A warm, funny book about four scrappy siblings and their pint-sized gang of equally plucky friends and pets.
Over the years, our old bungalow has been painted in strawberry pink, pistachio green, creamy vanilla, and lemon yellow, and it has always looked like a delicious slice of cake to me. Nestled in the middle of an overgrown garden, with a star-apple tree at one end and a pool with a resident frog at the other, this is my home.
Hi! I’m Mahi, and I live here with my three younger siblings who need strict supervision all day. We do our best to behave ourselves, but it’s not our fault that we have the best ideas for pranks.
Last week we dressed up as an Egyptian Mummy to scare strangers on a dark night; unleashed a gory piranha attack in the fish tank by mistake, and managed to smuggle stray puppies into the house. And just wait until you hear about the Great Christmas Horror Show!
From the author of A Brave Day for Harold Brown and Merry Christmas, Mr. Brown, this book is full of unforgettable characters and hilarious escapades that will make readers giggle and gasp and stay up late to finish just one more chapter.
Targeted Age Group:: 7-15
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I developed my love for reading around middle grade, and I think that was a great age to start. I write all my books to turn young readers into lifetime readers, and to make them see that reading is a treat, not a chore or a homework item to tick off the list. My book is a happy, positive book about sibling bonds, growing up close to nature, with an eccentric family and a lot of pets, and I've been hearing from parents of readers that their kids talk about it long after they're done reading.
Catching Crabs for Dinner
While Belgaum enjoyed the shimmering summer days of April and May, a few hundred kilometres away from us, large monsoon clouds were fast approaching. Trapped by the Western Ghats, the clouds assembled overhead, swelling and becoming darker as each day went by.
The grown-ups looked at the skies and exchanged knowledgeable opinions about when it would rain. We unpacked our raincoats and washed off the talcum powder that had been dusted into the folds. Grim clouds gathered overhead and the air felt static and heavy. The summer heat turned into a suffocating humidity that made our faces sticky. As the days stretched into weeks, it felt like we were all holding our breath and waiting for something.
And then one day, usually in the afternoon, the sky would split open and empty an ocean upon us. It began with fat droplets, giving us time to rush about pulling clothes off the lines. As the winds began to howl around our bungalow, the coconut trees swayed dangerously, buffeted by gusts of rain.
We unplugged the television and the refrigerator to protect them from surges in the voltage, and dived under our blankets for a nap, always a little shocked at the first violent rainfall of the season. Lightning darted across the sky, and ominous rumbles from above announced the arrival of the rain gods.
Our tiled roof sprang leaks all over the house and Kuku and Ritu were sent to place buckets and saucepans under each leak to collect the water. For the next three months, our daily lives played out against the soundtrack of raindrops pinging in steel vessels.
Inside our bungalow, the forces of nature took over like a mad conductor directing a frenzied orchestra. Our garden, overgrown and wild at the best of times, began to hum with the throbbing of life. If you stood barefoot on the soil, you could almost feel the tender green shoots unfurling under the ground and pushing up against the soles of your feet. The trees danced like whirling dervishes, spreading branches wide to catch every sparkling droplet. Creepers twirled and swayed as they stretched upwards to the skies.
One of the best things about living in Belgaum was our proximity to nature. We were never more than half an hour away from sprawling meadows and forests so thick that you could barely see the sun. Every weekend, Daddy took us out into the wild, sending us rappelling over unknown cliffs, scaling up the mossy rocks beside thundering waterfalls, or swimming in limpid lakes. We looked forward to our nature rambles all year round, but it was in the monsoon that the land around us burst into truly spectacular life.
We made the most of our monsoon months, heading out for rainy treks and waterfall swims as often as we could, but the weekends that really excited us were our crabbing expeditions. Daddy took us out on the rainiest weekends of the year to the hills nearby, where water gushed in streams under our feet. Each of us each carried a small bucket and waded through the slush, looking for crabs darting in the rivulets.
The grown-ups who accompanied us chattered about crab curry with soft pao or fluffy steamed rice on the side. We loved crab curry, but for us, the kids who were pouncing on puddles and turning our faces up to the raindrops, chasing the crabs was infinitely more fun than eating them.
To catch a crab, you have to be very quick and very sure-footed. You approach it from behind, keeping a safe distance from those snapping pincers. One finger on top of the shell to hold it down, and the thumb under it, “lifting it up from its bum” as Pinky and Kuku liked to say, and you lift it and drop it into your bucket.
Pinky and Kuku usually worked together, hitching up their skirts and raincoats and crouching close to the ground, scuttling sideways just like the crabs they were chasing. Ritu wandered over every now and then to see how many crabs they had in their bucket, but she was a crack crab-catcher and enjoyed working on her own. Izzy and I preferred to cover more ground, ranging far and wide to look for the bigger pools where the bigger crabs lived.
On the way back, we emptied our buckets into a large tub in the back of the van, and gloated over our catch – dozens of brown crabs waiting for Tulsi Bai’s tasty curry. All the smallest members of the group were squeezed in around the tub to make sure the crabs didn’t climb out on the 45-minute drive back home. While Daddy drove us back, the crabs built towers on each other’s backs, swarming up the sides of the tub to escape.
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Mishana Khot is a fiction author and a freelance writer who has been published in National Geographic Traveller, Forbes, Mint Lounge, and numerous other publications. After spending years working as a Content Head at various digital ad agencies, she and her partner (now husband) took off on a six-month trip around the world. When they came back, they knew what they wanted to do. She wrote her first fiction novel, co-founded an adventure travel company called The Great Next and began to plan the next book. The rest is history!
Mishana is inspired by Jane Austen, Roald Dahl, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Vikram Seth, Georgette Heyer, Margaret Mitchell, Margaret Atwood, and many other writers. Her books are aimed at readers looking to escape into a world of unforgettable characters and interesting stories.
Mishana isn’t much of a social media person but you can chat with her on Twitter.