This short story is a fun way for children to learn about the highs and lows of friendship, through the eyes of Vinay and his group of best friends.
Vinay and his council of friends represent – in many ways – a user’s guide to perfect friendship. They love and respect one another deeply, talk through their problems, and find shared things to enjoy, while giving each other the space to be themselves as individuals. Whether they are playing football, making mischief with water guns, or teasing one another about girls, the four boys always act as a team and won’t let anything come between them.
Their unbreakable bond is threatened when Nikesh (Vinay’s cousin) comes to stay. It’s clear that Nikesh is a troubled soul who represents the type of challenge that the Council of Friends have never faced before. From the moment he arrives, Nikesh shows that he is utterly unwilling to share or compromise and that he intends to bully people into submission in order to get what he wants.
Such a mean and selfish outlook is alien to Vinay and his friends. The group are abnormally mature and empathetic when it comes to resolving conflict but even they can’t find a way of bringing Nikesh into the fold so, naturally, they revert to playing horrible pranks on him. The resulting mayhem is a very funny and a welcome respite to what is, otherwise, a serious and emotional tone.
Readers will recognise their own relationships and fall-outs in The Council of Friends. The story invites them to consider interesting dilemmas about friendship: how would you act if a new child joined your group? Why are some children unkind? Does family always come before friends? The book is also a great starting point for discussions about the themes of belonging, immigration and identity; it would be an ideal story for parents or teachers to read alongside their children.