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Of Puzzles and an Adventure

Sowmya Rajendran

By Manjula Padmanabhan
Tulika, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, 2010, Rs 150.00

By Urmila Mahajan
Tulika, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, 2010, Rs. 175.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 11 November 2010

If you enjoyed I am Different as much as I did, it’s likely that Same and Different will keep you hooked, doesn’t matter if you’re well over 3 years old. Same and Different is a puzzle-book. On every double-spread, the reader is presented with a host of creatures who look the same…well, almost! If you have a sharp eye and look closely, you will find the odd pair! Expressions, colours, patterns—they all come into play and the ladybirds, seahorses, zebras, frogs…dazzle your eyes and tease your brain! The goggling eyes that stare at you from every page cleverly confuse you while also giving the animals their expressions. Don’t give into temptation and look at the answer key in the end! The simple instructions that come with the visuals have been rendered in rhyme: this works well for the most part but is a little forced in some places—a minor gripe with an otherwise lovable piece of work. Same and Different is as valuable as it is fun. Not only does it teach one to look and not just see, it carries with it an important and affirming message: you can belong to a group, no matter how similar or different you are to everybody else. Children’s books with a ‘message’ often end up sounding didactic or moralistic. It’s the subtlety with which the subject has been handled and the seriousness of its purpose in providing entertainment that sets apart Same and Different from such fare. If one were to fit My Brother, Tootoo into a genre, one might pick ‘adventure’. And yet, the book deals with several issues that are rarely touched upon in the average adventure novel for children. The three child protagonists—Rini and Tootoo, the siblings, and Murli, the presswala’s son—are unlikely friends. While Rini and Tootoo are from a middle class background where Right and Wrong are clearly defined, Murli comes from one where the lines between these worlds blur. Murli does what is advantageous to him; he does not mind uttering ‘the brother of truth’ to achieve this. Rini, who is older than Tootoo, tries to be disapproving of Murli’s ways but she cannot help liking the impish boy. The friendship rings genuine because Mahajan does not gloss over the differences that are bound to show up in an instance such as this. ...

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