Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kid You Not

Book Cover of Percy Jackson & Lightning Thief 

Happy new year, folks! I begin 2012 with one of my favourite topics – Books!

I was reading Rick Riordan’s blog a couple of days ago. He is the author of very popular Percy Jackson series. And in this post he writes about how adults sometimes wonder if there are others like them who enjoy “Kids” books. For those who don’t know, Percy Jackson books are purportedly for middle school students.

I, for one, have never given a damn about who the books are meant for. So, this post is about those books which lot of people I personally know call “Children’s” books. I read all of these as an adult and enjoyed immensely.
  • ·     Harry Potter, JK Rowling: This 7 book series is one of the best things I have read. It may have started out with a group of twelve year olds but by the time Deathly Hallows arrived, there was no way it could have been called “Children’s” fiction. There is much too darkness, even violence (remember Hermione being tortured by Bellatrix) for it to be read by kids. There is human psychology, at least thousand shades of grey in all characters, including our hero, Harry. If I had my way, I would perhaps not let kids below a certain age read the series at all.
  •     Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan: I discovered this series through a colleague’s sons. They are great fans of the books and had the entire 5 book series. I had of course heard about the book through the movie but never been too keen on it. So, when my colleague lent me the books, I settled down for some light reading over the weekend. It was light, breezy and fresh. It was fantasy. It was mythological. Greek mythology to be precise and like any other Literature student, I had read and learnt a lot the Greek pantheon. These books are told from the point of view of Percy Jackson, half-immortal son of Poseidon – a demi-god like Hercules. Demi-gods are, to put it bluntly, bastards of Greek gods and goddesses who sire them randomly with any mortal who seems to catch their fantasy. The books are set in modern times and Olympus is at the top of Empire State Building, New York. And isn’t that delightful? I loved all the Greek references, re-learning some of them, recalling others and discovering new. The books are action-packed, fun and yet have character-development. I am so glad Riordan has started a spin-off series, featuring Jackson and some new demi-gods. If you haven’t read Percy Jackson, my recommendation would be to start now.
  •        Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins: When I started this trilogy, I was a little unsure. This is what is called “Young Adult” fiction. It has a post-apocalypse sort of world with twelve districts, each with a special produce and it is a basis for a new class system. Districts rich in precious metal are higher up than Cotton District and right at the bottom is Coal District – District 12. And that is where our heroine, Katniss, resides. In the fine Roman tradition of Gladiators and champions, there are Hunger Games held every year in the Capitol, to remind the districts who the bosses are. These are fight to death games; no winner is declared unless out of twenty-four participants, twenty-three are dead. The contestants kill, maim, starve – do what they can in order to leave the arena alive. The games are televised and it is mandatory viewing.  Each district must send at least two contestants – a boy and a girl. The contestants decided through (un)lucky draw. The world is morose and terrifying but slowly I was drawn into the cunning game of survival. It is written entirely in present tense and in first person, Katniss being the narrator. Again, it is not a soft world of Enid Blyton where nothing worse than being mocked by your classmates generally happens. It is extremely violent, full of machinations and bloody politics.
  •    Bartimaeus Trilogy, Jonathan Stroud: And here we have Arabian Nights meeting Egyptology. This is again a modern world but where you have magicians – masters and apprentices, charmed mythical amulets, golems, Ptolemy, afreets  and djinns. Bartimaeus is a djinn. He is clever, witty and almost entirely selfish. Summoned by a twelve year old magician’s apprentice, he does try his best to dupe the kid but over a period of time, the two develop an unlikely friendship. Mind you, neither of them has any selfless motive or philanthropic intentions but they are drawn against their will in being the good guys. The books are thrilling, fast paced and throw surprises almost at every turn. And the end, when it comes, is explosive.

Do let me know if there are any other so-called “kid” books that are your favourite.