the more fun!

One thing about this book that totally had me smiling is how the author has conveyed the fact that people are so quick to judge others and jump to conclusions and assumptions without knowing all sides to a story, in a way young readers can easily comprehend!

There are few books in Middle Grade that discuss serious but extremely important topics and this book is proudly one of them! Discussing topics like prison, crime and law is no mean feat when it comes to inculcating them in books for young readers so kudos to Arefa Tehsin for doing that!

Friendships are one of the reasons why Middle Grade is my favorite genre of all time and Khalid making new friends in this story had me smiling from ear to ear!

And oh, do you love cats? Then, you need absolutely no motivation to pick this one up!

Have you read any Middle Grade books that discuss sensitive but important topics? Let me know in the comments!

The Girl Who Climbed Mountains: Bachendri Pal by Lavanya Karthik – A Review

The Girl Who Climbed Mountains: Bachendri Pal by Lavanya Karthik – A Review

TITLE: The Girl Who Climbed Mountains: Bachendri Pal

AUTHOR: Lavanya Karthik

PAGE EXTENT: 48

PUBLISHER: Duckbill Books (Penguin Random House India)

GENRE: Picture Book for Younger Readers

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Before Bachendri Pal became the first Indian woman to climb Mt Everest, she was a little girl with dreams as big as the sky.

Have you ever read a book that leaves a huge smile plastered on your face? A book that makes you content and satisfied and just plain happy? This is that book for me! This cute little biographic picture book will carve a place for itself in your heart!

Bachendri Pal is the first Indian woman to climb Mt. Everest. I am a 100% sure we’ve all come across this fact during GK exams in school. But before that, she was a little girl with a big heart and an even bigger ambition. Read this book to find out more!

Not only does this book inspire young readers, it also sheds light on the misogyny that’s rampant in India and shows every little girl who picks this book up, how she can go on to achieve anything under the sun!

The author has drawn inspiration from Thangka art in illustrating this book and I love how it’s an ode to Bachendri Pal’s place of birth.

Okay, can somebody please stop me before I end up telling everything about this book? 😂

All in all, this is a fun book that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, because, you know, the sky is the limit(in this case, quite literally hehe😉)!

Are there any people who inspire you to be the best version of yourself? If yes, let me know in the comments!

The Boy Who Loved Birds: Salim Ali by Lavanya Karthik – A Review

The Boy Who Loved Birds: Salim Ali by Lavanya Karthik – A Review

TITLE: The Boy Who Loved Birds: Salim Ali

AUTHOR: Lavanya Karthik

PAGE EXTENT: 48

PUBLISHER: Duckbill Books(Penguin Random House India)

GENRE: Picture Book for Young Readers

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Before Salim Ali was a world-famous ornithologist, he was a boy curious about the mysteries around him. Especially the mysteries of birds.

“A BIRD IS LIFE ITSELF.”


Firstly, the illustrations in this book are probably some of the best I’ve come across! They’re inspired by miniature art from the Mughal era, which also happens to be Dr Salim Ali’s favourite art form. Kudos, Lavanya!

Dr. Salim Ali is a famous ornithologist (we had a whole chapter about him back in Middle School!) who has won many awards and has two sanctuaries and a bird named after him! Like, woah! But before he achieved these feats, he was a young, cheerful boy with a very curious mind. I don’t want to give it all away in my review, so please do pick up the book and read it for yourself!

Having read two books in this series now, I’m excited to pick up the rest of the books in this series and trust me, you’ll want to as well! Dear Lavanya, please write more books in this series and I will pick up every single one of them! ❤️

If this book could be summed up in a few words, it would be this: never think your dreams are unattainable. Never ever give up on your dreams, no matter how far fetched they seem. Strive to achieve your goals and work hard towards them, because who knows, one day, you will be living that very dream! Soar high!

What are some of your favourite picture books? Let me know down below!

The Absolutely True Adventures of Daydreamer Dev by Ken Spillman – A Review

The Absolutely True Adventures of Daydreamer Dev by Ken Spillman – A Review

TITLE: The Absolutely True Adventures of Daydreamer Dev

AUTHOR: Ken Spillman

PAGE EXTENT: 166

PUBLISHER: Puffin Books(Penguin Random House India)

GENRE: Middle Grade

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sitting in class or watching clouds from the roof of Kwality Carpets, Dev’s flights of fancy land him in challenging environments all over the globe. He brings home notes from his teacher so regularly that Amma only rolls her eyes as she fishes them from his satchel. Baba says that if there were medals for daydreaming, Dev would be an All-India Champion-maybe even an Olympic hero.

