Book Review: Nina and the Magical Carnival by Madhvi Ramani

This review is a bit different than usual.

Madhvi Ramani contacted me earlier this week, requesting that I review her upcoming children’s book, Nina and the Magical Carnival. It’s definitely not what I usually read, but I was honored that she wanted to know what I thought about it, and to be honest, it was really nice to read a younger book. I seriously enjoyed reading this story, and I’m not just saying that to be nice. I felt that this book was refreshingly unique.

By the way, it is the third in a series (but I was fine not having read the first two books) and will be available at the end of November on Amazon.

One of my little sisters is just growing out of this age range, and the other is just getting ready to read this type of book, so I read this book both from my perspective as a teen and as also an older sister, thinking about how this book would affect my little sisters.

I give it 4/5 stars.

I don’t really have a synopsis, but here is my take on it:

Nina’s aunt has a travelling spice shed. In this book, she travels to Brazil during the famous Carnival in Rio, searching for her magical fantasia de cabeca that will help her shine in the up-coming talent show.

You can read about the rest of the Nina series from someone who actually knows what they are talking about here.

This book is adorable. I haven’t read a book this young in years, and I loved coming back to it. My English class really got into Grapes of Wrath this week, and I’m not going to lie, it was really nice having an easier read to fall back on after hours of annotating, on top of other homework (can you tell this week was really intense? It was.). The friendly characters, the exciting but perfectly ridiculous plot–they were exactly what I needed in my life.

Even though it was a kids book, I found myself caught up in the story. The jokes were funny, and there were some great gems thrown in for the parents (or big sisters) reading over their child’s shoulder. (Aunt Nishi is awesome.) The characters were definitely cast from a children’s-book mold, but they didn’t feel overly cliche. Nina’s character, a girl who would rather do homework than think of something to preform in the talent show, was relatable. It as nice to see a more timid (though she is brave when the time comes) main character, as I feel like most kids books focus on the same up-for-anything, bubbly character. I definitely wasn’t that kind of kid, and I enjoyed seeing my own type of girl cast in a leading role for once.

On a random note, Madhvi Ramani is British. I don’t think I’ve ever read a British kids book, and the novelty was amusing.

Madhvi introduced the premise of the series to me as Nina going to a different country in each book, and learning something about and from the culture she experiences there. This book, with its Indian characters and Brazilian setting, lives up to her description. It didn’t go overboard with life lessons, but sprinkled in facts about Brazil and the Carnival in Rio throughout the story.

The involvement of Nina’s Aunt Nishi, who (semi-willingly) brings Nina with her to Brazil was unique. From what I remember of books I read as a kid (and what I’ve seen my little sister reading), most stories involve kids keeping something like a traveling spice shed secret from their parents, and going on kids-only adventures (I’m looking at you, Magic Tree House books). Though Nina is separated from her aunt (tiny spoiler, sorry), she does feel obligated to keep her word to her aunt, and return on time, which I thought was cool, without being heavy-handed with a OBEY YOUR ELDERS message.

I really liked reading this book, and I can’t thank Madhvi Ramani enough for letting me read it.

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