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A diving holiday, disturbing discovery, and kidnapping

Far out in the Arabian Sea, where the waters plunge many thousands of metres to the ocean floor, lies a chain of bewitching coral atolls – the Lakshadweep Islands. Vikram and Aditya dive into lagoons with crystal-clear water and reefs that are deep and shrouded in mystery. But when they stumble upon a devious kidnapping plot, their idyllic holiday turns into a desperate struggle for survival.

Here is an excerpt from Deepak Dalal’s new book, Lakshadweep Adventure where Faisal – the boy who’s care Vikram and Aditya are left in – makes a disturbing discovery.

Front Cover A Vikram–Aditya Story: Lakshadweep Adventure
A Vikram–Aditya Story: Lakshadweep Adventure

Faisal was in a bad mood. His uncle’s impending arrival hovered like a dark cloud above him. And his friends’ decision to abandon him for the day only made things worse.

Faisal had noticed the wind the moment he had strolled out on to the beach, and his mood had soured even further when he saw his friends enjoying themselves. He wished he had accepted Aditya’s offer as he watched them speed their boards across the lagoon. But it was too late now. His uncle would be arriving shortly.

Faisal sat under a palm tree. He passed time drawing figures in the sand. Above him, palm fronds shook and fluttered as the wind whistled through them. The sun shone brightly. The sand intensified its glare, forcing Faisal to shut his eyes. It was pleasant under the tree and the wind was crisp and enjoyable. The rustling of the palms overhead soothed him and he soon fell asleep.

The tide slowly crept up the beach and finally washed over Faisal’s feet, waking him with a start. He looked at his watch, muttering softly to himself. It was past midday.

Basheer uncle would have arrived by now. He dusted sand from his clothes and rose hurriedly to his feet.

Faisal heard raised voices from the living room window when he entered the yard. He crept forward till he was below the window and peeped in.

His uncle was standing in the centre of the room, facing a group of men.

Basheer Koya was a copy of Faisal’s father, except that he was fatter and there was hardly any hair on his head. But unlike his brother, whose manner was calm and collected, Basheer Koya’s face was contorted with rage. His cheeks were dark and red and he was shouting like a man possessed.

‘Fools!’ thundered Basheer Koya in Malayalam. ‘Monkeys have more brains than you lot. Idiots. I thought you had ears. But obviously you don’t. You weren’t to set foot in Kalpeni. How many times did I tell you not to come here? Yet, not only do you come to the island, but even more brainlessly, you visit my home.’

A bearded man with big, wide shoulders spoke. ‘Sir,’ he began. ‘Sir—’

Basheer Koya ranted on, cutting off the man. ‘I travelled all the way to Kochi to make certain that no suspicion fell on me and I returned only after the operation was over. And you? I come home and see you fools sitting in my house. I take all these precautions and now everyone on this island can link me to you and from there to the operation.’

‘But, sir—’

‘You were under orders to head to Tinakara Island. What are you doing here?’

‘Sir. I was trying to explain just that, sir. We were headed for Tinakara. But we had engine trouble, sir. A terrible rattling noise came from the engine and we were forced to head for the nearest island. You can speak to the mechanic, sir. He looked at our boat and said we were lucky to make it here to Kalpeni.’

The explanation diminished Basheer Koya’s rage, yet he continued to glare at the bearded man. ‘Kumar. Where is Kumar?’ he barked.

‘Kumar is safely on board, sir. There’s no need to worry about him. He is in the lower cabin and one of our men is with him all the time. He can’t make a sound or do anything. He won’t be able to alert the mechanics.’

Faisal froze. This was not for his ears. It was wrong of him to eavesdrop. He wondered if he should leave, but who was Kumar and what was his uncle up to?

‘No one is to know that we have a prisoner on board,’ growled Basheer Koya. ‘Even Allah will not be able to help you if he is discovered. I make no allowances for mistakes.’ Basheer Koya stared at his men, shifting his gaze from one to the other. ‘Do you understand?’

There was silence in the room.

Faisal understood full well what his uncle meant. He shuddered.

***

Journey through these breath-taking islands with a tale of scuba diving and sabotage, set in one of India’s most splendid destinations.

The more (books), the May-rrier!

We know that our current times are not the most optimistic. But now more than ever, we believe that books can act as a source of hope and joy, howsoever small, and keep us going.

We have an assorted selection of books for you this May! These will keep your young ones occupied as they spend the summers indoors, inside the safety of their cozy homes.

