Sunday, January 27, 2013

Republic Day!

Yesterday was India’s Republic Day, a day to commemorate the day on which the Constitution of our country came into force. Republic day, a day to celebrate our status as a sovereign, democratic and a Republic State, is celebrated in a vibrant and colorful manner with a grand parade that starts at Rashtrapathi Bhavan passing along Rajpath and finally ending at India Gate. We all grew up watching the Republic day parade on television and how proud we felt as we watched the display of our military strength. I also remember how eagerly we used to wait for the cultural tableaux put up by the various states after the military parade.  As we grew into adults, Republic day assumed importance more as a universal holiday than for the parade except while scanning through the day’s news in the newspaper or on the television. But now as I’ve become a parent, I feel it is important to inculcate a sense of patriotism in our children as also to make them realize the importance of national holidays like the Independence day and Republic Day. So this time Abhay and I sat through the entire parade that was telecast live on Doordarshan, India’s public television channel and I felt a renewed sense of patriotic fervor over the contribution of our armed forces towards the security of our country and pride over our rich cultural heritage.

On the occasion of the Republic Day, last week’s “"Young World"”, the children’s supplement of “The Hindu” did a special on Republic Day describing the significance and history behind this momentous day. I read to him a story featured in its “Quick Read” section titled “Parade of Greatness” by Kavita Sivaramakrishnan. Amit and Sneha were watching the Republic day parade when their neighbor Uncle Rao, a retired army officer, sat down to watch the parade with them. On seeing a group of children being given a ride on elephants, Amit and Sneha wondered what’s so special about them when Uncle Rao offered that these ordinary looking children had displayed extraordinary courage which is why they were being awarded bravery medals during the Republic day celebrations. Uncle Rao then explained that the soldiers too were awarded, even posthumously for their bravery and grit and also went on to regal the siblings with stories of these bravehearts who died fighting the enemies. Uncle Rao felt proud to be a part of the men in uniform whom he clarified were not like the rest of us, but that they are men of action and that their commitment and valour has kept the rest of the country safe and secure. They continued to watch the parade reflect India’s cultural heritage, unity in diversity, its advancement and progress over the years. Both Amit and Sneha were filled with patriotic zeal and pledged to be responsible citizens from now on! A great story for kids five years and above on the meaning and significance of India’s Republic Day. Hopefully, many more would follow Amit and Sneha’s pledge this Republic Day!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rishi's Favorites

We have a very big list of favorites...of all Dr.Seuss collections are our all time favorite.

DrSeuss, Eric Carle, Syd hoff collections we enjoyed like anything.
When he was 1-11/2yrs he loved Brown brown bear series...This collection has brown bear brown bear, polar bear polar bear, panda bear panda bear  and baby bear baby bear...Over the years I saw its always a hit with kids. I should give my special thanks to Eric Carle and Bill Martin for it made my feeding process lot easier.

At 2-3years, Eric carle's collection was a hit. Especially the very hungry caterpillar. We read it in different ways. In the library story time they have these velvet stick ons of strawberry etc, and they made the kids to stick it on the board after the librarian finish the relevant page, which made it even more fun for the kids. I like Mixed-Up Chameleon but I am sure he wouldnt have understood much at that age or may be he did you never know about kids. I guess the name of the book clumsy beetle or the very quiet cricket when you open the book it will give the sound of cricket/beetle, he loved that idea and made me read it again and again just to hear the sound. There are lot more of Carle's collection we (!!!??) enjoyed together. 

Another one is the "Hug" book he got it as a return gift. Its also a hit among kids for sure. Good one to choose if you plan to do a story time among kids of all ages. And everytime he/we come up with different story as there is only illustration. Lorax by Seuss is still his favorite. At one point he memorized every word in the story. If I leave one line and go to the next page to finish it, he started pointing out you left this....I wouldve read that story n number of times. Even now he loved to see the movie "Lorax" at the age of 5. Long before Seuss gave a shout to save our planet in his own way. Beautiful story which explains the corporate greed which poses problems to our environment.

 At 3-4yrs, its Dr seuss, Jane yolen's Dinosaur series, Mo williems pigeon series and few more, Pigeon series is his favorite, i really dont understand what so funny in that book. He didnt let me return the book. Dont let the pigeon drive the bus was his favorite at that time i would say. Thanks to the beaverton librarian who so sweetly showed me the book and asked me to take it, otherwise its impossible for me to know about this series.

In the mid of 3-4 yrs when we came back to India no wonder I terribly missed the library in US, almost a year we didnt read much till we settle and found Pune just books which is quite a relief. Though it doesnot quench the thirst its definitely better than nothing. They have this nice collection of Amar Chitra Katha, Early learning volumes, Enid blyton series, some Dr seuss etc.....

