Young Reviewer Contest for Children Runner-Up Review-The Racketeer

The Racketeer by John Grisham – Winner for the Young Reviewer Contest for Children

Published in October of 2012, The Racketeer was one of the best-selling books of that year. It was written by John Grisham who is best known for his popular legal thrillers.

The Racketeer is my first John Grisham novel and I choose to review this book because I have always been a fan of the genre crime fiction and one day plan to be a lawyer, John Grisham seemed like a good choice because he brought them both together. The Racketeer is said to be one of his best books.

The story is about a 43 year old small town lawyer Malcolm Bannister who is serving a ten-year sentence in prison. Everyone including his father and ex-wife believe he is guilty but he claims to have been set up by the FBI as the fall guy because he handled land deals for an anonymous client who was caught laundering money. Malcolm insists that he was an innocent bystander who got caught up in this scheme and was wrongfully implicated and imprisoned. He loses all hope of being released, up until the time a Judge named Raymond Fawcett is murdered.

The FBI is tasked with investigating the murder but find themselves confounded and have no leads. Due to pressure from the media and government to apprehend the murderer they decide to hear Malcolm out who claims to know who killed the Federal judge and why. He proceeds to use this as his ticket to freedom and to get back at the FBI for putting him in jail in the first place. The rest of the book is about how Malcolm embarks on a journey of revenge.

I enjoyed the book because of the various plot twists that get thrown your way. Towards the end, the book takes an unexpected turn and surprises you which makes the middle of the book much more bearable. Had you asked me if I liked the book halfway in, I would have said no, mainly because unlike other books of its kind, here the killer is revealed midway and it leaves you wondering what the rest of the book is about. However, as the story progresses you understand that murder is not the central theme of the book and there are many ulterior motives and hidden agendas.

Another reason I enjoyed the book was because the details you consider insignificant, actually play an important role in developing the story. Connections between characters that initially slip your mind come alive later in the book.

As far as characters go, Malcolm Bannister is the lead and the whole story is narrated from his point of view. Initially you feel sympathetic towards him for being wrongfully convicted and think of him as a simple, sincere man who ended up behind bars due to his bad luck. As the story advances you realise there is more to him than meets the eye. You realise he is clever, disingenuous and deceitful. But in spite of all this you end up rooting for him.

Other characters in the book are just incidental to the story and are mere contributors Malcolm’s role. I say this because supporting characters like Malcolm’s girlfriend and partner in crime, quite literally have no distinct personalities.

The book is a roller-coaster of various scenarios and thoughts. The first half of the book you read with interest. The second half with confusion as to where the story is going and how the current plot is relevant to the story and the final half with amazement as to how trivial facts at the beginning of the book leave you astonished. I think this is what makes John Grisham the celebrated author that he is.

About the Reviewer: Aanchal Megan is a bubbling 14 year old studying in Vyasa International School, Bangalore. An avid reader, Aanchal also loves baking and art. When she isn’t sketching or reading, she loves spending time with her lazy hamster Chase.

Young Reviewer Contest for Children Runner-Up Review-The Little Prince

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – Runner-Up for the Young Reviewer Contest for Children

My 12-year-old mind often wages a silent war against scores of questions that relentlessly keep knocking on my heart. All the more now, when India is in the throes of a migrant exigency, infamously hailed as one of the nation’s biggest humanitarian crises. The magnitude of the migrants’ plight has been such that sometimes I have felt my heart cave in. Why does social inequality exist, why are the migrants undertaking the arduous journey of getting back to their roots even at the cost of their lives? The adults around me had no real answers. I was left wondering if children and their inquiries are burdensome for adults or if they fail to recollect that similar capricious ideas had once confounded them?

I found the answers where I was least expecting them to be – French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s memoir, ‘The Little Prince’, penned way back in 1943 during World War 2. The times then must have been as uncertain and bleak as now. Perhaps that is what makes it a timeless tale.

Interestingly, the book also tells us that grown-ups can certainly be strange! Right at the onset, the author implies that grown-ups fail to see the true meaning; they look at the surface and forget to probe further.

