52 Days by Camel

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52 Days by Camel is an invigorating adventure story by Lawrie Raskin with Debora Pearson. It is the story of Lawrie Raskin’s real-life trek across the Sahara to the fabled 52 Days by Camel mapcity of Timbuktu and beyond. Filled with breathtaking photographs taken by the author, 52 Days by Camel is a stunning introduction to the fascinating culture and spectacular landscapes of the Sahara Adventure. In this adventure of a lifetime, you can discover first-hand what it’s like to have a snowball fight and travel over an ocean of orange sand—all in the same day. You may catch a nasty whiff of camel’s breath and experience the sting of a desert sandstorm. And along the way, you’ll also learn the top ten uses for a turban, how to climb onto a camel, what it means to be a Muslim, why kids love traditional Moroccan meals, and much more. You can find out about all this if you read this adventure of a lifetime: 52 Days by Camel.

I created a “SAHARA ADVENTURE” travel brochure for this book, with the destinations that Raskin himself visited. So here it is:

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Journey to Jo’burg and I Am Malala

51crmzr0phl-_sx334_bo1204203200_Journey to Jo’burg is a very provocative, eloquent story by Carnegie Medal-winning author Beverley Naidoo. It is set in Johannesburg, South Africa, and a village near the Botswana border, in the time of apartheid. In this story, their mother, Mma, lives and works in Johannesburg, far from the village thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother Tiro call “home.” When their baby sister suddenly becomes very sick, Naledi and Tiro know, deep down, that only one person can save her. Bravely, alone, they set off on a journey to find Mma and bring her back. It isn’t until they reach the city that they come to understand the dangers of their country, and the painful struggle for freedom and dignity that is taking place all around them. Journey to Jo’burg also has some very inspiring and appealing themes.

One main theme of the book is courage. In the story, Naledi and her brother Tiro courageously went from their small village to Johannesburg, where their Mma lived and worked as a maid, to bring Mma home to save their sick baby sister, Dineo. Why is this courageous? First of all, Naledi, Tiro, Dineo, Nono (their granny), and Mmangwane (their aunt) lived in a small village more than 300 kilometers away from Johannesburg. They have no money, and hardly any food, and Naledi and Tiro have to walk all that long way—which would take just three hours by car/truck. Tiro is only nine years old, and Naledi is no older than thirteen. However, despite that, the children showed true bravery by still setting out to walk the long road, just for their sister, without telling the adults. And, because this is during the time of apartheid in South Africa, the decision was life-threatening. They could have been shot just for picking a few oranges along the way. At least in books, characters—especially children—showing such virtues are bound to be rewarded. After spending the night hidden in a shed at an orange farm, the children end up catching a ride with a truck driver all the way to the Johannesburg train station!

At the bus stop, they meet a new friend—Grace Mbatha. Grace helps them take the correct bus to Parktown, a suburb of Jo’burg where Mma lives and works. They have a happy reunion, Naledi, Tiro, and Mma, and then Grace takes them to her house to keep them for the night as they weren’t allowed to stay for the night with their mother. However, on the way, in the surge of the crowd, Tiro and Naledi get pulled out of the train at a wrong station! Still, the children, alone, do not panic and keep calm. Then, to make matters worse, there is a pass raid in the train station! But the children don’t panic. They find out that only blacks ages 16 and older need passes. Then, in front of their eyes, a man who was being held by the police protested “that he had left his pass at home. It would only take two minutes to get it. The police could come and see, or someone could call his child to bring it. He cried out his address, once, twice…” (Ch. 8, p. 37) He was taken away. As Naledi and Tiro, who already had big problems of their own, were allowed through to the outside world, they couldn’t help thinking about the man. So, in spite of their own problems, they showed bravery and kindness by deciding to rush to the address the man had yelled out in front of them. There, they told a boy, who immediately went inside and returned with a small book in his hand, shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, the boy’s father had already been taken away. But despite the sad outcome, it is an example of the siblings’ courage.

