It Is Butterfingers Time Again: A Review
Anuradha Krishnakumar reviews Khyrunnisa's 'Run, It's Butterfingers Again!'
On Jun 28, 2017


'Crash! Thud! Oops!' reads the blurb on the cover of the latest book in the Butterfingers series - the fifth to hit the stands.

The three words succinctly capture the mood of this collection of stories by the irrepressible, much loved and acclaimed author, Khyrunnisa A. Her book Run, It's Butterfingers Again! is a treat for the young and the young at heart. Published in May 2017 by Penguin Random House India under its children's imprint, Puffin Books, it has all the ingredients that have made her earlier works so popular - fast-paced action, true to life characters, rib-tickling humour and brilliantly crafted plots. As we join her once more on the roller coaster ride through the world of Butterfingers, aka Amar Kishen, and his gang of friends, we follow their delightful and endearing antics while they muddle their way through misadventures of every kind, often escaping by the skin of their teeth.

The book comprises a novella and thirteen short stories, all woven around the familiar, affable characters who have endeared themselves to fans of the series. Butterfingers and his friends Kiran, Eric, Ajay, Kishore, Arjun, Thomas and Minu, students of Class VIII A, Green Park School, Mr. Kishen and Shreya Kishen, the hassled, lovable parents of Amar, the blundering school principal Mr.Jagmohan, the art teacher Mr. Hiran Hiran, all figure in the hilarious escapades. A host of others join in the fun, each one made memorable in his or her own way by the skilful character delineation of the author. Anish Rajan- a karate sensei, Raul Ramirez - the aspiring actor with a beard to spare, Beena Bai - the stuck-up school sweeper, Chuhaa and Stripes - the two friendly canines, Andromeda - the beautiful cat with a star on her forehead, the clever monkey at the zoo, Gauri the cow and her lost calf in the village of Haryali - all play their roles to perfection. The illustrations by Abhijeet Kini are delightful and bring the characters alive for the readers.

To take a quick peek at a few of the stories, It's Karate Time, a novella in fifty-one pages, is set in Green Park School and has all the suspense, thrills and mystery of a whodunit with dogs, dognappers, a golden trophy, 'borborygmus' and an enigmatic karate sensei, Mr.Anish Rajan. The Great Fall of China recounts a boisterous escapade at a fancy restaurant where Butterfingers discovers his hitherto hidden musical talent.

Amar and his pals,on a photography mission to the zoo, find themselves outwitted by a clever simian in The Intelligent Animal. In the aptly titled misadventure, Trouble with a Beard, a beard plays a significant role in Amar's reckless pranks at a supermarket. A pesky thief who steals and hoards things from Mrs. Kishen's kitchen has the family playing detectives in The Silver Spoon Mystery. Amar enacts the role of a Martian in A Martian In The Neighbourhood with some timely help from a caterpillar. Life Goes On has dramatic events unfolding in the attic in Amar's house with Andromeda playing the lead model.

The sharp and witty verbal exchanges among the characters are every bit as entertaining as the plots, with the author's penchant for quibbles, word play and repartee and her wonderful sense of humour shining through. She doesn't disappoint the literature buff - the stories have their share of literary references too, all cleverly woven into the fabric of the stories. Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Melville and Ian Fleming make their appearance in quotations and references. Khyrunnisa's sound grasp of things pertaining to the natural world comes to the fore in the titbits of information provided by characters, which are certain to pique the interest of curious readers. The greater wax moth, the common birdwing butterfly, fuzzy caterpillars, the Indian birthwort - all find a mention in the stories. The cryptic reference to Saint Vitus Dance in A Martian In The Neighbourhood is certain to warrant a Google search.

The stories are all ingeniously woven and the plots well-researched and structured. While they brim with joie-de-vivre, they also impart life skills and good values to young readers in a subtle, effective manner. It is not an idyllic world and the innocence and fun are juxtaposed with the darker world of evil lurking on the fringes. The challenge and adventure often lie in thwarting the attempts of these dark forces. Perhaps the most commendable quality of the author is her ability to see the world through the eyes of a thirteen year old. Khyrunnisa's perceptive and humorous portrayal of the world of young boys and girls rings true and accounts for the popularity her stories enjoy with readers of all ages.
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