Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Congratulations to Divya - Our favourite Children's Book!

          Hello all. First of all, Season's Greetings to all of you and wish you a very Happy New Year!

          It's a great privilege for me to write a guest post for Divya whose blog I used to follow religiously when I was new to parenting and children's literature or whether I used her blog as a reference point for setting up my children's book library! Heartiest Congratulations for completing four years of this blog and looking forward to something more from you - maybe transitioning to chapter book reviews perhaps! Who knows? And lastly, a big thank you for inviting me and giving me a chance to write on your blog!

          Well, my daughter is just 3 years old. But, I have read extensively to her and I literally thank my stars for making her love books like me! All our bonding moments revolve around books! It's a herculean task to pick our favourite book but as promised to Divya, I have chosen one.

          So our most favourite book is No, David by David Shannon. An almost wordless picture book, it tells the story of a young boy called David doing all sorts of things which infuriates his mother. Often, her mother prohibits him doing all wrong things or admonishes and advises him to behave properly (and almost always shouts No, David). But, kids being kids, they really test our patience and the boundaries we set for them. But, they also know that at the end of the day, everything will be ok and their mom loves them! So, yes, David is also caressed and loved by his mom despite acting so naughtily.

          I had read many books to Swara but this will always be special because it struck a chord between us and that was the first time we laughed hysterically! When I was reading to her, we were just two balls of giggles and chuckles. She immediately took to this book as a fish to water. For many days to come, whenever she behaved like David, I made it a point to yell "No, Swara" at the top of my voice. And then, we both used to laugh like insane girls. Until now, no book made us bond so well and gave an opportunity for hysterical laughter!

           This book was conceived by the author when his mom presented him a set of pictures which he drew when he was a kid. And, thus the book No, David was born which went on to become a Caldecott Honor Book. David Shannon has done all the illustrations beautifully in such a way that one reading of the book is enough for the kids to understand what is 'naughty behaviour'. It's a must-read if you are feeling blue or want to bond with your children! And I'm sure even after repeated readings of the book, you will not be able to say 'Noooo, not again!'  

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Elephant in the Tree - A Guest post by Shalini

Heartfelt congratulations to you Divya for completing four years of  this amazing blog of one story a day! Though I confess I have not read every post on this, I have read quite a few of them and each one has been a complete reading delight for me and my daughter Ananya. In fact she has a section in her book shelf which she calls Divya aunty's books. You have used your strength of language and passion for books to perfection in this blog. I am sure many parents have used this blog to introduce their kids to the beautiful world of stories and inculcate the joy of reading in them. 
Using this opportunity I wish this blog takes the next step and gets compiled into a book very soon. 

For this occasion I have chosen a book which is as much my favourite as Ananya's called " The Elephant in the Tree" by Mallika Nagarajan. This is the story of a little girl called Mahi. One day while enjoying her favourite fruit, a Mango a question pops into her innocent mind as to what would happen if there were no mangoes to eat? What would she do? 

That night when she retires to bed she see a strange little elephant with seven trunks on tree outside her window. The elephant called Airavat has come to seek Mahi's help. Airavat pleads to Mahi that there is no water in his world and the Tree of Life which sustains all forms of life is sick and he needs her help. Airavat then gently sucks up Mahi and takes her to his world where everything like the Tree of Life is brown, dry and sad. Airavat and Mahi both get down to work immediately and start planting trees to make rain. They plant innumerable trees and water them. Airavat sucks up the water and blows them into big swollen clouds. soon it starts raining with large shimmering drops of water. The Rain works its magic and slowly the Tree of Life comes alive and soon a new beautiful world starts forming in front of Mahi. Even Airavat turns pale green covered with green leaves and flowers. Both Airavat and Mahi flop to the ground tired but happy and satisfied with the world they helped spring back to life.

Airavat and Mahi decide to create this magic in Mahi's world too, so they go around planting trees night after night and show people how to use the tree magic to bring in rain. Mahi plants the seed of every mango she eats and her friends and family join in too.

Airavat in this story is borrowed from mythology where Indra the rain God rides on Airavat and brings rain on earth by sucking up water in its trunk and spraying it into clouds.

This amazing story book is also a visual delight with its colourful illustrations and is a must read. A very simple story to teach kids about conservation and saving trees so that the "Tree of Life" can work its magic and life on this planet can go on and every kid like Mahi can delightfully enjoy the mango fruit in abundance.