It begins when a technical snag forces an aviator to be marooned on the barren Sahara sands. To his astonishment, he meets a wee little boy. No one ordinary but the prince of another planet! The narrative unfolds as the little prince shares several encounters he has had over the course of his interplanetary journey – meeting a king who yearns for discipline but has no subjects; a conceited individual who seeks nothing but flattery; a drunkard who drinks to forget how ashamed he is of drinking; a businessman obsessed with meaningless numbers et al.

Their newfangled conduct both amuses and perturbs the little prince but what depresses him most is a rose garden. It reminds him of the enchanting, coquettish flower on his planet who had endlessly tormented him with her “demanding vanity” while claiming to be unique. Simultaneously vain and naïve, she confesses her love for the prince too late to persuade him to abandon his travel plans. Throughout the story, she occupies the prince’s thoughts. He then meets a fox who teaches him that “one can only see clearly with the heart, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” He asks him to look at the rose garden again. For, this time he will witness something new. He tells, “an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you….But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered;…because it is she that I have listened to when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.” It is immensely gratifying to view how the prince “learns to love” as he realizes what makes the rose unique is not her physical appearance but what they have together. Perhaps the book conveys that we may detest several things in life but we must learn to love them.

In my opinion, the sole purpose of the narrative is to represent the various stages of human life. It acts as an allegory. Each word signifies something, carries power and meaning. One must pause to probe what the author endeavored to convey indirectly. For instance, in one of the intriguing statements, he says, “What makes the desert beautiful is that it might contain a well.” The way I perceive it, the author attempted to show that happiness can never be bereft of pain.

The book is remarkably poetic, every page like a verse, captivating the reader to observe bits that they would have otherwise missed. The ending albeit is slightly abrupt. The prince, yearning to return home, is bitten by a snake. He falls and his body vanishes —whether in death or on his way home we will never know. The prince and the narrator return to their respective planets, muddled in ambivalent feelings – wondering, loving, reminiscing.

The book is indisputably a page-turner. What makes the book unique is the fact that it offers innumerable perspectives. Each reader may view it contrastingly and perhaps the same reader may have a completely different take-away on re-reading the book. The least it does is bring out the child in each one of us and teach us the art of believing.

About the Reviewer: Asmi Ghosh is 12, was born in the US, but feels more at home in Hyderabad . Thanks to her mother, she started reading and writing while still in her diapers – and considers Agatha Christie, Newberry and Satyajit Ray amongst her favorites. Outside of reading and trying her hand at occasional writing, she loves sports, music, and Netflix, though not necessarily in that order.

The Hourglass – Winner for the StoryBaaz Kids Story Writing Contest

It was the middle of a typical, London evening, with an incessant, monotonous, drizzle. The river Thames seemed quiet as ever, the weightless but unusually evocative drizzle pattering upon its calm waters. Yet, something in the cold mist aroused suspicions. There was something invisibly filthy and disgraceful in the air, and Matthew Johnson could sense it. It was not unexpected when Cornelia came up to say something to Matthew, who was staring out of the huge arched window with sinister looking, yet seemingly nonchalant eyes.

“He’s dead.” Those were the dreaded yet expected words that came out of Cornelia’s mouth, her face also looking expectant. Matthew did not need any further explanation. He knew who the dead man was. A very respectable noble in their neighbourhood, Andrew Rivers was capable of espionage and had returned unscathed from The First World War, while bringing tonnes of war prisoners to Scotland Yard.

The Triple Alliance were thirsty for revenge, and they had caused trouble in the area hereafter, causing unexpected attacks for over a month on totally innocent citizens. The ones who had fought in the War faced a dangerous threat, and thus they were advised to stay back home, with their houses being guarded by police personnel. After Matthew’s father was shot dead in a bloody battle, yet another death was too much for the neighbourhood. This time, though, it was a case that brought shock and uncertainty all over the city. It was a murder. Andrew Rivers had been shot.

“I knew it,” said Matthew with an all-knowing air in his voice. He looked at his sister, Cornelia, and sighed.

“Should we, Matt?” she asked anxiously. Matthew realised that she was talking about the hourglass.

“Why not?” replied Matthew. They had a plan: They would change the past and would save Andrew Rivers.

