Sunday, 10 November 2019

Corey's Rock & That Asian Kid - Reviewed by Chitra Soundar

I recently read two books by two Asian authors – both very different in feel, different in target age-group and the topics they dealt with. But both books affected me in a way that very few books have done in a long time. I'm reminded of them at odd moments and recall thinking about the characters as if they are real.

Author: Sita Brahmachari, Illustrator: Jane Ray
Published by OtterBarry Books
I first got hold of a copy of Corey’s Rock at least a year ago. It’s written by Sita Brahmachari and illustrated by Jane Ray. The beautiful watercolour illustrations draw you into the world of the story and the text lulls you into a magical land.

Corey’s Rock is like a calm sea – you might not see the waves rising or the ripples in the water,  but it has innumerable depths like the sea. In this story, Sita and Jane have deftly handled the loss of a sibling, migrations, mixed-race families and how new communities can be not just daunting but surprisingly welcoming. It anchors the story in parental love, friendships made in classrooms and the love for a place, a place that has belonging. Sita has wonderfully woven the myths of selkies into Isla’s story and the myth not only helps with the reconciliation of Isla’s loss but also gives her hope.

Every character we see in this book gives us a sense of belonging, reminds us of someone we’ve met in our lives who brought a smile to our souls or someone we’d hope to meet when we are dealing with such difficulties on our own.

Sita does not shy away from difficult topics and with the help of the gorgeous illustrations by Jane, she has given us a story as magical as the selkies.

Written by Savita Kalhan, Published by Troika Books

And now to the second book, That Asian Kid by Savita Kalhan. It’s not a book I’d read normally. But based on the first chapter Savita read at her book launch, I bravely sat down to begin. Soon I found myself racing through the pages and even though I read only just before bedtime, I finished the book in 3 nights, each time, reluctantly closing the book as sleep took over my senses.

In this book, we see the story of Jeevan, who has a normal and regular life in a grammar school and he’s good at studies and doesn’t have any major hang-ups at home or in school. Enter English Lit and a teacher who doesn’t seem to like him. As Jeevan realises that his chances at acing his English Lit wasn’t going according to plan, because he thinks his teacher might be biased, he gets a chance to take revenge on her. You have to read the book to get the rest of the plot because I’m so worried I’d give it away.

What I wanted to share about this book, as a writer and as a reader are the characters and the dialogue. The characters are wonderfully real, fun to be around and I love the camaraderie between Jeevan and his friends. Their differing viewpoints drives Jeevan crazy but also keeps him grounded.

I love the family setting of this story – an Asian family, high-achievers, yet both pragmatic and supportive. I love the friends – old and new Jeevan gets to deal with and a new friend Ree he meets, who seems to be constantly playing devil’s advocate. In fact I’d like to see Book 2 in which Jeevan and Ree are on their own exciting adventure – perhaps another blunder that leads them towards big decisions.

These two books deal with difficult subjects of love, loss, bigotry and yet the characters are redeemed by the power of friendships. These are wonderful stories that are relevant to our times for children to cope with the various challenges and highlight the need for safe spaces – where children can discuss their worries, ask for help and find a support system.

In these two stories, the embrace of the family and the hand of a friend has been offered and accepted. But in real life many of our children suffer from anxiety and depression and have no tools to articulate their troubles. The role of these books is to provide that safe space, where children can reflect their realities in the troubles of the protagonist and figure out a way to talk about their own anxieties.

Chitra Soundar is an author and storyteller based in London. Chitra writes fiction, non-fiction chapter books and picture books. Find out more at and follow her on twitter at @csoundar.



Dora William said...

Being an author is a lonely job and pets are a source of joy in my life. I am ready with a romance boxed set for Christmas. I am getting a few reviews from for my 3 book set and will also line up Bookbub promotion along with a few other sites. Last Christmas was great for sales and I am hoping for better sales this time..

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