Thank you Divya for inviting me to write this guest post. I enjoyed it thoroughly and looking forward to read more of your posts.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

'Tis the season!

First appeared on  Parent Edge blog
I cannot believe that we are already onto the end of December this year! In a way, December is special for various reasons – December signals the onset of winter which ranges from mild to severe depending on which part of the country one resides in and thus is touted as one of the best times for travel around tropical destinations. December is a month to reflect on the turn of events in the year that has gone by and may be plan for what’s to be in store in the year ahead! Well, December also is a time to get into the spirit of Christmas and lose oneself in its trappings. Whether one celebrates Christmas or not at home, you cannot miss the season’s specialties – the carol singing at a near-by church or at a neighbour’s house, star mounted houses, malls and restaurants with Christmas decorations, sinful Christmas treats galore at bakeries or Santa sightings that excite not just the little ones  - the fa-la-la fun is everywhere!!!:-) 

So how about a few Christmas reads to get warmed up for the Christmas season ? Besides the regular Christmas reads such as “The Sweet Smell of Christmas” by Patricia Scarry  or “The Night before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore  or “The Polar Express”  Chris Van Allsburg or any of the Christmas specials on popular children’s books’ characters, I came across the vintage Little Golden book series on Christmas stories brought out by Random house publications. As many as six titles centered around Christmas, this series is ideal for younger kids to get acquainted with the story of how Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem in “The Christmas Story” by Jane Werner and Eloise Wilken, or the story of the darkhorse reindeer named Rudolph who became Santa’s guiding light in “Rudolph, the red nosed Reindeer  by Rick Bunsen and Arkadia or  story with a Disney twist in “Disney’s Mickey Mouse flies the Christmas  Mail” by Annie North Bedford and the story of how animals welcomed baby Jesus in “Animals’ Christmas eve” by Gale Wiersum and Alexandra Steel Morgan. This classic series throws light on the spirit and meaning of Christmas with the aid of poetic texts and simple yet charming illustrations that are sure to engage your little one!     

If you are looking for a Christmas read for older kids who read by themselves, then “Cool Christmas stories  compiled by Elizabeth Holland is a worth a look. This book includes Christmas stories by Sam Hay, Dyan Sheldon and Martin Waddell. While some of the stories seem to thrive on traditional seasonal trappings like Santa sliding down the chimney to fill up the stockings with gifts, or the concept of Man on the moon, something I feel the young readers may have outgrown, the stories however do make an interesting read. The book can also double up as a read-aloud, if you have an emergent reader not yet comfortable with devouring a chapter book on his own. Though minimal, the illustrations are whacky enough to make our ever jaded/skeptical  younger generation take notice!:-) Stories such as the hilarious  fantasy-within-a-fantasy adventure of Santa facing trouble during the delivery of gifts in “Troublesome year for Father Christmas” by Sally Grindley  or the relatable story of a young girl who’s persistence gets her parents to give in and almost celebrate Christmas in “Not quite Christmas” by Dyan Sheldon  and the daring story of a girl spreading the warmth and cheer of Christmas that wins over a  fire-spitting dragon in “Imelda and the Dragon” by Martin Waddell  or the realistic take on the reason behind Stagger, one of Santa’s reindeers, being Santa’s weakest link in “The Clumsy Reindeer” by Elizabeth Holland - are all sure to make it a cool  Christmas vacation for young readers this year! So here’s wishing everyone a merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

A long awaited visit to the Bookstore and more.....

Bookstores are one of our favourite hang-outs, where we love to spend hours and hours just browsing through the bookshelves and wishing we could own the entire collection….. whether we later find time read or not! More so, when it’s a children’s bookstore……..it’s not just me but my little one can be seen yanking out every book of his favourite author …whether he’s already read them or not! It was Geronimo Stilton series a while ago and his combing operation is now targeted at the Roald Dahl collection!:-)

For quite some time now, I have been wanting to go to the “Lightroom Bookstore” located in the Cooke Town area of Bangalore, but simply couldn’t as I reside in practically the other end of Bangalore. A couple of weeks ago, we managed to drive down and finally look up the quaint little children’s bookstore that is as true to its name - enlightening and enchanting! The bookstore has a wide selection of books children of all age groups and what’s more – they are beautifully arranged in a way that is not only striking to the eye but also easy to locate. Added to it, its friendly staff and its owner, Aasthi, a children’s book enthusiast herself, guide the parents into choosing the right book for the right age. I found many of the mainstream bookstores lacking or rather restricted when it comes to good children’s literature, and our only retreat being independent bookstores. Lightroom bookstore not only has a good stock of Indian mainstream and independent publications but a sizeable collection of foreign publications. So if you are children’s book enthusiast, you know here your next stop is!!!

