Swami and Friends has been praised by critics as a particularly exceptional story and picture of childhood. Most readers agree that through Narayan's plain language, idyllic plot details, and matter-of-fact tone of childish truth, he manages to create a character who is immediately understood and loved. Further, most come away from the reading of this book with a deeper appreciation of the universal way life seems to be for children, as this book so magically captures even in a foreign culture. Most agree that the book (re)sparks a sense of tenderness for children and a longing to revisit childhood.
Narayan's humor, therefore, can be described in part, as the straightforward and matter-of-fact directness of a precocious child. It is the combination of innocence mixed with the desire to be taken more seriously. In many ways, the main character Swami thinks and acts like a small adult, trapped in a child's body. Another part to Narayan's humor is the reminder, for most readers, of what life was like as a child. Swami's fears and anxieties in contrast to the so-called real stress of adulthood, reflect a past most adults long to re-live and find particular delight in revisiting through eyes of experience. Swami, and his stories, create a universal laughter from a place inside readers of empathy and fond memories. Most often, the reader is not laughing at Swami nor his circumstances, but laughing for him, from a place of understanding and delight.