Friday, January 19, 2007

The Road to Mumbai




Are you ready to travel to Mumbai to attend a wedding with Shoba and her monkey, Fuzzy Patel? Well, Fuzzy may not be overly excited about the fact that I am inviting you to the wedding.

In any case, I am going to let you climb aboard Ruth Jeyaveeran's "The Road to Mumbai" so we can travel around India, and may be in the end, we can sneak in at the wedding without Fuzzy's knowledge! :-)

Jokes apart, "The Road to Mumbai" is a "first class" ticket to a magical adventure that a little girl named Shoba and her monkey Fuzzy Patel undertake across India in order to attend the wedding of Fuzzy's cousin Poori, who is another monkey of course! They decide to use the bed they are sleeping in as a "jumbo jet" in order to land in India because Shoba thinks planes are too stuffy.

Spinning off into the midnight, first the bed lands somewhere in the deserts of India. There, Fuzzy and Shoba meet Ismael, the Camel and Anil, the coconut juice vendor. Then, they scamper around to other places zigzagging their way across India meeting a group of elephants, a snake charmer, a snake named Asha, a group of monks etc. etc.

Fuzzy, with a certain snooty attitude (and a cute, long, curly tail that Shoba uses as a handle to carry) keeps dissuading everyone that they meet on the way from following them to the"boring monkey" wedding. Snobbish as he may sound, but his playful spirit is certainly worth falling in love with! Finally, Fuzzy and Shoba manage to land in Mumbai right at the wedding site only to discover something to Fuzzy's utmost disappointment.

Well, I will let you discover for yourself what happens at the wedding, who the wedding guests were, and what were the wedding gifts the two returned home with. It is a happy ending after all just like one of those Bollywood movies - Fuzzy's cousin Poori and his bride even get to go on their honeymoon in a rickshaw! Well, chances are it could very well have been a dream? Who knows? In the end, there are a couple of clues that can set you thinking and dreaming about the wedding the two attended...!

The artwork is delightful, and can transport you to the magical journey that Shoba and Fuzzy are part of in India. The use of pinks and purples and the portrayal of Shoba, the main character, in pink pajamas might make one think if this book might be suitable just for little girls. I would disagree. I know some moms who won't read books to their little boys if it is too girly, and vice-versa. I think we should look beyond these biases, and enjoy a good book just for the appeal of its story and illustrations.

It is a great read-aloud book for 4 to 8 yr olds. A terrific multicultural adventure story with a simple theme that is an Indian wedding, and provides a lot of non-fictional information about the Indian culture.

To add some of our experiences with the book:

Pros:

1) My 4 yr old fell in love with the monkey character, particularly for his name - "Fuzzy Patel".

2) Personally, I have enjoyed reading this book to my daughter for these reasons a) The Indian wedding theme for its multicultural appeal. b) Shoba's character - I could see that my daughter could see herself in playful Shoba c) Beautiful text and illustrations that went hand in hand. For instance, the drawings of women in their saris and the way the author has described the women's saris - " it fluttered like butterfly wings" ; "the coconut juice felt like a cool waterfall running down to Shoba's toes"...Lovely, isn't it?

3) My daughter and I loved the curvy eyes of the characters - a pointer to their emotions.

Cons:

1) Although the illustrations were fantastic, I thought there was lot more to offer about India than the cliched snake-charmer, the elephants etc.

2) I hate to complain about this one and sound overly critical. As much as I enjoyed reading this one to my little girl, and as much as she enjoyed looking at the pictures and the characters, I thought some of the text were more fun for me than for my little girl. I thought it might be a little difficult for children around my daughter's age to understand some of the text - ...For instance, - "snake with an artistic temperament", "honeymoon..." etc.

Bottomline: Most kids will enjoy the pictures and get the overall story at age 3-6. Older kids might be able to appreciate the text better (say like 8 yr olds). It was hard for me to read some of the complicated words to my daughter knowing very well she wouldn't understnd what they meant given her age. But, I have to admit that my daughter understood and enjoyed the overall plot of the story, and the stunning illustrations that were refreshingly tasteful just like "the coconut juice" that Ruth Jeyaveeran describes in her story!

This book is a real treat for little ones and grown-ups alike! Sheer magic and a fantastical adventure - who needs morals and lessons in a story - don't we have enough of those already? Well, there's also an added bonus - the last page of the book offers a glossary of words that explains the foods in the book such as Jelebi, Gulab Jamun,Sari, Rickshaw etc. There is even a map of India with details of Fuzzy and Shoba's round-about journey.

Other books illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran include The Happiest Tree written by Uma Krishnaswamy. One of her recent adventures is "The Spectacular Adventures of Sophie and Sebastian"

2 comments:

meera sriram said...

Wow! A sure thing on my list. Well dissected. Would love to have more such books on the tree.

Tharini said...

Wow...sounds really delicious and like a 'treat'.

I guess 4-8 year olds is a huge age range to cover w.r.t word appropriateness. And on the other hand, it might make it more long lasting and hard to grow out of.

Sounds great overall and you made reading this review sooo much fun!

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