What are the odds that we visit a children’s bookstore and there’s a book related event scheduled and what’s more, we seem to be right on time for it!!!
We happen to stumble upon the book launch of “Whackylicious!”, a compilation of stories by fifteen children between the age of five and twelve brought out by Timbuktoo Young Authors Publishing, as a part of the Timbuktoo creative writing workshops conducted by its creative director Aparna Raman and her team. Each of the works reflect the wild imagination of its young authors who seem to “have embraced the nonsensical, the bizarre and illogical with open arms” (sic)! Aptly titled, and complemented by vibrant and creative illustrations,  the poems and stories revolve around a world as our little ones would imagine it to be or would love to imagine in a “what if” situation or their understanding or whacky explanations of how the world came to be!  For instance, It’s a delight to read about the apple eating ghost in the  Ghost who to eat apples” or Harry Potter inspired (probably)“Sorcerer in the family” or  about a hilarious  incident of what happens when “One day I peeled a banana and inside there was a fish” or an out-of-the-box attempt to explain “Why Parrots can only repeat” or Abhay’s favourite “Ninja Ninja” a poem calling on the ubiquitous Japanese warrior to do “Dhishoom Dhishoom” and many such works that are not only well written but also something young readers would be able to relate to ……and not to forget also relatable to the child in you! :-)


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

We turn four!!!!!

It’s been four years since Onestoryaday has come into our lives….and yet (at the risk of sounding repetitive!) it feels like Onestoryaday has been around for much longer!!! Frankly, when I started blogging in  December 2010, I had no clue that Onestoryaday would celebrate its fourth year …in whatever form – be it one story every other day or one story a week or one story a month!:-) What started out as sharing my reading adventures with my then four year old grew into a sounding board for my reflections on my parenting journey! Of course, as seen from the decreasing number of posts every year, it is also true that I haven’t been as regular as I used to be when I first started out. However, it is also true that my life hasn’t been the same since December 2010 and has undergone a sea change (even literally!) over the last four years! After all, even Onestoryaday too cannot escape from the law of diminishing returns! J
Off late, I have discovered that Abhay has progressed to reading on his own and even during bedtime, he prefers picking out his own chapter book instead of  being read aloud to! While I am thrilled that he has discovered the joy of reading by himself and not wanting to turn to any other book until he’s finished his current read, I find it hard to let go!:-) So these days, I know for sure my young reader is  not going to put down Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”  for a picture book that mommy wants to read to him! L In fact, this is why I began writing about our joint reading experiences as you never know when they want to go solo!:-)

At the same time, I have found it hard to find books to read-aloud with slightly complex themes meant more for older kids who are able to understand layered narratives and quasi-adult themes. So is it a time to move on ….. or may be find a another audience…..???:-)
Well, as if to take a cue from this, I have joined the team of bloggers at Parent Edge blog from this month doing the same thing that I love, reviewing and recommending children’s books for parents to read to their kids.
As has been the tradition (which is only four years old!) at Onestoryaday to invite readers and parents to share their favourite stories, books they read as a child and still loved by the child in them and so also the current favourites of their little ones. So here’s inviting all my readers to be a part of Onestoryaday all of this month ……!!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stanley's Stick!

Life is full of surprises!!! Just as you believe your life to be moving in a known direction, an unexpected turn of events can leave you bewildered and unsettled until you come to terms with the change!  Owing to a sudden hectic turn of events on the personal front, I have been missing on the blogosphere and its now been more than a month since my last post on Onestoryaday !  But as the saying goes ….the only thing constant in life is change and you learn to adapt and move on….. so here I am...just in time for its anniversary month! Anyway, now that I got down to revisit my long lost sharing space afforded by blogger, let me straightaway get down to the business of books…..children’s books that I’ve been reading…not just for Abhay!:-)

