By Madhvi Ramani, Illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters


Published by: Transworld Publishers (November 25, 2014)

Available in: paperback, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review three books in the Nina series.



Recently launched in the U.S. (and last month in the U.K. under Tamarind Books), Nina and the Magical Carnival is unusual in a number of ways that make it original, lively and worldly.

First, the main character is a young girl who likes to do things perfectly. That makes it hard to let go and try new things. A lot of kids share this trait. And yet in chapter books, it seems most protagonists are loose and average but are called upon to do exceptional things. This protagonist starts as a perfectionist who is called upon to be free and easy. What an interesting twist.

Most of the action takes place in Rio de Janeiro, perhaps one of the most spontaneous cities in the world. Our hero, Nina, joins a carnival parade while not getting things done on her To Do list. Meanwhile, she’s soaking up the culture and joie de vive around her. Normally, unstructured action kills the pace of a book, but in this turnaround concept, it actually moves the book along at a good clip.

This character also gives us insight into the Indian culture, which I’ve not seen from chapter books. For example, the story starts with Nina going to her freethinking auntie’s house because her parents have slipped out for a date night at the latest Bollywood movie.

It all adds up to an exotic adventure with subtle flavors from a number of cultures. Add in the casual, impulsive illustrations, as well as some unique and fun activities at the back, and the whole thing is an effortless, delightful trip.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….


4 thoughts on “Nina

  1. I say it’s an excellent start. There are so, so many children who share those traits, and need to kearn that mistakes are a part of life & risk-taking is part of creativity. I was one of them. I still am, in some ways.

    • I agree–a nice start for so many reasons. Chapter books seem late to the game on other topics as well–diversity, inventive plotting, geography and more. But the Nina series spotlights a range of good ideas, actions and cultures. A nice start indeed. Thanks for the comment, Zee.

      • That’s a good point. Writers are (generally) reluctant to explore with chapter books. I want to explore some of this with young readers (I’m a writer and a part-time teacher) and I really struggle with whether I “should” or not.

      • It’s a tough question. The publishing industry in general is at a taxed, pivotal moment. It seems to me that the chapter book genre is one of the least visible and, other than the big best sellers, least profitable segments of the market. So it makes it difficult from both a publishing and writing side to be brave and go out on a limb from the norm. Best of luck on finding the right mix.

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