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A Novel

by Mahtab Narsimhan

1 rating
5 of 5
comments: 0
reviews: 1
list price: $12.95
published: 2011
publisher: Cormorant Books
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Canadian Children's  Book Centre
Librarian review

The Tiffin

The dabbawallas of Mumbai deliver lunches all over the city, and for every six million lunches sent, only one will fail to reach its destination. When a note placed in a tiffin (lunch box) is lost, young Kunal is separated from his birth mother and ends up living as a slave with his foster father. Vinayak, a kindly old dabbawalla, takes Kunal under his wing, helping the boy hatch a plan to reunite with his mother.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

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  • Short-listed, Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award
  • Short-listed, SYRCA Snow Willow Award
  • Short-listed, OLA Red Maple Fiction Award
  • Short-listed, CLA Book of the Year for Children
  • Commended, <i>Resource Links</i> Year's Best
  • Commended, <i>Quill and Quire</i> Books of the Year (Books for Young People)
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The dabbawallas of Mumbai deliver box lunches — called tiffins — to whitecollar workers all over the vast city. They are legendary for their near-perfect service: for every six million lunches sent, only one will fail to reach its intended destination. The Tiffin is about that one time in millions when a box goes astray, changing lives forever.


When a note placed in a tiffin is lost, a newborn — Kunal — is separated from his mother. Twelve years later, Kunal lives as a virtual slave under the thumb of his foster father, Seth. With danger and oppression making it impossible to stay where he is, Kunal asks his friend Vinayak, an aging dabbawalla, to help him find his birth mother. Vinayak introduces Kunal to the tiffin carriers, and a plan is hatched. Along the way, Kunal learns what it means to be part of a family.

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Editorial Reviews

“Narsimhan recounts a marvellous, well-told story about what it means to belong … When all is lost (or even just one tiffin!), Narsimhan demonstrates how hope can survive! Recommended.”

— CM Magazine

“I really enjoyed travelling to Mumbai in this story, and experiencing the sights, smells, and sounds of this populous city … this is a unique survival story that will captivate junior and intermediate students.”

— Maria Martella, Tinlids

“I give this book 5 stars because I absolutely love how The Tiffin provides an insight into Mumbai’s food delivery system that still continues today. I enjoyed how the author gives an insight into the life of a tiffin carrier. This story certainly has much more than meets the eye and is a celebration of culture and one of the world’s most complex and efficient food delivery systems.”

— Sonika M, age 15, Metropolitan Washington Mensa

“[The Tiffin] is a great book about social consciousness … because it can show you that just because someone lives halfway around the world doesn’t mean they’re not dealing with the same issues you’re dealing with.”

— National Post

“Melding the fantastically factual with fiction, Narsimhan sheds light on a relatively unknown part of Mumbai life while simultaneously creating a compelling quest that reads like a classic folk tale. Forgive the groan-inducing wordplay, but a novel this original is one in six million.” Starred Review

— Quill & Quire
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About the Author

Mahtab Narsimhan

MAHTAB NARSIMHAN is an award-winning author with numerous critically acclaimed books nominated for several awards, including The Third Eye, which won the Silver Birch Fiction Award in 2009. She is inspired by life, love, and the desire to make sense of the world through stories. Mahtab is deeply committed to representing diversity in her books. You can find out more at www.mahtabnarsimhan.com.
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