Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Birthday to our little Zagazoo!

While kids’ birthdays are occasions to celebrate, they are also a time to reflect on the years that simply flew past ……. a reminder of how fast they grow up…...grow out of and grow into new phases!  Like….I can’t believe that my little one turned eight years old yesterday! Whoa!! Eight signals transition into the big league! Eight year olds are more self-assured (that means don’t look up to you for everything!) …think more critically (which means you cant get away with with vague explanations on sticky issues!) and move into independent reading, given the upper limit for most picture books being eight. Wait a minute…. …does it mean he has grown out of Onestoryaday….?? Err…..I haven’t!!!! J
Abhay’s eight birthday was a rather low-key affair compared to his previous celebrations with the highlight being  a special treasure of hunt for eight clues leading up to nine gifts (as he will be stepping into his ninth year!) followed by cake cutting and a restaurant dinner with close family and cousins!
As we look up the check list for milestones on turning eight and compare how our not-so-little one fairs thereon, we find ourselves wondering whether the present phase is better than the previous one…if not worst! J
So on the occasion of Abhay’s eighth birthday, we read one of our Quentin Blake favourites  Zagazoo”, a book that speaks to parents as well as their little ones! It begins like any love story between two likeminded people, George and Bella who spend time together doing many things, including making model aeroplanes or eating strawberry and vanilla ice creams when all of sudden, they receive a parcel that contains a pretty pink creature resembling a baby with a name tag “Zagazoo”. Needless to say, they were delighted and though Zagazoo wasn’t perfect, he had a happy smile that made up for all the imperfections! Then one day Zagazoo turned into a huge baby vulture with a terrifying screech that was even worse at night! Just when George and Bella were wondering how to cope, they discovered that Zagazoo had turned into a baby elephant that knocked over furniture, pulled the tablecloth off the table and ate anything that could lay his trunk on! Before they knew it, George and Bella were baffled to see that Zagazoo change into various forms  thereafter - a mud loving Warthog, a bad tempered dragon, a bat, and then a hairy creature they couldn’t quite understand and what’s more … was getting bigger, hairier and stranger! George and Bella found themselves wishing to turn back time into the “Elephant” or the “Warthog” phase instead! Read on as Bella and George’s hair turns grey with worry as to what will happen to them or how will Zagazoo turn out…as Quentin Blake entertains you with his hilarious yet realistic take on different stages of childhood and growing up! Its only when your Zagazoo turns into a bad tempered dragon when you realize that the warthog was better - a story of all the parents...I guess!  So….bring home  the “Zagazoo” to your little Zagazoo and let him decide whether he’s a warthog or a bad tempered dragon! J For now.....Happy Birthday my little Zagazoo.....!!
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Friday, September 5, 2014

Our Teacher....!

Today, being the birth anniversary of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, India’s former President and a celebrated academician and statesman, which is celebrated as Teacher’s day, it’s time to remember and thank all our teachers who’ve nurtured us through the years. I haven’t read too many books to Abhay on teachers and when I have, I haven’t forgotten to mention my school teacher who made a big difference to my life then and in some ways, even now. I have been a teacher’s daughter myself and I have seen how much admiration, goodwill and respect she enjoys from her students….which is reflected in their interaction with her …even though it’s been more than a year since her retirement. A teacher may be the principal motivation for many students behind attending school or college. Extending the same to others who’ve played the role of teachers and mentored us when we were directionless…. be it our parents, seniors, first boss or current associate….its time acknowledge their contribution too…!! So you may or may not support Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s Teacher’s day address today, or may or may not have been  able to listen in on his address but you cannot but deny the momentous role of a teacher in shaping the future of the individual and society!

