The Case of the Stolen Strokes of Heaven: An Annoying Teenage Misadventure

Keith lifted the wooden lid that covered his desk only to recoil in shock of the sight he beheld.

“My sketchbook,” he noted. “It’s gone.”

He had barely been gone for a matter of ten minutes, but those ten minutes that he spared to eat his lunch had turned out to be a grave mistake, as he now realized.

“Hey, Eris?” he spoke. “Are you seeing this?”

“If you mean the fact that your sketchbook is missing,” she said, with the roll of her eyes evident in her voice, “yes, yes I am. However,” she spoke, raising her nihilistic tone to one that now mocked the boy standing by her. “If you mean that I am seeing the fact hat you’ve lost your sense of normalcy, then I noticed that eons ago.”

The boy rubbed his pale temples in disdain, sending a glare worthy of only a child of Medusa towards the curly-haired tower of sarcasm above him.

“I’m serious, Eris. That had spoilers for my manga in it. It could get leaked and my spotless reputation would be soiled forevermore!”

“You don’t even have a manga,” she shook her head sadly. “It’s just a little comic you doodle about an angel and a devil who fall in love. And its on your Instagram, not even physically published.”

“But Eris,” he pleaded. “Help me find it, at least.”

“I can’t say no to that face.” She sighed. “Fine, at least give me a minute to find Zack and Connie.”

Ten minutes later four middle-schoolers were grouped around the crime scene, stating the fact of the case which had now come to be known as the ‘Case of the Stolen Strokes of Heaven’ as Connie dubbed it.

(‘But Keith’s art isn’t that great”, Eris complained. ‘Yes, it is,’ Connie declared. ‘So there.’)

“So you and Keith went down to eat lunch,” Zack summed up. “For ten minutes, and then he returns to find that his sketchbook has disappeared off the face of the earth.”

“That’s pretty much it.” Eris concluded. “Connie seems to have no input on the matter though, do you, Connie?”

“Nope. Nada. Zilch. Nahi.” Connie affirmed in four languages.

Eris rolled her eyes. “I wish I didn’t ask, you braggart.”

“Guys,” Keith spoke, for the first time in 10 minutes. “It’s been a while and we haven’t got any closer to figuring out suspects.”

“For once,” Eris noted. “Keith is right.”

“For once?” Keith exclaimed in outrage.

“Oh my God, would you two stop? Look, kids are coming into the class right now.” Zack rattled off. “We’ll scan them for any guilty faces. Eris, try not to look like you’re going to murder everyone in cold blood. Connie, stop grinning like an escaped mental hospital admittance, and Keith? Just, try not to cry? I guess?”

“I’m too tough to cry.” Keith spoke.

Connie coughed into her fist. “Just yesterday you were crying about snakes.”

“They don’t have proper eyesight! They can’t read manga!” Keith wailed.

Just then, the most petrifying danger, even worse than hurricane Irma, stormed into the class with a sour look of resignation on her face, her eyes flittering from student to student pronouncing, I hate that, I hate that and I really hate that.

It was math class, and Mrs. Johannesburg was back.

Who is Mrs. Johannesburg, you may ask? Well, you’re certainly been lucky to not know her. She was the principal of the school, nicknamed ‘The Demon Teacher’ by her pupils, who doubled as a math teacher for, well,  let us just call them…special classes. In particular, Eris’ class.

She despised Eris and her gang. Eris with her curly hair, rude demeanor and sarcastic behavior; Keith with his lack of interest in the subject and constant doodling in class; and Zack  with his tendency to identify loopholes, ask stupid questions and distract the class, they were the absolute worst.

But she loved Connie, for no apparent reason other than the fact that she kept finding more and more excessively complicated ways to do a simple sum.

Eris groaned, and Keith shifted his seat behind her to be shielded from the demon teacher as much as possible. Zack leaned back in his chair to leisurely think of the worded pranks he would pull this lesson.

Connie sat up front. Teacher’s pet, Eris thought, with an exaggerated roll of her eyes.

“Aargh!” Keith whisper-yelled to the dark-skinned girl to his front. “What am I supposed to do in class?”

“Look on the bright side,” Eris remarked. “You’ll listen today and scribble some notes, hopefully, instead of doodling all the time. At least you could pass the upcoming Maths teat this week.”

“Very helpful,” Keith snorted. “Especially since you’re going to sleep all lesson.”

“No, I’m not.” Eris retorted. “Now take out your book, she’s already started.”

“No, I won’t.” Keith snapped. “In fact, I’m going to-”

But we will never know what Keith was going to do, for it was Mrs. Johannesburg who did something, and that something was rapidly whipping around to face Keith and deliver one of her famous snide remarks.

“Mr. Katana,” She sneered. “I’m sure we’d all love to take a lesson from you in Maths, wouldn’t we? After all, not many of us have received the honor of getting straight F’s in this year.”