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All-Time Favourites for Children

Ruskin Bond

Front cover of All-Time Favourites
All-Time Favourites for Children || Ruskin Bond, Kashmira Sarode (Illustrator)

Ages:  9+  years

All Time Favourites for Children celebrates Ruskin Bond’s writing with stories that are perennially loved and can now be enjoyed in a single collectible volume. Curated and selected by India’s most loved writer, this collection brings some of the evocative episodes from Ruskin’s life, iconic Rusty, eccentric Uncle Ken, ubiquitous grandmother, and many other charming, endearing characters in a single volume while also introducing us to a smattering of new ones that are sure to be firm favourites with young readers.

 

Ninja Nani and the Freaky Food Festival

Lavanya Karthik

Front cover of Ninja Nani and the Freaky Food Festival
Ninja Nani and the Freaky Food Festival || Lavanya Karthik

Ages: 10 to 14 years

It’s time for the annual festival and a special guest is expected to arrive in Gadbadnagar, but has a certain President gone too far? Has Nani finally met her match in the meanest, scariest and awfullest demon ever to crawl out of the Dark Forest? Will the Mayor’s mustache ever run for office?

Wait, there’s more!

Fake Mystery Heroes! Haunted falooda! Giant dogs–

And what’s that again about goats? You’re going to have to read it for yourself. 

 

Mirror, Mirror

Andaleeb Wajid

Front cover of Mirror, Mirror
Mirror, Mirror || Andaleeb Wajid

Ages: 10 to 14 years

Five years earlier, a friend’s nasty comment makes Ananya start hating her body. She decides to change into a new person-one who effortlessly fits into all kinds of clothes, who shuns food unless it’s salad, and who can never be called ‘Miss Piggy’-and to cut everything from her ‘old’ life, including her best friend, Raghu, for being the witness to her humiliation.

Ananya is on her way to becoming the Ananya of her dreams, but she’s still a work in progress.

One day, her parents announce that they’re expecting a baby (at their age!). To make matters worse, Raghu reappears in her life …

Andaleeb Wajid’s latest novel for young adults is a touching and funny story about a young girl’s journey to acceptance and self-love.

 

What’s the Big Secret?

Sonali Shenoy

Front cover of What's the Big Secret?
What’s the Big Secret? || Sonali Shenoy, Annushka Hardikar (Illustrator)

Ages: 9+ years

Eleven-year-old Aditya really wants to know about periods.

Ever since Rhea Didi began getting brown paper packages, there’s been something that no one is telling him. Mama turns red, Pa chokes on his coffee and Dadi has steam coming out of her ears! Thank goodness for his friends Naveen and Vinay-whom he can talk to.

But when Vinay brings an odd-looking napkin to school that soaks ink, Aditya is even more confused. Doesn’t his sister use a microtip pen?

All of this is only making little Aditya more determined to find out What is going on!

 

Dark Tales

Venita Coehlo

Front cover of Dark Tales
Dark Tales || Venita Coehlo

Ages: 9+ years

In this collection of eleven very dark and twisted tales, Venita Coelho lays bare the underbelly of contemporary India. Get ready to gasp and cringe in horror as you have the rug pulled out from under you! This is a book you won’t want to read after dark.

 

And That is Why

L. Somi Roy

And That is Why || L. Somi Roy, Sapha Yumnam (Illustrator)

Ages: 8+ years

Dear Reader, do you know
· why the deer does not eat rice?
· why man gets wrinkles and a stoop?
· why the cat buries its poop?
· why a doll is worshipped in a village called Kakching?

Discover twelve magical tales from Manipur, the mountain land in the north-east of India on the border with Myanmar. Passed down by learned scholars, balladeers and grandmothers over hundreds of years, these unknown myths and fables are enriched with beautifully rich paintings that will transport you to Manipur!

 **

 

 

 

 

 

The queen of Jhansi lashes out at the British

The rani embraced Damodar at the gates of the palace, with the British officers and soldiers looking on.

Then she turned to face Major Ellis. Her expression was grim, almost forbidding.

‘May I know the reason for your visit, Major Ellis?’ Her tone was casual, but her eyes were stormy.

Major Ellis bowed, feeling unusually nervous. ‘I bring a message from Lord Dalhousie, Your Majesty.’

‘Follow me, then.’ The rani strode into the palace and the soldiers hurried to keep pace with her.

