Sunday, January 26, 2014

Little Indians on Republic day!

What does Republic day mean for kids today? Is it just another public holiday or a holiday lost (as Republic day happened to fall on a Sunday this year!) or a day to attend the Republic day celebrations at your locality or apartment complex or a day on which you are allowed unbridled TV time only to realize that its restricted to watching the Republic day parade on Doordarshan (India’s public television) and not the Republic day special movie running on other channels or a day to go shopping at the Republic day sales running in each and every mall in town?  Gone are those pre-cable TV days when we would eagerly wait for the Republic day parade and sit through the whole show all ready for a pop quiz on “Who was the chief guest at this year’s program” or “What was the running theme of this year’s tableau from Karnataka”? (My over-enthusiastic mom subjects me to the quiz even today!:-)  While we made it a point to have Abhay sit through the display of our country’s military prowess and cultural kaleidoscope at the Republic day parade this morning, we were a tad disappointed to notice that Abhay’s interest seem to wane off even before the cultural tableaux began! Regularly fed with the daily diet of “Ninja Hattori” and “Transformers’, I guess, our little Indians need a bit of prodding to appreciate and admire something that is indigenous and our own!

 Since Republic day is essentially a day to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and diversity of our country, what better book to read than Pika Nani’sLittle Indians” which presents interesting facts, figures and stories from across the different states of our country.  We had the honor of the author’s guest post on Onestoryaday last December.  Anyway, I had meant to feature this book on Independence Day last year, but could not do so. Expecting it to be a guidebook on different states of India for kids aged ten and above, I had bought a few copies for a few kids aged above ten, as return gifts at Abhay’s seventh birthday last year.  Little did I know…what a gem I was giving away….and thank God I had kept an extra copy of the book myself! Not only this could be likened to a “junior lonely planet” series on the different states of the country, but this book combines fact and fiction to produce some of the most endearing stories I have ever read to Abhay! Following a similar format for each of the fifteen states featured, the author highlights the unique landscape, life, people and the culture of each state, peeping into its history while also beautifully weaving a story around the various elements native to that state, with the young inhabitants being the protagonists. So while your little one learns about the many tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh, he also learns about the secret behind the “The Ghost of Bhedaghat” a story set amidst the famous Marble gorge near Jabalpur or while being enlightened about one of the world’s highest cricketing pitches in Himachal Pradesh, the story of  discovery of “Apple Ganesha” at Kotgaarh, known as the Apple Heartland of Himachal Pradesh, is sure delight your little one! Here’s hoping that our very own little Indians learn the fascinating facts about our country through “Little Indians”! Happy Republic Day everyone!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Potatoes for the prince??

The recent issue of "Parent Edge" has a feature dedicated to “Handling fussy eaters” and most hapless parents of fussy eaters know that a child is either born a “hearty” or a “picky” eater – and there’s not much you can do until they grow out of it! J If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’d probably know that Abhay is legendarily fussy about food! I had even done a week-long special on books on picky eaters! I’m sorry I know …I am not helping myself by labeling my seven year old a “fussy” eater…he’ll only grow comfortable with that tag …and will probably get stuck with it his entire life!:-) To be fair, I must say that it gets better with age……I mean Abhay’s list of food declared unacceptable has drastically come down over the years. For instance, in fruits, mango and papaya have progressed from the “Hate it” list to the “Love it” list, while water-melon is still on the “Last choice’ list. Similarly, the mandatory soya milk has given way to once-in-a-while regular dairy milk or brinjal has definitely moved up the tolerance scale and drumstick is at least on “Will have if the last choice on the earth” list! But no matter what, there will always be some kind of food, be it vegetable or fruit….that’s not only an absolute ‘no-no’ but also on the “rather perish than eat it” list…..and for Abhay, that food is ……the ubiquitous aloo (potatoe)!!!! So you see….no parenting magazine can help me!!!

