Title : Living Next Door to Alise
Author : Anita Nair
Publisher : Puffin India
ISBN : 0-14-333018-7
Siddharth is a nine-year old boy who prefers reading a book in his room to running around in the park or climbing trees - the activities which his parents consider are done by normal boys of his age and not being afraid of red ants is definitely one of them.
One day after having a long argument with Siddharth, the 'parental unit'(Siddharth's ingenious way of referring his parents to) sent him out in the garden in order to make him behave like a regular boy. While he was sitting at the far edge of the garden under a tree wondering why his parents want him to undo the evolution human beings have achieved in descending down from climbing the trees to the ground, he heard somebody speak to him in a soft voice. When he looked around, he was shocked to see a baby elephant talking to him. She introduced herself as Aishwarya but made it very clear that she likes to be called Alise instead. Siddharth and Alise found a friend in each other. And it turned out that Alise is extremely intelligent, well-read and has excellent vocabulary.
Together the two friends undertook many adventures. Once Alise wanted to go to school wearing the same patterned cloth as was Siddharth's school uniform and requested Siddharth to tie one bow around her bristles - 'Make a nice big bow. I am rather particular about bows'. After creating a lot of commotion in the school in a single day, Alise decided that school was a waste of time and that she was better off teaching herself from her books. On another occasion Siddharth wanted to take Alise along with him to a party in the neighbourhood and Alise got tempted by all the mountains of ladoos and jangeries, vadas and idlis. And in no time these same beautiful mountains vanished and in Alise's words, she felt 'replete'. But Alise is not just a fun loving elephant, she is brave and very compassionate too. The two friends resolve to work together against the Bearded Bandit who was terrorizing the elephants in the vicinity and how they accomplish their objective is an interesting read.
We enjoyed reading this book thoroughly and many times were laughing out loud especially where Alise displays her adroitness at picking and using new words and her suggestions to Siddharth such as 'you should add this word to your vocabulary, you know…' Anita Nair is definitely among those authors who excel in expressing the inner feelings and emotions of a person beautifully. She has clearly written a fun book full of adventures and thrills and has not tried to unnecessarily load it with education part anywhere. The conversations between Siddharth and his parents look very genuine and candid with some shades of irreverence for the parents and his disagreeing inner voice is also divulged in the narrative.