Reviewed by Nandini Varma

Sunlight Plane
Title: The Sunlight Plane
Author: Damini Kane
Publisher: Authorpress (2018)
Pages: 312

 

To reach out and urge us to inquire into our deepest emotions is the most beautiful gift a writer can give to a reader. To flap open an ear, to have our feet dangling from our beds, to imagine carefully the sound of an airplane pass by in a book, and listen to its heightened music in our heads, to brush the air as if for a moment it weren’t needed: these are acts of a reader only witnessed when a writer has produced something marvellous. Readers live double lives, much like writers, when they kick the earth unexpectedly, when they dance to a silently beating heart, when they crouch as though scared to break the dream.

Damini Kane’s first novel The Sunlight Plane does exactly that. It is a beautiful exploration of a friendship between two 9 year old boys — Tharush and Aakash, living in the posh Reyna Heights in Bombay. The cover art carries a paper plane flying across the city of Bombay, illustrated by Nivedita Sekhar. The book is divided into three sections: ‘The Sun’, ‘The Clouds’ and ‘The Sky’, each depicting a phase in their friendship – a brightness, or tension.

As we begin reading, we’re introduced to the protagonist, Tharush, the embodiment of curiosity and imagination, giving us a rich insight into the questioning mind of a child. We’re also introduced to his parents and find in them a family that doesn’t attract much trouble. Humour is therefore often seen paying a light and lovely visit in the moments shared between Tharush and his mother, another powerful character that represents deep intelligence and sensitivity, especially in her response to Tharush’s appeal for another fighter plane when they sit for dinner with eggplants floating ‘in the middle of yellow curry like dead rats’.

Quite early in the narrative, we’re given hints of what is to become a contrasting second main character of the book, Aakash, also meaning the sky as Tharush, but another shade of it – much darker as the clouds on a rainy day, more mysterious as a ‘stealthy, almost invisible, shadow’.

Do we not bleed

 

The Story of Shazia Mustaq

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, education in Pakistan faces a catastrophe of unparalleled proportions. According to a 2015 UNESCO report, Pakistan has nearly 5.5 million children who are out of school, the second highest number in the world after Nigeria. Pakistan also has the highest number of illiterate adults in the world, after India and China.

According to the Pakistan Education Statistics Report, 2013–2014, the total number of out-of-school children at primary level in the country has dropped from 6.7 million in 2012–2013 to 6.2 million.

An October 2014 report by Alif Alaan, a campaign to end Pakistan’s education emergency pointed that there are 25 million boys and girls out of school—that’s nearly half of all children in the country. In relative terms, most out-of-school children are in Balochistan. More than half of the country’s out-of-school children live in Punjab. Across the country, it was harder for girls to go to school. Girls made up more than half of all out-of-school children. A majority of the parents of girls did not allow them to study, while boys were mostly unwilling to go to school. Older children are more likely to be out of school. Around 70 per cent of out-of-school children have never been to one before. Girls mostly drop out of school to help with household work. Children from poor families are far more likely to be out of school. The education system is unable to retain enrolled students

Said Shazia Mustaq, ‘My siblings didn’t get a chance to study, and that caused me immense pain. I think that is what got me thinking about education. Sometimes, I wish there was some magic wand that all illiterate people, out-of-school children become educated. I wish it for the whole world, and especially for Pakistan. Bas paadh jaiyan sab. Because of lack of education, Pakistan, my homeland, has divided into all these classes.’

“Mein ne Urdu apni maan ke doodh ke sath pi hei!” (I have consumed my mother tongue, Urdu with her breastfeeding me). This is how I express love for the sweetest and most civilised language of the world; of course never to look down upon other languages as these all travel in the same boat. While my mother used to recite Urdu songs like, Chanda mamun door ke… and the lovely stories, it all got percolated into my soul and gave me the impetus to write kids’ stories while as a kid only.

By Felicia Low-Jiminez

Don Bosco
Don Bosco

I confess that I have never met Don Bosco in person. We’re friends on Facebook, we’ve exchanged emails, I have copies of his books, but I’ve yet to meet the man face to face. However, his reputation precedes him. Don is known as an innovator in children’s book publishing, someone who’s constantly coming up with new ways to entice kids to read, and a writer that takes risks with his projects. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, Don is also known as a Super Cool dad. He is perhaps one of the few writers I know who not only draws inspiration from his two sons, but directly involves them in writing and illustrating the books that he publishes. I honestly can’t imagine a better way to encourage and groom a new generation of readers and writers.

Tell us more about your newest book, Lion City Adventures.

Lion City Adventures is marketed as a book for children (8 to 11), but now we’re discovering that parents, teachers and other adults are fascinated with it too.

The book features 10 very different locations around Singapore, from the Singapore River to Little India, Gardens by the Bay to the Mint Museum of Toys.

The aim is to introduce children to Singapore’s rich heritage as well as its modern marvels, and we’ve done this by mashing up different types of content. Each chapter contains an exploration guide for the place, colourful illustrations, child-friendly activities, pages for sketching and journalling, and also a role-playing challenge where readers help to solve a mystery.

We’ve tried to be a little more creative with the role-playing aspect. There’s an epic background narrative about an old exploration society started by three children in Singapore back in 1894, called the Lion City Adventuring Club, and this runs throughout the book. Also, when readers get to the end, there’s an official Lion City Adventuring Club certificate waiting for them.

By introducing this alternate reality element which celebrates curiosity and exploration, we can eventually expand the story out of the book and into a wider trans-media package, with print, digital as well as real-world experiences. And so this book is an introduction to all that.

Dispatch from Gaza: Day-to-day life continues even in a war zone, but sleep does not: Guernica

GhazaI don’t know how many hours I’ve wasted watching my nineteen month-old girl, Jaffa, sleeping, drifting among the clouds of her dreams; the occasional movement of a limb, the faint smile dancing on her lips. This used to be my favorite moment of the day. But now, looking at children and thinking they could be dead in a minute’s time, they could be transformed into one of those images on the TV, it’s too much to bear. The cruel images from that day when a house in the neighborhood was struck by an F-16 or a drone, or the images that various media outlets have posted online, or those described in vivid detail by a friend who happened to be an eye witness, all these images deny me the pleasure of seeing my kids sleeping peacefully. This used to be one my greatest pleasures.

From among a group of schoolgirls, Ramsha Zafar admitted bashfully that she was fond of the stories of Amar Ayyar, popularly mispronounced as Umro Ayyar, the legendary trickster from the Dastaan-e Amir Hamza: The Express Tribune

Ramsha, an eighth grader from Al-Farabi Islamic School in Nilore, was visiting the two-day Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) with her classmates and teachers on Friday.

But she was the only one in the group who said she reads children’s storybooks and could recall a favourite character.

After writing critically acclaimed novels, including the poignant Between Clay and Dust (2012), Pakistani-Canadian author Musharraf Ali Farooqi is embarking upon a new project that aims at popularising Urdu literature amongst children.

MusharrafUnder his children’s publishing house, Kitab, which he established in 2012, Farooqi launched a catalogue in December 2013 with eight books, five of which are in Urdu and three in English. The books comprise his book Tik-TikThe Master of Time and those by renowned authors Sufi Tabassum, Ghulam Abbas and Mehdi Azar Yazdi.