So now at 5yrs we started Amar Chitra Katha, I wouldve read Ramayana, Krishna Stories, Marathi hero Shivaji stories more than 1 time (hee hee). I am lazy not so regular like Divya or the many moms out there. But when I write this blog I realized not bad :) though I dont know how much he remember the stories in the above list, but I hope it mightve stored somewhere and help him in the long run!. Thank you Divya for giving me this opportunity :) and i am a big fan of your story selection. Keep up the good work.

Farewell to Geetha-atte......

Over the last weekend we bade farewell to our beloved aunt Geetha, my father-in-law’s sister who was ailing for quite some time now. Geetha-atte as she was fondly called, was a sixty year special child with an amazing zest for life. With a mind of a five year old, Geetha-atte charmed everyone with her free-wheeling spirit, including Abhay who was extremely fond of her. Geetha-atte was in may ways Abhay's nanny rocking him  to sleep when he was an infant, an in-house play-mate, a peer to pretend play, boss over and and rival with - all rolled into one!  As she breathed her last on Sunday, I was quite anxious as to how Abhay would take the sight of everyone grieving over her death. But Abhay seemed quite composed as he watched his beloved Geetha-atte’s  body being taken away for cremation. He had one question though, “Which God will Geetha-atte go to – Vishnu, Shiva or Hanuman?”
Geetha-atte during healthier and happier times!

Since Abhay is a little too young to witness death on such close quarters, I was looking for some books on bereavement and landed this link of a famous book that reassures children that no matter what they will always be loved. "No matter what" by Debi Gliori  is a story of a young child named Small who is feeling grim and grumpy that no one loves him at all. Then Large, a character representative of a parent assures him that grim or not, no matter what, he will always be loved. Small then asks what he is a grizzly bear, or turns into a bug or becomes a crocodile, would he still be loved to which Large answers in the affirmative. Finally Small wonders aloud “What about when we’re dead and gone…would you still love me then, does love go on?” Large takes him to the window and asks him to gaze at the night sky full of bright and shining stars, some of them having died a long time ago and yet  continue to shine in the evening skies and thus finally concluding with a reassuring note that love like starlight never dies. So no matter what Abhay….you will always be loved by your loved ones. Similarly, Geetha-atte though no more…but her child-like enthusiasm and unconditional love will always live on!  Rest in peace …Geetha Karanth!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Great Paper Caper!

I love that my six-year old enjoys arts and crafts but what I don’t love is the fact that he is reckless with the usage of paper for his creative work. Abhay is very choosy about the kind of paper he picks out for drawing a picture or for his origami. The right kind of paper for Abhayart  should not have any folds or anything written or printed on both sides (I have to literally bribe or threaten him into using those one-sided print rejects) and recycled paper or cheap quality computer sheets don’t even stand a chance as they don’t meet his standard size! (My mother in fact took the trouble of buying a whole bundle from Avenue Road, but to no avail!). Of course, by now you must have guessed that using old newspapers for origami is completely out of the question!  No matter where we hide the bundle of A-4 copier sheets, he figures out a way to pull out a few when we are not around. Whenever he accompanies me to work during his holidays, he gets a cheap thrill out of siphoning off a few sheets from my office stationery section. My constant nagging over judicious use of paper has fallen on deaf ears...much like most of the things I nag Abhay over!

 Though it is our continuous endeavour to get him to understand the value of paper and its impact on the environment, there are times we give in and I have felt terribly guilty about it. So I was glad when my husband found “The Great Paper Caper” by Oliver Jeffers, which is tale of mystery and suspense carrying a subtle message. There was once a forest where everyone was going about their own business until something strange began to happen. Suddenly, trees branches started to  disappear and no one knew how or who was responsible. An investigation was ordered and each of the forest inhabitants were given a different job so that the tree thief could be caught. Finally someone found a clue – paper airplane with a bear’s paw print all over. On following the leads, it was found that the culprit was the bear who was cutting off all the tree branches in order to make paper used for practicing for the 112th Biennial Paper Airplane Competition. As the bear had to keep up his family tradition of winning the competition each time, he left no tree untouched! As the bear was rounded up for his crime, he realized his mistake and clarified that he hadn’t meant to do so much harm. He profusely apologized to the Judge who sentenced him to community service of replacing the trees that were felled, which the bear carried out diligently. As there were so many paper airplanes lying all around the forest, the forest inhabitants helped him gather up and put them all together to make a huge airplane that flew the bear to the finishing line of the competition!  A quirky story narrated in a “whodunit” style with rich and imaginative illustrations that only adds to the important message of conservation. So Abhay……if you continue your indiscriminate paper wastage, be sure to suffer the same fate as the great paper caper.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bye Bye Tooth fairy..!

