Sunday, July 28, 2013

The play that could have been .....Mister Jeeejeebhoy's and the Birds!

Life has turned so busy that Onestoryaday may as well be named Onestoryaweek with my posts now almost down to once a week! While it is still one-story-a-day for Abhay as my six year old is not able to fall asleep without a story, (and whose fault is that :-) I don’t seem to find the time to post the same as often as I want to! There are times when I am eager to post something but fail to find an appropriate book to complement the scenario and sometimes when I do, time fails me! Anyway, this weekend I was determined not to let that happen as I had rented the book well in advance which was seemingly perfect for the occasion, however, the occasion didn’t present itself as planned! To put it simply, we planned to watch a play yesterday (Mister Jeejeebhoy and the birds) based on one of Abhay’s new found favorites  but were a tad too late in booking the tickets and instead settled for another play (Granny's Sarees) by the same group (a Mumbai based group called Gillo) on a story that was one of my old favorites! Anyway, Abhay thoroughly enjoyed the musical format of “"Granny's saris" ” and actively participated in their workshop that followed….. well, what can I say….all’s well that ends well!

But I decided to stick to my original plan of reading what I had planned to anyway! “Mister Jeejeebhoy and the Birds” by Anitha Balachandran is a wonderful story about two siblings cooped up in a very strange house only to discover their own delightfully strange abilities that finally come to the rescue of the neighborhood’s children. Tara and Diya move in with their aunt Ninamasi at 13A, Dimlivili (East) (a name Mumbaikars can relate to better). While they find something strange happening in the house including backward moving clock, faces yawning in the picture frames and mirrors reflecting upside down images, the strangeness grows on the girls as they discover that they are gifted with magical abilities later confirmed by Ninamasi to run in the family. Tara and Diya however find the neighborhood’s children cold and unfriendly towards them. But all the children love one thing – the sweet shop of Mister Jeejeebhoy, who has an unusual hobby of keeping birds as pets. But one fine day when all his birds fly away, the heartbroken mister Jeejeebhoy shuts down the shop and vows never to open the shop until he finds them, Tara and Diya put their special skills to good use and help in bringing back mister Jeejeebhoy’s pets that in turn restores Dimlivili’s sweet tooth! Vibrant real-life illustrations and realistic portrayals of sibling rivalry, peer pressure and the childhood fascination of neighborhood joints all infused with a bit of magic is what best characterizes this book. My only regret is that I missed the story being brought alive by Gillo, which going by today’s performance of “Granny’s sari” must have been a treat to watch! Don’t miss Gillo’s plays the next time around…I most certainly wont!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Winners never quit!

Over the last weekend, we had Abhay participate in a music/singing competition at the instance of his music teacher. Organized by the Swananda Balaganapathi Temple Trust, this was an annual event for children of all ages to display their talents in the field of art, music and dance. Well, we had no idea that such a Trust or such an event even existed until we landed there on a quiet Sunday afternoon for the singing contest. Had we known about the painting/colouring contest held earlier that morning, we would have spent our entire Sunday at the contest venue (According to my husband, ignorance is bliss!) Anyway, we drove to Kuchalambal Marriage hall in Jayanagar (the venue) and found over a hundred kids waiting along with their parents to register for the contest!  So there we were waiting in line at the Class I & II category (as Abhay is in class II), only to be let in to the performance room just when it was Abhay’s turn to sing, as if it were auditions for Indian Idol junior! :-) If I was feeling guilty for being what I call an over-enthusiastic parent, I could take heart as there were a whole lot of them, and what’s more, they were worse off! More than the participants, parents seemed edgy and restless. Despite being given a token number, it was the parents who thronged the entrance thereby blocking the other participants whose turn it actually was! We almost missed ours as we couldn’t hear the organizer call out “No.11”!  Anyway, Abhay was allowed in with one parent and he did sing his bhajan on Lord Ganesha well, though I felt he could have been a little louder. Once he was done, Abhay felt good about singing to a group of unknown people with fairly appreciative smiles! Well, the results came out the next day by mail and Abhay didn't make the final cut. I admit, I was a bit disappointed as I have always believed Abhay to be a good singer. That said, it was indeed a great start for Abhay who had never participated in any event like this before. It may sound like sour grapes, but I guess there are times when it doesn’t matter whether your little one has won or lost, as winning is not everything and the sooner we parents acknowledge the same, it is better for them! 

