The White Ravens

A Selection of International Children's and Youth Literature

Presented by   Internationale Jugendbibliothek / International Youth Library

English / India

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Masilamani, Mike (text)
Frame, Matthew (illus.)
Chennai: Tara Books, 2015. – 92 p.
ISBN 978-93-83145-27-0

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 V. Geetha 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.