For those of us, who pride ourselves on being graduates from ICSE schools, the board recently gave us further reason to boast. The ICSE Board has decided to alter the syllabus for English Literature, effective from the next academic session onwards. Here’s a brief introduction to the most amazing books being introduced for the students.
‘Harry Potter’ is a series of fantasy novels written by British author, J. K. Rowling. The novels chronicle the life of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The main story arc concerns Harry’s struggle against Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who intends to become immortal, overthrow the wizard governing body known as the Ministry of Magic, and subjugate all wizards and Muggles.
‘Amar Chitra Katha’ is one of India’s largest selling comic book series, with more than 90 million copies sold in 20 Indian languages. Founded in 1967, the imprint has more than 400 titles that retell stories from the great Indian epics, mythology, history, folklore, and fables in a comic book format.
The series is set during a largely realistic 20th century. Its hero is Tintin, a young Belgian reporter and adventurer. He is aided by his faithful dog, Snowy. Other protagonists include the brash and cynical Captain Haddock, the intelligent but hearing-impaired Professor Calculus, as well as the incompetent detectives Thomson and Thompson and the opera diva Bianca Castafiore. The series has been admired for its clean, expressive drawings. Its well-researched plots straddle a variety of genres: swashbuckling adventures with elements of fantasy, mysteries, political thrillers, and science fiction. The stories feature slapstick humour, offset by dashes of sophisticated satire and political or cultural commentary.
The series follows the exploits of a village of indomitable Gauls as they resist Roman occupation. They do so by means of a magic potion brewed by their druid, named Getafix in the English translations, which temporarily gives the recipient superhuman strength. The protagonist, Asterix, along with his friend Obelix, have various adventures to follow.
By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. It is a contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.
Written by Satyajit Ray, ‘Feluda’ is a collection of short stories about Prodosh Chandra Mitra, who goes by the nickname Feluda and works as a private investigator. He’s assisted by his young cousin Topshe and his friend Lalmohon Ganguli, a timid dork who writes adventure novel under a pseudonym. Together, they fight crime!
‘Hercule Poirot’ is Agatha Christie’s greatest creation, many say. One of the most famous detectives in all fiction, he was created in 1916 (when Agatha Christie penned the first novel ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’). The Belgian detective appeared in 33 novels and 65 short stories, and is the only fictional character to be honored with a front page obituary on The New York Times. He derides such methods as examing footprints, collecting cigarette ash, searching for clues with a magnifying glass, or taking fingerprints. He says any crime can be solved with simply placing the puzzle pieces correctly. He is an armchair detective- he has to simply “sit still in an armchair and think”.
‘Sherlock Holmes’ is a fictional consulting detective in London created by Scottish author and physician, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes, master of disguise, reasoned logically to deduce clients’ background from their first appearance. He used fingerprints, chemical analysis, and forensic science.
Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, ‘The Hobbit’ met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.
By the 1930s, Wodehouse had gone from being a prolific contributor to newspapers and magazines to the foremost comic novelist writing in English. His creations, in particular the quixotic aristocrat Bertie Wooster and his sober valet, Jeeves, and the dreamy, pig-obsessed Earl of Emsworth, rapidly gained a place in the popular consciousness, with the books of their adventures sold by the millions worldwide. Wodehouse also wrote countless song lyrics, and is credited with being one of the fathers of the American musical. Today Wodehouse is as loved as ever, and his vivid prose style and unique comic invention are recognised as major contributions to English fiction.
Dickens was regarded as the literary colossus of his age. His 1843 novella, ‘A Christmas Carol’, remains popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre. ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Great Expectations‘ are also frequently adapted, and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London. His 1859 novel, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, set in London and Paris, is his best-known work of historical fiction.
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. ‘I Am Malala’ is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, the son of a little-educated boat-owner in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, had an unparalleled career as a defence scientist, culminating in the highest civilian award of India, the Bharat Ratna. As chief of the country’s defence research and development programme, Kalam demonstrated the great potential for dynamism and innovation that existed in seemingly moribund research establishments. This is the story of Kalam’s rise from obscurity and his personal and professional struggles, as well as the story of Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul and Nag-missiles that have become household names in India and that have raised the nation to the level of a missile power of international reckoning. This is also the saga of independent India’s struggle for technological self-sufficiency and defensive autonomy-a story as much about politics, domestic and international, as it is about science.
About the Author:
Voracious reader, avid orator, and enthusiastic dancer.