Not very often you come across a book that speaks to not just the kids but also the parents reading to them. One such book that I happen to stumble upon at the British Library  is “Stanley’s Stick” by John Hegley and illustrated by Neal Layton. Described as capturing “the freewheeling expressiveness of childhood” and touted as “everything a picture book should be”, this is a story of a boy named Stanley who has a fetish for a stick that he always carries with him.  Stanley’s stick was once a part of a majestic tree that Stanley wistfully remembers finding it lying on the ground. Nevertheless Stanley is happy to have a part of something tall and grand and indulges in pretend play of all kinds with his stick! He pretends to use the stick as a whistle, or as match stick all set to light the torch of world games, or his stick becomes “stickosauraus”, a dinosaur not yet extinct!:-) Stanley also managed to rope his friend into joining and they both are seen pretend-fishing with a string attached to his stick…..with the best part being that no fish getting hurt with his stick-fishing! But Stanley had never been able to find an appropriate name for his favourite inanimate companion! For instance, Stirry sounded nice but much more appropriate for a spoon rather than a stick! Once Stanley goes on a beach vacation with his parents and there’s no better company than his stick to scrawl on sand in a languages understood by only Stanley and his stick. As he nears the shore, Stanley is seen in a pensive mood, looking out in the direction of the sea …. As his parents take stock of the situation of what is Stanley about to do, Stanley hurls his stick into the sea, surprised to what a tiny splosh it makes for something that was so big in his life, while his parents wonder if he is upset now that  Stanley is now stickless!!! The next morning, as the tide is out, Stanley decides to look for other sticks or twigs when he chances upon  a twisty stick that is different from the one he had before! Suddenly, Stanley’s bewitched ….and he soon discovers numerous ways of playing with his new twisty stick! Besides….it was easier than before to arrive at a name for his new found favourite – fantastick!!! Well….the book ends with a reflective tone…..Stanley’s fantastic, to which we add…so is his story…..isnt it??
This book not only makes a delightful  read but also works on so many different levels, that leaves a feel-good effect each time one reads it! Beautifully worded, charmingly illustrated, “Stanley’s stick” is not only a tribute to children's imagination but also offers a philosophical perspective to life and conveys a subtle message that lends itself into different meanings at different phases of one’s growing up! So it goes without saying….Stanley’s Stick is definitely for keeps…..as you may want to revisit this book later…to see if you have moved on with the change just as Stanley has!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For a Quiet Diwali........

The biggest festival amongst Hindus, Diwali or Deepavali is here! While there is no stopping for the annual festivities, family traditions or Diwali Dhamaka sales and offers, this Diwali has seen many people vowing for a greener and cleaner Diwali. With the recent spate of fire accidents in many parts of India owing to fire crackers, an appeal has been made in public interest by various Government and non-government agencies including schools to observe a cracker free Diwali due to ensuing the air and noise pollution and solid waste generated from bursting any kind of fire crackers. Personally, while we’ve never been big fans of noise causing crackers and our Diwali evenings was restricted to lighting the relatively noiseless sparklers, flowerpots and earth twisters, but this time we tried to do away with those too! Though our eight year old, (who has always had his ear plugs on every Diwali) was not gung-ho about the idea initially, we are on Day 1 and it’s been so far so good! Believe me, it’s not just us but many kids on our street are rooting for a quieter Diwali ….may be it’s only a matter of time for the whole neighbourhood to turn our biggest festival into our biggest pro-environment endeavour! Well…think about it….. Diwali evenings are probably best meant for other ways of celebration ..…like may be revisiting the long forgotten bhajans (Abhay is wincing!) or may be catching the latest Bollywood Diwali release with friends and family…..(Abhay is nodding rigorously!)….other than causing noise and pollution! So here’s wishing everyone a cracker-free yet a dazzling Diwali!  

As much as I wanted to read “Diwali gift” by Shwetha Chopra and Shuchi Mehta, I couldn’t lay my hands on a copy just in time for my Diwali post and found the pricing of the hardback a little too steep going by Indian standards. Since we are on the topic of going green this Diwali, I am taking the liberty of sharing an inpsiring true story found in the October issue of children’s magazine, Highlights Champs, in its Goofus and Gallant section.  A Quiet Diwali" by Ashish Jain. This is a story of the 14 year old twins in Chindwada, Madhya Pradesh,… Yash and Yashika Jain who are asked to address their school on the eve of Diwali. The teenage twins describe their  life changing experience of having visited the burn ward of a local hospital during the previous Diwali and were so moved that they jointly decide to boycott crackers once and for all. From then the children have been travelling around Chindwada spreading the message of a quiet and a cracker free Diwali! Just as they finished their address, the teacher asks the students as to how many of the students  plan to celebrate Diwali without crackers …..and you can only imagine what the response was! So are you and your little one ready for a quiet Diwali??   