Abhay was a tad disappointed that he didn’t win any prizes at the competition but soon forgot about it as he got on with his other activities for the day. Hoping he wouldn’t be discouraged by this, I looked up the internet for some books that may inspire him to keep at it. Of course, if there was an American public library in the vicinity, all I had to do was a catalogue search and place a request. For people who do not have ready access to all American publications, it’s Youtube to the rescue! Ideally I would have loved to read ‘Song of middle C” by Alison Mcghee, a story about a little girl’s piano recital not going as expected, but I couldn’t find an online version of the same. But I found a digital link for nice little book titled “Winners never quit” by Mia Hamm.  Mia loved basketball and baseball, but most of all, she loved to play soccer with her brother and sister. She was thrilled when people cheered as she scored a goal but when there was no goal, there was no cheering. On one occasion, when she couldn’t score a goal, she feels dejected and decides to quit soccer altogether earning the title of “quitter” amongst her siblings. When everyone continues to play without her, Mia can’t resist joining in when her brother is skeptical of taking in players who cant learn to lose. But finally when Mia gets chosen to play and kicks the ball right into the goalie’s hands, everyone expects her quit. Mia who hates losing, realizes that she doesn’t hate losing as much as she loves playing. Mia continues to kick the ball hard and whether she did score a goal or she did not, she was playing which was more important than winning or losing!  So Abhay...dont worry about winning or losing as long as you continue what you love and enjoy doing! A wonderful book to teach your little one about courage and sportsmanship!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Super-hero action figures are a big part of growing up and though boys are believed to be more enamored of them than girls, I guess movies or television series inspired from the comic book heroes have a universal appeal. Well, I remember being just as fascinated by “He-Man” as my cousin brother!  But the children of today are spoilt for choices when it comes to action super-heroes with a whole range of toys, merchandise and products based on their favorite superhero. Before they can put their creativity into use and visualize an imaginary play with Spider-Man, there is an X-Box or a Wii game that lets them do it! Before they can weave a fictional story about various action figures battling it out, all the super-hero franchises collaborate to cash in on the ultimate action movie! Of course, their loyalty to their declared favourites is to be measured on the basis of how much merchandise of their favorite super-hero, they can boast of!  Abhay was never into super-man, spider-man or bat-man until we took him to Iron Man III and ever since he has forced us into buying one of those iron man action figurines that he lugs around wherever he goes ……like a Barbie doll!:-)

Speaking of action figures, I found this book at the British Library that I had been wanting to read for a long time, but somehow could not lay my hands on the same. Recommended by the Hillsboro library’s children’s reading list, I don't know why it took me so long to read to my little hero! “The Traction Man is here” by Mimi Grey is a wonderful book that is both a parody and a tribute to all the super-hero figures that captivate our kids. A boy receives a gift of “Traction Man”- wearing combat boots, battle pants, and his warfare shirt, that comes wrapped in a box. The Traction Man soon accompanies the boy everywhere and the boy imagines his favorite action figure take on many a household adventures like launching a search for the sieve in the kitchen sink while it is the boy’s turn to do the dishes, or rescuing the dolls from being buried under the mulch by the garden spade, or saving the spoons from being swept away by the broom at Granny’s house and what’s more he dons a different costume for each of his numerous feats! Traction Man may not be your typical super hero jumping buildings or stopping moving trains but he can find a solution to the minor and major irritants around the house and working with everyday things lying around the house. Complemented by hilarious illustrations, this book takes you through the exciting world of a child’s imaginative play with his favorite toys!  So move over Iron man......for Traction Man is here! :-)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Really rude .....Abhay!

Off late, I have noticed that Abhay has been rude and disrespectful particularly towards his grandparents, including his favorite Sannajji (maternal grandma) and more so with his paternal grandmother (my mother-in-law). When he can’t get what he wants, he doesn’t shy away from snapping or talking back and what’s more, he gets away with it! Abhay sees nothing wrong in being nasty to his Sannajji at times, or in throwing  a fit over a one-time refusal by his grandpa (as his grandpa never refuses to buy him anything), or simply in choosing not to respond to his paternal grandma! I am not sure if it arises out of impatience or pure arrogance or if it’s an attitude issue or an attention issue; or if it is a matter of minding his manners or much more; I am aware that children learn by imitation and so I know who is to blame when he yells (Me!!) but I cannot figure out his sarcasm or his “put-down” remarks at his grandma! Whatever it is, I realized that it has to be nipped in the bud lest it goes out of hand and I get blamed even for that!

