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Manisha Chaudhry

By Venita Coelho . Illustrations by Priya Kuriyan
Hachette, India, 2015, pp. 232, Rs. 350.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 11 November 2015

Did you know that a Dodo tastes absolutely horrible? I didn’t, until I read this hilarious, racy, a-thrill-a-minute careening adventure of three agents of the Animal Intelligence Agency. The eye catching cover by Priya Kuriyan shows you an impossibly cute Dodo, three agents in the line of fire against telltale skylines, along with a firm declaration: SAVE THE ANIMALS. SAVE THE WORLD! Rana, Kela and Bagha, also known as Agent nos. 11.5, 013 and 002 are on another mission to save an animal and of course, save the world. Rana is a young person of many parts as he is good with ‘all things tech’ and also one of two people ‘who use Junglespeak to communicate across species’. Kela has a profile called Love Monkey on a social networking site and is blessed with a great sense of the ridiculous and a nice black nose for trouble. Bagha is a tiger and as upstanding and noble as they come. With such a trio we can surely expect a plot full of the most improbable extremities and Venita does not disappoint. Like an expert marksperson, she draws arrow after arrow from her quiver of episodic adventures that hit the mark unerringly. Her effervescent style displays her television ancestry in the most engaging way possible as sequence after sequence, complete in itself, takes the agent threesome into wildly varying territory. From a chip factory in an industrial estate in New Delhi to rescue a prima donna Hangul (reference to A.K. Hangul pops up later to make you chuckle) to the white frilled beaches of Mauritius to New York complete with a Thanksgiving Parade. And then you have to hold your breath as it freezes over: the Arctic! Cruel billionaires who run quirky rich people clubs and care nothing for animals move the plot along at a breathless pace. As we race along with Rana and gang, loving every minute of the willing suspension of disbelief, Venita innocuously introduces us to a spectacular array of animals. With minimal fuss and a masterly touch, each of them stays with you as a character. Apart from the resourceful clown figure of Kela and the gravitas of Bagha, there is Sam the not dead Dodo who has ceremonial use for pebbles and a heart like Majnu. He finally finds familial bliss in a diorama that is as large as life itself and extends far beyond the confines ...

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