Children's lit in Bangla has a rich history (Sukumar Ray, anyone?) of lyrical wizardry, as far as Bangladesh is concerned, although the fare is a little slimmer for the young adult category. As far as local authors writing for young readers in English, however, we're running on fumes.
This is where Zak and Zara: The Monster Murder Mystery comes in, brought to you by Samir Asran Rahman, he Chief Creative Officer of Mighty Punch Studios—a Bangladesh-based production studio that specialises in cool and kooky illustrations, comic books and animation.
The story is a twist on the haunted house sub-genre. Siblings Zak and Zara decide to catch a few thrills by exploring an abandoned house that is supposedly haunted. Entering the premises, they encounter a motley crew of monsters. Instead of being scared out of their wits, they find themselves smack in the middle of a whodunnit, as it appears that each of the monsters present at the house has a strange past, and is being hunted down. To say anything more on the plot will only result in spoilers, so this is something the reader has to discover.
Anyone familiar with the Mighty Punch comics will recognise Rahman's mad, fizzy prose, liberally seasoned with pop-culture references. What makes this novel a pleasure for readers of any age are the alliterative patterns within the sentences. This is a story that demands to be read aloud, and the plot twists and wise-cracking will have reader and listeners hooked till the very end.
Zak and Zara, which also happens to be Bengal Lights Books' first young adult fantasy, is launching at the Dhaka Lit Fest on Saturday, so don't forget to check it out!