Posts Tagged ‘cultural difference’

Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman, illus. Divya Srinivasan.

June 3, 2019 Comments off

cinnamonCinnamon by Neil Gaiman, illus. Divya Srinivasan. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2019.

Neil Gaiman is no stranger to the weird and wonderful and in this picture book he has the perfect ally in illustrator Divya Srinivasan.

In a hot country ringed by mountains and jungle live a Rajah and his Rani who have a daughter who will not or cannot talk. Her name is Cinnamon. She is a lovely girl with pearls for eyes which means she cannot see either.

A reward is offered for anyone who can get Cinnamon to talk but all fail. Then a powerful tiger comes and wants to teach the girl cub to talk. It pits the strong and powerful against the weak and helpless but somehow it works. What is the attraction? He gives her the three card trick of Pain, Fear and then Love. It works but what will happen then?

Read it and find out.

Superb illustrations  especially the tiger and Cinnamon. A sophisticated picture book.

Love Hate & other filters by Samira Ahmed

January 26, 2018 Comments off

love & hateLove Hate & other filters by Samira Ahmed. Pub. Hot Key books, 2018.

Some powerful novels for young adults come out of Trump’s America these days, most related to the social upheaval that his been inflicted on America because of racial, religious, political and terror related events. This is one of them and it is very good.

Maya is 18 years old, she is a Muslim Indian whose parents are successful dentists in small town America. They are unashamedly staunch traditionalists who came to America with some taboos packed tightly into the corners of their immigrant baggage. They want the best for their daughter and to control her life in the traditional Indian way.

Maya is an American girl and with American aspirations who wants to make movies. She has a video camera with her all the time and films family events. She is very quick witted and literate in a Jane Austen sort of way and she is attracted to the star football player of her high school, Phil, and he is attracted to her. Their rom com relationship is one of the highlights of the novel as is Maya’s relationship with her traditionalist mother.

When Maya tells her mother she does not want an arranged relationship with Kareem, who is delightful by the way and understanding, and wants to go to film school in New York, the family is in turmoil. The mother fears she will wear mini skirts and eat pork.

It gets worse. Between chapters there is another plot going on. A suicide bomber is plotting , preparing and ultimately commits the  terrorist act killing hundreds including children. People take it out on Maya and her family, they are assumed guilty by association as everybody considers the bomber was Muslim.

Read this novel it is fascinating. I was hooked from the first chapter which describes a traditional Indian wedding with it’s Bollywood overtones. The wit and depth of feeling is compelling. One of the best.


Time Twins by Sally Astridge & Arne Norlin.

January 23, 2018 Comments off

time twinsTime Twins by Sally Astridge & Arne Norlin. Pub. Makaro Press, 2017.

Astrid and Tamati are 11 years old. They were born at exactly the same time except Astrid was born in Sweden and Tamati in New Zealand, countries that are exactly 12 hours apart. They are Time Twins.

Tamati with help from his koro or grandfather learns about time twins and through relaxation is able to travel directly to his time twin in Sweden. They get on well but Astrid has to learn the techniques of relaxation so that she can travel to New Zealand.

Sounds like science fiction doesn’t it? but it is not. The Time twin concept is just a mechanism to compare life styles, schooling, attitudes, parenting, puberty and friendship in Sweden and New Zealand. They are remarkably similar yet different at the same time.

The issue that stood out for me was bullying. Both Astrid and Tamati have bullying episodes in their lives and there are different ways to bully and to handle bullying.

The stories are excellent with Tamati and Astrid having consecutive chapters. I was particularly intrigued by the Swedish scenario and I guess Swedes will be intrigued by the New Zealand one.

It is a good read for middle school and pre-teen readers.

Landscape With Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson.

September 27, 2017 Comments off

landscape invisibleLandscape With Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson. Pub. Candlewick press, imprint Walker Books, 2017.

Life reflects art and art reflects life. That is one of the messages of this extraordinary novel that is written and structured like a catalogue of paintings.

It is set in a world that has been overtaken by an alien culture called Vuvv. They came to this world and convinced humans that their technology and way of life would solve all our problems. They clinically took over using the tools and techniques of capitalism while they themselves lived in the sky. Now human culture and commerce have been destroyed by Vuvv culture, millions have gone broke and struggle from day to day to exist. The changes are not unlike those caused by the computer revolution and economic shifts in today’s world.

Adam is 17 years old and his parents have separated, gone broke, looking for work and barely existing. Adam is an artist he paints the world he sees in spite of suffering from a gastronomic disease that threatens to overwhelm him. It is said that an artist does his best work when he suffers and this applies to Adam.

To make money to exist Adam and his girlfriend Chloe, with the heart shaped face and gorgeous body, make money by acting out their romance for the benefit of Vuvv viewers who love human romance and 50,s doo wop songs such as Take good care of my baby, and One eyed one horned flying purple people eater, because it is nothing like Vuvv life. When the romance goes pear shaped they are in trouble.

I am not going to tell you any more you can find out for yourself but it is just brilliant. I will tell you that when the relationship between Adam and Chloe falls apart the Vuvv are nonplused -“human love lasts until the end of time. If it does not, then it is not love”.

Wow this novel will blow your mind. For senior high school and young adults but here’s a warning. Once you start this novel you won’t put it down. Go get it.


Azizi and the Little Blue Bird by Laila Koubaa & Mattias De Leeuw.

November 30, 2015 Comments off

azizi blue birdAzizi and the Little Blue Bird by Laila Koubaa & Mattias De Leeuw. Pub. Book Island. 2015.

A mystical fairytale from the land of the crescent moon with a culture much different from our own, yet the problems found by the people of this culture are universal. Such books are valuable as they bring us together because of the sameness that all peoples of the world have which are often ignored or brushed over by the Media and by politicians.

It begins with young boy, Azizi, relaxing in an orange tree in a country that still exists today. There are palm trees and camels and the blue bird is a special bird. Azizi’s father is forcibly hanging portraits of the two tyrants Tih and Reni on his living room wall while the tyrants gorge themselves silly off the fat of the land at the expense of their people. not only that they have captured all the bluebirds in the land and imprisoned them in the palace thus depriving the people of a thing of beauty.

Then a blue dird escapes, flies through the window of Azizi’s house and together they bring freedom to their land. Impressive stuff.

Pen and ink illustrations are combined with pastel colours to create and Arabic world and show the bloated leaders in contrast to the ordinary people. A hopeful ending.

A sophisticated picture book that demands discussion. Written on several levels from junior story to deeper cultural, economic and political issues.

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