On the occasion of Teacher’s day, I picked by “Our Teacher” by Sundara Ramasamy, a well known literary figure in Tamil, known as ‘su.raa” , which is an Ode to his favourite teacher in school, Elizabeth Ma’am….who reminds me of our own Elizabeth Ma’am in College….in fact I think everyone who has studied in a convent would have been taught by a teacher named Elizabeth! J Narrated in first person, the story set in pre-independence era, revolves around a new teacher in school named “Elizabeth Thomas” having been appointed to teach the students of Section A of Class VIII, who were considered not-so-bright students, as opposed to the students of section B of the same class who always win the Annual Sitalakhsmi prize for Excellence every year. But nothing could deter Elizabeth Ma’am from believing in her students’ potential to “march into Class 9 like smart young soldiers". She thus instantly won over her students who were motivated to work hard and realize their true potential. Elizabeth Ma’am’s efforts paid off when her students gradually aced the half yearly assessments, despite reservations expressed by their rival class teacher Ms. Padmavathi Ma’am. Such was their confidence that they even aspired to compete with section B for the Annual Sitalakhsmi prize for Excellence!  However during the run up to year end assessments, Elizabeth Ma’am’s academic integrity is questioned and she does what most shy away from doing – she owns up to her mistake and sets an example for her students that there should not be any compromise on honesty and integrity! A beautiful story that touches upon many aspects of student-teacher life –the excitement and eagerness of a new teacher, student and teacher rivalry, classroom and staff room politics, teacher-student rapport, and the life lessons learned inside and outside classrooms ….. in all make a great read on Teacher’s day!  It would be a travesty not to mention the brilliant pencil sketch illustrations by Neeta Gangopadhyay that provide a perfect setting to that time and age when there was no one like Elizabeth Ma’am! Happy Teachers day to all the teachers!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Before the monsoons are over.....

With the Ganesha festivities over, it's time to enjoy the last of the monsoon magic as it lingers on in the coastal region, before we head back to Bangalore. Though the rains don't seem to let up in some areas, they  are almost on their way out in other parts of the country. Before it's too late.... I thought I should do a monsoon recap on Onestoryaday


When you think of the Indian monsoon, you can't miss Uma Krishnaswami's "Monsoon", illustrated by Jamel Akib which highlights the importance of the yearly rains in a tropical country like India. Another foreign publication that remains close to our heart is Kashmira Seth's "Monsoon Afternoons", as I remember reading  the monsoon escapade of a grandpa-grandson duo to my son in the US when it got me so nostalgic that I almost immediately wanted to return to India! (and we did the same year!)

Pratham publications have a lot to offer ranging from Peacocks and Pakoras by Mala Kumar and Manisha Choudary and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan as a part of the Rituchakra series on seasons and the Level 2 Early Reader  Rain Rain by Sanjay Jaiswal "Sanjay" and Ajith Narain to the recent “Wildlife in a City Pond” a Level four reader by Ashish Kothari and Sangeetha Kadur.  

Going home in rain” by Nancy Strikland and Jigma Lodey,story revolving around three young girls and their attempt to brave heavy rains in a mountainous region in Bhutan.

There's Ruskin Bond's The Angry River, a story of survival and friendship during flash floods in the rainy season, put together in an Amar Chitra Katha format along with another one of his stories titled "The Blue Umbrella". 

Tulika's  Raindrops by Vaishali Shroff presents a vivid picture of monsoon in a city, with its soft water colour illustrations by Ruchi Mhasane enhancing your reading experience! 

Another addition to our rainy-day reads is Tulika's "The Red Umbrella" a bi-lingual by Nandini Nayar and pictures by Sowmya Menon which we received as a part of the picture book exchange hosted by Bubbleink just in time for this year's monsoon!
This story reminiscent of classics like "The Mitten", with a monsoon/ rainy twist also reminds you of Gulzaar's famous song, "Ek akele chhatri mein jab aadhi aadhi bheeg rahe hain"! J The rain goes drip drip drip and all the animals from the mouse to the cow scramble to fit in under the red umbrella…..which in all makes a perfect read-aloud book for younger kids!

Monsoons may come and go, but you always have these monsoon reads to transport you back to the rainy season and let you vicariously enjoy the rains.....!! For now, enjoy the monsoon while it lasts!:-)) 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Weekend with Ganesha!