Abhay has been losing his baby teeth in quick succession. Teething and tooth loss are a part and parcel of growing up, but the problem is that his permanent teeth are not patient enough to let his baby teeth fall out and just like Abhay, they too can’t wait to grow! Even before he turned six, we noticed his lower permanent tooth making its debut when his lower baby tooth wasn’t even loose! What this means is that a visit to the Dentist is in the offing, every time we notice one of his baby tooth wobbling! A visit to the dentist always mandates a trip to the toy store… each time Abhay loses his tooth, he expects a gift from the Tooth fairy! The concept of a Tooth Fairy which is of a western import may be comforting for a child when he loses his first baby tooth, but to perpetuate a myth every time he loses his tooth until he grows all of his permanent teeth, seems rather ridiculous. More so, Abhay started mixing up the concept of fairies with the Indian mythology asking me whether Fairies live with the Devas in Swargaloka! So this time we decided to put an end to this Tooth Fairy business. As we got  one of Abhay loose tooth extracted last evening, he woke up this morning to find a note along with his gift, a note saying that this will be last gift from the tooth fairy and counseling him to take care of his teeth. Not sure if the contents of the note sank in as Abhay was too busy gushing over his gift!:-)

There are some people who believe that it is wrong to let children live in a fantasy world whereas some others feel that there is no harm in letting children believing in a little magic. ‘Dad, Are you the Tooth Fairy?” by Ron Spears tries to address these issues. Gary was happy to have a loose tooth as every time he lost a tooth, he was rewarded with a coin with an appreciative note from the Tooth Fairy named Gwyneth. This went on every year until he overheard from some of the older boys that tooth fairy was nothing more than childish make-believe and it was moms and dads who slip gifts under their pillow. Gary was confused and approached his dad to know the truth. Gary’s dad narrated a story about the origin of the tooth fairy. Long ago, the world was filled with magical creatures like unicorns, minotaurs, dragons and fairies. But as people turned away from magic, these magical creatures slowly faded away. The last to go were fairies which made children sad but the fairies assured them that their own parents would hear the fairies’ voices in their heads and convey their message to the children. Gary then asked if the voice his dad hears is the fairy’s or his own to which his dad said that this is a question that Gary has to answer on his own. Gary then concludes that there isn’t a right or a wrong answer to this, but it is what one believes and he likes to believe that the voice is from a fairy named Gwyneth who lives in a magical place and cares for Gary. So when his loose tooth finally fell, he received a note from Gwyneth that lauded him for accepting that there are possibilities which is the greatest gift of all! The note ended with a  P.S. Say Hello to your dad”! Well, I guess Abhay knows who the real Tooth fairy or Santa is, but he still likes to believe in these imaginary figures and loves the excitement of receiving their supposed gifts and I guess that is the magic of childhood!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday to Friday!

With December vacation over, Abhay has now stepped into the third term of his academic year before the big summer break. So back to school means back to the “I-don’t-want-to-go-to school” mornings! We just didn’t know what to do about his daily morning whining and so we set up an appointment to speak to his school coordinator to check if everything was okay with Abhay at school. As expected, his teacher assured us that Abhay was as normal or abnormal as any regular kid at school, with good and bad days! In fact his teacher noted that there was no trace of his so- called morning lethargy as he is quite interactive in class. So this only means that my six year old is just plain lazy with a huge starting trouble just like …..well……(I can’t take names here) some of us!J We all have our inertia issues, but I guess Abhay’s is a little ahead of its times! His teacher then suggested that we set up a daily morning activity that may motivate him to get out of bed on his own. Well, what can I say......besides brushing his teeth, gulping down his milk, taking a bath, changing into his school uniform and finishing up his breakfast, there isn’t much time for any other “activity” when his school bus arrives to fetch up him at 7.40 AM in the morning!

So when I came across Tulika’s “Monday to Sunday” by Sowmya Rajendran and pictures by Pratik Ghosh that shows a picture of a boy sleeping on a pillow on its cover, I knew I had to pick this one.   Considering how many places I went looking for this book, I must say that I had expected it to be a lot different from what it actually was. Anyway, ideal for children aged 3 and above, this is a story of Mani who wakes up everyday thinking he is someone else. On Monday, Mani turns into a monkey who eats bananas and jumps on chairs in the school (not sure what Abhay’s teacher will say to this activity); On Tuesday, he is crocodile who chews up his toothbrush and sweeps the house with his tail….and so goes on his week as he pretends to be a hippo, a horse, a kangaroo and a leopard. On Sunday however,  Mani thinks he is a tortoise and pulls his blanket over his head and does not come out at all! This book ends with a question that can be for your little one as well, “What is Mani today” and he is seen thinking of a colourful little dragon! Abhay enjoyed the book and loved the ending where is Mani is shown contemplating his next act.  I felt this book needed much more for its title, probably because I had a slightly different picture conjured up in my mind. To be fair, I must say that this is a great book to read aloud to a group of young children between the age of 2-4 years and being a Tulika publication, the illustrations would not disappoint you!  Going back to my intent of reading this book - So Abhay, what would you want to be this week’s Monday to Friday?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Gift of Ramyana...!