These action-packed stories transport the reader to three iconic locations, each one testing Dev’s survival skills while teaching him to respect environments and cultures that seem alien to him. Follow Dev as he accompanies the ghost of a Sherpa woman on a quest to conquer Mount Everest. Ride with Dev as he traces the Amazon River, which proves much more difficult than going with the flow! Join Dev and his pal OP as they set out from Timbuktu to cross the Sahara on malodorous camels.

For Dev and his colourful imagination, it’s Access All Areas and No Holds Barred.

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

Ever heard of this saying? Well, that’s EXACTLY what this book does!

Dev is a young boy with an imagination so immense he could get an Olympic gold if daydreaming were a sport! Of course, much to the dismay of his teacher and his strict father.

Mind you, Dev’s imagination is WILD! Follow him as he “travels” to the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, the lush green canopies of the Amazon rainforest and the blistering sand dunes of the Sahara and learns quite a few important life lessons along the way, all thanks to his imagination! The illustrations only add to the fun!

It didn’t escape my notice how the author Ken Spillman has emphasised on the need to respect cultures and traditions of other peoples and countries through his stories while also highlighting the need to preserve various environments.

Dev’s best friend OP reminded me so much of the younger, nerdy Middle School me(still super nerdy hehe)! He constantly keeps spewing random facts from his mouth and you learn quite a bit of fun stuff while you read these action-packed, thrilling stories!

So, what are you waiting for? Join Dev on some wild, wild adventures through different terrains of the world and don’t forget, the only limit to what you can do is your imagination! Let it run wild!

What are some of your favourite adventure stories? Let me know in the comments!

Paati vs UNCLE (The Underground Nightly Cooperative League of Elders) by Meera Ganapathi – A Review

Paati vs UNCLE (The Underground Nightly Cooperative League of Elders) by Meera Ganapathi – A Review

TITLE: Paati vs UNCLE (The Underground Nightly Cooperative League of Elders)

AUTHOR: Meera Ganapathi

PAGE EXTENT: 152

PUBLISHER: Puffin Books(Penguin Random House India)

GENRE: Middle Grade

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All Inju wants is a quiet, boring holiday at the most boring house in Mumbai, but life at Parijat Retirement Colony is not the same any more.

A thief is on the loose, and Paati has decided to become an UNCLE! But when the uncles of UNCLE (The Underground Nightly Cooperative League of Elders) act not so cooperative, Inju takes charge.

Joining forces with a lady whose papads were stolen, the skinny building watchman and Paati, Inju forms PAATI (The People’s Association against Thieves International).

Can this motley crew of detectives crack the code?

Are you in the mood for a fun, fast-paced whodunnit mystery involving a sassy grandma and a bunch of sharing-good-morning-messages-on-WhatsApp-groups grandpas that will make you laugh your socks off? You’re looking at the right book! 

Inju is visiting his Paati(Tamil for grandmother) over the summer and wants a boring staycation at Parijat Retirement Colony but his plans get thwarted when robberies begin and he gets caught up in an investigation to nab the culprit. What follows is sleuthing loaded with oodles of action and some laugh-out-loud shenanigans! 

While the book is all fun and frolic, it makes young readers aware of the misogyny that’s rampant in the Indian society today. If there’s a book that screams SMASH THE PATRIARCHY but for younger readers, it’s this one! It also throws light on bullying in a way that’s not too harsh on young minds.

Meera Ganapathi’s witty and quirky writing style is bound to keep you hooked from cover to cover! It’s a cute little book with hilarious illustrations that you can gobble up in one sitting!

Keeping my fingers crossed that this book is the first one in a series as I can’t wait to solve more mysteries with Inju and Paati!

Thanks to Penguin Random House India for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. 🥰

Have you read any Middle Grade mysteries with young detectives? Let me know in the comments below!

Listen to your Heart: The London Adventure by Ruskin Bond – A Review

Listen to your Heart: The London Adventure by Ruskin Bond – A Review

TITLE: Listen to your Heart: The London Adventure

AUTHOR: Ruskin Bond

PAGE EXTENT: 104

PUBLISHER: Puffin Books(Penguin Random House India)

GENRE: Memoir

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

‘I followed my heart instead of my head. It is something I have done all my life.’

Shortly before his eighteenth birthday, Ruskin embarks on a literary journey and reaches England after charting unknown waters. Greeted by the uncertainties of a new city, he muses over his loneliness, switches jobs, falls in love, befriends the ocean and relentlessly chases a big dream!