It’s that time of the year again when RV Road or any market in Bangalore is lined with Ganesha idols of various sizes and colours… Yes….Gowri-Ganesha Chaturthi, one of the biggest festivals of Karnataka is here! Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations bring communities, neighbourhoods and families together…in a way that no other festival does…isn’t it? Besides worshipping Gowri-Ganesh idols at home, Ganesha can be found everywhere…….be it on almost every street of neighbourhood or apartment complex or one’s professional group/associations or a private Radio station, everyone has a Ganesha idol to call their own! Why? Even the Bangalore Civil Court complex boasts of Ganesha chaturthi festivities with a giant idol of Lord Ganesha …..!!! Of course…this has many knocking at our doors for collections/contributions with a promise of  “prasada” that is to follow….as if it were a bait!! :-)
Most celebrations also include cultural programs that range from music shows to story times and craft activities for kids, including making your own eco-friendly Ganesha or Ganesha made of leaves!

But whatever it is that is happening in Bangalore……we will have to give it a miss as we are off to my native village, Dharmasthala, like every year for the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations or chauthi as it is referred in the South Kanara region of Karnataka. Ganesh habba followed by the weekend……is more than you can ask for to …. feast, meet and for a refreshing retreat!:-)))))  

As far as Ganesha stories go, we remembered the apple resembling Ganesha in "Apple Ganesha" from Tulika's  Little Indians by Pika Nani, a story set in Kotagarh,Himachal Pradesh,  known as the Apple heartland of India. 
But for this year's Ganesh Chaturthi, we first picked up picked up "Ganesha" in a bi-lingual format by Appu series that explains how Ganesha came to have an elephant head. Another read on Ganesha is the Amar Chitra Katha publication, "Ganesha and the Moon" that features five different stories on Ganesha. We all know why the moon earned Lord Ganesha's wrath for laughing at Ganesha, but do we know the story of Ganesha and Atmalinga, or the story of how Ganesha wrests the Chintamani from the arrogant Gana or lastly the legend of Shami and Mandar, whose fate is sealed due to a curse, the effect of which that Ganesha helps temper down. It demonstrates that if Ganesha can be touchy enough to curse the moon, he can also be benevolent and shrewd enough to avert the impending danger and save the world! Hope this Ganesh Chaturthi destroys all obstacles and brings peace and prosperity to all your lives! Happy Ganesha Chaturthi! 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Freedom Run!

 As our nation turns 68 today, like many Indians, we too watched the Independence day celebrations on television and keenly listened in on our Prime Minister’s maiden I-day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, New Delhi and also followed it up by attending the flag hoisting ceremony in our community neighbourhood. Over the years, Independence day celebrations have gone beyond the traditional flag-hoisting- patriotic-singing ceremonies and the emphasis is more now on celebrating India in all its pride, history and diversity. So from Tiranga halwa at I-day buffets to I-day discounts and offers and I-day children’s story-hours, its “Happy Independence day” all the way!

I so wish we could attend the Independence day special story time organized by friend and fellow blogger Cuddles and Reads, but due a prior engagement, we had to make do with a freedom story at home!:-) While Independence day is a time to reflect on the struggles and sacrifices our forefathers who fought for India’s freedom, it is also a time reflect in other freedoms we need to fight for today. I remember the centerpiece of  Independence day celebrations at our school was always be a map of India with  question “Is India free?” Going by the same issue, today we read a story that throws light on the plight of the forgotten children of ….Khamaria in Uttar Pradesh where the children are made to work all day at the carpet looms. “Freedom Run” by Subhadra Sen Gupta and Tapas Guha  is a level 4 reader in a comic book format brought out by Pratham publications. Meant for slightly older children, this is a moving story revolving around three children Kallan, Mansoor and Gokul who are made to work at the carpet loom to pay off their parents’ debt. All of them long to be free from the drudgery of knotting carpets for Mir Ali, the loom owner at whose hands they suffer physical and emotional abuse. It is only when they meet Munna Bhai, a social worker, that they realize that it’s illegal to make children work to pay off loans. Munna Bhai even offers to take them to Sewapuri where they can study and earn by weaving at the same time. But the question is how will they get to Sewapuri?? Meanwhile Gokul’s brother Rahul tries to rescue him from the evil clutches of Mir Ali and his associates…..?? Do the children manage to escape to freedom?? Will they be free like the rest of the children?? Read on as your young reader ponders over the harsh realities of life and goes on to understand the value of freedom…which we all take for granted!!! Lets hope this Independence day brings freedom to many such children who are victims of circumstances……!!!