Over the Christmas vacation, we got to spend time with my cousin Vijay, his wife Supriya and their son Vikranth who were visiting from the US. Vijay has been one of the biggest influences in my life as I was growing up and in many ways he still is! Being an avid reader himself, Vijay encouraged me to transition to chapter books while I was still hooked on to comics at the age of eight or nine. Had it not been for the Famous Five/Nancy Drew/ Hardy boys series, I would have never known the pleasures of reading…and for that I guess I have Vijay to thank! J So it’s not a surprise that this time when he came down from the US, he got Abhay a wonderful book, a book that my six year old can’t seem to have enough of! Thanks once again to Vijay for introducing Abhay to “Ramayana” and more so with Abhay’s new found  fascination being mythology, he simply couldn’t have asked for a better gift from his Vijay Mama!

 Ramayana - Divine Loophole” is a brilliantly illustrated book  by Sanjay Patel, an animator and a storyboard artist for Pixar Entertainment living in Oakland, California. This book presents Ramyana like never before and is a treat to both the kids and adults. Narrating the Hindu epic in three acts and 120 chapters, Sanjay Patel,  an Indian American, dedicates his version of Ramayana to his dad Gopalbhai, mom Ramleelaben and bro Amulbhai. The author uses the technique of graphic storytelling that not only captures the imagination of young minds but also provides an interesting perspective to this timeless epic. For instance, I was quite intrigued by his uniquely titled chapters like “Cosmic Bully” that explains how Ravana, the scholar transforms into a ten headed walking one man army on Brahma's grant of his wish, "Vishnu's Loophole" that has Vishnu thinking about a way to work around Brahma’s grant to Ravana and   "Fatal Attraction" and "Nosey Demon" that features the subplot of Shoorpanaka during Rama's exile.   At the end, the author even provides an illustrated glossary of all the Devas and Demons who make their appearance in Ramayana. Though the book’s size appears to be daunting to read to a six year old, the chapters therein are short and concise serving as a perfect introduction to the story and adventures of Rama which in Sanjay’s own words “explains just why Hindus honor a Blue Warrior and Mountain moving Monkey!" However, a small caveat before any of you decide to make it your bed time story,  make sure to set the expectation at the beginning of the book or else you would be doing an “Arabian Nights Style” storytelling the whole night!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New year!

New year’s day is a time to reflect on the year that has gone by and brace oneself up for the year ahead! Whether you expect this year to bring in more changes, challenges or cheer, you cannot deny that 2013 may just add a new chapter in your life – it may mark an end of a tenure and the beginning of a new one or you may complete a milestone in your personal or professional life or you may be relieved from your responsibilities this year or you may be able to finally go on that dream vacation or seize that lifetime opportunity you’ve always been waiting for! Whatever it is ……..being at the threshold of a new year is always a time for anticipation, sometimes apprehension but most of all, an opportunity to start afresh! Here’s wishing everyone a great and fulfilling year ahead!

Well, some may have made plans for this year while some haven’t, today we read Maisy’s plans for the year ahead. “Maisy’s year” a Maisy Fun-to-Learn book of seasons by Lucy Cousins. Though Abhay is a little too old for a lift-a-flap book, since some of the children’s libraries were closed for Christmas vacation, this is the only book I could find to get Abhay to think of the year ahead. Starting with spring, Maisy looks after all the baby animals followed by a summer on the seaside. Maisy spends autumn gathering the year’s harvest soon caught up by winter that is reserved for playing in the snow. Abhay quite liked the last page where Maisy shows what she loves to doing all year round and Abhay could relate to dressing up, shopping, reading and drawing but not things like ‘cooking’ and ‘cleaning’! So after he read the book, I asked him what were his plans for the year, to which he declared that spring would be the time to play outdoors, summer is the time to visit Wonderla (an amusement park located a couple of hours from Bangalore) and his grandparents’ farm at Dharmasthala! Since autumn falls during his birthday month, he announced that his birthday will be celebrated in a mall (looks like we have no say!) and December, according to him is an ideal time to bake ginger bread cookies (something we couldn’t do last year)! Phew! I only wish we adults were as clear as our kids when it comes  to planning the year ahead! Happy new year once again!