Though I know this book, like all my earlier books on picky eaters would be of no help when it comes to Abhay’s food fuss factor, I went about reading this one anyway. “The Princess and the Peas” by Caryl hart and Sarah Warburton, as the caption goes “funny tale for royally fussy eaters everywhere” is a fun spin off on the age old fairy tale narrated in hilarious rhyming verse. Lily Rose May is a prim and proper girl who is always at her best behavior except when she is offered peas, she throws a fit! So her father dashes off to the library to find a book (like me!) on the perfect peas recipe, but nothing can make her eat her peas. So the doctor is called on who believes she is afflicted with "Princessites", a condition that is supposed to have arisen out of the “Princess and the pea” story, with a ban issued on eating peas for all the princesses! As princess Lily-Rose May  sets off to enjoy her royal stay at a a palace which is obviously is a “No-pea-zone”,  she realizes that the peas are greener on the other side, as she’d much rather try to eat her father’s peas than try the cold cabbage stew that is offered day in and day out at the palace! So now Lily Rose May is an expert in peas and is seen eating her peas dipped with ketch-up, chocolate and cheese! So how about potatoes for our prince?? Hmm..........that will probably  only stew up a another blogpost!!!  :-)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bink and Golie

I needn’t dwell any more about my fascination with children’s books. Well, frankly nothing excites me as much as children’s books!  The excitement of finding the perfect book for Abhay carries me through the entire day! I have always been a book lover and hope to see my son and many more children turn book lovers. So when it comes to birthdays, I always gift books!! When it comes to Abhay's birthday…you can be certain that return gifts too would be books! ! Of course…..I’ve faced some dissent within the family (including Abhay) who see no point in gifting books to one of Abhay's younger cousins in my native village for whom a gift of a car or a truck would have been a sure-shot hit! ! But hey! doesn't matter where you are or how young is your child ...its never too early to start reading! Isn't it? 

So imagine my excitement as I found this Early Reader when I stopped by the British library on the way back from Court. Just before moving back to India, I remember having gifted  this book to one of Abhay's older friends in Portland probably on her sixth birthday. Ideal for  emergent readers I'd hoped that she'd like the book and wondered if I'd ever find something like this in India in a couple of years when Abhay would be ready for an Early Reader! So when I stumbled upon the familiar cover of  "Bink and Golie" truly felt like my lucky day! "Bink and Golie" by Camillo and Alison McGhee and illustrated by Tony Fucile, held as an exceptional book for Early Readers, follows the quirky adventures of tall and tiny Golie and Bink through three hilarious stories narrated in an Early Reader format.  Bink is the chirpy one who loves to gorge on Golie's pancakes. Golie is the jaded explorer who loves to use long complicated words that Bink cant seem to understand. So amidst the familiar  words, there's "implore" or "compromise" or "top-quality" thrown in which can very well help to improve the vocabulary of  your emergent reader, however it may be to your peril!  While it was welcome that Abhay said  "Amma this is a top-quality book", I am not sure what to make sure of when Abhay ran up to his father and said "I implore you to buy me the toy I had earlier ask for"! :-)

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Unboy Boy!

 Though as a generation, we have managed to challenge certain gender stereotypes, we’ve not been able completely break free from them and at times we do unknowingly tend to orient our kids towards perpetuating the same. For instance, though not overly concerned that my seven year old Abhay has never been the “outdoorsy” type from the beginning, I can’t say that I have never indulged in comparisons between Abhay and some of his male cousins who seem kinesthetically more active. Not sure if it’s his basic nature, conditioning or level of stamina, Abhay seems naturally drawn to drawing, books and legos rather than sports and other physically driven activities. While I am not complaining, I confess there have been times when I have been guilty of being insensitive with a “Why are you acting like a girl?” when Abhay obviously upset has shot back “Amma, I am a boy and always a boy”!! Touche my little one!:-)

