Monday, January 14, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Tiffin

Today’s pick:  The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan

Dancing Cat Books, 2011

From the publisher:
The dabbawallas of Mumbai deliver box lunches — called tiffins — to whitecollar workers all over the vast city. They are legendary for their near-perfect service: for every six million lunches sent, only one will fail to reach its intended destination. The Tiffin is about that one time in millions when a box goes astray, changing lives forever.

When a note placed in a tiffin is lost, a newborn—Kunal—is separated from his mother. Twelve years later, Kunal lives as a virtual slave under the thumb of his foster father, Seth. With danger and oppression making it impossible to stay where he is, Kunal asks his friend Vinayak, an aging dabbawalla, to help him find his birth mother. Vinayak introduces Kunal to the tiffin carriers, and a plan is hatched. Along the way, Kunal learns what it means to be part of a family.

My Take: 
I enjoy reading books where I get a glimpse of what it’s like to live in a different country, and this story did a great job of bringing to life the city of Mumbai, especially a side of it that a tourist wouldn’t experience. I liked the way the author included authentic Indian vocabulary (and a glossary at the back for difficult words). Kunal’s dream of finding his family was easy to relate to and I was intrigued by the idea of the tiffin and how it helped solve his problem. This book provides many opportunities to think about social issues such as child labour and child abuse.  

As a writer, I enjoyed the way the details about Mumbai and Kumal’s life transported me to another place. Although some elements of the plot seemed a bit of a stretch, the setting and characters kept me hooked on the story. This novel is a good illustration of how the elements of character, setting and plot work together to keep the reader interested.

Favourite quote:
“He would willingly have gone hungry just to belong to a family.”

Other Info:
Mahtab Marsimhan was born in Mumbai and immigrated to Canada at the age of 25. She now lives in Toronto.

Her first book, The Third Eye, won the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Award in 2009.
The Tiffin is a finalist for the 2013 Red Maple Fiction Award, part of the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading. It was also a finalist for the 2012 CLA Book of the Year for Children Award, shortlisted for the 2013 Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award, and named a Quill & Quire Book of the Year for 2011 (Books for Young People).

In an interview with Daytime Toronto on her website, Mahtab says she works by writing down the story first, and then polishing the draft to make it better.

Other books by this author include:
The Third Eye
The Silver Anklet
The Deadly Conch

For more, visit Mahtab Narsimhan’s website.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was dreamed up by the incredible Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities. Visit her blog for an up-to-date list of all the bloggers who are participating and posting about middle grade books today!




  1. This looks very good. I requested a copy via ILL. You should link this post to my World Wednesday meme!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I met my husband in India and we visited Mumbai. This sounds like a book I'd like.

    1. I haven't been there, but the setting was very vivid in the book.

  3. This sounds like a very interesting book. I've never heard of tiffins before.

  4. Oh, this sounds great! I also love a story that is real and helps me and others understand something that is different than what I experience.

  5. Love your review, Andrea. I seem to recall seeing this book on MMGM before, but it's been a while, so I don't remember who reviewed it. But that's great that it has staying power.

    1. Sometimes it's hard to find multicultural books so I think they tend to "stick around".

  6. i love the idea for the book, it's totally different. great review! new follower here, hi!!

  7. I haven't read anything by this author. I like to learn about other parts of the world through the books I read- so this one sounds very good. How unique! Thanks for sharing.


I love to hear your responses and thoughts! Your comments will appear after moderation (I’ve decided to enable moderation due to excessive spam).