By Anushka Ravishankar, Jerry Pinto & Sayoni Basu
Illustrated by Vinayak Varma
Phiss Phuss Boom is a very tastefully done book (strange thing to say about a book with fart stories, but it is true!) There’s no potty humour, just explosive blasts at the end of each story. Three stories, short and engrossing, take the reader to Kerala, Goa and Bengal. Perfect for young readers taking their first steps in the world of chapter books. And how nice to have characters with names like Appukuttan and Phool Dida! (I would be erring if I didn't mention that Phool Dida’s grandfather played football with Robi Thakur.) The illustrations by Vinayak Varma are brilliant; a lot of thought has gone into each of them. ‘Farts? Intelligence?’ You ask? Did you know the connection between Boyle’s law and farts? See!
As a prelude to each story, the author introduces a doting grandparent and proceeds to describe his/her affinity for fart humour. So of course I must do the same before I get on with the review. My paternal grandfather wouldn’t let anyone enter the house if they’d eaten onions or anything that would induce vaayu, like raw banana or cabbage. The menu was carefully planned with the vaayu-meter being constantly monitored. This grandfather was very serious and looked exactly like Amrish Puri. My maternal grandfather, on the other hand, indulged us with stories and jokes featuring farts and things that the rest of the world found offensive. And we lapped them up! I’m sure today’s kids will enjoy Phiss Phuss Boom just as much.
Lijimol and Jijimon
The first story by Anushka Ravishankar transported me to Kerala, where Lijimol has to figure out a way to make her twin brother Jijimon win a race in the pond. If he doesn’t, she will lose her hair. And with it will go their brains. For the twins’ brains are in Lijimol’s hair a la Samson. Does Lijimol find a solution? Does Jijimon win? What happens to Lijimol’s hair? And their brains?
The writing is superlative. Lijimol is full of spunk and spouts clever lines. The illustrations are great fun so be sure to pay attention to them while you’re reading.
The six year-old enjoyed the story as much as I did, addressed his father (Appa) as Appukuttan for weeks and eyed my hair rather suspiciously for a while.
Attulem and Bittulem
The next story, inhabited by characters like Attulem, Bittulem, Monsterlem and Gonsterlem, is set in Goa. This one doesn’t have as much of a local flavor as the other two, but the wordplay and witty one-liners more than make up for it. What makes it so wonderful is that the author doesn’t underestimate the child reader one bit. My first reaction was that my son is fortunate to be reading Jerry Pinto at six. A treat for anyone who loves words.
Ghontu and Shontu
The formidable foursome - Ma, Dida, Phool Dida and Raja Dida – get hapless young Ghontu and Shontu Mama to "see" a girl. There are five rules to be followed – Touch everyone’s feet, Speak only when you are spoken to... What happens four rasogollas, fourteen sandeshes, seven samosas and three banana fritters later?
This is one rollicking story. The fun is in the descriptions; love the way Sayoni Basu makes the characters and scenes come alive.