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….