Author: Nandini Nayar
Illustrator: Chetan Sharma
Published by: Puffin Books
What happens in a sleepy, rainy small town somewhere in India? Nothing much, you’d say. What if a there’s a sweetshop with sweets named coconut apple rolls and jamun barfi? Gets interesting, isn’t it? What if there were ghosts too? This gets curious. And now, throw in two kids who land up at the sweetmaker’s house, each claiming to be the offspring of his estranged sister. Perfect recipe for a delicious, nail-biting thriller, that’s as tempting as the sweets in the story.
When you see the cover of ‘The Curious Case of Sweet and Spicy Bookshop’, and flip a few pages, you are instantly charmed by the old world appeal – thanks to the illustrations by Chetan Sharma. As you begin reading, the author, Nandini Nayar, holds you firmly by the hand and makes you walk through the streets of Vasantpur, the small, rainy town where the story is set. You feel you belong to this little place as you watch the story unfold from your perch on one of the rooftops near the Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop.
The narration in the book is amazing! The descriptions evoke all your senses, and you have the entire sweetshop around you – the smell, the sight and the experience. The way the author has put in the tiniest of things to create the imagery totally immerses you in the story. The buildup is just at the right pace, and the climax surprises you – both at the turn of events as well as in its tautness. Vishnu is very likable, and transforms at the right moment just like a hero should. GG, despite being in the background all the time comes across as very sincere and good-hearted. The two kids, Laddoo and Anu, entertain you fully with their squabbles, as well as companionship.
The book is as much about food, and a thriller around a sweetshop, as it is about the tug between passion and tradition, and fulfilling your family’s expectations. And like all the other books by Nayar, this one also delivers the message very gently and unobtrusively. The plot is fabulously mysterious, and delivers the fun in exactly the right amount. The illustrations add to the quaint magic of the small town, and you don’t want to leave it, ever. And they do remind you of the old-world illustrations of the time us parents were growing up. And the children will hopefully notice that life can be interesting and adventurous without a gadget attached to their fingers or eyes. You just can’t afford to give this book a miss.
Take a bow, Nandini Nayar! You’re a magician, and you cast spells with your words.
Read an interview with the author here.