Monday, August 22, 2011

Myth Quest series by Anu Kumar

Pic courtesy flipkart
These are a set of three books (at least for now- hopefully she'll come up with more of these!) by Anu Kumar, who has earlier been interviewed here by Satish for Saffrontree. They were picked up by A (all by herself) a few weeks back, and have been read many times since.

Jatayu - Saviour from the Skies.
Nandi - The Divine Gatekeeper.
Jambavan - The Immortal Bear King.
Written by Anu Kumar.
Published by Hachette India Children's Books.
Ages 4+ read aloud, 8+ read alone

Jatayu, Nandi and Jambavan are who one might call 'minor characters' in the Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. They are nevertheless important in their own way. Here we have our own homegrown versions of magic and divinity, fantastic creatures and gods /demigods behaving in a most human way. In each book, we go through almost entire epics from the vantage point of the particular protagonist.

I was reminded of a set of books called 'Katha Kalpataru' written in Marathi, that I have from which I had been read to in my early childhood by my grandmother, and which I have myself devoured when I was older and able to read Marathi on my own. It is a set of 16 books, a compilation of many interlinked stories from the Indian mythology, told in the way of folktales, one story leading seamlessly to another. There are many fast-forwards and flashbacks to this kind of storytelling, but it is guaranteed to keep the attention of the audience/reader.

Anu Kumar has used this same method in her books, distilling all stories about the protagonist from various sources- which I am sure are the two epics and the Puranas.

She has also mentioned that there are various versions of the same story, as also different geneologies for the characters, and that she has taken the most interesting versions for her book. This, I think, is true of most of mythology/folklore- and it changes depending upon the culture in which the story has been propogated.

This may be an interesting addition to the book collections of those who want mythology in bite-sized portions, or for parents struggling to come up with a bed-time story for a little one- a story interesting enough, but not too long (each chapter can become a separate story)- and yet keep the child wanting more the next day. As also a slim enough book for a child/parent who may be intimidated by a bigger book. (I know many of those- I have added these books to my list to be recommended to those friends/ neighbours who would like to have a book for a child not seriously into reading, but wanted something interesting, as well as inexpensive.) Or just another interesting book on Indian mythology for someone like us here.



Praba Ram said...

Oh S, this one is so timely!! Recently, started offering bite-sized portions of Ramanaya at bedtime. COI-ly, I zoomed in on Jatayu and Jambhavan just this past week. We couldn't get enough thinking about the raging battle the sky between Jatayu and how Ravana's Pushpaka Vimana destroys the wings...( offtopic - and not to mention we drew some parallels with our potter friend - thinking about Hedwig's death off the flying motorcycle...and the weird similarities in some ways between the two ..!) And the silver doe patronus part similar to the golden deer etc. Of course, there are many more since the inspiration for HP in some ways came from a mish-mash of mythologies.... sorry to ramble!! :)

Thanks for these picks! I can certainly use it to enhance my own understanding of these ancient myths and use them to improvise my own half-baked ideas before I tell the kids. Also, curious about the version Anu has in her books. Will definitely check these out!! Shabari, the woman saint, is yet another amazing "minor" character. The folklore is quite popular in these parts.

anu kumar said...

hello, sandhya, praba
thank you for this encouraging review. happy too that they make for such interesting reading.

yes, there are more in the pipeline - 6 more on mythical animals and then a similar series on the asuras.

utbtkids said...

Thanks for the review Sandhya. Like I mentioned earlier, older child loves the series.

Anu she will be uber excited to know that there are more in the series.

Vibha said...

What a treat Sandhya.

Choxbox said...

Okay I am stopping by TOMORROW and borrowing these! Sound just right for us at the moment.

And Anu, these sound cool! By the way we have been raving away about Gold Digging Ants - in fact my older kid went on and on about it to this bookshop owner who promptly placed an order :)

anu kumar said...

Sandhya, thank you for adding that bit about readership :-).
chox, how nice to hear from you again and I love your daughter, a big thank you to her, wish I cd tell her this myself :-)

sandhya said...

@Prabha: This was a timely addition to our collection, too. After we finished the Harry Potter series, we have been reading a particularly lyrical version of the Ramayana, and A just devoured these books.

Those parallels with HP are indeed interesting. Yes, the fantastic creatures there do seem a lot like our demigods. Maybe some of them have inspired Rowling!

@Anu Kumar: It is wonderful to have you comment! We will be looking forward to the rest of the books in this series. A (my 10yr old) will be thrilled to know there are more.

@Utbt, Vibha: Thanks.

@Chox: OK, you need to stop by soon. Or I need to.

ranjani.sathish said...

It sounds really interesting and the mythology loving kids at home, will surely love this one. I finished Ramayana as "bed time story telling" 2 weeks back and now started on Mahabharatha using ACK (14 volumes). Though Sooraj pretty much knows the story, he still feels awed with each telling of these mythological stories :-). I am sure these books would be a great addition to our book shelf.

Thanks Sandhya for the review and Anu,wonderful work ! We are looking forward to all these forthcoming books.

anu said...

Ranjani, you are very kind. I was thinking you shd encourage Sathish to illustrate books on his own, the ones on google+ are brilliant. -)
sandhya, i emailed to you, glad we are in touch!

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