When I was growing up, I was among the first generation of Indians learning about computers. I loved playing computer games and trying to get hold of gameboys and other gadgets which we couldn't afford. Often borrowed or just watching others do it, it was one of those things that I've always been in the peripherals are. I'm also a child of comic books - India is big on comics and most of the epics I learnt about - more than the stories told at home, I was reading them as comics.
As a writer visiting schools, I often create workshops around games and stories - where characters can enter the realm of games or into the world of their favourite TV programmes to enthuse those kids who are more into gaming than into reading.
So when I picked up Aisha Bushby's A Pocketful of Stars, I was so happy to read about the contemporary setup of games and animation stories and the friendship (and rivalries) of girls. But this story took me by surprise - the layers of emotions added into it. From a divorce of parents, to blended heritages, to theatre and drama, the story threads through difficult subjects in realistic and yet magical ways.
Then the magic - the way the game and the reality blends, and how the analogy of the relationship plays out in this game and in real life - this was beautifully done, no doubt, painstakingly crafted.
The book's emotional punches are never pulled right until the end and when I was reading the last few chapters on a train, I found myself crying on the tube perhaps adding to the myth of "emotional immigrant". I was so gutted by the end and yet so happy to have read the story and gone on this journey.
The book is great to read as a class or by children on their own - but beyond the magic and games, the story will offer discussions, perhaps will open pathways of dialogue between friends, between parents and children - about relationships, guilts and our identities.
If you have not read this book yet, what are you waiting for?
Listen to Aisha Bushby read a little from this book here.
Chitra Soundar is an internationally published, award-winning author of over 40 books for children. She is also an oral storyteller and writer of theatre and TV for children. Her stories are inspired by folktales from India, Hindu mythology and her travels around the world. Find out more at www.chitrasoundar.com. Follow her on Twitter @csoundar.
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