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No.9 of #52Stories: Career of Evil — finish or abandon?

15 August 2017
Posted in: 52 stories, Books | No Comments

52 Stories 2017Should you review a book you’re not sure you’ll finish? Don’t know the answer to that one, so I just won’t call this a review.

To be fair, I wasn’t exactly champing at the bit to read Robert Galbraith’s Career of Evil so I can’t exactly moan about feeling let down. It sort dropped into my lap when a friend procured it and asked if I wanted to read it before she got around to it. I wanted a break from bingeing on Frances Hardinge, so I said yes. Verdict so far: bordering on the tedious.

Career of Evil is the third in the Cormoran Strike series. I’m not going to rehash the story, so suffice it to say that this is a different mystery for Strike and Robin Ellacot—instead of being hired by clients, they investigate a problem of their own, which is, to find out who has sent a severed leg to Ellacot and why. The investigation takes them deep into Strike’s past, and so far (about half way into the book) we are none the wiser what the answers might be.

I love reading crime, but somehow have never warmed to this series. There is no doubt that J.K. Rowling is a fantastic storyteller, but the Strike series has always seemed to many notches below the quality of work that the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and the late Reginald Hill, to name a few, have produced. Moreover, irrespective of media, I have grown tired of casual sexism in the stories I want to read and see. This, I am sorry to say, makes the Cormoran Strike novels somewhat difficult to plough through.

Rowling-as-Galbraith has the same lucidity to her writing that made Harry Potter such a joy. But while in the Potter books the sheer brilliance of the story and world building allowed you to ignore all else, in the Strike series this is not so. I’m referring mostly to the paternalistic treatment of Robin Ellacot, and I find it hard to reconcile the sorted and articulate Rowling on social media with the benevolent sexism and misogyny of Galbraith. In particular, I did not appreciate the back story suddenly thrust upon Robin.

I may finish this book, mostly because I have nothing else to read right now. (I hear the books are going to be made into a TV series. Hoping it’ll be better than the books.)

~PD

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No.7 of #52Stories: A Helping Hand

28 February 2017
Posted in: 52 stories, Books, Social issues, Writing | No Comments

52 Stories 2017Back in 2015, I was asked by Vidya Mani if I’d like to do a book on the theme of fitting in for the StoryWeaver open-source repository of stories. She was commissioning a set of books on the broad subject of emotional intelligence. Of course, the answer was yes.

The result was A Helping Hand, a story about a reluctant ‘mentor’ who slowly thaws towards the new girl in his class.

There’s a new girl in class and our teacher has asked me to be her friend and show her around. But I’m not sure I want to – she’s… not like the rest of us!

Vidya is an exacting editor, and refused to give up as the story went through a few “meh” drafts. The final result is what you see on StoryWeaver, illustrated wonderfully by Vartika Sharma. I loved how Vartika gave her own interpretation to the epistolary format of the story. It was interesting also that I imagined the protagonist as a boy (though chose not to give him a name) and she saw her as a girl. Such surprises are what make up a truly collaborative work. Vartika’s style and the silhouette-y nature of the figures are what keep the story from being just a collection of boring, childish notes.

You can read the whole story here right now:

A Helping Hand has since been translated many times—into Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Odia, Tamil, Telugu, Konkani and even Indonesian. Since it’s a StoryWeaver publication, it is available under a Creative Commons licence, open to being downloaded, read, read aloud, printed, translated, re-illustrated and more. So feel free to read it, share it, download it, and pass it around.

~PD

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No.6 of #52Stories: Gul in Space

24 February 2017
Posted in: 52 stories, Books | No Comments

52 Stories 2017In 2016, I worked with Pratham Books’ Storyweaver project to commission a set of STEM books. The aim was to create fun, engaging picture books and illustrated books on various technology and engineering themes that could be used as supplementary to textbooks at the elementary level.

Since Pratham works with children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the challenge was to create books that were inclusive and not too urban-centred, and keeping in mind that the text would be translated to many languages. I eventually commissioned four books, the first of which is just out: Richa Jha’s Gul in Space

This is a story in verse about young Gul, who, as a birthday treat, goes for a spin in a rocket, headed to the International Space Station. And, you guessed it, weightlessness strikes! To idea behind the book was to talk about space and zero-gravity environments through Richa Jha’s fun poetry and Lavanya Karthik’s vibrant art work. Take a look at it in full glory:

The book is going to be out in print form soon, but for now is available online at StoryWeaver. For the uninitiated, StoryWeaver is an open-source resource for stories in multiple languages. The stories on the site are available for reading, downloading, printing, translating, illustrating and re-levelling.

All stories and illustrations on StoryWeaver are available under open licenses. Which means we give people the right to share, use or even build upon the creative work that is available here. All tools for translation and formatting are absolutely free. The stories created here are actively shaped and nurtured into being delightful invitations for participation and collaboration – without the chains of restrictive copyright licenses. To read is to free the imagination, to discover new thoughts and ideas.

~PD

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