Seven-year-old Arun has never met his father—he has only seen his photograph in the wedding album. And he hates him. Then, one day, his father comes back, and his mother has a court order to take Arun to meet him once a month. His grandparents say that the Man is very bad and might try to take Arun away from his mother. Arun is scared and angry. But why does the Man keep bringing him gifts? Why does he play with dogs? Why does he climb like a monkey? Why does he keep saying ‘Pop! Pop! Pop!’? As if Arun could ever start calling him ‘Pops’!


  • This is the story of seven-year-old Arun whose parents have separated. He lives with his mother and grandparents, and has never met his father. When he meets his father for the first time, it is at the family court. Though he decides he doesn’t like ‘The Man’, things begin to change gradually. As months and meetings go by, the bond between son and father grows. Narrated in the first person in the voice of Arun, Pops! does a great job of portraying the dilemma of a child living with divorced parents.
  • It’s safe to say that this is a first in terms of books for younger readers – looking at separation/divorce from the point of view of a child. The descriptions of the court-mandated parental visits may not be as alien to children anymore as we might have imagined.
  • The story remains firmly focused on its young protagonist, Arun – we know nothing about what caused his parents’ marriage to break up, who was right or wrong, and why his father disappeared for so long. Full marks to the author Balaji Venkataramanan for that!
  • The author also gets the humour of many awkward situations absolutely right – the sort that makes you smile but also gets you thinking about things.
  • Pops! is a lovely book both to look at and read, even if it seems to be inspired by the Tom Gates and Wimpy Kid novels. The little stick-figure doodles and illustrations by Twiggy are charming and quirky, and more of them would have been even better.
  • Is this a chapter book or a middle-grade novel? It’s hard to tell because the language is middle grade, but the layout seems rather childish. “This is the most I’ve bluffed today,” is certainly not a seven-year-old’s voice. Children tend to read up, so it’s unlikely an eleven-year-old will want a book about seven-year-old Arun, given that they would occupy vastly different worlds.
  • The Man was truly annoying, especially his tendency to go ‘Pop, pop, pop’. He also exhibits some unacceptable behaviours – such as stalking and consistently undermining his ex-wife’s authority (she is Arun’s primary parent) – that are never properly addressed in the book.


We need more stories like Pops! for young readers – stories that normalise having a single parent (or even two single parents) as well as patchwork families.


Author: Balaji Venkataramanan
Illustrator: Twiggy
Language: English
Page Extent: 104 pages
Price: Rs. 225
ISBN: 978-93-87103-14-6
Publisher: Duckbill, 2019
Subject category: Fiction/Chapter Book/Family/Divorce
Age-group: 7+

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