• JoAnne Saldanha

The Grand Chapati Contest

Written by: Asha Nehemiah Illustrated by:Chetan Sharma

Published by : Duckbill/Penguinsters



So let me say right off the bat, that there is no way I could ever enter a chapati making competition. I could enter my chapatis for a compilation of an atlas, every country covered...no discrimination.


So The Grand Chapati contest? Hmmm...it had me intrigued!!!


What happens when the King's Chief Chapati Maker (CCM) leaves to take 'sanyas', the overalls wearing queen is too busy with renovations and the other cooks are petrified to take on the role of the CCM, for nothing upsets the King more than imperfect chapatis. They have just got to be perfectly round and the fluffiest-puffiest ever...none of the cooks want to risk their jobs.


Ever resourceful, the queen organises The Grand Chapati Contest to find the best chapati maker in the kingdom or beyond. With a bag of gold and the prestigious job of the Kings CCM at stake, there seem to be many eager to compete.


Meena knows that her Amma is the best chapati maker...well that is all she makes everyday, because that is all they can afford to eat. But how can the wife of a humble peanut seller compete against the professional chapati chefs?

So the family heads off to The Grand Chapati Contest, to sell peanuts instead, at what is bound to be a 'mela' of sorts. But does Amma seize the opportunity when it presents itself?

This is such a fun tale, one that is sure to make the reader smile and it makes for some great storytelling and discussions.


So here’s the deal...I’m a huge Asha Nehemiah fan, and I actually have a little Asha Nehemiah collection of books, so I was thrilled to receive an autographed copy when I ordered with Funky Rainbow.



Asha AND Chetan Sharma...now there's a whole new level of irresistible!

Asha delivers as promised...her trademark humour and smooth narration shining through in the subtlest of ways, complemented by Chetan’s illustrations.

I love poring over illustrations, and was thrilled to spot R.K. Laxman’s ‘Common Man’ hanging around watching the Chapati competition. Little details right from the queens jewellery over her overalls, the CCM’s sanyas style...complete with wooden chappals, the Indian details in the fountain, the King's choice of music in his despondent state, the range of chapatis in the competition, to the decorated peanut cart at the end, all kept me engrossed and amused.


As always, I look for opportunities to extend the book:


  • Such a wonderful book to discuss the range of staple breads/roti’s that we eat across our country. In a school setting in post covid times of course, a potluck of traditional breads would be a wonderful way to get children to learn about different food across our school community.

  • What is a phulka? What is a chapati? What is a paratha? Same dough? Different methods?

  • I know that within the Montessori system, it’ll be easy to organise a session to help children to learn to roll out round chapatis. Cooking the chapatis and serving it to classmates, would be a fun exercise. If shapes are not round, encourage children to honour each non-round chapati with a title, closest to its shape. This exercise may work in small book club settings too. (Due care needs to be taken, if children are near a heat source.)

  • Many of my students hesitate to put themselves ‘out there’, often thinking themselves not good enough. What is the worst that could happen if you do? This book provides a wonderful opening to discuss this.


The book is part of the Hook Book series published by Duckbill books, now a Penguin Random House imprint and is suitable for children who are just getting into chapter books...roughly 5-6 years.

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