Cornelia went to the attic to fetch the hourglass. She opened the safe and carefully picked up the hourglass and brought it downstairs to Matthew. Together they held it up high in the air and saw the grains of iron fillings going upwards, causing a tremendous, gravity-defying force. They felt the glass shake in their hands and their surrounding became so turbulent that the Johnsons were pushed to the ground. They had landed at the Rivers’ cellar. Silence had fallen. A shadow moved above them. They followed it. Upon reaching the top, the shadow turned into a man and a gun took shape in his hand. Before they could stop him, a shot came whizzing past Matthew and hit Cornelia in the chest, and she fell into a lifeless heap on the ground. Outraged, Matthew went for his own shot. The battle of bullets had begun and would only end when one had fallen.

The next time Cornelia opened her eyelids, she was in a hospital. She recalled the agonising shot that had struck her. She thought she was useless. She was on the verge of losing hope, but Matthew’s smile stopped her.


About the Writer: Aranya Tanvir G, aged 10 and a half, was born in Bombay and absolutely loves trains because for him they are extremely majestic. He would rather hitch a train ride than play football. His mother is Bengali and father, Marwari, but most of the time, he considers himself a Hyderabadi, because he has lived the longest in Hyderabad. Books are his all-time favourite and he digs Agatha Christie and  JK Rowling. He also plays guitar, keyboard and is often tempted to explore Minecraft.



Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay

Land of Fairies – 1st Runner-Up for the StoryBaaz Kids Story Writing Contest

Once there was a girl called Amber. She was clever, smart, and brave. She believed in fairies and always dreamt of meeting one, until that’s exactly what happened! She was asleep and dreaming that a fairy came to live with her when she got the feeling that someone was watching her. She woke up. When she turned to see who it was, she saw a blue-green mist. Then the mist took shape and became a fairy. The fairy said, “Hello, my name is Misty, and I have come to fetch help”. Amber couldn’t believe that she was meeting a real fairy.

“Hi, my name is Amber”, she said. Misty said, “my friend Long-hair stole my magic wand, which has all my powers. Now I will take you to my land with little of the powers that I have left; and when you get there, you must go to a wizard and get a spell which can help me get my wand back”. Amber was confused. She asked Misty, “but why have you come to me for help?”

Misty replied, “because, you are clever, smart and brave! And, you believe in fairies.” 

“Ok”, said Amber, “take me to your land and I’ll help you.” Suddenly Amber felt a tingling sensation, and the next moment, she was in the Land of Fairies. Amber followed Misty, as she led her to the wizard’s house. Amber went in. The place was a mess. Spells were scattered everywhere. The wizard sat on an armchair, with a black cat next to him. Amber spoke, “Wizard, I need a spell to help a friend get something back”. The wizard said, “Ok, but first answer a question – what is my name?” Amber thought hard, and she saw the black cat flex its arms back and forth. Amber looked at the cat and said, “Is it, Wizard Strong?”

“No”, said the wizard.
“Wizard Mighty?” Amber asked again.
“Correct!” said the wizard. “I’ll give you the spell”, exclaimed the wizard.

“Here it is!” He handed Amber a box.

She took it, thanked the wizard, winked at the black cat, and left. Misty was waiting outside the wizard’s house. Misty and Amber went to Long-hair’s house. When they got there, Long-hair was playing with Misty’s magic wand. Misty handed over the box with the spell.

Long-hair was so happy to see the spell that she apologized to Misty and returned her magic wand.

Misty said, “Thank you, Amber, this is a present for you”. Misty put a blue-green mist in Amber’s hand, which turned into a shell with a picture of Misty on it.

“Thank you”, said Amber, “…now, can you take me back home?”

“Yes, close your eyes and you’ll be back home”, said Misty. Amber closed her eyes, and the next moment she was back in her bed. She never saw Misty again, but every time she saw the shell with Misty’s picture on it, she happily remembered her adventure in the Land of Fairies.


About the Writer: Mira Sharat, aged 8 years, studies in Class 3 and lives in Bangalore. She likes to read books and listen to jokes. Her favourite authors are Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. When she is not reading, she loves to cycle and to do hula hoops. 

Cover Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay