Tag Archives: Sita Brahmachari

Where the River Runs Gold

I would have enjoyed Sita Brahmachari’s Where the River Runs Gold a lot more if I’d properly understood it. And I am unsure what happened at the end. I have two theories.

This is a dystopia featuring some of the fears we are already facing in our lives. What if the bees stop doing their job of pollinating? Twins Shifa and Themba live in Kairos City – which I assume to be loosely based on somewhere in the Middle East. When they turn eleven they have to go to a farm where they will work for – I think – five years, pollinating crops. This is supposedly the only way the world will survive.

Not everyone does this, however. Just the poor.

There is much that is beautiful here; the family’s love for each other, for plants and their hopes for the future. As with any dystopia there is also much that is ugly and dangerous and upsetting. Because it’s so wrong, so unfair.

Sita Brahmachari, Where the River Runs Gold

Arriving on the farm, they discover things are not quite as people at home had been made to believe. To save themselves they have to learn to shut up and to bide their time until the right moment to escape comes. If it ever does.

This topic is so important. I just wish I’d understood the world Shifa and Themba belong to. And I wonder how I was meant to interpret the end.

Zebra Crossing Soul Song

Lollipop man with soul. Sita Brahmachari’s latest dyslexia friendly book is different. It’s an unusual topic; the friendship between a young boy and the local lollipop man. But also the way it’s been written.

Otis the lollipop man is West Indian, and Sita has him speak in his own accent, which could potentially be hard to understand, if you don’t know how he might sound. On the other hand, I can see that this makes it even better from a point of view of including many readers who have never found themselves in a book.

The other thing is that Otis communicates with young Lenny through songs, and not just any songs, but ones from the ‘olden days’ i.e. my youth. At least I knew the songs.

Sita Brahmachari, Zebra Crossing Soul Song

There are more issues covered in this story. Lenny has two dads, and one of his old school friends has two mums. Lenny is also having to re-sit his A-level in Psychology, which means he’s a year behind his friends, and he is struggling with revising and keeping on top of things.

As he’s doing all this, he also puzzles over what happened to Otis the last time he saw him. We are kept guessing all through the book.

There’s a lot of depth here, and it feels pretty grown-up. I’m hoping Zebra Crossing Soul Song will find many fans, especially among those who don’t read much.

‘Sittin’ on the dock of the bay…’  🎵

Car Wash Wish

Isn’t this just a fantastic book title? It makes me want to go round muttering those three words to myself, trying to avoid twisting my tongue with the wash wish thing.

Sita Brahmachari has written another great book for Barrington Stoke, and this time it’s a nicely timed autism story, for National Autism Awareness Month.

Sita Brahmachari, Car Wash Wish

14-year-old Hudson is an aspie, and his dad is one as well, which is why Hudson now lives with his mum and stepdad and his unborn half-sibling, currently going by the name of Zygote. Hudson likes the letter Z. A lot.

To make matters worse, his dad’s dad has died and there is a funeral to go to, to dress for. His mum always felt that her late father-in-law, who had Alzheimer’s, took up all her husband’s attention, which is why they split up.

Hudson just wants to understand the world, and to be with his dad, as well as with his mum, and Zygote, with whom he chats by himself in order to introduce their family.

There is a car wash in his dad’s past, and the importance of this becomes evident as you read the book. That’s the car wash wish.

Lovely.

Brace Mouth, False Teeth

Sita Brahmachari has written a dyslexia friendly story about Zeni, who ends up doing work experience at Magnolia Gardens Care Home. Nothing more exciting turned up, so this was a last resort for Zeni.

Sita Brahmachari, Brace Mouth, False Teeth

But like many things in life, her week with the old people at the home turns out rather differently than she had thought. It wasn’t boring. These people might be old and infirm now, but they were once younger and pretty normal, or even quite interesting people.

Zeni has just had a brace fitted, so spits a bit when she talks. Alice, the old lady she gets to look after, has false teeth. The wrong false teeth, or so she claims. But she has dementia, so no one really believes Alice. She was once a pretty cool shop assistant, selling perfume. Now she’s mainly old, but to her surprise Zeni finds she can make her laugh.

That’s on Alice’s good day.

There are several more ‘old characters’ at the home, as well as the staff and fellow work experience worker Joe, whose grandad has just come to live at the home. Together the two of them think of something to cheer the ‘inmates’ up. But will it work?

And is Alice right about her teeth?

