My most cherished review

It’s great to see your book’s reviews and your interviews in the media. It’s good for the ego. But what brought tears to my eyes was not a mention in the papers, but an email. It is a special email for me. It’s from almost 11-year-old Medha, a student of Sardar Patel Vidyalaya. She attended the first detective workshop I did in Delhi in her school. After going back home, she ordered my book and then read it whole. And she emailed me.

For me, this was the first confirmation that the detective workshops are bringing the characters of my book alive for kids. This was also my first fan email from such a young fan. And let me tell you, if you haven’t had a 11-year-old appreciate the work you do, you haven’t seen nothing yet.

Posting her email with a huge smile here.

Hi, I am Medha. I attended the Bookaroo workshop which was held in Sardar Patel Vidyalaya. I read The Ghost Hunters Of Kurseong. 

It was a really nice mystery and I kept guessing the culprit until I read the conversation between Mr. Saki and Inspectorji. It was fun to read.
Please write back i am a big fan of yours!!
warm regards



I have written two emails to her already. I hope she replies back again. For it touches my heart so.

UPDATE: She replied back and we are conversing back and forth. Here’s something else she told me which made my day:

“Most of my friends have your books.They all loved it very much! Many of my classmates are reading it right now. Please keep writing more books like this one it was awesome!

Thanks Medha, you make my weeks!


Making detectives of children

Let me confess something first. I might have written books (one novel and two graphic novels) for kids, but till now hadn’t interacted with them much. Not the ones who are in the 9-13 years of age. Actually, not many at all. For writing, I had used the kid inside me. So when I committed myself to doing detective workshops at schools with Bookaroo, I had a whole week of sleepless nights! If I haven’t handled one kid, how would I deal with 100+? Would they get the mystery I had created? Would they like solving it? Would they be bored and fidgety? My first workshop at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya had more than 200 kids. It was a riot, but a happy one. (Read Bookaroo’s blog on it here).


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I wasn’t sure the workshop will work, but after four workshops in Delhi and one in Bangalore, in conference rooms, libraries and open grounds, and book stores, I see that like me, all kids love mysteries. Their eyes shine, they huddle in groups and chat and that’s how they solve things. One little girl approached me after the third workshop (Mount Abu School, Rohini) and said in a serious tone, ‘Thank you, mam. I was expecting a boring session where you tell us how to write stories, but the case you gave to solve was so much fun for me. I really, really enjoyed doing it.’

I am quite relaxed about my upcoming workshop in Bangalore. (Have kids? Head here to find out where to come. It’s a free workshop!). But that’s not what this blog is about. This is about what I learnt about myself and the kids while I was doing these workshops.

They love being detectives. Kids are marvelously curious. They like to question, like to make stories for the gaps and if given a mystery, like to solve it. They love donning the detective hats!

They do if they care. There’s nothing more beautiful to see a kid passionate about something. Before the workshop began, I compared them to Kartik the main character of the book, who solves this really complex mystery. Kartik is their age. If he can, they can. This little competitive spirit makes them care for the characters. If they care, they keep their heads down and solve the mystery till the very end. And this passion (see the pictures) makes me smile every time. A headmistress at Ambience School, Safdarjung wanted suggestions on how she could get more kids to read. My impromptu answer was make them more involved. Ask for alternate endings to known books.

They like to do, not listen. Now that’s something I saw in everyone. If you give them too much gyan, they get bored. Keep it short, and let them solve the rest. Which is why this detective workshop format works. It’s they who are doing the work, not me. I just stand by and see and sometimes guide (mostly try and make them question however).

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If they like a character, they will read about him/her. School principles, teachers, parents have told me that their kids don’t read, don’t care about books. But here’s one kid, Medha, 12, who sent me this email after I did the workshop at her school: ‘I attended the Bookaroo workshop which was held in Sardar Patel Vidyalaya. I read The Ghost Hunters Of Kurseong and it is the best book I have ever read! It was a really nice mystery and I kept guessing the culprit until the end.’ Someone read the book because they remembered Kartik, from the workshop.

Do they believe in ghosts? No. Yes. Maybe. Ask them if they believe in ghosts and see their eyes light up with curiosity. Kids, unlike us adults, don’t have so many pre-conceived notions of science, superstition and beliefs. Some put their hands straight up, some sneak a look at their friends and some keep their hands in their laps, shaking their heads. Yes, they are open minded, but they are also opinionated.

Kids loves monsters and ghosts. They really do. They love to read about non-human characters (though my book is not completely that. Which made me wonder, why are not more writers writing ghosts stories? I asked them which authors they read and most replied RL Stine or other American authors. Why are they not reading Indian authors?

Winning is important for them. Every workshop ends with some kid or even adult asking: So who won? When I say no one, there’s an anti-climactic feeling, a let down feeling. Has competition become so necessary to our society? Who wants them to win? Themselves or their parents?

My first detective workshop


I plan to write things I have learnt in these workshops about me and about children, but this blog is about someone else’s experience. The multitalented Yirmiyan Arthur, a volunteer for Bookaroo In the City who helped me in my first workshop at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, Delhi, has written a beautiful piece about the workshop on the Bookaroo Blog . Sharing it here.

Detectives in the making

You put 220 students into a room and throw in a mystery to solve. Not just any mystery, a ghost mystery! What could possibly happen? Yup! Imagination running wild, so wild that it translates as sound and high-energy physical activity. Shweta Taneja is today’s storyteller, the one responsible for stirring up such busyness at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya. She who looks nothing like how I’d imagined a mystery-writer to be (and for this I blame Agatha Christie), she who is queen bee with tiny worker bees fixated on her every word.



The children are aged 9-11, bouncy, excited and very eager to be the next ghost detective. They are divided into groups of 12 each and have now to help Kartik (the main character in her book) solve the case of Mrs. Banerjee’s missing diamond necklace. 5 clues are handed out in successive intervals, each quickly digested. The bees then huddle together to discuss. Mystery solving is very serious business indeed!

Our little detectives did not disappoint. Several groups solved the puzzle, except we fell short of time and none could finish their illustrations. With the closing of the session was the opening of the floodgates, children rushing for an autograph from a real writer! Shweta seemed to be overwhelmed with all her little fans (which they were, by the time we were done!) hovering around her. I think she only just realized what a star she’d become Smile

The school then gracefully thanked the writer (and I) with a card and a gift. Shweta ended with some words of encouragement and inspiration: a lot of curiosity and imagination is what she prescribed to the wide-eyed students.

Her book, ‘The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong’, is also a lesson in geography, as most children would need more than 5 clues to figure out where Kurseong is located. I bet the popularity of the hill station is going to shoot up ten-fold by the time the Bookaroo literature festival is done. Which reminds me, there were plenty of queries about the festival and I’m positive we will have a huge attendance from SPV. If that isn’t cause for celebration, what is?

By Yirmiyan Arthur


Thanks Yirmiyan for such a beautiful review.