“Babies can’t talk like you and me,” she continued. “They can’t say ‘I’m hungry,’ or ‘I’m wet’, or ‘I’m tired.’ But they sure can let you know when they want something.”
How simple it seemed, Robbie thought, looking down at Tobey:
Waaa! And you got whatever you want. He wished it was that simple when you grew up.
Waaa! New jeans would appear.
Waaa! People would stop calling you names.
Waaa! Your mother would stop kissing you at the bus stop. (p. 47)
— An excerpt from the book, ‘How to Be Cool in the Third Grade’- By BETSY DUFFEY
How to Be Cool in the Third Grade: Published in 1993
A story about a timid boy named ‘Robert Hayes York’; who dislikes his baby name Robbie, hates his school clothes which his parents chooses for him to wear—tan and stiff shorts, white socks and shirt with collars, despises his mom’s kisses at the bus stop—to cause a spot of the bright red lipstick on his cheek — at the start of the academic year into the third grade Robbie writes down a set of necessary rules which, according to him, will help him become cool—and how a bully boy ‘Bo’ at school changes Robbie’s attitude for better, as well as Robbie’s niceness changes Bo’s rudeness towards him …
The title of the book admiringly suggest that this book is specifically meant for third graders i.e. children of 7 to 8 years; however this nice, humorous, short, fiction story is a suitable read for children between the age-group of 8 to 10 years too; at a leisurely pace a child may take a week’s time to finish reading this book.
Author: Betsy Duffey is the author of numerous books for young readers; her books have been Junior Library Guild selections, Crown Award nominees, and have been Parent’s Choice and Children’s Choice selections. Her books have been translated into Japanese, Korean, Dutch and Danish, and included in numerous book clubs.
Malgudi Schooldays is a slightly abridged version of R.K. Narayan’s classic novel Swami and Friends published in the year 1935; and includes two more stories featuring Swami.
This is a story of a boy who is in threshold to teen-age and sees absurdities and incongruities in the most trival and unnoticeable things; set in the background of the period when the British still ruled India and Gandhiji was fighting for India’s independence, and rooted in a fictional small town of Malgudi in South India.
Malgudi Schooldays is all about the antics of Swaminathan aka Swami — his curious outlook at religion and education; his raw interactions with his family members – especially gossips with his doting grandmother, and his bittersweet relationship with his strict but thoughtful father; his lethargic attitude towards studies and dislike for school; his nasty involvement in an agitated procession; his boisterous friendship with Mani and Rajam; and his spontaneous interest in cricket — is narrated with subtle humour and engrosses for a very entertaining read for both adults and teenagers.
A few excerpts:
‘What is Lisbon famous for?’ said the teacher.
Swaminathan hestitated and ventured, ‘For being the capital of Spain.’
The teacher bit his moustache and fired a second question, ‘What do you know about Indian climate?’
‘It is hot in summer and cold in winter.’
‘Stand up on the bench!’ roared the teacher. And Swaminathan stood up without a protest. He was glad that he was given this supposedly degrading punishment instead of the cane. (pg. 18)
Swaminathan read at the top of his voice the poem about a woolly sheep. His father fussed about a little for his tiny silver snuff-box and the spotted handkerchief, which was the most unwashed thing in that house. He hooked his umbrella on his arm. This was really the last signal for starting. Swaminathan had almost closed the book and risen. His father had almost gone out of the room. But – Swaminathan stamped his foot under the table. Mother stopped Father and said: ‘By the way, I want some change. The tailor is coming today. He has been pestering me for the last four days.’ (pg. 28)
Samuel was reading the red text, the portion describing Vasco da Gama’s arrival in India. The boys listened in half-languor. Swaminathan suddenly asked at the top of his voice, ‘Why did not Columbus come to India, sir?’
‘He lost his way.’
‘I can’t believe it; it is unbelievable, sir.’
‘Such a great man. Would he have not known the way?’
‘Don’t shout. I can hear you quite well.’
‘I am not shouting, sir; this is my ordinary voice, which God has given me. How can I help it?’
‘Shut up and sit down.’
Swaminathan sat down, feeling slightly happy at his success. The teacher threw a puzzled , suspicious glance at him and resumed his lessons.
His next chance occurred when Sankar of the first bench got up and asked, ‘Sir, was Vasco da Gama the very first person to come to India?’
Before the teacher could answer, Swaminathan shouted from the back bench, ‘That’s what they say.’ (pg. 116-117)
‘You think you are wiser than the newspaper?’ Father sneered. ‘A man may have the strength of an elephant and yet be a coward: whereas another may have the strength of a straw, but if he has courage he can do anything. Courage is everything, strength and age are not important.’
Swami disputed the theory. ‘How can it be, Father? Suppose I have all the courage, what can I do if a tiger should attack me?’