What follows next is the metamorphosis of a journal entry into a novel as we time-travel to the fascinating events that led to the making of his iconic book, The Room on the Roof.

Capturing memorable experiences from young Ruskin’s life, Listen to Your Heart is an inspiration for aspiring young writers, a meditation on embracing fears, seizing every opportunity but most importantly living one’s dreams.

Having read Ruskin Bond’s short stories and excerpts during my school days, I wanted to read his memoir and get a glimpse of his early days and how he became one of the best authors we have today! 

Listen to Your Heart is a short, heartfelt memoir by Ruskin Bond which is the fifth and final book in the series offering us an insight into Ruskin’s childhood and adolescence. 

Peppered with beautiful artwork on almost every other page, reading this book was an experience in itself! Ruskin describes his adolescent period in England during which he had to flit from one job to another, all while penning his first novel, The Room on the Roof. And let’s not forget the feelings of the heart, which is a whole other ball game altogether! 

Ruskin goes on to describe how the world of publishing is in no way a bed of roses and is brimming with obstacles at every stage, but come what may, never stop writing! Through his ordeal, he shows young budding authors how perseverance and sheer will ensure that you have your name on the cover of a book someday. A huge shout-out to the illustrator Mihir Joglekar for making the story come alive on the page!

If there’s one take-away from this book, it’s literally the title: LISTEN TO YOUR HEART, things will fall into place one day!

Thanks to Penguin Random House India for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. 🥰

Have you read books by Ruskin Bond before? If yes, let me know in the comments! If not, what are you waiting for?

Ritu Weds Chandi by Ameya Narvankar – A Review(this picture book is a MUST-HAVE!)

Ritu Weds Chandi by Ameya Narvankar – A Review(this picture book is a MUST-HAVE!)

TITLE: Ritu Weds Chandni

AUTHOR: Ameya Narvankar

PAGE EXTENT: 36

PUBLISHER: Puffin Books(Penguin Random House India)

GENRE: Picture Book, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Ayesha is excited to attend her cousin Ritu’s wedding. She can barely wait to dance at the baraat! But not everyone is happy that Ritu is marrying her girlfriend, Chandni.

Some have even vowed to stop the celebrations. Will Ayesha be able to save her cousin’s big day?

Centering Ayesha’s love for her cousin as much as it showcases Ritu and Chandni’s love for each other, this warm-hearted story celebrates the power of young voices to stand up against prejudice and bigotry.

If I can sum up this entire review in one sentence, it would be this: I WANT EVERY SINGLE KID TO READ THIS GEM OF A PICTURE BOOK.

When I saw this book doing the rounds on Bookstagram, I was pretty intrigued. Being a queer man myself, I wanted to know what the hype was all about! And boy, did it not disappoint! 

Ayesha is excited for the wedding of her cousin, Ritu didi, who is marrying her girlfriend, Chandni didi in a lavish Indian ceremony(believe me when I tell you, the adorable illustrations of the wedding in this book gave me a mountain of hopes!) What happens at the wedding? Read the book to find out, and don’t forget to admire the GORGEOUS illustrations while you’re at it! 

The author, through this picture book, has highlighted a very important fact about same-sex couples: it’s totally normal in the eyes of children and is not construed as abnormal at all. It’s the influence of the homophobic society that warps these innocent minds.

If I could describe this book in one word, it’s ESSENTIAL. I hope every library and bookstore has copies on display so every child who happens to see the beautiful cover ends up picking it up and reading it from end to end in one sitting! And a huge shout-out to the author for some of the best art I’ve come across!

In a world where queerphobia persists to a great extent, books like these remind me how there are some amazing people who are doing their bit to show just how diverse and beautiful the LGBTQ+ community is. What better way to do that than instill the right thoughts in young minds, so that they grow up to be amazing humans! 

Thanks to Penguin Random House India for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. 🥰

Have you read any picture books that you love? Let me know in the comments!

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai – Why This Book is the Perfect Match For You!

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai – Why This Book is the Perfect Match For You!

TITLE: A Match Made in Mehendi

AUTHOR: Nandini Bajpai

PAGE EXTENT: 320

PUBLISHER: Hachette India

GENRE: YA Contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received a finished paperback copy with some goodies from the author!

For fans of Eleanor & Park and When Dimple Met Rishi, comes a lighthearted novel about tradition, high school social hierarchy, matchmaking, and swiping right (or left!).

Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole — matchmakers — with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.” 

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course. 

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

“The root of family is love. The root of all love is friendship.”

