The Adventure of the Missing Dancing Girl
Kartik, Xerxes, Namami (Nami, for short) and Kaveri have a fun-filled childhood in Anantpur in the year 2500 BC. Their idyllic life changes when Kartik uses a brick effectively to fell a boar and save a little boy from a sticky end.
The hero of the day is in for a surprise that night. The elders of the village decide to reward 13-year-old Kartik by taking him and his friends with them on their annual tour to the Surya Mela in Lothal, the famous port town. The Surya Mela, apart from its religious significance, is a huge trading post for businessmen from faraway lands.
The children’s excitement peaks when a couple of strangers, who are passing through, tell the villagers about the robbery in the famous Mohenjo-Daro temple and how the robbers are still at large. Among the missing items are the chief priest’s stone-studded headband and the famous statue of the dancing girl.
As the five-day journey meanders its exciting way to Lothal, the children soak up the sights on the way. But just before the caravan reaches Lothal, the cart with the children loses its wheel and Kartik’s father asks the youngsters to go on ahead, while he stays back.
The last leg of the journey involves an elephant ride when the four meet a mahout on his way to Lothal.
At the same time, another story unfolds in distant Mesopotamia. Thirteen-year-old Amu Darya stows away on a ship in his quest to track down Enlil-zi-shagal, his father, who was last seen in Lothal. Well into the journey, Amu is spotted by the captain but the kind-hearted man agrees to take Amu all the way.
Amu lands in Lothal a few weeks before the four friends do. The five meet and become friends after Amu tells them that a couple had accidentally exchanged a valuable package with the children’s luggage.
The curious five open up the bundle and discover part of the stolen treasure in it. Things get hot when Nami is kidnapped. What worries them is the fact that their fellow-travellers have not turned up yet. Alone in a strange city, can the five save the treasure and rescue Nami? Will Amu find his father? Is Enlil part of the gang that stole the treasure?
The Fried Frog and Other Funny Freaky Foodie Feisty Poems
Though the title says it all, you may be tempted to throw in a few more expressions such as brilliantly whacky. And there, you have Sampurna Chattarji’s book—one of the few on Indian poetry for children—in a nutshell.
Kicking off with I Am Sick of Learning Lochinvar, this collection of poems follows its own zany path. As you stumble through Loco (a line-up of weird adults), After the Birthday Party, Boys Meant Skinny, Da Lawn, Elevators and Escalators, The Crab and the Crane and The Fried Frog, you come away revived.
Not all of them are loony, however. The serious ones include Taxi (in memory of the bomb blast at the Gateway of India), Lonely and Girl, Adopted. Some of my favourites are: After the Birthday Party (three situations that have to be read in different voices—adult, couldn’t-care-less and very feeble), The Food Finagle (Dhoka, The Samosa Feud and The Jhinga Thinga in this section) and Poetry is for Poets.
Though not all the poems in this collection are previously unpublished ones, pick it up, laugh over it, marvel at the madness as well as the intensity. And enjoy it.
Postscript: If you are wondering, The Fried Frog is actually palak poori.
The writer is the editor of Heek, a children’s magazine
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