For most of us, spiders and rats mean a scream and a call to the pest control. The only rat I really liked was Ratty from The Wind in the Willows .
I think I'll now add Rishabh from Monideepa Sahu's Riddle of the Seventh Stone .
A quick look at the plot: Orphans Leela and Deepak live with their grandparents, Venkat Thatha and Ajji , who run an old herb shop. This shop and others on their street are facing a threat from an evil moneylender. Of course, the humans have no clue that the spiders, rats, mosquitoes and other “pests” that have lived in the shop for years are aware of the problem and are trying to help.
When Rishab the rat and Shashee the spider are magically transformed into a boy and a girl by day, they take their detective role quite seriously. But how are they going to cope with school and studies? Even worse, Rishabh is dying to plunge into the garbage heap and can't stand the thought of a bath. Shashee is horrified at the thought of cleaning out cobwebs spun by her ancestors. But all these thoughts fade as the menace of the Shark looms over their lives.
Shashee and Rishab call for help from their friends — the bandicoots, rats, mice, mosquitoes, cockroaches, houseflies — and the entire insect world goes into overdrive as the multi-storeyed buildings that Shark is constructing are affecting their lives too. Rishab learns of an ancient treasure and is obsessed with finding it before the Shark — aided by his pet white mouse — finds it.
The rest of the story is about how they foil the Shark's plans and whether Shashee and Rishab decide to stay on as humans or revert to their original forms.
Riddle of the Seventh Stone keeps you hooked. You laugh as the kids foil Ajji's attempts to get rid of the pests. You sympathise with Rishab's struggles with geometry. Monideepa Sahu's portrayal of the kids and their interactions rings true and her language flows easily. The only weak part of the story is the decoding of the riddle to find the treasure. Pick this one up for a great read.
RIDDLE OF THE SEVENTH STONE, Monideepa Sahu; Zubaan, Rs. 195