(Since we seem to be talking diversity in books a lot these days; I reckon this is a good example. You don’t get that as much as you should.)

Footie in the Town Hall, and other crazy stuff

OK, so the ball was only foam, but my heart was in my throat during the penalty shoot-out in the Banqueting Room. Wonder what those old gents adorning the walls thought of it? (I’m guessing: ‘Finally something fun to watch!’) The children enjoying some impromptu football after Tom Palmer’s event certainly seemed to think so.

Footie at Manchester Town Hall

It was the Manchester Literature Festival Family Reading Day yesterday, and everything happened at the Town Hall. Very successful format for children’s books, I thought. Nice and central, refined (apart from the inflatable goal Tom brought), and well laid out with one room as the market hall with tables, and space for making Viking longships out of wrapping paper, and the Banqueting Room for the events.

Craft table

Well worth getting up early for, even on a Sunday. But maybe – just maybe – I have attended too many of these if I recognise people’s piercings before the rest of them?

Manchester Children's Book Festival table

First out was Juliet Clare Bell (call her Clare) with her Kite Princess story. Clare made little girls balance books on their heads for better deportment, learning to glide. After which they blew bubbles. Ideas for books are like bubbles. Write them down before they pop. Clare also read Don’t Panic Annika (great name, that), and she talked about toys who brush their teeth. Of course they do…

Juliet Clare Bell blows bubbles

I chatted to Clare afterwards, but forgot to compliment her on her princess-style floaty dress. Would you believe it was her first visit to Manchester? Good thing the city was on its best behaviour, almost meriting that sundress. Not a single fire alarm, thankfully.

Juliet Clare Bell

Clare’s into reading for boys. Getting them to do it. Someone who knows how, is Tom Palmer, who was on later in the day. As with last year’s rugby event, this was great and absolutely perfect for boys. They read, you know. Football magazines and footballer’s biographies and such like. If it’s about sport, they know the answer, which was handy for the quiz Tom did with them.

Penalty shoot-out

And then they put MLF boss Cathy in goal and started the penalty shoot-out. She’s good. So were they. As is Tom when he talks to children. He is less condescending than most adults tend to be. He has a Russian billionnaire who murders football players in his new book series. And he travels to gather new ideas, because he likes writing about other countries, and getting it right. (Tom, about that Norwegian cathedral?)

Tom Palmer

No billionnaire himself, Tom was open with the children and told them how much he gets paid, and that he can’t support his family on what he makes on writing.

White Witch with The Servant

Earlier in the day we had a group of actors tell us about Narnia. The White Witch was there in all her splendour, but she’s not a terribly nice person, is she? Three actors and a wolfhund (might not have been real, actually) covered both the Witch and the Wardrobe, with help from audience volunteers. Not much of a Lion, however. Very popular, with a full room, and people sitting on the floor.

Alex Winters

The day’s highlight for most of the children, and their parents, was Dinnertime Stories with Cerrie Burnell and Alex Winters. And before you ask ‘who?’ I will say CBeebies. These television presenters read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and two more stories. Famous people and well known books are a winning concept.

Cerrie Burnell - The Wheels on the Bus

We sang The Wheels on the Bus, and discussed how many of us had arrived by camel. Or submarine. And we ran out of time.

So did Sita Brahmachari, who came to talk about her new book Jasmine Skies, but talked a lot about her award-winning first book Artichoke Hearts, as well. Due to some technical hitch (I can so identify with that) she borrowed Clare’s laptop for a while, before Clare had to rush home to Birmingham. But by then we had seen all the lovely family photos of Sita’s inspirational family.

I’m not quite sure how she did it, but before we knew where we were, her hour suddenly came to an end. Sita had some good volunteer strategies, and she read from both books, and then she spent a very long time folding and unfolding a sari. Interesting. Diaries and doodles have a lot to answer for. So does wearing orange. It could have been a trick. Or not.

Sita Brahmachari

Sita is off to Calcutta, to the bookshop where her late father used to sit and study, before he became a doctor. It’s rather nice to think of a bookshop allowing itself to be used as a library.

And then, I have to admit it; I went home. The day was not yet over, but the Bookwitch was very over. And five events out of seven is almost acceptable. I’m sure the Viking event with V Campbell was great. Especially for those who had built their own longships earlier in the day. (I wonder if the V stands for Viking?) The final event was Stanley’s Stick, an Oldham Coliseum Theatre production.

Bear

I am of the opinion that the MLF have got it just right. If they could just sell some energy for old ones, it’d be even better.