PLOT: 4/5
GENRE: Children’s Fiction
THEMES: 1990s Childhood, Adventures with Nature, Simple Times Simple Lives

“It was becoming clear to us that staying out late was not even an option. The only nightlife here was wildlife. It seemed like you could do as you pleased in your own house. But the moment you stepped out of the safety of your home into the wild, you had to follow the ways of the wild. In a way, you were at the mercy of nature itself.”

Amruta Kaustubh, Wildhood Awakened: Stories of a Childhood near Chilika Lake

I often marvel at the quality and quantity of children’s literature coming out of India lately. It’s high time that as Indians, we narrate Indian stories to our kids—stories connected to our roots, culture, and geography. Growing up, we never had such a choice and variety available, but I’m delighted that our kids have so many options today.

One such children’s book that I recently came across is “Wildhood Awakened” by Amruta Kaustubh, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

What the book is all about?

Wildhood Awakened transports us to the 1990s, where 12-year-old Suraj Thakur enjoys his summer vacations in a posh government colony in New Delhi. Life is fun and carefree, filled with simple joys like watching favourite toons on Sunday mornings, renting video cassettes and vinyl records from video libraries, and playing cricket till late evenings.

However, everything changes when news of his father’s job relocation arrives. Suraj and his family must bid goodbye to city comforts and start anew at the foothills of a vast forest in Balugaon, Orrisa, near the famous lake Chilika.

The raw beauty of the landscape quickly loses its charm as they encounter the challenges of living so close to the wild—wild animals, snakes, insects, and the wonders and dangers of nature coexisting with humanity.

Will Suraj survive the change? Will he regret leaving Delhi? Or will he learn to love his new home? What strange and wild encounters await him in this new environment?

Who can read?

Wildhood Awakened is written in simple language and can be easily picked up by children aged 8 to 14 years.

My review –

A trip down the memory lane

The first thing that strikes you about the book is its setting of the 1990s. Just a few pages in and the nostalgia hits you really hard. For younger readers, it offers a glimpse into a bygone era, promising an adventure they’ll never experience firsthand. All the best things about growing up in the 1990s have been showcased really well.

The unique setting

The book takes us to the remote small town of Balugaon, Orissa where Suraj’s father has been transferred to. You get the first glimpse of its remoteness right at the railway station when Suraj and his family are all ready to get down from their train. I love how nature and wilderness have been captured here. The blend of adventure and a hint of danger adds to the anticipation and intrigue.

The juxtaposition of Suraj’s city childhood with his new life in the wilderness is stark in its portrayal.

What did I love?

If there is one thing I love the most in the book, it is its tryst with wilderness. The lesson of living in harmony with nature resonates strongly throughout the narrative. But at the same time, it is more than simple nature, it is encountering pure wilderness. The feeling of being at the mercy of the forest and its inhabitants is nerve-wracking and also strangely adventurous.

Whether it is the wild sounds of the crickets, the glow-emitting scorpions, the beautiful Irrawaddy dolphins, massive earthworms, or howling jackals, the wild plays a major role in the book. The author skillfully elevates it to be the star component of her narrative, weaving its elements seamlessly into the story.

In the end

I would wholeheartedly recommend Wildhood Awakened to every young reader. It’s a wholesome book that promises to showcase all the good things in life, especially those easily forgotten or relegated to the archives of time. It’s a book that teaches a thing or two to children about not just appreciating but also loving nature and all its creations.

Can’t wait to read it? Get your copy of Wildhood Awakened using the link below.