Keith visibly winced. “Sorry.”

Keith dug out his notebook and sighed, he honestly hated this class from the bottom of his heart.

Five thousand zillion bajillion years later, or maybe not, it just felt like that to Keith, the class was over. Keith stuck his hand back inside his bag to pull out his science notebook when his hand clasped around a familiar shape.

“My sketchbook!” He exclaimed in surprise.

Eris burst into peals of uncontrollable laughter as she looked into the camera of her phone.

“And that is how to trick a Keith!” She beamed into the mike.

“Oh. My. God.” Keith’s jaw dropped onto the floor. “It was you! You lying, sneaky, dirty, piece of-”

“And this is the part where you-” She was cur off short but a guttural yell from Keith as she sprang to her feet and sprinted in the direction of Zack.

“RUN!” She laughed into the phone as they darted around chairs and dived under desks.

Eris was stopped short by Keith catching both her legs as she flailed her arms and planted face-first in the ground as her other friends gathered around.

Keith placed a leg on her head, retrieved the phone and put in the ending shot.

“Okay, so, Zack and Connie,” Keith stated. “What have we learned today?”

“Never mess with Keith’s sketchbooks,” They solemnly spoke in unison. Or, you’ll get it.”

“Well spoken, my friends,” Keith spoke smugly. “Understood, Eris?”

“Get off my face,” Was Eris’ groaned response. “God, you’re such a dork.”

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Spark Creativity and Vocabulary with Picture Prompts – EBook Review -An Adventure awaits..

When I received this book , quite by chance,  I was indeed surprised and delighted. As someone who delights in creative writing  and spinning a yarn, this book is a gold mine!!

The book is  a collection of  40 colourful, varied and detailed images in different styles by a group of  super talented artists. The logic is simple.. Flip through the book, pick any picture as a starting point  and there you have it.. a surefire way to get children’s creative juices  flowing and imagination running wild.

The book begins with a valuable guide by Santhini Govindan sharing a myriad of ways to use the book from being a great conversation starter for a toddler, to a story building group activity to asking leading questions in a creative writing class, like pulling the child’s attention to the environment or the emotions of the characters, poetry possibilities to even as a drawing tool!

Oh.. what a treasure waits for you ahead! The quality of this collection of pictures is simply outstanding! Let me go through some of our experiences with these.

Alankrita Jain’s  intriguing illustrations ,  Toon girl on a potted plant reminded a five year old of a Thumbelina-esque adventure and had me thinking up  a shrinking potion.  Lost in the market lead to one mystery adventure with an Indian mystic who had made the village temple disappear!

Ameya Narvankar ‘s Indie takes flight held promises of a full series of travel diaries of a mystery cat. My seven year old brother is  contemplating whether this cat should meet Geronimo in one of his adventures!

Ashok Rajagopalan ‘s illustrations, one of our favourites since  “Gajapati Kulapati” presented  us  with a great range of themes from a The squirrel’s camera  to The baby’s puddle and a Spaceship above the sea

Nancy Raj ‘s creations  The girl and the tambourine and  The monkey and the flute seller had us marvelling at the colourful art and coming up with different stories funny situations and interesting songs while  Brown cat prowls had us scratching our heads to come up with a feline problem

Partha Sengupta‘s  The empty box  gave me a chance to tell the story of Pandora’s box to my brother (warning him not to open my boxes…but I digress), a fairy hiding the corner or a mystery note asking her to follow the treasure map! The Ghost in the turret explores the possibilities of a fun entry into the horror or just a silly prank !

Shruti Kabo‘  Fossil opened up the the journey to the dear world of the dinosaurs while the Book Reading Monster reminded my brother of Dr Seuss’s Horton hears a Hoo as he created a small world that lived on the monster that he was unaware of at first!…

Soniya Bhase’s intriguing The pink and green family  and  Grandpa and his green forest started some more serious thought provoking talks on teen trouble that resonated with me and environmental concerns

Zainab Tambawalla ‘s vivid Grandma and the tiger was one of the illustrations that caught our attention right away. Who can stay away from  the tale of a Grandma who seemed so energetic and vibrant, almost dancing that too with a tiger!

As you can see, the possibilities are endless, just sitting down even while you are waiting in an airport or travelling in car, this book had a potential to transport you in a new storyland! In today’s age where people are often looking for ready to use boxes and helper words sets and a fixed set of questions , I really love that the author has simply done a splendid job of presenting a collection of mind blowing images and then left a white space for the creativity to bloom.

The only little thing the doodler in me would have loved is the illustrator’s name at the bottom of each image.

Thank You Shyamala Shanmugasundaram for this innovative and superbly illustrated treat!

You can buy this book  here on Amazon