English / India
The 8oy who 5p3ak5 1n num83r5
Frame, Matthew (illus.)
New Delhi: Tara Books, 2015. – 92 p.
Sri Lanka | History 1983-2009 | Civil war | Violence | Survival
White Ravens issue: 2016
Reading age: 12+
Sri-Lankan writer Mike Masilamani’s first book initially started off as a short story, which then was performed as a play, before Tara Books editorial director Gita Wolf picked it up and suggested to turn it into a book. The gruesome story is set in Sri Lanka during the civil war – but could take place in any war zone – and recounts the hardships of a young boy in a refugee camp. Rather than offering a straight-forward realistic story however, Masilamani has chosen a “darkly satiric” narrative of the “Civil War of Lies” and infused it with an unusual cast of idiosyncratic (partly animal-like) characters, who point out the absurdity of war. The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers – while everyone else speaks in colours – encounters friends and foes in the “Kettle Camp”, such as the Lying Lizard, the Constantly Complaining Cow, and the Important Aunty and her Peons. Matthew Frame’s poster-art-like red-and-yellow illustrations capture both the cruelty and the surreal moments of the tale.