Another theme is how Naledi, at the end of the book, undergoes a realization. She realizes all about the world of apartheid she is living in. She had never before actually realized that in school, she was taught obedience, and how to be a servant: “All those lessons on writing letters… for jobs as servants… always writing how good they were at cooking, cleaning, washing, gardening… always ending with ‘Yours obediently.’ ” (Ch. 15, p. 72) Naledi had never thought of it before, but she was never allowed to write about wanting to be something like… a doctor. She had never dreamed of writing that before also because of just the way she had been brought up—she didn’t think about being a doctor. She just didn’t, before then. It was only after staying with Grace and her two brothers, Paul and Jonas, that she found out about apartheid, and the struggle taking place around her.
These, I believe, were two important themes in the story: Courage, and the realization of apartheid. These themes are somewhat similar to themes in another book, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. Set in Mingora, in the Swat Valley, Pakistan, I 51dvlcrs0gl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Am Malala is Malala Yousafzai’s story: When the Taliban started taking over the Swat Valley in 2007, Malala was ten. When she was near-fatally shot in the head at point-blank range, on Tuesday, October 9, 2012, she was fifteen. The Taliban are an Islamic Jihadist radical group. Many people, including Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai, spoke up against them. Most were killed by the Taliban, overtime. However, somehow, miraculously, although Ziauddin was one of the people who spoke out the most, he was never shot. Now Malala also slowly became a famous political figure, eventually winning all sorts of awards. She went almost everywhere her father went to campaign for girls’ education, which the Taliban tried to cancel, and her father certainly accompanied her everywhere she went to campaign. Although her family was half-worried for her safety, they didn’t really bother too much because she was a child, and even the Taliban didn’t shoot children! They, instead, took better care of Ziauddin. But then the unthinkable happened—Malala was shot. It was so terrible, she was not expected to survive. In fact, just two days after she was shot, her father actually told her uncle Faiz Mohammad to start preparing a funeral. But, miraculously, she survived. Her unimaginable shooting has sent her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. She has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and was the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at only age seventeen.

Malala’s life as a campaigner against the Taliban—and especially for girls’ education—has, I believe, quite a few similarities to the story of Naledi. They both used a great deal of courage to accomplish their goal, but while Naledi realized about apartheid and the struggle against it only at the end of her book, Malala knew about the Taliban since they had first arrived.

It is evident that Malala, a real person, and Naledi, a fictional character, were both courageous and brave, for sure. But who was the braver? I believe, if Naledi’s story was a nonfiction, that it was Naledi. First of all, Malala had her entire family supporting and helping her. As for Naledi—she had nobody other than Tiro, except for friends she luckily made along the way.

However, Malala and Naledi were certainly not very similar in the fact that, while Naledi underwent a realization about apartheid (which had been existing since before she was born) at age thirteen at the end of her book, Malala and her family knew about and worked against the Taliban as soon as they started to take over the valley, setting out conditions which were, to the Yousafzais, unacceptable. The only reason Naledi didn’t know about apartheid is that, while Malala’s father taught his family against it, Naledi’s Mma brought up Naledi to accept it.

Another notable subject of importance is the education that Malala was fighting for. Now the Taliban were actually not denying all education to girls, and women. In fact, they were actually encouraging women and girls to have an education—but, as they were ‘special,’ they need a ‘special’ education. And here, ‘special’ means a religious education in Madrasa, where they were taught just to do what the Taliban liked for them to do— i.e., to be obedient. Malala was fighting to get an education that stopped her from being at all ignorant. The education that the Taliban were providing was very similar to the schooling provided to Naledi. Naledi and Tiro, when staying with Grace, had been in Soweto—a black township where riots in favor of real education instead of the “rubbish” that whites allowed to be taught had taken place. Grace told Naledi about these riots. The people in these riots had wanted the same kind of education that Malala campaigned for, in place of the limited, selective “education” of the Taliban and the Afrikaner Whites.

So both girls, Naledi from Journey to Jo’burg and Malala from I Am Malala, were courageous. And they were both wanting, at least at some point in the book, a real education, not just what certain people, like the Taliban or Afrikaner Whites, wanted. However, Malala was, from the beginning, aware about the Taliban’s campaign against education and other things, while Naledi wasn’t aware about the Afrikaner Whites’ wanting Blacks to learn to be servants only because her Mma never talked about it, while Malala’s father did.

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Ali and the Golden Eagle

025636Ali and the Golden Eagle is a book by Wayne Grover, author of Dolphin Adventure  and Dolphin Treasure. I summarized this book and added pictures, so you can read some of the summary below:

Once upon a time, there lived a man in America named Wayne Grover. In 1977, he traveled to Saudi Arabia, a large country in the Middle East. He went there to teach adult Saudi Arabians how to manage airports and radar systems. Wayne expected it to be hot and dry, but he actually got to live in a compound in a cool area with mountains and canyons.