So when author and blogger Richa Jha mailed me two of her recently released picture books around December last year, “The Unboy boy” truly resonated with Abhay! Apart from books on imaginary anthropomorphic characters slaying monsters or age old fables strung into a limerick or multi-cultural folk based stories, once in while you wish you could read something that features everyday situations or day-to-day issues that kids can easily relate to. “The Unboy boy” is one such book that not only does just that but also beautifully conveys a message without being too preachy. We loved the story and its narrative laced with underlying humour, the real-life like characters and their quirks and have read  the book many times over and each time there’s something new we discover in the illustration, almost as if it were a “look and find’ adventure of our own! Thanks Richa for this wonderful book!

 The Unboy boy” by Richa Jha and Gautam Benegal  brought out under the banner of is a delightful read about a boy named Gagan who unlike other boys preferred drawing and reading to fist fights and playing pranks, cared about ants when other boys gleefully stomped on them, took his teddy “Bingo” for the 'Show and Tell ' at class, or cried listening to grandpa’s battle and war stories – all this earned Gagan unenviable names like “Scaredy Cat", “Mousey”, “Baby girl” amongst his friends and even a “Chooha” (Hindi word for mouse) from his grandpa. Many attempted to ‘transform” Gagan from an Unboy boy to a Boy boy, but failed as Gagan was perfectly at ease with who he was, with occasional bad days when the teasing and name calling upset him. On those days he turned to his mother, wondering if he really was a boy to which his mother  always consoled him saying that he was loveliest and gentlest boy ever making her proud! ( Something for Abhay's mom to emulate!) Gagan then slept soundly and dreamed about flying as a Superman with Bingo by his side as the superdog!  But something happens at the year’s annual summer camp that changes the way everyone looks at the “Unboy” boy! Does Gagan actually get to live his dream of the “Superboy” that he really is ….. ? Read on to find out about Gagan’s unboy-turned superboy adventure!  It doesn’t matter if you fit in or you don’t as long as you are comfortable with who you are!  So if you or your little one seems be ill at ease about not fitting in……. “The Unboy Boy” is a book that’ll fit in perfectly for you!  :-)

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Twist in the Fairy Tale!

I have always had and made known my reservations about the relevance of certain fairy tales to the kids of today.  Fairy tale classics may have held the fascination of kids of the previous generations, but I am not sure if they still do hold the same charm with the current generation, given the wide ranging genre of children’s literature today. At the same time, I find that there is an increasing trend these days to turn around an age old fairy tale and adapt the same to suit contemporary beliefs and ideologies. While it still may revolve around the protagonist like Cinderalla or the Sleeping beauty…..your little one may be delighted to find that Cinderalla too has certain issues with “sharing” or “stage fright”….something that your little princess can relate much better to! So it may still be a princess story but not a damsel in distress waiting to rescued by a Prince Charming only to happily married soon after  …which now we (grown up princesses) know …..if only things were as simple as that…..isnt it??


Every once in while, you may come across a title that owes its basic idea to a fairy tale, but don’t be deceived … may just be unlike any fairy tale you’ve ever read. So when I found “Goldilocks and just one Bear” by Leigh Hodkinson, I had to pick it up. This book is like a sequel to the original fairy tale, and about the little bear (from Goldilocks and the three bears) who is now all-grown up and enters the concrete jungle (that resembles a big city downtown) and barges into “Snooty towers” as he is  quite lost in the big city. As he steps into the elevator the building, unknowingly the elevator takes him to the topmost floor and he enters a swanky roof-top apartment, away from the noise...and just like in the fairy tale finds the food, couch, and the bed meant  for the little member of the family just right and dozes off therein. Just then a family of father, mother and a little girl walk in to find everything messed up and a bear sleeping in the little one's bed. But it soon turns out that the mother person and the bear recognise each other as the former has had a similar experience in the bear's house as little Goldilocks! So the grown up Goldilocks offers the grown-up not-so-little bear a big bowl of porridge which is neither hot, nor cold but is just right. It made the grown-up-not-so-little bear almost forget about that once-upon-time when Goldilocks had behaved so badly in the bear household. Although the now- grown-up-not-so-little bear has a nice time with grown-up Goldilocks and her family, the bear decides to finally head home to the forest, after all it is his home sweet home!  

