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Ranjini Rao and Ruchira Ramanujan’s book Bookworms And Jelly Bellies brings a refreshing change of pace to how we think, cook and consume our food. Aimed at children and parents who’d like to try a more ‘playful’ and creative approach to cuisine, it comes at a time when the Indian culinary world is being buffeted by the emergence of a modern Indian ‘food culture’—with competitive cooking television shows and trendy dietary fads overwhelming the simple pleasures of actually eating food and being happier for it.

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The back cover of Best Stories describes the book as a ‘collection of timeless pieces from the world’s greatest storytellers—Oscar Wilde, O’ Henry, Saki, H.G. Wells, Conan Doyle, Washington Irving and many more.’
In this modern-day world of multi-novel fiction and fantasy such as A Song of Ice and Fire (or The Game of Thrones to those of the more visual persuasion) and Harry Potter, the literary merits of the short story sometimes get overlooked. It is always easier to mentally engage with a vast story, where a fleshed-out universe is created by the author. The reader in turn can commit to a fairly complex relationship, often involving multiple characters who will see growth and change. Even the standalone full-length novel tends to have the space and time for a reader to invest in the plot and characters, and see them mature. The short story is different. It can convey significant complexity, often having elaborate philosophical or moral points to make, or being open to a multitude of interpretations. But the investment in reading the story itself is minimal. The short story might have a cast of relatively unidimensional characters, or very few characters with limited backgrounds being provided. Like Japanese Muromachi period art, the short story conveys a deep and intense picture but keeps its brushstrokes minimal and quick.

A Call To All Stakeholders

The concerns of parents, teachers, and psychologists for children in schools has heightened in recent times because of various issues associated with violence, safety, sexuality, substance abuse, and career guidance, because of which the need to have competent mental health professionals to plan, organize, and conduct well-thought out mental health programmes in schools, is being felt more than ever before.