The secret world that children’s imaginations live in isn’t understood by many. Its dark corners, nasty smells and dire consequences delight children endlessly. This is the world captured by Monideepa Sahu in The Riddle of the Seventh Stone: a magical tale in which bugs and vermin turn into humans, little girls swing from lampposts using their pigtails, and buried treasure lies hidden below the seething underbelly of Bangalore. At the same time, the narrative is embedded in the real, practical problems of the city– the breakdown of the mom & pop store culture to be replaced by new development, represented by the villainous land-grabbing Shark.
The heroes of the story, Rishabh the rat and Shashee the spider, hate everything their readers hate – bathing, algebra, bullies…but they love adventure! Together with their pesky brethren and human allies, they crack a cryptic riddle to solve a mystery and save their beloved city from sure ruin. And they have a lot of fun while doing it. I think kids will enjoy the irreverence of the writing and the creepy-crawly protagonists tremendously.
The novel moves along at a good pace – sometimes too good a pace, which leaves one gasping for breath. Too many mini climaxes before the big one diluted the end for me. However, the characters were solidly sketched out and there were bits that made me laugh out loud. Besides, I simply loved the fact that the novel was set in the gutters of my city and not in Dickensian London!
The book was discovered at the Kala Ghoda Arts festival Open Book Pitch in 2008, which led to its present publication.
Just for a fresh perspective, we got a young friend of ours to write her take on the book too:
The book, The Riddle of the Seventh Stone, is a very different work of fiction. Its vocabulary and sentence structure is simple yet confusing because the reader has to imagine so much more to understand the story. The story is initially slow moving, but it picks up towards the end. It is a good read and I would recommend it because its such a nice change from other books!
- DRISHTI TOLANI (Drishti is a 12 year-old poet and short story writer from Dubai, who is obsessed with fantasy fiction. She gobbled up the book in a few hours and declared that she had never ever read anything like it before)
THE RIDDLE OF THE SEVENTH STONE by Monideepa Sahu, illustrations by Pooja Pottenkulam; Young Zubaan, 2010; Rs 195; order from www.zubaanbooks.com or www.flipkart.com
The book will be launched in Bangalore on the 9th of Oct, 5pm at Reliance Timeout, Cunningham Road with readings, storytelling and games. Entry is free.