‘Leave alone strength, can you prove you have courage? Let me see if you can sleep alone tonight in my office room.’
A frightful proposition, Swaminathan thought. He had always slept beside his Granny, and any change in this arrangement kept him trembling and awake all night. He hoped at first that his father was only joking. He mumbled weakly, ‘Yes,’ and tried to change the subject; he said very loudly and with a great deal of enthusiasm, ‘We are going to admiteven elders in our cricket club hereafter. We are buying brand-new bats and balls. Our captain has asked me to tell you …’ (pg. 164)
‘Sir, can’t you permit him to go home after four-thirty?’
The Headmaster sank back in his chair and remained silent.
Rajam asked again, ‘What do you say, sir, won’t you do it?’
‘Are you the Headmaster of this school or am I?’
‘Of course you are the Headmaster, sir. In Albert Mission they don’t keep us a minute longer than four-thirty. And we are exempted from Drill if we play games.’
‘Here, I am not prepared to listen to your rhapsodies on the pariah school. Get out.’
Mani, who had been waiting outside, finding his friends gone too long, and having his own fears, now came into the Headmaster’s room. (pg.178)
The stories in this book are mostly based on the wonderful sync which humans have with nature for survival …
Ruskin Bond has been writing for over sixty years, and has now over 120 titles in print – novels, collection of short stories, poetry, essays, anthologies and books for children. His first novel, THE Room on the Roof, received the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Award in 1957. He has also received the Padma Shri in 1999 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014.
There are 18 short stories in this book, the last section being a short autobiography of the author.
Here, I have mentioned the title of 8 stories with excerpts from each story to give you a glimpse of the author’s elegant and easy craft of writing, the stories in this book are mostly based on the wonderful sync which humans have with nature for survival. This book is a delightful read for adults and an exciting read for children between the age-group of 8 to 12 years.
A SPECIAL TREE
In the cherry tree, bees came to feed on the nectar in the blossoms, and tiny birds pecked at the blossoms and broke them off. But the tree kept blossoming right through the spring and three were always more blossoms than birds. (pg. 7)
THE SCHOOL AMONG THE PINES
Fortunately, Bina’s village was not in the pine belt; the fires did not reach it. But Nauti was surrounded by a fire that raged for three days, and the children had to stay away from school.
And then, towards the end of June, the monsoon rains arrived and there was an end to forest fires. (pg. 33)
THE WIND ON HAUNTED HILL
Whoo, whoo,whoo, cried the wind as it swept down from the Himalayan snows …
… There was nearly always a strong wind in these parts. Three children were spreading clothes out to dry on a low stone wall, putting a stone on each piece.
Eleven-year-old Usha, dark- haired and rose-cheeked, struggled with her grandfather’s long, loose shirt. Her younger brother, Suresh, was doing his best to hold down a bedsheet, while Usha’s friend, Binya, a slightly older girl, helped. (pg. 41- 42)
TIGER MY FRIEND
For an hour the villagers beat the jungle, shouting, drumming, and trampling the undergrowth.
The tiger had no rest. Whenever he was able to put some distance between himself and the men, he would sink down in some shady spot to rest; but, within a few minutes, the trampling and drumming would come nearer, and with an angry snarl he would get up again and pad northwards, along the narrowing strip of jungle, towards the bridge across the river. (pg. 75)
There was enough space for Tutu to look out of the bag occasionally, and to be fed with bananas and biscuits, but she could not get her hands through the opening and the canvas was too strong for her to bite her way through.
Tutu’s efforts to get out only had the effect of making the bag roll about on the floor or occasionally jump into the air – an exhibition that attracted a curious crowd of onlookers at the Dehra and Meerut railway stations. (pg. 83- 84)
WHEN THE TREES WALKED
‘One day the trees will move again,’ said Grandfather. ‘They’ve been standing still for thousands of years but there was a time when they could walk about like people. Then along came an interfering busybody who cast a spell over them, rooting them to one place. But they’re always trying to move. See how they reach out their arms! And some of them, like the banyan tree with its travelling aerial roots, manage to get quite far.’ (pg. 132)
PRET IN THE HOUSE
He began by hiding Grandmother’s spectacles whenever she took them off.
‘I’m sure I put them down on the dressing-table,’ she grumbled.
A little later they were found balanced precariously on the snout of a wild boar, whose stuffed and mounted head adorned the veranda wall. Being the only boy in the house, I was at first blamed for this prank; but a day or two later, when the spectacles disappeared again only to be discovered dangling from the wires of the parrot’s cage, it was agreed that some other agency was at work. (pg. 143)
THE NIGHT THE ROOF BLEW OFF
Our roof had held fast in many a storm, but the wind that night was really fierce. It came rushing at us with a high-pitched, eerie wail. The old roof groaned and protested, it took a battering for several hours while the rain lashed against the windows and the lights kept coming and going. (pg.169)