Pinkoo Shergill Pastry Chef
by Vibha Batra
Publisher: Scholastic (2021)
I have spent the last few months admiring the art of cooking and trying my hands at a few simple dishes that magically turned out to be edible enough. So imagine my surprise when I found out that the book I was going to review was about a young boy who aspires to be a pastry chef! Coincidence…?
Pinkoo is a young boy from a big fat Punjabi family, with a seemingly authoritative father figure, who wants him to fulfill a dream that he couldn’t, he wants Pinkoo to be a champion in shooting. Immediately, Pinkoo’s character felt relatable to me. A young child who is burdened with an unfulfilled dream. But Pinkoo doesn’t care about shooting, all he cares about is food, desserts, and cakes, and all things sweet. To his surprise, his dream might come true soon, as he comes to know that an esteemed bake-a-thon event is happening in India for the first time, that too in a town nearby. The story takes us through Pinkoo’s journey of following his dream, overcoming the obstacles, his amazing friends and brother who supported him throughout, and an unexpected yet happy ending.
There is much to praise about this book. Just like other children’s books, I expected an endearing story with a fairytale perfect ending. But I was genuinely surprised at the intelligent setup, premise as well as the plot of the story, and twists that kept me hooked until the last chapter, not to mention a climax that I didn’t see coming.
The writing style of the author (Vibha Batra) absolutely charmed me! Very different from what one would expect from a children’s book, there is some great use of sarcasm and dark humour in the story that had even me, an adult woman in her late twenties, rolling on the floor laughing! I am genuinely fond of all kinds of humour writing, but I have to say, I didn’t expect a children’s book to tickle my funny bone the way this book did, and I was deeply impressed by it.
For example, here are some funny excerpts from the story that I found worth mentioning:
“Why couldn’t Nimrat be half as sweet as her father? Why did she have to be bitter like a neem-leaf? Her name should have been Neem-rat.”
“The look on Papaji’s face! I had seen gentler expressions on Dementors.”
“Staring it won’t make it grow back, you know”, Chef Khanna to Pinkoo when he kept staring at his amputated arm.
Another thing that makes this book stand out for me is the way it progressed towards the end, very close to climax. Halfway through the book, the reader may expect a happy ending and yes the ending does feel happy, but I appreciate the fact that it ended in a more realistic way as opposed to a perfect ending that we would usually expect. A happy ending that isn’t perfect, a wonderful way to end a children’s book, giving the readers even more knowledge and insight to the true meaning of life.
While reading this book, I could tell that the writing came from a place of deep love from the author. This kind of writing ends up making one feel warm, regardless of the story or the characters, or the way it ends. This book made me feel the same. The author and the publishers have also included a page of glossary towards the end, to help you translate some regional words and salutations from Punjabi language, that have been used throughout the book, following which, you find the cutest list of acknowledgements ever!
Overall, this book will end up filling you with a positive outlook on life and inspiration to follow your dreams, in a very subtle and fun way, which makes it a fabulous read for children. It will leave you feeling happy and fulfilled. And also, here I am, ordering myself pastry books, baking utensils and oven mitts…
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