Another such book that turns around the “Sleeping beauty” into a charming tale of a poor prince is “Sleeping Nasty” by Tony Bradman and illustrated by Richard Watson that also doubles as an early chapter book by the White wolves series by A & C Black London.  Prince Oscar is a prince who wants to explore the world but is disappointed when asked to go looking for a rich princess to marry so that his royal family would be uplifted from state of royal penury. Though reluctant prince, a dutiful son that he is to his parents, Oscar sets off on a bride-finding adventure. Oscar searches everywhere but cannot find the right princess. Either they are married or didn’t want to talk to him. Then one sunny afternoon, he meets an old shepherd who tells him about the sleeping beauty, a princess who has been sleeping for over hundred years as a bad fairy had cast a spell on her that can only be broken by a prince’s kiss. Oscar thinks this to be an ideal proposition and heads off to find her. As he enters the castle, braving the hedge of thorns, he finds the castle spooky and dingy with a few people having fallen asleep in the middle of whatever they had been doing. At last he finds the princess who is snoring and even has a bit of dribble running from her mouth. As he kisses her, the princess opens her eyes, she yells "Who are you and what took you so long"? Oscar was hoping for meet a grateful princess, but instead finds her bad-tempered and mean.  As she heads out to meet her parents to tell them of the news, he finds that her parents too are snooty and bad tempered and didn't think too much of him. Just then a fairy appears who turns out to be the bad fairy who had cursed the princess earlier and consequently suffered ignominy and isolation amongst other fairy colleagues. So in an attempt at atonement, she decides to help people and not harm them and thus to help Oscar whom she sees as needing some desperate measures!  So Oscar wishes for the sleeping nasty to be put back to sleep till she is “a bit nicer” and wishes that his parents were to be rich once again so that he is free to do what he likes. So Oscar travelled the world and saw wonderful sights and met lots of interesting people, including a princess who was beautiful as well as sweet natured and they were married off in a week. This goes to show that things never turn out quite as you might think! A great message to start the new year with …don’t you think?:-)


Monday, January 6, 2014

Circus Circus!

The circus is in town and over the weekend, we took Abhay along with his cousins to the Rambo circus. Since Abhay has never really been to a circus before, he had no idea about what to expect from “Rambo circus” which is now playing in Bangalore. As we set foot inside the big red tent, it felt like déjà vu as I remember my parents taking me to a circus that was playing in Bangalore back in the early 90s and how my mother was much more excited than I was as she had grown up in a small town when the circus was one of the most popular and affordable forms of entertainment for kids and adults alike. Even today as I recanted the various acts performed at the Rambo circus yesterday, it was she who was bursting with questions like “Was there this….was there that?” as if to do a story on how the circus has changed over the years!:-) Well, one thing that’s changed is the animal antics now being restricted to that of the elephant, horses and other domestic animals like dogs and cats as opposed to tigers and lions of the yester years. Frankly, I’d much rather enjoy the dare-devil and death defying acrobats/stunts performed by trained artists than the witness the hungry animals being prodded into jumping through rings of fire! Anyway, the show put up by the Rambo circus was quite entertaining and featured a combination of several acts, including juddling, balancing, clown acts, acrobats and trapeze acts performed by artists from all over the world, with Abhay’s favourite being the bike ride in the globe (though a usual act in every circus…it was the first time for Abhay and that too “without his hands covering his ears), wheel of death (a thrilling act touted as the show’s piece de resistance)  of course the dog show put up by a pack of pomeranians! J

