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Of Course Its Butterfingers - Review
Reshma Elizabeth Jacob reviews Khyrunnisa's Of Course Its Butterfingers!'
On Apr 06, 2019

 

Upon reading Khyrunnisa A.’s Of Course It’s Butterfingers! – a delightful and imaginatively crafted collection of thirteen short stories – one can’t help but be reminded of Marian Keyes’ words about the great comic writer P. G. Wodehouse. The reason Wodehousean novels are so addictive, Keyes declares, is because they make it “possible to keep the real world at bay and live in a far, far, nicer, funnier one where happy endings are the order of the day.” Despite being light years removed from the British master’s world of eccentric earls and supercilious butlers, it would not be amiss to claim that Khyrunnisa’s quintessentially Indian stories hold much the same appeal for readers.


Since first appearing in Tinkle magazine during the mid 2000s, Butterfingers, with its wickedly funny storylines and wide array of memorable characters, quickly rose to become one of the nation’s best loved children’s comics. Of late, its popularity has been further bolstered with the success of Penguin India’s Butterfingers book series, which thus far consists of three novels and three short story collections.

 

The newest entrant in the saga, Of Course It’s Butterfingers!, whisks you back into the colourful world of Amar Kishen, a thirteen-year-old student of Green Park Higher Secondary School. Nicknamed Butterfingers on account of his spectacular clumsiness, Amar is drawn to disaster like a moth to a flame. Dropping catches, breaking things, losing important documents, accidentally knocking people over – all are par for the course for Butterfingers. However, despite his many, many mishaps, it is impossible to stay exasperated at Butter for too long. His enthusiasm is so contagious, good intentions so obvious and blunders so reminiscent of our own, that we cannot help but chuckle indulgently as the lovable klutz attempts to wriggle out of one sticky spot after another.


Of Course It’s Butterfingers! provides ample canvas for Butter to once again illustrate why he is the original master of mayhem. The book is remarkable in that although all the narratives follow a similar arc (Butter messes things up; then by an incredible twist of fate manages to resolves the problem), none of them feel repetitive. On the contrary, each individual tale feels fresh, engrossing, and entirely distinct from others in the collection. Thus while the story “Mummy” recounts Butter’s visit to the local museum (an expedition gone horribly wrong, needless to say!), the ominously named “Kidnapped”is a comedy of errors involving mistaken identities en route to school, and “Russel’s Cap” is a lighthearted holiday story set in the village of Haryali.

“The Historic Girls Vs Boys Cricket Match”, a seventy-five page long story featuring an exciting cricket showdown between Amar’s Green Park School and an all girls team from Target School, is likely to be a favourite with many readers. This novella features many of the “classic” Butterfingers elements which made the series so successful with audiences: a high-stakes sports match, a whiff of mystery (why was the late Colonel Nadkarni so insistent that the competition should be held on the Ides of March?), some amateur sleuthing, characteristic bumbling on the part of Butter, several moments of hilarity courtesy Principal Jagmohan’s dreadful public speaking skills, and as always, an immensely satisfying, but not entirely expected conclusion.

The book’s droll sense of humour and elegant prose style elevates it above standard fare in Indian children’s fiction. Nothing is played up for cheap laughs. Rather, the humour derives organically from the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the characters (Arjun’s music obsession which renders him oblivious to happenings in the real world, pedantic Kishore’s tendency to to spout Shakespeare at every available opportunity, Principal Jagmohan’s testy nature, all come to mind). The many puns and clever word plays inserted discreetly at various junctures are sure to delight lovers of the English language.

It is also commendable that quite a few of the stories convey meaningful messages to the readers without sounding moralistic or contrived. Abhijeet Kini’s striking illustrations enliven the stories immensely and serve as the perfect icing on the cake.

Writing humour is difficult. Writing for children, even more so. However, readers of Of Course, It’s Butterfingers! would be forgiven for believing otherwise, given the seeming ease with which each story is woven. These easy, breezy tales of school, friendships and fun are eminently readable and a worthy addition to your bookshelf.

 
 
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