Title: Maithili and the Minotaur: Forest of Forgotten Fears (Book 2)
Author: C. G. Salamander
Illustrator: Rajiv Eipe
Publisher: Puffin (9 January 2023); Penguin Random House India
Pages: 88 pages
Recommended Age: 8 years+ (the publisher recommends the series for 10 years and above)
Forest of Forgotten Fears—Maithili and Minotaur’s adventure continues.
Maithili, Minotaur along with the rest of the class, go for a field trip. In the middle of the night. To the woods. To collect eesals for their teacher who’s a shrew. What could go wrong?
Whoever collects the most eesals, would get to do what they liked for one day. They know better than to step inside the deep forests, but Maithili knows that if they step inside, with the abundance of eesals there, they would win easily. Even if they all know it’s an idea that has not been thought through, with much reluctance, Minotaur, Wolfhoud and Nagesh agree.
After all, what could go wrong?
To not get lost, just like Hansel and Gretel, they mark their way as they go deeper inside, so they can come out safely. They were taking great measures to be safe. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, everything does.
And thus, continues the adventure of Maithili and Minotaur, along with Nagesh, Wolfhound and Aaruval. They get trapped inside Mathikettan Solai and cannot find their way out.
Okay! While the 9 year old wanted to continue the story, the adult asked – what is the significance of Mathikettan Solai?
“There are urban legends and there are urban legends. Few would, however, match this very rural legend from high upon the hills in the Kodaikanal range. There is a shola (forest) on the road from Kodaikanal to Berijam Lake into which no one who has gone in has reemerged to tell the tale. It’s name is a pretty eponymous one – Madhikettan Shola (man with a confused brain).”- Deccan Chronicle
This legend of Madhikettan Shola, is superbly fused into the story, as they all slowly start to lose their minds. As a reader, you experience the same confusion and wonder what’s really happening in the story. But then you quickly realize, not only are the children losing their mind, they are facing their worst fears.
But then, that’s what friends are for. The friends help the others navigate out of these fears. The story moves expertly and at a quick pace with Driver Hellsing being an important part of the climax and help bring the story to a satisfactory closure.
With these books, C.G.Salamander breaks all convention rules of storytelling for kids. Delightfully.
Keep it simple- so children can enjoy the narrative. Right. Let me throw in three parallel threads and hundred different layers, and just for fun, let me add some folklores and legend. And maybe just in passing, pop culture that perhaps parents can grin at. Shaktimaan is Gangadhar, er gangodeer.
Too many animal characters for kids older than 8—it’s too cute for the age. At the most maybe one. Okay! That makes sense. Let me add one human. The rest can all be animals. Even my eesals are going to talk.
Don’t talk about very sensitive things—remember, after all, these are for children. Yeah. Let me just talk about the simplest of all. Childhood trauma.
As for the illustrations by Rajiv Eipe—I couldn’t gush more even if I tried.
I read this book with my 9-year-old, and it was delightful when she would point out small things in a panel that I would miss, that we would both chuckle over. As we did that, I somehow started thinking of the small lamps and tables that were so lovingly drawn by Bill Waterson and my thoughts zipped to Calvin and the Spaceman Spiff and how it would be so nice for Maithili’s world to have something like that.
And was I rewarded! It was almost like – ask and you shall get. Right at the end, a small bit extra, like in Marvel movies post the credits, “The Adventures of (Captain) Nagesh.”
But back to the illustrations—there is a deliberation in terms of how everything is drawn or even coloured. I felt the big picture view of the woods, could have been a little better, but that was just one panel. But then, I am nitpicking, just because everything else just seems so much in place.
All in all, we both loved the book.
Because the book had an extra, an extra in the review bhi banta hai.
People have asked Tarantino what’s inside that bag in Pulp Fiction. Or what’s the backstory to the burn mark on Brad Pitt’s neck. His response has been—
I know it, my actors know it. But the viewer will walk back with their own version of what’s inside and if three of them have different versions, they walk away with three different stories.
Perhaps C.G.Salamander also subscribes to that.
But then, even without these frills, the story stands on its own. The story of the kids facing their situation with courage, teamwork, respect for each other, and a deep sense of friendship, especially as they face their deepest darkest fears…
And what an unabashed trust in “what can go wrong”—that is so reminiscent of the blissful innocence of childhood.
If you enjoyed this review and wish to set out in the Forest of Forgotten Fears, you might want to order the book from Amazon (kbc affiliate link),CLICK & BUY NOW!
Disclaimer: Mandira and her daughter are part of the #kbcReviewerSquad and received this book as a review copy from the publisher. Mandira is the author of the award winning book Children of the Hidden Land.