One day, he got time off from work. So, he went to a canyon to explore, because he liked to mountain climb. Wayne looked through his binoculars —and couldn’t believe what he saw! The binoculars showed a village in the floor of the canyon! Wayne was so surprised, he wanted to rappel down right then and there and investigate! But he couldn’t, because he hadn’t brought his equipment.

So it was over a week later when Wayne, with all his equipment, rappelled down into the canyon. As he reached the floor, he saw a young boy of 13. Wayne had a conversation with him in Arabic, and found out his name was Ali Zambir. His father was Mustafa, the village chief. Wayne had fun staying with Ali and Mustafa. But then it was for Wayne to return to work, and so Wayne promised to come back in less than a week. Before Wayne left, Mustafa showed him an easier way for which no equipment was necessary to get into and out of the canyon.

When he returned the next week, Wayne couldn’t believe his eyes! Ali was standing right in front of him—he had made the canyon climb all by himself! Wayne took Ali for a ride in his Land Rover. Then the two of them explored and hiked on the canyon rim. As nighttime came closer, and Wayne went down to the canyon village, called Ezratu. There, Wayne slept with Ali and Mustafa’s family.

The next day was a big day for Wayne. Mustafa and he were to have a contest of strength (wrestling match)! Wayne did not want to offend his host by beating him, but he didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of the entire village, either. In the end, Mustafa won, but he could see that Wayne was certainly strong! Then, after the match, took Wayne for a treat—the falcons! They entered the small falcon house, and each man got his falcon ready. Then, the hunt began. Soon, each falcon, after he/she was released, returned to its master with some dead animal.

Wayne wondered, “I have seen golden eagles fly in the sky here, and they are so magnificent! I wonder, could they be trained like falcons?” He decided to get one for his new friend to train!

So, when he returned a week later, Wayne and Ali went to the canyon rim—and Wayne caught a golden eagle for Ali! They returned to Ezratu two days later (they had been out on the rim, because it took time to get everything ready). Mustafa was quite surprised to see them, and even more astounded to see the golden eagle! The family asked Wayne to name it, and he named it Samson.

Mustafa was actually so happy that he decided Ali would go through the coming of age ceremony, when a boy becomes a man! Ali was only 13, and the ceremony was supposed to take place when he was 14. But Mustafa was so happy with his son that he asked for the coming-of-age ceremony to take place a year earlier because he felt that Ali was ready! Ali was very happy and proud about this. The ceremony consisted of three parts: The test for pain, the test of courage, and the test for strength. The test for pain involved Ali’s bare chest being burnt with a red-hot iron rod! The test for courage was even worse—Ali had to stroke, with his hands, the head of a poisonous cobra snake! The third test was to lift three very heavy boulders. Miraculously, Ali passed each and every test!

Wayne, Mustafa, and everyone else were overjoyed! But then it was time for Wayne to return to America, so they all said goodbye, and he promised to return as soon as possible.

It was almost a year before Wayne came back. When he did return to the village, he was pleasantly amazed to see Samson all grown up and the greatest hunter in the village! In fact, Wayne was inspired. Wayne Grover, along with his friend, one of the many princes of Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal, took Ali and Samson to an international falconry contest, where all the famous people from all the nearby countries were participating, including many of the kings! People from all over the Arabian Peninsula were there, and the winner of such an internationally acclaimed contest would be famous throughout the Middle East. And Ali was the only participant with a golden eagle—everyone else had falcons!

What would happen next in this hooking nonfiction narrative? Read the book to find out!

(Here is the link to the attachment of my complete adaptation: https://bookjournalbykabir.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/ali-and-the-golden-eagle-adaptation.pdf.)

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Seven Daughters and Seven Sons

51slt6bdbtl-_sx300_bo1204203200_ Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen with Bahija Lovejoy is a lovely retelling of a traditional Arabic tale in which a young woman named Buran is one among seven daughters in an impoverished family. Her father’s brother, on the other hand, has seven sons—and is as rich as Buran’s family is poor.  In the first part of the narrative (from Buran’s point of view), determined to do something for her family, Buran disguises herself as a man and renames herself Nasir. And Nasir, now a boy, rides the camel caravan to the city of Tyre, in modern-day Lebanon.