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mumbai magic!


With most schools closed for Dassera vacations and the ensuing long weekend has had many Bangaloreans catch the travel bug last week…..and how could we be left behind? But unlike our previous travels, we decided on a long pending visit to Mumbai that we’ve been putting off for a decade now. So it was a combination of sorts – visiting/calling on extended family and friends and exploring the commercial capital of India! While we drove in air conditioned cars trudging through the vast expanse of the city’s landscape, we also jostled with the crowd in its local trains; While we were roamed around some of the affluent neighborhoods of Bandra and Juhu and were star struck by simply being shown the houses of famous film stars,  we also enjoyed sauntering around the inner gullies of old town Mumbai and haggling with vendors and shop keepers; While we dined at an upscale restaurant in one of Mumbai’s numerous malls, we also relished the lip smacking authentic Maharashtrian cuisine – so in all savoured every slice the Mumbai magic!

While on a customised sight-seeing tour of the city, we stopped by a couple of exclusive children’s bookstores, leaving our tour guide quite perplexed!  He didn’t know what to make of us as we were done with some of the usual tourist attractions within minutes but took an hour or two at places like Kahani Tree! We first visited Spellbound which is “the place to go” for foreign authors and publications.

After having picked quite a few books, we then chanced upon Kahani Tree, housed in the office of Mumbai based publisher Vakils, Feffer and Simons, it was a like a dream come true to look up a little bookstore dedicated to children’s books brought out by independent publishers in India such as Tulika, Tara and Katha publications. It was indeed a pleasure to meet and interact with Ms. Sangeeta Bhansali, the center’s  Director, Duckbill author Parinita Shetty along with another picture book enthusiast, a mommy like me! A big thanks to Kahani tree for enriching our travel experience like never before ......  truly the most memorable Mumbai moment for us!

As I was looking for children’s books based out of Mumbai, Devaki Bhujang-Gajare from Little Reader's Nook in Mumbai had suggested a couple of books, and sure enough I found them both at Kahani tree.

 Miss Muglee goes to Mumbai” by Saker Mistri and Shaheen Mistri and illustrated by Sirajul Khan and Sheetal Shah brought out by Vakils Feffer and Simons is a part of the series of adventure stories about Muglee, a lonely crocodile and her friends. Muglee feels down and low over her lack of friends and envies other animals for she feels nobody loves the reptile race as a pet, when the friendly frog, Faisal suggests that they travel to Mumbai city. Faisal seeks to introduce Muglee to a charming kitty who has friends who are great fun and will play with everyone! So Muglee excitedly packs her belongings which include her facial cream, toothpaste and ghagras that may just impress a Bollywood movie star! As they reach Mumbai city, Muglee and Faisal find themselves overwhelmed with its skyscrapers and crowded streets and sluggish traffic, while managing to squeeze into a local bus, when they finally meet the charming Kitty at Kitty chowk! So does Muglee manage to make friends under the auspices of Kitty and her associates …read on to find out and go Yezookee jimpee jumpee joh with Muglee and her escapades! With playful collage/cut paper illustrations, Miss Muglee’s stories are sure to appeal to younger children and are ideal for read aloud story times too!

Another book Abhay seemed to devour is “366 words in Mumbai” by Mirabelle D’Cunha and illustrated and designed by Suhita Mitra, brought out by Fun OK publications, as a part of knowledge based series on India’s cities, like our own Bengaluru, Kolkata and Delhi. This book takes the young reader through the history, culture, festivals, dominant seasons and various landmarks of Mumbai in a “look and find” format that adds to up learning 366 words on the city! This book doubles up as a comprehensive tour guide for kids presented and narrated by little Mumbaikars Neel and Sivana. Since we had this book  on our sight-seeing expedition, Abhay was able to live through some of the Mumbai experiences as and when he read about them – live and in action! Aided with colouful illustrations, this book also features a child friendly map and fun facts and statistics about the city that never sleeps! A must have if you are planning a trip to Mumbai!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

We the children of India.....

