The traditional story of a band of friends looking forward to a long hot summer whose plans are interrupted by an unexpected interloper is given a 21st Century spin in this contemporary and big-hearted telling by Nikesh Shukla. Set on a city estate during the summer holidays, Vinay’s plans to have his own bedroom and to spend the summer with his closest friends are disrupted when his cousin comes to stay and lays claim to the top bunk, his friends and his leisure time. There is frustration, there are mad pranks involving buckets of water and there is eventually reconciliation and an understanding that envy and jealousy aren’t the route to happiness and contentment.
Nikesh Shukla has created some lovely characters and the relationships between the boys are full of emotional depth. Each of the characters has a life that is defined but not limited by their circumstances and history. They like all of the things that ten-year-old boys will recognise (football, super heroes, pranks, water fights) but they are also attentive to their own feelings and the feelings of their friends and families. Whilst Vinay is the main character, all the boys are well-rounded portrayals of children dealing with many different aspects of childhood and accepting and loving difference as well as similarities. The result is a funny, tender tale of friendship and boyhood where family bonds and peer relationships are at the forefront of the children’s world – as they are in real life.
Rochelle Falconer’s cartoon style illustrations bring life and more fun to the words and the use of full page illustrations echo the key emotional points in the story, adding to the overall experience and feeling of exuberance and enjoyment that runs throughout the book.
A great independent read for children who like their fiction fast, fun and full of humour.