Friday, May 30, 2014

Book Review : Wonder - When and Why the World Appears Radiant

Title : Wonder - When and Why the World Appears Radiant
Author : Paul R. Fleischman
Publisher : Small Batch Books
ISBN : 978-1-937650-23-0

Fleischman is a well known name in scholarly circles and has penned various books and articles in numerous journals. His latest book 'Wonder : When and Why the World Appears Radiant' is a wonderful attempt to highlight the awesomeness of everything in this universe. He explains why and how we should view everything that is within ourselves and around us, with wonder. To support his explanation Dr. Fleischman brings in various diverse perspectives ranging from the fields - scientific, spiritual, philosophical to literary. From a tiny electron to the vast universe, the awesomeness of the discipline with which things happens is just beyond comprehension. Through Wonder, the author takes the readers on a guided adventurous journey to make them aware of things and phenomena that take place in the world and how innumerable constituent components function. What Dr. Fleischman has come up in the form of Wonder is an example of a piece which has extensive range as well as substantial depth enriched by study of various fields.
There is extensive compilation of scientific observations and surveys; religious and spiritual inferences; and quotes from literary classics like that of Tagore, Whitman, Asimov, Neruda and many more.  Concepts of time, space, energy and matter are explained through the research findings of scientists along with the life and mind of human is amply explored. It is commendable how author so seamlessly builds a coherent speech which takes ingredients from as diverse areas as one could think of.

Dr. Fleischman talks how wonder comes so naturally to children and quotes 'Fear is for adults who are ignorant and wonder-challenged.' He designates individuals like Einstein as the poster-boys of wonder and conveys that it is when wonder stops, that development and progress stop too. There are in all eighty chapters categorised under seven sections, each chapter is very short length wise. The language is profound and matches the quality of the content well.

That this piece of writing is a well researched piece is an understatement. It is quite evident from the scientists, philosophers, authors, academicians, skeptics and believers that have been quoted in this book that Dr. Fleischman must have gone through a huge array of information to come out with Wonder, which is an essence of all. This scholarly written book is packed with very enlightening information, however, it is not an easy or fast read, rather it is a tedious read if one wants to finish it off in designated number of days. Best way to read this book is to pick a couple of chapters at a time, spend time assimilating the power packed information before moving on to the next chapter. Readers must be cautioned beforehand that the narrative is not smooth as is expected from the kind of content this book offers.  It is full of quotes by well known scientists, astronomers, philosophers, writers and many more and often times the scientific observations are interspersed with psychological or philosophical deductions.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Book Review : The Bicycle

Title : The Bicycle
Author : Paavannan
Illustrated by : Ayush Rajvanshi and Mohit Srivastava
Publisher : Katha
ISBN : 978-93-82454-20-5

'The Bicycle' is a story of a young man and a little boy who share a common passion - to cycle to distant places. As the story opens, the narrator (the young man) looks at the scooter parked in front of his house and recalls the time when a bicycle used to stand there instead. The bicycle, which was his prized possession, his key to enjoy freedom of the world, away from the drudgery of routine work. He wanted to ride his new bicycle to far away places. To satisfy this urge of his, he once planned a long trip from Mangalore via Hassan. He experienced the thrill of becoming a part of the nature as he rode for more than 200 km in all kinds of terrains. He savoured his uplifted sprits as he made the best of every moment of the decision of following his dream. This powerful life lesson of listening to one's heart is brought out in the most subtle manner here.

Through the forests and across the hills he kept riding till his bicycle got punctured. He had to stop in the middle of nowhere but he found a lively and cheerful little boy who invited him to take some rest at his humble abode. They both shared their dreams with each other to ride to distant places. The little boy opened up his heart which had deep longing to possess a bicycle of his own.

But will the little boy ever get his own bicycle? Will he ever be able to live his dream as the narrator could?

In the end, the narrator does something extraordinary which extends his exhilaration further. The readers would love to read how the story ends. Though a very short story barely covering 18 pages, it is power packed in more ways than one. A true example of how sometimes good things come in small capsules.  It brings out another important learning that when you work towards realising your dreams, you develop a sensitivity to value dreams of others too. Then you would want to do your bit in helping others realise their dreams as well.

Read this tender little story of a unique friendship which, though developed within a few hours yet made an indelible mark on each other.

Books like these reinforce my belief in Katha publishers that they are doing a wonderful job in creating quality literature for young readers. Moreover, these delightful books make my job as a reviewer much more pleasurable. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review : The Case of the Runaway Continents

Title : The Case of the Runaway Continents
Author : Geeta Dharmarajan
Illustrator : Joyita Banerjee
Publisher : Katha
ISBN : 978-93-82454-15-1

An information packed book 'The Case of the Runaway Continents' is a new offering of Katha books. It is about the changes that our Earth is undergoing unrelentingly, every single moment and how it reached to the state where we see it now. It tries to explain the reason behind some of the observed facts in the nature and on our earth.

Coral Reefs which are found mostly in the Southern hemisphere have their remains in Northern hemisphere as well. Some of the animals that are found in South America and in Africa share common ancestors. Rock samples taken from different coastlines are found to belong to the same original rock. What connect these things together which physically appear to be so far away from each other? The questions like these have intrigued geologists and historians for ages. After understanding the trend that the surface of our earth shows, scientists have come up with the logical explanation that initially all the continents formed a single big landmass. With time this large land mass broke off giving rise to different continents which drifted apart from each other.

It is understood that Earth's continental crust is constantly under change and it follows a cyclical timeline which is called the supercontinent cycle. Though a cycle takes 350 to 500 million years to complete, the continents are continuously in the process of merging or breaking up.

The author discusses many other concepts related to our planet Earth and its surface, ranging from tectnoic plates, how they float on the molten magma, what causes earthquakes, how some of the mountains are formed, what are trenches, how is the ocean floor increasing, is Earth growing in size to accommodate new land formations, the ring of fire and much more. It is interesting to read how India got detached from one landmass and merged with another and how Himalayas got formed due to this collision.

'The Case of the Runaway Continents' is a comprehensive introduction to our planet Earth, its surface, hot secrets buried in its womb and the perpetual process of change that Earth keeps experiencing. There is a high chance that readers would get motivated to read more on these concepts which are  briefly touched in the book. The first impression that one gets from the cover page of the book is that this book should be for young readers, however, some of the concepts are a little complex for that age group. The book is appropriate for readers of age 11+ years. At a few places, the illustrations and text show some disconnect. A couple of images are too detailed which are not backed by equally detailed description.  
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