There, in the second part of the book, she (now he) meets the son of the Wali of Tyre, Prince Mahmud (whose point of view this section is written from). Nasir makes much money—and more than that, makes a wonderful friend, Mahmud. But when Mahmud almost realizes that Nasir is a girl, Nasir has no choice but to leave as a rich lady.

In the third part of the novel, from Buran’s point of view again, Buran becomes herself once more and goes back to her family in Baghdad. On the way, though, she stops at seven different cities—in each of which, one of her seven cousins had been sent to open outlets of Buran’s uncle’s main shop, in Baghdad. None of the cousins have been able to succesfully set up shop and keep the business going, so Buran decides to take advantage of the poor boys. She gives them either 100, 150, or even 200 gold dinars (depending from person to person), in exchange for each one tattooing the letter B for “Buran” on their heart. Then, when Buran finally returns to her family, she sees that thanks to her, her family is actually richer than her uncle! She is then told to marry her eldest cousin, so she says she will do it—but she wants that he have no mark or tattoo, no brand to show his faithfulness to anyone else. When her father goes to inspect the cousin, the cousin refuses—because he has the letter B on his chest! The uncle, who doesn’t care about who Buran marries and only wants the money, tells the father to inspect another cousin. But of course, all seven sons have B‘s on their hearts! So in this way, Buran manages to show her cousins and uncle that they’re no better than she or her family.

But Buran still longs for that good friend she had met, Prince Mahmud. Will she ever see him again? And if so, what will happen then?

 

For this hilarious and heartwarming piece, I chose to write a short story. In Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, Nasir and Prince Mahmud walk down the pier by the bay at night almost every day, and most of the time, Nasir tells Mahmud tales—tales to teach Mahmud some morals. So I have imagined one such tale here, that could be included in the actual story:

— — — — — — —

Nasir and Mahmud were walking down the pier by the bay, and, as usual, Nasir was telling a the prince a tale. He had heard this tale from the merchants in the camel caravan who had traveled far and wide. It was:

The Tale of Yasifat the Kindhearted

 Once there was a king named King Tariq with one son, named Prince Yasifat. Overtime, the prince grew—and the king finally decided it was time to see if his son were ready to be a good king. So he decided to test him. He asked his Grand Vizier if he knew of a reliable way to test his son. The Grand Vizier, in turn, asked a Jinn [Genie] to test the prince. The Jinn replied, “Your Honor, I shall certainly see if our young Prince Yasifat is fit to be the ruler of this kingdom.”

So, at dawn one day, Prince Yasifat was told by his father to go out into the world and have adventures and only return at dusk.

So the Prince set off on his horse. He went along the road for some while before he reached a wide river. As he was resting for a minute, a shepherd came out of the forest. He was clothed in a thin garb, with a hunched back and frail old cane. The shepherd said, “Alsalamu alaykum. Peace be with you, mawlana! Please, help a poor old shepherd to get across this river. My home is on the other side, and I have no way of getting back because I was hurt on my leg after I had crossed the river.” He looked very pitiful, showing a wound on his knee.

The prince knew that he would have to wade across the river if he agreed to take the shepherd with him because the horse was not big enough or strong enough to support both men; whereas, if he ignored the peasant he could ride horseback and stay dry. However, the kind-hearted prince agreed. He placed the shepherd onto his horse’s back, and waded across leading the horse.

Then the soggy prince rode on a little longer until he reached an apple tree right in the middle of the trail. The tree was so wide that it was blocking the entire pathway! There was no way for the prince to pass. However, instead of feeling angry that the apple tree had sprouted up and blocked his way, he cheerfully called out, “Peace be with you, my dear tree! How is life for you today?”

The apple tree lamented, “Oh, my prince, it is nothing, merely a quotidian thing. However, I am not sprouting any apples because of some large obstacle below my roots.”

The prince immediately jumped off his horse and knelt down before the tree. “Why didn’t you say so? I will dig it out.” With his bare hands, he dug down, spraying mud onto himself but not seeming to care. He found a heavy rock blocking the roots!

The prince removed it and placed it out of everyone’s way. The tree, in gratitude, moved aside to let the prince pass. The now wet and muddy prince then continued on his way until the path tapered out and ended near a white cottage. The prince knocked on the door, and a seemingly kindly old woman opened it. She had hideous long teeth, observed the prince. “Peace be with you,” squeaked the old lady. “Mawlana! Why have you come to my humble home?!”

