In the Junior Lives series, author Sonia Mehta manages to introduce us to a lesser-known face of iconic personalities — Rani Lakshmi Bai, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa . The refreshing versions of these biographies are based on solid research and were thoroughly engaging. Throughout the book, one can find tiny pull-quotes and snippets of trivia, that accentuate the story-telling without interfering with the main plot. I was especially impressed by the simple and lucid presentation of the narrative. The language used in the book so apt and palatable to the young audience.
The first book in the series “Mother Teresa” is a heart-warming tale of a young girl Agnes, a devout Catholic girl, who took it upon herself to ease the sufferings of the poor and needy people around the world and went on to become Mother Teresa, as the world knows her today. The 80-page biography manages to bring to light the selflessness of Mother Teresa and captures the life-message of Mother Teresa in a nutshell, which is, “It is a kingly act to assist the fallen”. Some soul-stirring quotes of Mother Teresa are enclosed in a separate section of the book. Apart from the stories of compassion, the book also has intriguing facts aboutunconventional topics such as “preparing to join the church”, “the journey to sainthood”. Juicy trivia like the price of Mother Teresa’s loom saree (Well! It was only Rs 2.50, back in those days) are also peppered throughout the book. These trivia interwoven with the main story makes the book a compulsive read. Additionally, the book also includes a timeline about the milestones in Mother Teresa’s life at the end of the book for a quick reference.
The second book in the series “Mahatma Gandhi” is about the life of M K Gandhi, the first Indian to appear on the cover of the Time magazine, the fact I came to know only after reading this book. The point being, this book captures those aspects of Mahatma Gandhi’s life that are left out in popular versions of Gandhiji’s life stories. When it comes to Gandhiji, people often associate him with freedom movements in the pre-independent India. This book places emphasis on his life in Porbandar, London, and South Africa, i.e. his formative years. The book also reserves a separate chapter called “Gandhi Factopedia” in addition to the usual pull quotes and trivia in the main story. Like the previous book, this book also has a timeline of Gandhi’s milestones. The black and white illustrations in this book are captivating and children are sure to enjoy it.
The third book on “Rani Lakshmibai” provides a detailed account of one of the most valiant queens in the Indian history. The book describes in detail the journey of an ordinary tomboy Manikarnika who went on to ascend the throne of Jhansi. The topsy-turvy life of Rani filled with triumphs and tribulations, sprinkled with less-known facts about her life makes reading the biography a power-packed movie-like experience. Further, the book has a strong feminist flavour to it, that highlights how Manikarnika defied the norms, sought gender-equality, educated herself, learnt horse-riding and warfare, kept away from superstitions and above all encouraged other women to also do the same. The book also touches upon her softer side and portrays her as a brave woman with a soft heart. One interesting feature of this book is a small section of the book which gives glimpses of fascinating stories about other warrior queens around the world. This section earns the book its brownie points.
Overall, the three-book series successfully attempts at an honest, fact-oriented story telling. There is no unnecessary glorification of the legends, instead, the greatness of the legends is automatically reflected through the fact-filled writing. The narratives establish a proper historical context while describing the events and thus readers are not left in a lurch. The illustrations make the narrative further engaging. These books are a great gateway to introduce these legends to young readers for the first time. The books manage to capture the interests of the audience and would certainly make children inquisitive as they would want to know more about the legendary protagonists. Forming role models are a very important aspect of growing up. Noble cartoon characters jumping from one building to another or flying in thin air continue to inspire our young. While these are good too, it might be a good idea to inspire our young with real life heroes who lived ordinary lives and through their sheer dedication made an extraordinary impact!
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Educational Value: 5/5
Role Models & Attitude Portrayal: 5/5
Age Band — broad band : 8+ years
Publisher : Penguin
Author : Sonia Mehta