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Book Watch
In the land of magic

There’s something about Switcheroos. It reminds you of Aesop’s Fables. There are animals that talk and every tale has a moral. You have Rinzin, a “friendly, green dragon with orange spots”, Yamini, the talkative owl, Raoul, the wise little rabbit, and others. In every new story — the book is a collection of eight short stories — you are introduced to one new character who leads you to the next. So, by the time you’ve read the whole book you are acquainted with every animal in the forest.

The book revolves around a magical forest called Markiposa. It has a Valley of Echoes, a ‘KaleidoStrobe’, which is a locator device that allows one lost animal to communicate with another, and more.

Every animal living in Markiposa has a story to tell. Apart from the fire-spewing, vegetarian dragon Rinzin, there’s the lion prince, who has recently begun mewing instead of roaring. His roar, you see, has got lost in the Valley of Echoes. You’ll have to read the book, if you want to know what that is. There’s also the “grandfather python King”, whose wisdom is much sought after.

But Markiposa has been affected by strange problems of late. The monkeys of the forest have given up on “monkey business,” and are instead concentrating on “banana prices and coconut stocks and shares.” The leader of the elephant herd does not have her elephant’s memory anymore because it’s crammed with too many incidents. The Wolf Club is turning vegetarian, so is the lion and the cheetah, thanks to a magic potion which turns off an animal’s appetite for meat.

Do you think that’s too many problems for one little forest? But wait, you haven’t heard the part about the unicorn yet. That’s right, there’s one of them too. And he has lost his way. And did I tell you about the vanishing bear? Well, he started vanishing after tasting honey that was bitter! There’s more, but if I were to give it all away, then the residents of Markiposa would be a truly embittered lot. So, if you ask me, you should pay them a visit and find out what’s happening between the green canopies and the thick forest cover, right near Lone Hill (that’s where the unicorn is). You can’t miss it.

Swati Chanda’s first children’s book, makes for a good read but one wishes Ajanta Guhathakurta’s illustrations were in colour. That would have been more welcome than the sketches that seem to accompany most books for children.

topsy-turvy mysteries of markiposa!
By swati chanda
puffin books, rs 195

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