Book Title: Starry Starry Night
Author: Nandita Basu
Publisher: Duckbill (An imprint of Penguin Random House India)
Genre: Graphic novel
Pages: 162 pages
Recommended age: 13 years onwards (Themes of grief and loss. My 10-year-old read it.)
My daughter is a great fan of Raina Telgemeir books, reading them over-and-over-again. Raina uses herself as a protagonist and talks about important feelings like anxiety, toxic friendships, sisterhood, loneliness …
When Duckbill announced books like The Piano, Rain Must Fall (both by Nandita Basu), I had to get those. Again, dealing with similar issues of adolescence, of not fitting in, of friendships and loneliness, I had to get them. We loved The Piano and Rain Must Fall – both sensitively told stories. There’s specifically a scene in Rain Must Fall where she holds a séance so Rain, the ghost, would be free. Lighter moments like this, with a well-crafted story, made me jump at the idea of getting Starry Starry Night.
Of course that it’s one of my favourite paintings had nothing to do with it.
Or that it reminded me of the song “Vincent” by Don McLean, that I kept humming on a melancholy day.
Or the fact that this dealt with grief, and even after 34 years, I still struggle to cope, sometimes.
But then that’s how grief is. A little crazy. One is having an absolutely fine day, and then BAM! It might just take a smell to take you back to that moment. Or a snatch of a song. Or the taste of khichadi. It is quite sensorial like that!
The first year however, you still struggle. It is like a hyper-dream. Perhaps like the seven stages you are in denial and unable to accept that it actually happened. Numb!
Starry starry night, got that right. Kunal, having lost his mother is struggling to come to terms with the loss. Not sure how to feel. Not having anyone close, he is bundled off to his aunt (Tara) he has never met, who teaches music in a residential school. His aunt is struggling as well — having lost her friend and music-band partner some years earlier.
Ironically, the only friend Tara seems to have, is Death, who pops up any time she has strong feelings. Helping her understand her own feelings.
“Death is just another vibration. People are not open to it. Hence they can’t sense it. You should know better by now, it’s a door everyone is born with” — Death says, when Tara struggles with apparitions she is seeing around her.
The story moves at a leisurely pace, with surprising moments when BAM! something creeps up into their lives giving them a sucker punch.
A lot like grief.
The cover is fantastic — just like the name. There are some awesome illustrations too, for instance that of death in the form of a squirrel, which Nandita is so good at. Even the one in Rain Must F
all of little Rumi experiencing the memory of the last moments of Rain, just hold your breath. Art is indeed a healer and the author has attempted to use these devices for both Tara and Kunal to help them deal with grief. I just felt with the strong premise of art and grief, there was a lot more that could have been done.
If you’re looking for a light and fluffy read, Starry Starry Night is not the book for you. However, if you’re willing to invest some time and effort, you may be rewarded with a thought-provoking story about grief and healing.
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Disclaimer: Mandira is part of the #kbcReviewerSquad and received this book as a review copy from the publisher via kbc. She is the author of the award winning book Children of the Hidden Land.
RELATED CURATED READING: Some Heartwarming Children’s Books about Loss, Grief and Death of a Loved One.