Monday, November 14, 2011

MMGM: THE TIFFIN, by Mahtab Narsimhan

It's MMGM time! Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by the lovely Shannon Whitney Messenger, who thought Middle Grade deserved more internet attention, and I agree! So most Mondays I spotlight a great Middle Grade book that I've read and loved.

This week, I want to tell you about THE TIFFIN, by Mahtab Narsimhan. Here's the cover copy: Bombay is home to the dabbawallas, a group of deliverymen who bring boxed lunches -- called tiffins -- to workers all over the city. For every six million lunches that are sent, a tiffin goes missing only once.

This is a story about one of those times.

When a note placed in a tiffin is lost, young Kunal is separated from his birth mother and ends up living as a twelve-year-old slave under the thumb of his foster father, Seth.

Kunal turns to his friend, a kindly old dabbawalla named Vinayak, for help. Vinayak takes Kunal under his wing, showing him the world through the eyes of a tiffin carrier. Filled with new hope for a better life, Kunal hatches a plan that could reunite him with his mother.

Aren't you just dying to know what the plot is and whether it works? I know I was after reading that.

I loved the characters in this book: Kunal is a true picture of a twelve-year-old boy, complete with stubborn temperament, and I really wanted him to find his birth mother and have her love him. I can't tell you what happens, obviously, but I can tell you that there are lots of twists and turns, and that at one point I was on the edge of my seat almost shouting at Kunal. (You'll know that scene when you get to it!)

But the thing that I most loved about this book is the setting, and the way she makes it come alive on the page. From the very first line, the sights and sounds and smells of Bombay swirl around in your mind. The descriptions are so vivid that I actually feel as if I have been there, even though I never have. And the little bits of Hindi dropped throughout the dialogue and text are the perfect finishing touch.

The bottom line is that I really loved this book. Not only is it a great story, but it brings Bombay (now Mumbai) alive for young readers who may never have a chance to see it in person, and that alone is a pretty amazing gift. So check it out! And if you liked THE TIFFIN, you'll want to check out her other books, which you can do HERE.

And then go to Shannon's blog HERE, for links to more Marvelous Middle Grade!


  1. This book would be great on my multicultural feature even though it has no magic in it (I'm a sucker for anything fantasy). I've seen documentaries where tiffins were featured but I'm most intrigued by what you say about the setting. Thanks for this great feature.

  2. I've never heard of this book! But it certainly sounds intriguing. And we need more multicultural literature for kids.

  3. Did this book have a different working title once? I remember reading about it but I don't remember this title. It sounds good though.

  4. Wow. This sounds so freaking cool. That cover doesn't really say MG to me, but who cares? Sounds like an amazing story.

  5. this book has my vote, diversity, male MC, plus my adopted kids can appreciate their family better. thanks for this!