This book was indeed a breath of fresh air! Do you happen to be in a stubborn reading slump that just doesn’t want to leave? Are you tired of dense fantasy reads and want to grab something light and breezy? Then this book is the perfect match for you! (Haha see what I did there? 👀😉)

Simi Sangha comes from a long line of “vicholes” or match-makers, but she has absolutely no interest in match-making whatsoever. Give her a set of paints, brushes, an easel and a canvas and she is good to go! When she accidentally ends up making a terrific match, her mom begins to assume she has the “gift” too. Reluctantly, with the help of her best buddy Noah and her tech-savvy brother Navdeep, she comes up with a match-making app to help people find their dates at her school! What follows is a fun-filled, frolicky tale of mehendi and crushes and hot boys and school wars and mouth-watering Indian food!

Simi’s idea of using colour-coded icons on the app was so cute I was super jealous I didn’t get to try out the app! I’m a sucker for great friendships in books and the camaraderie between Simi and Noah reminded me of some of my real-life friendships and I couldn’t help but smile!

Nandini Bajpai has managed to perfectly capture the Indian family dynamics in this book. Indian parents’ obsession with their kids taking up engineering, medicine or law was so dang relatable! This book also shows how Indian parents can sometimes involve themselves way too much in their children’s lives but again, we know that only comes from a place of concern. This can all be very doting and annoying at the same time and I’m still in the process of figuring out which one it is haha!

Simi is a stellar artist and wants to create a masterpiece around mehendi! Yes, you heard it right! Every time Simi drew temporary henna tattoos for her friends, I was going, “OHMYGOSH I NEED ONE OF THESE TOO!” I am pretty sure I’m going to try it out one day and y’all will be the first to see!

While being lighthearted and joyful, this book also highlighted issues such an bullying, outing and plagiarism and also showed us how all of these are so very wrong, by teaching the perpetrators a lesson they’ll never forget! 😤

So if you’re in the mood for a quick, cute read full of high school shenanigans and annoying Indian aunties and uncles and a cute romance(or maybe two), what are you waiting for? Pick this one up right away!

Have you read any Desi rom-coms that made you giggle into the night? Let me know in the comments below!

Here are 5 Reasons Why You Should Read Cinderella is Dead Next!

Here are 5 Reasons Why You Should Read Cinderella is Dead Next!

  1. SMASH THE PATRIARCHY! – I mean, who doesn’t love a book where women overthrow the patriarchy and triumph? In the town of Lille, the story of Cinderella is a holy grail set in stone and all women of age are supposed to attend a ball to find a match. If they don’t find one, they are met with a terrible fate. Sophia has always been in love with her friend Erin and what happens when things go awry at the ball? Read the book to find out!
  2. QUEER BLACK HEROINE – I’m all for the upliftment of marginalized voices through books and we have a Black protagonist who also happens to be queer! While Sophia is flawed in many ways, she is a protagonist who doesn’t back down from a fight and will go to any extent to take the King down!
  3. SAPPHIC ROMANCE – Sophia and Constance form a great pair and if you’re a fan of the insta-love trope, this is the perfect one for you! This also happened to be my first book with a sapphic romance and not surprisingly, it was well done!
  4. FAST-PACED PLOT – Kalynn’s writing style is easy to read and doesn’t dwell on too many descriptions which will have you hurtling through the book in no time! However, there were a couple of subplots that weren’t really necessary and all they did was add to the page count and I wish they weren’t included in the story. There were some subplots that were opened but they just remained, well, opened? I, for one, am someone who prefers closure in books. I do get the fact that this is a standalone and there is a lot to address because there’s just the one book to wrap things up but wouldn’t it be easier to wrap things up when the things to be wrapped up are less in number? Just my thought hehe.
  5. YOU WILL NOT LOOK AT THE CINDERELLA FAIRYTALE THE SAME WAY EVER AGAIN. Kalynn has given us all an amazing behind-the-scenes glimpse into the original Cinderella story where things are not at all how they seem and the next time you read/watch Cinderella, you can’t help but think along these lines! Well, a fairytale retelling that makes you question the fairytale itself? GIVE ME MORE.

I plan on picking up This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron soon!

Thank you so much for the review copy, Bloomsbury India!

It’s 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over

Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she’s tiny until the night she’s sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows that she has only one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball . are forfeit.

But Sophia doesn’t want to be chosen – she’s in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia’s night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world .

An electrifying twist on the classic fairytale that will inspire girls to break out of limiting stereotypes and follow their dreams!

What are you waiting for? Pick up this sapphic Cinderella retelling right away!