Since it was his first time watching a circus perform, it has to be a book on circus, right? Well, I could have picked up Dr. Suess “If I ran the Circus” but since I could lay my hands on the same,  I read a story from the Young World that had appeared a few months which I had saved for the occasion. “ Under the Big top” by Kavitha Sivaramakrishnan. The circus was in town and Roshan and Swetha went to the circus with their aunt, Mrs. Rao!  The show began with a parade of the performers, dressed in dazzling costumes with flags in their hands and the dangerous and thrilling acts drew gasps of shock from the audience – be it the girl on a rope, the hula-hoop, or the group on a cycle – all the acts were performed with precision. Roshan and Swetha learn that the performers' rigorous training  and practice to get their act right. Roshan wondered if the performers don’t get bored performing the same thing over and over again to which Mrs. Rao pointed at the artists’ faces which seemed to show their passion. As the kids watch the three hour extravaganza, interspersed with comic acts by clowns and the trapeze performance being the grand finale, they marvel at the effort of so many people it takes to put up a show like that. Mrs Rao concludes that circus works well because of team effort and talent and that circus has been around for such a long time that one needs to salute the indomitable spirit of the circus and its people who will continue to entertain people, no matter what! It is true that the circus will always entertain people from all walks of life! After watching a spectacular show put up by Rambo circus, here’s to their indefatigable spirit of performance and entertainment. Enjoy the circus in town people!

Friday, January 3, 2014

It's a New year!

The New Year is here! As I discard the calender and diaries of 2013 and change the month back again to January on our date-day desk clock, I can’t help but look back at my posts for the New Year’s day in 20112012 and 2013 on Onestoryaday and find that the common thread running along all my New year’s posts is hope……and that’s what symbolizes the new year!  Whatever has happened or hasn’t happened in 2013…you hope to respectively forget or achieve in 2014!  Whatever has made or hasn’t made a difference in 2013, you hope to respectively retain or change the same in 2014! Whomever you haven’t met or have met in 2013…you hope to either meet or continue the journey in 2014! New Year is not only a time to take stock of the year that has been but also a time to plan for the year ahead. It’s the best time to schedule the year’s important moves, events and travels. For instance, the first thing I looked for in the Court calendar of this year is the Court’s summer vacation schedule! J

Anyway, as we are now set to move from January to December once again, I was on the look out for some book on New Year and like last year, I chanced upon a book meant more for toddlers than second graders and once again, like last year, having no choice but have Abhay read the same. “Kitten’s year” by Nancy Raines Day and Anne Mortimer. A kitten is shown doing many things through the year – he peeks in January (out of the snow covered window), toys with  February (playing with toys), stalks March, (exploring water lilies by the pond), paws April (with a spider), tumbles into May (rolling on a carpet of spring flowers), leaps at June (in summer delight), hides from sunny July, dozes through August, chases September (behind fall leaves), spooks October (with a Jack’O Lantern), sniffs November (for the fall treats), dreams December (of Santa) and wakes up the next year  grown into a cat! So with Abhay shall I say….So Abhay’s year will comprise of a jacketed January-February, modest March, ample April, mango May, back-to-school June, rainy July-August, sizzling 
September, festive October-November, dazzlingly christmassy December! 

Wishing everyone a joyous 2014! 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best of 2013!

With 2013 drawing to a close, its time to recap the year that was. So here's a list of five of my personal favorites on Onestoryaday! 

Happy Birthday Sannajji! A post dedicated to my mother hanging up her (teaching) boots on turning sixty.

The story of the pleasant rakshasa- A case of mistaken identity earned a comment from the author herself!

Happy Mother's day! - A must-post day on Onestoryaday!

Piggybook! - An urban reality of most working moms!

Taking baby reading steps - Celebrating the national library week with a special mention of Onestoryaday in "The Hindu"!

Last but certainly not the least, thanks to all the guest authors for sharing their reading journeys on Onestoryaday!

Here's wishing everyone a very happy 2014!