So when I found “The Really Rude Rhino” by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross at the British Library, I had to pick it up! Once upon a time there was a really rude Rhino, who was  rude from the day he was born! Even when his auntie complimented him on what sweet baby he was, the rude Rhino goes “Pthhhhh!”. He didn’t care that his mom advised him not to be rude and continued to be rude to his brother, sister even to his grandma! (Just like Abhay!) “He will grow out of it” said his grand-dad, typical of most grandfathers (including Abhay’s). But he didn’t and he pulled out his tongue or pulled down his pants and went “Pthhhhhh!” in public, or in private, to his teacher and even to Santa. His mother even consulted a doctor who diagnosed that he was suffering from “Ruditis Rhinoceritis” and it was incurable. But one day, after his fifth birthday, Rhino woke up with a rude mood and set off to the waterhole where sat a polite looking girl eating a water-melon. Rhino thought how wonderfully rude it would be to charge out from the bushes and scare her so that he could he knock off the melon. But as he charged, the girl put out her tongue, simply “Pthhhhhh”ed back sending the shocked Rhino all the way back home! From then on, Rhino was never rude to anyone again! While Abhay found this book hilarious, he did understand why was I reading this to him and I must say he didn’t quite like the comparison. So ...only when we do to Abhay what Abhay does to us would he realize what in fact he does to us! In other words, So give them the taste of their own medicine, they’ll fall in line! So if you have a little rude rhino driving you nuts……“Pthhhhhhh”…..him with this book!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fairy Tales retold!

In the recent issue of “Books and more”, the young readers’ section carried a feature on children’s non-fiction and noted how all kids do not necessarily connect with fairy tales. Well, I must confess that I was never into fairy tales while I was little and thus never really fond of reading the same to my little one.  I concede that fairy tales are moral based stories, but in an attempt to drive home the point, the children are sometimes exposed to needless brutality or led into believing in outdated stereotypes. I had read some time ago that the US Supreme Court, while deciding on the constitutionality of a California legislation that intended to ban the sale of certain violent video games to children without parental supervision, had questioned as to whether violent video games are any different from other forms of media with similar violence exposed to children, such as fairy tales of "Hansel and Gretel" or Grim's fairy tales. Given the wide range of children's literature we have, the stories of  Pinocchio” and “Rapunzel” seem hackneyed when juxtaposed with picture books like “The Gruffalo” or “Knuffle Bunny”. I’m not sure how we were as kids, but today’s children seem a lot more discerning than to simply blindly believe in fairies and witchcraft! How long can your little one believe that lying can cause his nose to grow like Pinocchio’s or that the ultimate purpose of Snow White is to meet her prince?:-) 

Speaking of fairy tales, I recently found two books by Anthony Browne that beautifully adapts the vintage tales into something much more interesting. “Me and You” by Children's Laureate Anthony Browne is as described  “an enchanting new take on the Goldilocks story”.  Ella” by Alex T Smith, touted as “A Cinderella story with a difference” breaks the usual mould of “waiting for the prince” of the Cinderella story and ideal for young girls. Abhay’s favorite though is “Into the Forest”, that seems like dream sequence inspired by the story of Red Riding Hood story. Narrated in first person, a young boy is woken up by a terrible sound to find his father missing with his mother having no idea of his return and is then asked to take a food basket to his sick grandma who lives on the other side of the forest. In a classic Red-Riding Hood style, the boy decides to cut across the forest where he meet familiar fairy tale characters on the way, including, a boy with a cow  who tries to lure him into exchanging his cake for a cow (who I presumed was the Gingerbread boy), or a girl with golden hair, (who I thought to be Goldilocks without the locks) or two abandoned children (who were most definitely Hansel and Gretel), each of whom appears at every turn or corner of the strange forest with ghostly trees. As he proceeds, it begins to get very cold making him wish he’d bought a coat when he spots a red coat hanging from tree. He puts on the coat but instantly gets an eerie feeling that he is being followed reminding him of his grandma’s story about a bad wolf. After braving the snow and nearly getting lost, he finally reaches grandma’s. But as the boy calls out for his grandma pushing the door open, he finds a surprise waiting for him! Read on as your little one discovers the real magic behind this age old fairy tale – the magic of a young mind’s imagination!

