Reviewed by Mitali Chakravarty
Title: Senserly Amako
Author: Anita Thomas
Total number of pages: 269
Price: Rs 249/-
Senserly Amako by Anita Thomas has been described by the author as a ‘scrap-book journal of the “growing up” years (seven to eleven, in this instance)’. Written in the epistolary technique, it consists of a series of phone messages, sketches and emails from a young boy who calls himself Amako, a name he has devised for himself, derived from the ‘mackerel shark’. Drawings of the shark splatter the book and give it an interesting perspective.
Amako grows up with loving parents, a house help from Philippines called Essie, a dog, and a cat. He writes of his life in Singapore, travels in Australia, England and India. The author has taken the persona of a young boy to give a child’s perspective of the world around him, which is refreshing and humorous; for instance, the child defines ‘amber’ (pg 52) as ‘that spewy thing that catches flies’. There are bad jokes as only a child would crack, his reaction to his mother disciplining him, his perception of his school, teachers and friends, religion, his immense love for his father and his interactions with grandparents living overseas.
This book had earlier appeared in an abridged version titled, You’re dancing on my Footprints. A review of that edition in the Hindu newspaper of India (21st September, 2003) said, ‘To be able to look at childhood fantasies with indulgence and optimism is a lot about recognising the child in all of us.’ That is exactly what the book does – it takes an indulgent outlook towards childhood and the child, an unusual perspective in a world peopled by moms who are less ambitious and tiger moms who drive the child to achieve. Here we read of the child’s dreams and nightmares and his needs. The writer comes across as someone who empathises with children. She deals with sticky situations with a touch of humour and the illustrations, drawn by the author, reflect her sense of fun. Perhaps her experience as a part-time photographer and filmmaker helps her create a visual impact along with the written one. This is a book that not only presents a child’s view but also comments on parenting from a youngster’s perspective. The values taught by the mother are excellent such as one should not judge people for the money they have.
However, the book revolves within an exclusive world, lacking in local interactions, and is built within a framework of affluence. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a series written in a similar vein, appeals as most children can relate to the concerns and the world portrayed in it, but Senserly Amako gives glimpses of an affluent child brought up removed from the commonality of existence, a different world from most.
The book is an interesting and quick read. I would call it a book for age groups eight to eighty but I would not allow an eight year old to learn spellings or grammar from it for the ‘child’ in the book has spelt words as children do and his grammar is not always perfect. Such linguistic deviations are merely tools the writer has used to flavour the journal with realism and they add to the charm of the book.
I would call Senserly Amako a funny, easy read, perfect for losing yourself in the world of an affluent child.
Mitali Chakravarty writes essays, short stories, poetry and reviews. Her bylines have appeared in The ‘Times of India’, ‘Pioneer’, ‘Statesman’ and ‘Hindustan Times’. Her poetry has appeared as part of two anthologies, ‘In Reverie’ (2016) and ‘An Anthology of Indian Poetry in English’ (1984). She has a book online, ‘In the Land of Dragons’ (2014, ISBN; 978-1490704333). She blogs at 432m.