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Sandhya Rao

By Sowmya Rajendran . Illustrated by Arun Kumar Kaushik
Karadi Tales, Chennai, 2014, pp. 92, Rs. 195.00


At first glance, the book resembles those old classics retold, with its dark green cover and title in a narrow black box. But the dimensions and the picture on the cover make it different. The tagline suggests it is part of a series. This bodes well because we don’t have too many good series for young readers. Who are these ‘rulebreakers’? Jaggubhai (gangsterized version of Jagannathan) and his friends Keerti, Rishi, Tejas and Monica, a gang of five without a dog. That last bit is precisely the problem because what use is a gang without a dog? Especially if you’re a teenager and have been brought up on a diet of Enid Blyton? That’s the crux of this story—presumably, with this matter being taken care of in the first book, in the rest of the series they will be a gang with a dog, so that will bring everything up to speed. Jaggubhai is the brawn of the team, not the brain. For that, we have Monica and Tejas who are a fount of ideas, each worse than the other. Keerti provides the goonda factor while Rishi is the meticulous planner, Excel sheet and all. Combining their collective talents, the kids decide to set the record on gangs straight by acquiring a dog, not in the straightforward way of begging for a pet or adopting a stray. They decide to dognap a pug called Spike (small enough to be hidden, and pedigreed as well) from its wealthy owners. How they do this and how they manage to hide Spike in Rishi’s grandmother’s (quite the character) house and how, eventually, they’re caught but not before they are tricked into thinking they are on the trail of terrorists is how this first adventure goes. The writing is smart-alecky and edgy, just the kind of thing smart-alecky, edgy readers will enjoy. The book is also an easy read and children will find themselves identifying with one or other of the gang members and are certain to draw inspiration for comebacks from the things these gangsters say. This gives the book a light feel, establishing that this is only a story after all, about a gang that’s out looking for adventure and seriously, how real can that get? Which is why when Tejas and Monica, schoolkids mind you, get talking to the security guard about doing ...

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