In the main audience chamber, she seated herself on the throne and gestured to Major Ellis to speak.

The major cleared his throat several times before he felt able to utter a word. But speak he did because he had to. ‘Your adopted son, Damodar Rao’s right to rule has been rejected. So, by the Doctrine of Lapse, this kingdom now belongs to the British.’

‘Main apni Jhansi nahi doongi!’

The queen’s voice rang out, firm and true. It echoed all around the royal audience chamber and even along the corridors beyond. The Jhansi officers and guards who heard it sprang to attention and stiffened their backs with pride, almost without realizing it.

‘What did she say?’ the British officer behind Major Ellis muttered to his companion.

The other officer, who understood Hindustani well, translated quickly: ‘She said, I will not yield my Jhansi.’

Major Ellis was clearly uncomfortable, more so when Rani Lakshmibai turned her gaze on him. He had never seen the young queen look so angry. Her face was flushed, her eyes glittered with rage and her fists, partly hidden by her pearl bracelets, were clenched so tightly in her lap that her knuckles shone white.

She sat, proud and erect, on her throne, silently demanding a response from him. He turned his eyes away, unable to justify the decision made by the British.

Front cover of Queen of Fire
Queen of Fire || Devika Rangachari

 

She went on, her fury unabated. ‘Is this how the British repay loyalty? Generations of Jhansi rulers have supported them—have supported every step they have taken in this country, whatever our private feelings on the matter. So tell me, Major Ellis, what have we got for our pains?’

‘Your Majesty,’ he replied, his voice low so that those around had to strain to hear it. ‘I am a friend of Jhansi and a true supporter of your cause. But my hands are tied. I have no other option than to follow the orders of my superiors.’

‘You witnessed the adoption ceremony!’ she lashed out. ‘And you carried the news of it to your superiors. If they now doubt its validity, then it is clear that they don’t trust their own people. Don’t trust you. Yet you bend to their will and follow their unjust orders?’

Her words rankled but he had to answer. ‘I am sorry, Your Majesty,’ he said steadily, ‘but the British will now take over the governance of Jhansi. You will receive a monthly pension and may stay on here at the palace. I need to lock up the treasury and the military stores. Your money and weapons belong to the British from here on. All your soldiers will be dismissed, except a few that may remain for your personal safety.’

All eyes were on the queen; it was as if the very chamber was holding its breath. Sounds drifted in from the soldiers amassed outside the building—the murmur of voices, the clearing of throats, the shifting of feet—harmless in themselves, but indicative of the British military might mere steps away. It gave the rani no option but to obey.

To Major Ellis, the rani’s silence was more ominous than her words.

Her face was white and her hands trembled slightly as she signalled to her elderly prime minister, Dewan Rao Bande, to hand over the keys to Major Ellis.

This was a terrible blow, indeed. The British had been sniffing around various kingdoms, hoping to pounce at the first sign of weakness, which is why it had been so crucial to adopt Damodar and have it ratified. And all had seemed to be well for a while. Now her anger was directed equally at the British and herself. How could she have let her guard down and been so complacent! She should have known that the British would not give up so easily. Yet anger would not get her anywhere, she quickly realized. She would have to think fast and on her feet. She would not give up, she vowed to herself. Somehow, she would get her throne back and ensure Damodar’s succession.

Right now, Jhansi was like an ant before an elephant. But ants could bite and she would make sure this one bit hard . . .

 

Meet the king and queen of Ullas!

Have you wondered how the onion got so many layers? The story begins with the king and queen of the kingdom of Ullas, who really wanted a child.

Have a peek below!

 

**

 

The kingdom of Ullas was very prosperous. The subjects were happy, the farmers had grown a bumper crop and the kingdom was surrounded by friendly allies. But the king and queen of Ullas were very sad. Their sadness seemed to envelop them wherever they went. This was because they really longed for a child and did not have one.

 

 

One day, they learnt of a place in the forests in the kingdom where, if you prayed hard and well, you were granted your wish.

They went there and for many days, prayed to the goddess of the forest for a long time. Finally, their prayers were heard and the goddess appeared before them in a flash of green light.

 

 

‘What do you wish for, my dear children?’ she asked.

The king and queen, overjoyed, bowed low and said, ‘We wish to have a child.’

‘So be it, you will soon have a little girl,’ said the goddess, shimmering in the greenery. ‘But remember, though she will be a loving child, she will have one flaw: She will love new clothes too much and it will make life difficult for you. Do you still want such a child?’

