“Go outside and play Mythil” standard mother’s command.
“With who” ponders Mythil? He knows this is all a shallow prelude to his parent’s regular squabbling which is nothing but “pus wedilli” that he sees often. Starts at nothing and ends up covering everything from who ran up the phone bill to why Archchi should be gifted apple juice and then they hold hands, Ammi and Thaththi, cease fire negotiated and all quiet on the home front.
Such is the conversation of the book, of day to day family feuds and banter that we know so well; easy to relate to and all so familiar to a child reader.
Author Rambukwella has got into the imaginative mind of a pre-teenage boy and has given a wonderful story for children with a lot of local flavour.
I am aware that not many eleven year olds will read my review and go looking for the book. This then, is for parents who want to introduce good reading material for the offspring or for the “gift hunter” who will be browsing book stores for the next-door kid’s birthday party. Either way, Mythil’s Secret fits the bill.
Let’s eradicate the main fear; except for a platonic hug that Mythil is very uncomfortable with there is nothing saucy in the book. Even that bit slips through the field like a Sangakara leg glance; boundary signalled, no offence. The story is imaginative with the young hero taking the reader through a myriad of adventures relating to local matter and metaphor, which includes kokis in the grandmother’s tin and aluwa that melted in the mouth plus homemade wattakka pudding. Then the story scuttles you to outdoor worlds of catapults in the hip-pocket that shoots tamarind seeds and strangers in the jungle who talk wisdom to papaw pieces and bananas.
To the young of today, the X-Box and Play Station clan, Prashani Rambukwella’s writing is a walk into a world of “left behind”, a resurrection of stories that mothers vaguely remember and grandmothers used to animate and recite with glee to eager audiences of grandchildren.
Mythil’s secrets are twined to reality and imagination. Little boys do become varying heroes in their own minds and come out of western movies with palms hanging low with fingers spread, ready to draw on anyone. Or they climb the garden tree in Tarzan mode. Then there are the riding Genghis Khans and spear throwing Roman soldiers. All that is fantasy of the young, but Mythil’s secrets are much more.
The story revolves around the dilemma of a young boy as he tries to confront every day family problems which in his mind loom large and menacing, while also dealing with the supernatural and making his best attempts to convince his elders that there is truth in what he says. How could little Mythil relate and be taken seriously of meeting a “small fry” yaka in the woods? Or would anyone believe that the little devil gifted him strange powers to see strange things that normal people do not see. All this is well crafted by the author to make the tale tilt towards fantasy yet keeping a balance to bring about the possibilities of such in a young boy’s mind.
The characters that move on stage are colourful too and well painted; Seeli who sways to the music of her radio while doing chores and Jamis of the constant bad mood fill the domestic department. Uncle Anthony and Aunty Nilmini who wears sunglasses on her head and their daughter Ianthi add spice to the story along with Bhishani the could be devil. Then there is Ammi and Thaththi and the Archchi who is Mythil’s bosom pal. That is the cast and they carry the show at an excellent pace. The book is certainly a page turner for the adventurous young.
Finally the story ends. The parents tell Mythil “go play outside,” but this time he is ready, for Mythil has found a wonderful new play mate.
Do read and find out who and how.
Mythil's-loc res

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