Book Review: Maya in a Mess by Meera Nair

Age Group: 6+

During our school days, we all have been fascinated at the thought of becoming the Class Monitor. Being the Class Monitor is still exciting for children. Maya in a Mess is a story about a girl, Maya, who is desperate to become the Class Monitor. But being the Monitor is not an easy task. It calls for a lot of responsibility.

Maya is getting late for school because she is stuck in traffic. She keeps squirming in the car and says that she is going to miss the ‘Opportunity of a Lifetime’. The ‘Opportunity of a Lifetime’ is becoming the Class Monitor. Her competitor for the Monitor’s post is the super immaculate Nidhi, who keeps everything in order and perfect.

Maya is anxiously waiting for the teacher, Miss P, to announce the monitors. Maya is called in front of the class and given the key to the cupboard and is made the Cupboard Monitor. Maya is ecstatic. Miss P opens the cupboard to show Maya everything inside it. Along with stacks of craft paper, crayons, colour pencils and notebooks, there is a giant bottle of gum. This is the tallest, biggest and bluest bottle of gum and only Class III has it in the entire school.

Maya is now responsible for keeping the key safely with her but Nidhi warns her that she will lose the key because she is careless. Therefore, to make sure she does not lose it, Maya ties the key on her wrist with a ribbon. But the ribbon unravels and her mother gives her a pink twisty plastic wire and key ring. She puts the key on the key-ring and ties the plastic wire to the key-ring. She then ties the wire over Maya’s wrist like a bangle.

Maya is so happy being the monitor that she shows the key to everyone. In the class, her duties as the monitor begin by distributing crayons and paper and the big gum bottle. She then locks the door tight with the key.

During recess, Maya and her friends Ayesha, Elliot and Vivek decide to play ‘Police and Robber’. Maya insists on playing the policewoman because she has the pink twisty wire which can be made as a handcuff and also the key to the handcuffs. The robbers are thrown in the pretend jail which is the bushes on the far side of the playground.

Suddenly the whistle blows indicating that the recess is over. After a few more classes the school is over. Maya is getting out of the van in the front of her building when she looks at her hand. THE KEY IS LOST.

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Maya is frantic. She goes to her room and empties her bag but the key is not there. She checks everywhere but cannot find the key. She thinks it is lost in the playground. She decides to look for it the next day. Maya is sick due to excessive worrying and misses the school next day. After a day’s rest, she goes to school but is unable to concentrate on studies. Then Miss P asks Maya to open the cupboard. Nervously, Maya decides to tell a lie. She says that she left the key at home. She is scared to admit that she has lost it.

Miss P opens the cupboard with her spare key but the big gum bottle is nowhere to be seen. Nidhi blames Maya of stealing the gum bottle. During recess, everyone ignores Maya except Ayesha and Vivek. Together they try to figure out who took the gum bottle?

After recess, Miss P asks Maya if she has an explanation for the cupboard key. Maya remembers what her parents always say “Best to tell the truth. One lie leads to a thousand lies.” So, Maya tells the truth about losing the key in the playground. She also tells Miss P about not stealing the gum bottle. She apologises for lying. There is a smile on Miss P’s face. After the class was over, Miss P takes Maya to the Principal’s Office to report about the missing key.

The Principal’s Office has a new Notice Board with freshly stuck artwork, photographs of school events and essays written by students. Maya’s mind is racing. Did the principal steal the gum bottle? Soon Maya and Miss P come to know the truth about the missing gum bottle and Maya’s messy situation clears.

Maya in a Mess lays stress on giving little responsibilities to children early in their lives so that they learn to fulfil them. It helps develop a sense of ownership and problem-solving approach. The author also tries to bring out the importance of telling the truth,  whatever be the situation.

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