Over the weekend, we attended the third edition of Bangalore Literature Festival held at Crowne Plaza, Electronic city. Unlike the previous   years, we didn't have Abhay accompany us this time as there were no children's events on Day 3, the only day we could find time attend! Though we wished we could take Abhay too, we didn't mind not having to carry home made food for the picky eater or not having to find ways of engaging him amidst a serious discussion/ session with Arun Shourie or not having to run to the restrooms every other hour !:-))) 
However, I still came back with the book to read to Abhay. Though I was aware of this book and had seen it in bookstores and libraries before, I always thought Abhay needs to be a little older to be able  fully comprehend the essence of it. But it was only when Justice Leila Seth mentioned that children as young as seven were able to understand the basic tenets, like equality and freedom enshrined in the Constitution of India, that I picked up for tonight's read. Of course, this is not a book your young reader can finish in one sitting and requires an explanation here and there. 
When I read, "We the children of India" by retired Justice Leila Seth, the first woman Chief Justice of a High Court in India, whom I had the privilege to meet at the BLF 2014,  I was plain jealous! I wish this book was written when I was in school, considering I had set my heart on law very early! The book starts off with a basic introduction to the National book of India called the Constitution, throwing light on the circumstances under which the Constituent Assembly sought to adopt the same. With the aid of suitable examples and colourful illustrations featuring children, Justice Leila Seth, explains the meaning and effect of each of the principles -Sovereign, socialist, secular, Democratic Republic, and constitutional guarantees like Justice, Liberty, Equality and fraternity, in a succinct and an age appropriate manner! We the children of India also has everything a young reader needs to know about workings of the Indian democratic system and the rights of its people, including our little ones! Characteristically, the former high court judge has saved the best for last - she draws up a preamble for the children of India with a message of love, respect and hope!!! A must read for all the children of India!!! However, don't be surprised if your young reader quotes this book to challenge the constitutionality of your house rules!!!!:-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Petu and gang!!!

Bangalore has been host to a multitude of activities revolving around children’s literature…so much so that parents are left with little time for themselves!:-) Every weekend has some storytelling event, book launch, book-reading sessions for kids, with some of them conducted by friends and picture book enthusiasts like me! For instance, this weekend, the Story-telling event (conducted by friend and fellow blogger Cuddles and Reads) at Atta Galata on the occasion of International literacy day is in competition with children’s events at the Bangalore Literature festival or the event related to Tulika’s “Minu and her hair” at Kutoohala rivals with same in the evening at the Lightroom Bookstore! Added to it…there are many such events at the numerous children’s libraries and learning centers that have sprouted in every corner of Namma Bengaluru! With such a large spread…..who can blame us parents for choosing such inclusive events over “adults only” programs! J

Anyway, a few weeks back, I received an alert from the Bookalore team regarding their next monthly event …..to be held in surprise of surprises…J P nagar!!!! ( I cant believe that I found time to write about it only now …when we are already approaching the October event!) I was particularly keen on attending this time as it featured Arundhati Venkatesh’s early reader series “Petu Pumpkin” as we had missed some of her earlier events. But alas…..mommy proposes and work (in my case the Court) disposes!!! As I was stuck in Court that day, Abhay’s daddy did the needful!:-) Though Abhay seemed a little distracted at the event, given that some of the boys seemed to form their own secret society within the audience , he had insisted on buying both the books “Petu Pumpkin  Tiffin thief” and Petu Pumpkin Tooth troubles”. Of course we bought much more than that and also received a special prize from the Funky Rainbow, their travelling bookstore for having bought ten books!!!!

Though I only write about the pictures books on Onestoryaday, the excitement with which Abhay took to Petu’s tales, like no other “Hole books” ….surely deserved a post on Onestoryaday! In fact he devoured both the books within a couple of days and they even kept him from boredom during our annual family pooja!