The prince explained he was on an adventure. “Well, sit down, and I will prepare a meal for you, my lord!” cried the lady.

The prince did so. After a while, he decided to see what was taking her so long. He saw, much to his horror, that she was sharpening her teeth and preparing a meatless soup—because the meat, he realized, would be him! He ran away from the witch’s kitchen, but the witch heard him. She followed him as he darted away and galloped back the way he had come. The witch’s legs seemed to move extraordinarily fast as she untiringly sprinted on her own two feet towards him. The prince then reached the tree. “Save me, my friend!” he cried. “There is an old witch behind me trying to catch and eat me!”

“O, my lord, because you helped me, I will help you. You may enter the hollow inside my otherwise impenetrable trunk.” And then, much to the surprise of the prince, the tree trunk opened, allowing the prince to step inside, and then shut firmly behind him. He saw, through a crack in the bark, that the witch had looked around, then given up. He opened the tree and left, calling out, “I have more to thank you than I ever dreamed, my friend. I shall never forget you.”

Then he reached the river again where he had helped the shepherd cross. He saw with dismay that the wide water had grown high and frothy. Then, he saw the shepherd walking by again. “Mawlana! Alsalamu alaykum.” exclaimed the shepherd. “What can I do for you?”

“Oh, my shepherd, if only I could find a way to get across.”

“Oh, but mawlana, there is!” The shepherd pointed up, and, there, the prince saw a pulley and carriage above the river for people to cross in times like these!

The prince thought: I don’t remember this pulley system ever being here before! Where was it when I had to get wet in the river? Why didn’t the shepherd use it himself? But he still gratefully thanked the shepherd and then crossed the river making his way home.

Then, as he had almost reached the exit of the forest and undergrowth, he saw a Jinn rise up in front of him (the same Jinn that was employed by the king and Grand Vizier)!

“Prince Yasifat Mustafa, son of Tariq, King of Arabia!” boomed the loud, jolly voice. “I have been watching and testing you. There is no witch, apple tree, shepherd, or pulley-and-carriage. It was all my magic. And I also proclaim that you have passed the tests! You are worthy to be the heir to the throne!”

And King Yasifat-bin-Mustafa-bin-Tariq-bin-Ali-Muhammad reigned for eighty-seven peaceful years and was the best king ever in the entire Arabian Peninsula. And to this date the people tell his story.

— — — — — — —

 

Nasir concluded the story with a laugh, “So you see, mawlana, it was all thanks to the prince’s kindness that he became what he became.”

“Yes,” agreed Mahmud. “But what are you trying to hint at, my friend? That I, too, should be like this prince?” He laughed. And the two friends walked off into the darkness.

 

 

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Burying the Sun

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Burying the Sun, by National Book Award-winning author Gloria Whelan, is a delightful story set in World War II-Russia, under Dictator Joseph Stalin’s communist rule. It is the third book in a series of four books by Gloria Whelan called The Russian Saga—I highly recommend reading the first two books, Angel on the Square and The Impossible Journey, first (which I unfortunately didn’t do) because they help set the scene for this third book—and is about the life of a young boy, Georgi, in Leningrad during the “Siege of Leningrad” by the Germans.

In the glorious springtime of 1941 Leningrad seems as though it will always be bright. And then, on June 22nd, Germany turns its forces against its old friend, and all at once Russia is at war. As the enemy army draws closer, winter approaches, and with it will come a darkness and hunger that will stalk the once-luminous city.

At fourteen, Georgi is too young to join the army. Still, he is determined to do something — anything — to help his family, and his city, through this terrifying time.

In this companion novel to her breathtaking Russian epics Angel on the Square and The Impossible Journey, Gloria Whelan transports readers to a gripping and treacherous time in Russian history and illuminates the power of one brave young man who, by taking action, will bring light to a city under siege.