Thursday, July 4, 2013


After a near-drought like situation last year and the year before, this year’s monsoon has been predicted to be near normal, at least in Karnataka. Rains have always been intermittent in Bangalore unlike coastal Karnataka where my parents have recently moved, which experiences incessant rain during monsoon. But this year’s rain in Bangalore is reminiscent of the monsoons from my childhood! Cloudy days, moist afternoons, windy evenings, crisp and cool nights take me back to the days when life was relatively less complicated; A time when rain simply meant raincoats, paper boats on puddles, wet footwear, damp clothes, candle lit meals at home, or an unexpected holiday for schools or simply watching the rain from the window, in all, a time when rain allowed for a pause without any hint of irritation! Now the rain only means flooding of roads, delays, power cuts, traffic jams, and (with due apologies) roads delightfully free from sneaky two-wheelers! Is it the rain or is it our way of looking at the rain? In simple terms, we’ve grown up! J

Hopefully, in an attempt to get back to a less cynical perspective of rain, I read a book that makes rain seem even more romantic that it actually is in reality (there I go again!). Well, it’s not too often that I get excited about a picture book from an Indian publication! It’s not too often that I stumble upon a book that justifies the “reliving childhood” part of my blog! I am not sure why but when I found this new release from Tulika, something told me that I must lay my hands on it!  Highly recommended in the recent issue of “Books and more” magazine, “Raindrops” is written by Vaishali Shroff (who reviews children’s books on the same magazine, I guess)  and illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane is a beautiful take on the monsoon from the perspective of a little girl named Anju who looks out of the window as the rain drenches the city. She finds the streets “dotted” with colourful umbrellas, people huddled under a tree or bus-stop shelters, and a puppy sitting under an umbrella. Just as she outstretches her hand to feel the raindrops, her mother chides her and closes the window shut lest she catch a cold. As huge drops of rain hit the glass and slide down the window making various patterns that looked like a bird, a tree and a cow.  Finally, the girl wonders what has become of the puppy and peers over her window pane to now find two puppies cuddled up beside their mother under the umbrella! I must say the soft water colours bring alive a simple story about a girl experiencing the pleasures of watching the rain! An ideal book to cuddle up with your little one on a wet day!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Aha! festival!

Rangashankara’s s fifth AHA! International Theatre festival for children is here! I normally post events or activities after having attended the same with my son, but I thought this one deserved a mention while it was on! Yesterday’s “Cityscape” section of “The Hindu” supplement noted that theatre makes a qualitative impact in children’s lives and also helps in developing confidence and personality in young ones. So did Arundhathi Nag, fondly known as “Aru aunty” to children, who opined that children have much to gain from such creative, artistic and aesthetic experiences, even if they are not able to follow everything! When you expose children to live theatre, rest assured that something is being recorded somewhere in their impressionable young minds! Well, I couldn’t agree more and that’s why Rangashankara has been our favorite hang-out, whenever there’s a children’s play showing; That’s why we've bought tickets for all the shows that allow a six year old; That’s why in between Abhay’s homework, his music and drawing classes, my client meetings and my husband’s conference calls, we are driving to Rangashankara every other day; And that’s why life cannot get any more hectic than this!:-)

We have devised a way to share the chaperoning job between ourselves with each member of the family (that includes my in-laws and my parents) taking turns to accompany Abhay to the play. So yesterday, it was my turn to take Abhay for “Mimi and Brumm” by the Swiss Pupeteer Margret Gysin for kids aged 3-6 which Abhay loved of course. So today I decided to read him a book on theatre and performance and as usual I couldn’t lay my hands on one, just when I wanted one. But I found a youtube version of a famous book  titled “Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch. Grace loves stories and enjoys acting out stories and pretend to be different characters from Nana’s stories like Joan of Arc or Aladdin rubbing his magic lamp, or Mowgli from Jungle Book! When her class is to perform the play of “Peter Pan”, she imagines herself playing the role of Peter Pan. But she feels discouraged when her classmates tell her  that she cannot as she is black and a girl. When she confides in her mom and nana, her nana counsels her that she can be anything she wants if she puts her mind into it.  Her nana then takes her to the Grand theatre where the play “Romeo and Juliet” was playing and Grace feels encouraged to see a black ballet artist playing the role of Juliet. Grace then learns up the dialogues of Peter Pan and practices hard in preparation for the auditions for the class play. During auditions, she performs all her lines with ease and imagines herself to be flying as all her classmates watch in amazement and thus unanimously votedfor Grace to play Peter Pan. The play is a great success with Grace making an amazing Peter Pan! Elated, Grace felt as if she could fly all the way home when her Nana agreed and chuckled as she said “When Grace put her mind to it, she can be anything she wants”! A wonderful tale about determination, triumphs and the joy of performing! So the plays that the kids watch at the AHA! Children’s festival may just  give them the same inspiration! If you happen to be in Bangalore, don’t  miss the AHA! Children’s festival 2013!