 

How the Onion Got its Layers || Sudha Murty

 

 

The king and queen looked at each other with their eyes full of hope and love. ‘Yes, we do,’ they said to the goddess. ‘We can’t think of anything else we want more in this world.’

The goddess smiled and vanished back among the trees.

 

 

 

 

**

 

What will happen now? Will the king and queen be happy? And how will this lead to the onion’s many layers?

Your favourite storyteller, Sudha Murty, is back to tell you all this and more!

Remembering some words from India’s most loved storyteller

We recently celebrated our most loved storyteller, Ruskin Bond’s 86th birthday. And as much fun as we had rediscovering his stories and hearing his words again – we can never really get enough of his stories.

As we continue to flip through his words, we decided to do a our own little round-up of some of his most powerful words and quotes that have stayed with us through the years.

 

On Unequal Struggles

 

On Human Truths and Sentiments

On Sadness and Fleeting Happiness

 

On Discomfort and Struggles

 

On Dreams and Reality

 

On Friendships 

 

On Battles of Life

 

On Making Your Own Music

 

On Childhood and Adulthood

 

On Focusing and Spending on the Right Things

 


 

Whether writing for adults or for his young audience, Mr. Bond’s words have always had a resounding effect on us, no matter how many times we revisit his stories. Which of his stories are closest to your heart? Share with us in the comments below!

Meanwhile, you can join us in celebrating his work and life at our Kindle Store!

 

The Roald Dahl Reading Challenge

Author Kate DiCamillo said, “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” Which book or author would make the perfect gift of reading for a child? One name popular across generations is Roald Dahl.
Roald Dahl is a favorite among children and grown-ups alike, thanks to the fun adventures he takes us on! From books for 4 year olds to 13 year olds, all children are bound to love him! His loving characters and creative words are sure to keep your child (and even you) hooked!
Depending on their age, these are the books by Roald Dahl you should pick up for your little ones, and give them a fun challenge to read them all!

4-7 Years: 

Opposites

Busy little hands can lift the flaps to discover the opposites with iconic illustrations of Dahl’s much loved characters from the one and only, Quentin Blake.
123

With beautiful, bright, colourful illustrations from Quentin Blake, plus a lift the flap surprise at the end, this is the perfect first baby book for all budding Dahl fans.
Billy and the Minpins 

Billy’s mum says he must never go out through the garden gate and explore the dark forest beyond. So, one day, that’s exactly what he does! There he meets the Minpins, tiny tree-dwelling people whose children are the size of matchsticks. They live in fear of the terrible, galloping GRUNCHER. Will it gobble Billy too – or can he find a way to defeat the hungry beast?
 
8-10 years:
James and the Giant Peach

James is  very lonely until one day something peculiar happens. At the end of the garden a peach starts to grow and GROW AND GROW. Inside that peach are seven very unusual insects – all waiting to take James on a magical adventure. But where will they go in their Giant Peach and what will happen to the horrible aunts if they stand in their way? There’s only one way to find out . . .
The Twits

With filthy hair all over his face and horrid plots growing in his mind, Mr Twit is one of the nastiest people you’ll ever meet and Mrs Twit is just as bad and even uglier! But they don’t stop at tricking each other: neighbouring children and even the local birds are in danger, and that’s where the Muggle-Wumps come in. This family of monkeys has had enough of the Twits’ tricks and, with the help of the handsome Roly-Poly Bird, they decide it’s time for sweet revenge…
The Witches

The Grand High Witch of all the World has gathered together the witches of England for an annual conference at the Hotel Magnificent in Bournemouth. Their agenda is the elimination of all the children in the country and the prospects for their young victims look bleak. But the Grand High Witch and her cronies have reckoned without the spark and ingenuity of a young guest at the hotel and his rather brilliant grandmother…
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

WHOOSH! Inside the Great Glass Elevator, Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket and his family are cruising a thousand feet above the chocolate factory.
They can see the whole world below them, but they’re not alone. The American Space Hotel has just launched. Lurking inside are the Vernicious Knids – the most brutal, vindictive murderous beasts in the universe.
So grab your gizzard! Hold your hats! Only Charlie and Willy Wonka can stop the Knids from destroying everything!
 