For this book, I wrote a short poem about hunger, because that is one of the main enemies Georgi (and his family) and his friends Yelena (and her family) and Dmitry (and his family) face in the story. The poem is shaped to like like a person—a hungry one, with his mouth open:

HUNGER
Standing tall, large and with

That malice-filled grin that
We all loathed;
With his black, empty, hollow face,
And contrasting hands and arms—deathly pale as can be
Hunger moved closer to me, hands outstretched
Ready to snatch me from this safe haven and kill my spirit
In his own horrible way.
I heard his soft, sneering voice
Hissing, as if to say:
I will take over you!
Like he had done
To countless others
Around the world.
I felt scared and sad,
And I despaired.

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The Horse and His Boy

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The Horse and His Boy is a fairly well-known work of the great C.S. Lewis, the third book in his series The Chronicles of Narnia.

In this invigorating fantasy tale, a boy by the name of Shasta is found as a baby and raised by Arsheesh, a Calormene fisherman (Calormen is the huge powerful kingdom to the south of Narni). As the story begins, Shasta overhears Arsheesh agreeing to sell him to a powerful Calormene feudal nobleman, Anradin Tarkan. He is relieved to discover that Arsheesh is not his real father, since there was little love between them. While Shasta awaits his new master in the stable, Bree, the nobleman’s stallion, astounds Shasta by speaking to him. He is a talking horse from Narnia who was captured by the Calormenes as a foal. He tells Shasta that Anradin will treat him cruelly, and Shasta resolves to escape. The horse suggests that they escape a life of servitude by riding north together to Narnia. Along the way to the desert, they meet another pair of escaping travellers—Aravis, a young Calormene aristocrat, and her talking horse, Hwin. Aravis is fleeing a forced marriage with Ahoshta Tarkan, the Tisroc’s grand vizier.

The four must travel through Tashbaan, the great capital of Calormen, right on the edge of the great desert. There they encounter a visiting Narnian party, who mistake Shasta for Corin, a prince of Archenland (the small kingdom right next to Narnia) who went exploring earlier that day. Obliged to accompany them, Shasta goes with the Narnians and overhears their plans to escape from Calormen to prevent a forced marriage of Queen Susan with the Tisroc’s son and heir to the throne, Prince Rabadash. Shasta escapes when the real Prince Corin returns.

Meanwhile, Aravis has been spotted by her friend Lasaraleen. She asks Lasaraleen not to betray her, and to help her escape from Tashbaan. Lasaraleen cannot understand why Aravis would want to abandon the life of a Calormene noblewoman or refuse marriage with Ahoshta, but she helps Aravis escape through the garden of the Tisroc’s palace. On the way, they hide when the Tisroc, Rabadash, and Ahoshta approach. Aravis overhears the Tisroc and Rabadash discussing the Narnians’ escape. Rabadash is still determined to have Queen Susan and wants to invade Narnia to seize her. The Tisroc gives Rabadash permission to seize Archenland before making a quick raid into Narnia to kidnap Susan, while the Narnian High King Peter is preoccupied battling giants to the north.

Aravis rejoins Shasta and the horses outside Tashbaan, and tells them of the plot. Now there is a long way to Archenland still. Will they make it in time? And what will become of Shasta and Bree, and Aravis and Hwin?

Read the book to find out!

 

For this book, I wrote a make-believe letter to the author, C.S. Lewis:

Kabir B. Gupta
1520 Larkspur Pl.
Tupelo, MS 38801
— — — — — — —
February 5, 2017
— — — — — — — — — — — —
Mr. Clive Staples Lewis, Author
5 Lewis Close
Headington, UK
— — — — — — —

Dear Mr. Lewis,

As an avid reader and lover of fantasy and mystery fiction stories, I would like to start out by expressing how much I adore your books, The Chronicles of Narnia to be exact. I am in awe of the way you write, and I wish I could one day be like you. The way you lay out your tale is awe-striking in my mind, and I love the great morals and lessons you slip into your stories. For example, in one of my favorite books, The Horse and His Boy, I was touched by how, in one of the last chapters, Shasta left safety to save Aravis and Hwin from the Lion.

Your books also contain many attractive characters that captivate me. For example, in The Horse and His Boy, you clearly show a great assortment of charming heroes, evil villains, and supporting characters for either side. The heroes, for one, comprise of:

  • Shasta, a courageous but humble boy, and the main character;
  • Bree, the middle-aged proud but wise war horse that Shasta rides;
  • Aravis, a proud girl with a will hard as steel and a deep, strong bond with Shasta; and
  • Hwin, who has a great deal of common sense and ingenuity inside but acts very meekly and so never gets to voice her thoughts, and is the blood mare that Aravis rides.