Petu Pumpkin series is something Abhay could instantly could relate to, considering it revolves around a boy named Pushkin, fondly called Petu pumpkin studying in Class three. However there are times I wonder why as my son is hardly a foodie that Petu is so famous or infamous for! 
The first book "Petu Pumpkin Tiffin thief" starts off with a new academic year in school where Petu pumpkin is found prowling other’s tiffin boxes prompting the others in the class to start a secret society and the second book “Petu Pumpkin Tooth troubles” has Petu trying everything from pulling out his tooth to writing to tooth fairy requesting for a football to fit in and be accepted into the “Gap club” while helping them challenge the fourth standard foot ball team! It makes a hilarious read …and not just for kids….believe me I couldn’t put down the book either…! Besides being appropriate for the reading level of children between the age group of 6 to 9 years, the stories are very well written and the  author beautifully captures the mind of the big little boys in transition! Whether it’s the easily relatable characters and class room situations, intra and inter class politics that younger readers can identify with or the funny limericks that run through the narrative  - a must read for all young and emergent readers….. “petu” or not! 

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 …..it 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.....!!

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……!!!

Friday, August 8, 2014

When the rains come!

With the near revival of monsoon…….everyone from the farming community to stock brokers are upbeat about the possibility of normal monsoon this year. At the same time, many areas that have received heavy rainfall recently are on a flood or disaster alert!  I just can’t get enough of the cloudy days and rainy evenings ….not to mention the crispness in the air and the near- nippy nights that seem like a teaser for this year’s winter!  Why…we even made a last minute change and extended our stay at our farm house in South Kanara,  a few weeks ago just to experience the monsoon magic of the coastal rain! Well….the trade off ... was lots of pending homework when we got back!:-(((  

As a part of the monsoon special…… we read "When the rains come" by Tom Pow and Malika Favre, a tale set in Malawi, in South East Africa. This book is as they say "A Story within a story" and the beauty lies in how the story within seamlessly  continues through various interludes....very similar to  how it sometimes happens at home…right?. The story starts off with an African lady, by name Beatrice dropping off  her children, twins Oscar and Jennifer and baby Grace off at Grandmother Rose's house as she is going away on work. The children slowly settle in with Grandmother Rose who regals them with her favorite story of the tortoise who brought forth water when the whole land was parched owing to a great drought.

Once upon a time, grandma begins ... There was a great drought and all animals are weak and thirsty ... when the least important of all animals, the tortoise suggests that if they animals stamp on the earth, water will flow! Though most animals are skeptical, for lack of better ideas,  decide to try out his idea. The lion steps in first and stamped and stamped hard on earth, but not a spot of dampness appears! Branding it a silly idea, the lion gives up.

Just as grandma was about to go on, she notices that Oscar and Jennifer appear to even more tired than the lion as they had fallen fast asleep! :-))) During the day, the children go about their routine that includes queuing up with other children of the village for their share of the porridge and helping grandma to sell her vegetables in the market and having fun along the way. At night...once again it’s time for grandma to continue the episode of "The Tortoise and the Drought"…....picking up from where she had left before.

 Grandma thus resumes ……The lion is followed by the elephant  and then the giraffe both of whom kick up dust and nothing else! Finally the tortoise  who is the closest to the ground notices the dampness rising from the a spring of water deep within the earth and steps forward to try out his own idea, as other animals ridicule further.

But just as the plot thickens, the twins are seen dozing off in an "anti-climax" of sorts!:-) Soon the days pass by, the twins and baby Grace are getting stronger and seem to be learning new things, thanks to informal training by one of the dancers of the village by name Promise! The hot dry months finally yield to the rains.....and when the rains come....grandma Rose believes its time for the Tortoise and the Drought story to end!

So at night...grandma continues.....

"Tortoise lifts his scaly little foot and stamps on earth. Though not a sound was made and not a speck of dust raised but from dry earth, there comes a tongue of water licking its way through the dust...."

So everyone agrees that the least and lowest can turn out to be cleverest.....!!! So grandma goes on to conclude that because of what tortoise had done, he was made the king! As Jennifer wonders aloud if the tortoise made a good king.........grandma sensing  another story in the offing...........says "that is another story ' !!:-) 

 The story of the tortoise and the drought becomes their favourite rain story too. Soon their mother Beatrice is home and all of them join in getting the leaking roof repaired so that it rains only outside! Safe and warm inside.....Oscar and Jennifer can’t wait to tell their mother their favourite story......and baby Grace too gurgles in delight! At the end...the story switches to the story within ...and in a way provides an answer to Jennifer question about Tortoise's tenure as the king!  An African folk-tale beautifully inter-wined with the story of survival, community spirit and hope…in all  making this a must read for young readers. The rains have indeed come……!!! J