10-13 years:

Boy; Tales of Childhood

As a boy, all sorts of unusual things happened to Roald Dahl. Boy, Roald Dahl’s bestselling autobiography, is full of hilarious anecdotes about his childhood and school days, illustrated by Quentin Blake.
Going Solo

In 1938 Roald Dahl was fresh out of school and bound for his first job in Africa, hoping to find adventure far from home. However, he got far more excitement than he bargained for when the outbreak of the Second World War led him to join the RAF.

The Three Ghosts your Child will Love!

The Curious Case of the Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop by Nandini Nayar is a spooky story packed with curious characters, a hilarious hero and a super-fun plot. While reading this book, your child will be in for a double treat- witnessing witty family relations and discovering the magical world of sweets!
Most ghosts are super scary but here are 3 ghosts your child will absolutely love:
Bhagwandas Mithaiwala
Plump man with hair cut short, Bhagwandas was dressed in a full sleeved shirt in his portrait. While looking at the portrait, this was a man, Laddoo thought, who probably enjoyed eating the sweets he made and sold. The post-master and Bhagwandas were best friends. The postmaster remembered Bhagwandas as a cheerful man, with cheeks like his famous gulab jamuns and a voice as thick and caramelly as the best sugar syrup!
Ramcharandas Mithaiwala
Vishnu’s grandfather, Ramcharandas was a serious looking man. A man with curly grey hair, that clustered around his head, he had a droopy moustache over his lips and looked serious. He was famous for being incredibly suspicious! He was convinced that people were trying to steal his recipes. So he built the sweetshop— without a single window. He wanted to make sure that not even a whiff of the fragrance of the sweets could escape the room.
 Girijakumar Mithaiwala
Vishnu’s great-grandfather was a thin man with a melancholy expression on his face. He was the one who set up the sweet shop. He built his house and the sweetshop under it because he believed that no sweet maker should live far away from his shop.
 

Discover India: Four things your little ones should know about Odisha

Mishki and Pushka have never seen a place as amazing as Earth. They are here from their home planet, Zoomba! Join them as they travel across India with Daadu Dolma, the sweet old man they meet.
Mishi is in a hurry to visit the next state. “Where are we going this time?” she asks Daadu Dolma, jumping up and down. Daadu tells her that the three of them are off to visit a beautiful state that is historical and very interesting and also has yummy food. They’re on their way to Odisha!
Here are four things they learn there.

That must mean there were dinosaurs and other pre-historic beasts roaming this region at one time. But rocks are not all it has. There are ridges and plateaus that have been created by soil from rivers and sand blown in by the wind.

It even supports many fishermen, who make their living through this lake.

A tribe called the Juangs have the most organized system. In the centre of this community’s village is the largest hut. It has walls on three sides and is open in the front. The walls are decorated with patterns.

There are Pattachitra artists and pipli art. Weaving is popular here and they have names like khandua, saktapda, bomkai and tarabali. Kansaris are the artists who create wonderful brass pieces.

Discover India: Four Things your little ones should know about Andhra Pradesh

Mishki and Pushka’s home planet, Zoomba is nothing like Earth, except that the people look the same! As they travel across India with their new friend, Daadu Dolma, they are awestruck by the magnificence of India.
Upon spending the entire night reading about Andhra Pradesh, Pushka says, ‘Daadu, I am really curious about this state. It seems to have a rich history—but is very modern too.’
The siblings are keen to visit and so, much to their delight, Daadu Dolma takes them to the beautiful state. Here are four things they learn about Andhra Pradesh.

This made the state a little smaller, but it still has a lot of lovely neighbours. It is surrounded by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and, of course, Telangana. On its eastern side, it has a long coastline, where the waters of the Bay of Bengal lap its shores.
 

There are many rivers that rush down the mountains and into the Bay of Bengal, watering the plains along the way. These rivers create deltas and make this area simply perfect for farmers.

Thanks to this, even the otherwise dry plateau is able to sustain agriculture.

Historically, because the Nizams ruled here for so long, Urdu is very much a part of the local language.
 

Discover India: Four Things your little ones should know about Haryana

Daadu Dolma, the sweet old man that Mishki and Pushka meet on their visit to Earth from their home planet Zoomba is keen to show them the wonderful places in India.
Mishki and Pushka are very curious because they don’t know much about the state they are about to visit. “Well, you could say that Haryana is where a lot of India’s history was born. Some of the greatest events in Indian history occurred here,” explains Daadu.
Here are four things they learn about Haryana.