However, Douglas Gresham, your adopted son, has also spoken about your books having been openly criticized at the time you first published them. In that generation, people thought that only books with helpful knowledge, that is to say, realistic fiction at the most, should be read by children. So your books were shunned. But I agree with you that fantasies and “unrealistic” stories are necessary and totally important! For, without fantasies, we wouldn’t be able to build up imaginations—and the community needs imagination, as I will clarify later on.

I believe that even children in this generation should spend much more time on reading non-realistic fantasies like Narnia. I say that reading books is fruitful and productive because of not only my own opinion but confirmed positive results, as well! For example, as stated in an article at lifebygeek.com called “Are books better for you than video games?“:

Language contains the unique ability to simulate stimuli that aren’t present! […] Fiction presents us with an eccentric sample of circumstances that our brains can simulate with remarkable fidelity […] All of this research suggests what we probably already knew: books are powerful learning tools with the ability to expand our neural networks. But it also suggests that this can be true when teaching is not the book’s intent, and that the effect might be much more intense than we guessed.

There is also another reason I say the people of the present need imagination from books more than ever. Although one could say that in television and video-game worlds there are more than enough fantastical ideas, whose imagination are those ideas coming from? From the person who made the program, not the person viewing it! And in order for us to have our own imaginations, we need books. In books, even one sentence can be thought of differently by different people. For example, the following landscape from The Horse and His Boy can be imagined differently by two different people:

“The valley itself, with its brown, cool river, and grass and moss and wild flowers and rhododendrons, was such a pleasant place that it made you want to ride slowly.”

And why do we need imagination? How can it help us? Well, what if there really is a Narnia, an Archenland, and a Calormen? What if there really are millions of worlds? Two hundred years ago, nobody even thought about the possibility of multiple solar systems, but now we know that there are hundreds of solar systems just in our Milky Way Galaxy, and then there are millions and billions of galaxies as well, in the universe. Well, we know the earth isn’t our entire world, so if we call the universe our entire world—what if there are other universes, also called “worlds?”

Mr. Lewis, you feature traveling between worlds, or universes in your books—from our universe to the universe of Narnia, and even a “wood between the worlds” (from The Magician’s Nephew)! All we need in order to discover these worlds is time, and if people have imagination and believe in the impossible, it may happen.

Now, it is true that we cannot change the attitude of people in the past, and that doesn’t even matter anymore since the past is over. But I hope that with fantasies and interesting books like your Narnia, modern children will be inclined to read more and build up imaginations. And, without fantasies like Narnia, we wouldn’t be able to, for example, solve what seem like impossible problems. And the community needs imagination, as I have stated above.

Hence, thank you for creating this series of exciting books for children. Thanks to you, we may be able to open up the doors of imagination and “thinking out of the box” once again.

Sincerely,
Kabir B. Gupta

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Call it Courage

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Call it Courage is a wonderful tale set in the Pacific Islands, narrated by Armstrong Sperry. It chronicles the story of Mafatu, the son of the chief of Hikueru Island, Tavana Nui. Mafatu is afraid of the Moana the sea god and his seas, due to witnessing his mother die as a young child, which makes him a shame to his father, and referred to as a coward among his tribe, although he will  be the chief of the land one day. His stepbrothers would tease him. So one night Mafatu takes a dugout canoe and sets sail into the ocean without knowing where he will end up. He is caught in a storm and the canoe is lost. He lands on a deserted island and learns to hunt and fish for himself, along with his companions Uri, a yellow dog, and Kivi, an albatross.

Soon Mafatu finds a sacrificial altar built by the eaters of men from a neighboring island. This means that they could come any time, and if they find him, they would eat him! Mafatu realizes his days on the island have been about a week and he begins designing his escape by making a canoe. He gathers things he will need to survive a trip across the ocean. He finds a spear point on the terrible altar and uses it to hunt.

After a number of encounters with natural foes, including a shark, a wild boar and an octopus, all of which he successfully kills, he realizes he is gaining courage and learning to deal with the things that have frightened him. Mafatu is no longer afraid of the sea!

Then, just at that point when Mafatu has conquered his fear of Moana the sea god, his other worst fears come true—BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! It is the eaters of men! They have arrived! What happens? Read the book to find out!

 

For this book, I chose to write a newspaper article again:

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