Thursday, February 27, 2014

Grandma's special gifts!

I read somewhere that a grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend!  I have taken up quite a bit of space on  Onestoryaday about the special relationship between Abhay and his maternal grandma, known as Sanna-ajji  and yet I can go on and on …..and will not have run out of things to say, but I may probably run out of appropriate books to read!:-) Well, I am not sure if I admire my mother more as a mom or as a grandmom, but I am sure envious of Abhay who is lucky to have both his paternal and maternal grandma close to him. Besides the doting love and affection that comes naturally to a grandparent, Abhay and his maternal grandma’s relationship is characterized by non-stop chatter, enthralling stories, and unlikeliest of surprises! Whenever Abhay visits his grandparents at their apartment in Bangalore or their farm house in Dharmasthala, Abhay proudly brings home the most inane objects to add to his clutter in his room, all thanks to his Sanna-ajji’s amazing ability to turn the dullest objects into a fascinating knick-knacks – be it a simple volunteer badge at a science fest in her college, or an old watch case turned into a treasure box or a hand mirror customised into a BEN10 merchandise with the help of BEN10 stickers!  Abhay is always prying into Sannaji’s collection of old and new trinkets like a hawk waiting to pounce on its next catch! Besides, Sanna-ajji being a hoarder, you never know what you may find therein!  With Abhay seeking to emulate Sanna-ajji in every little way…’s not a surprise that Abhay is turning into a little hoarder too! J

Today is probably the birthday of Sanna-ajji away from Bangalore and Abhay tried to make up for his absence on this special day with his Origami flower basket (now his new obsession!) and a Sari (without which none of amma's birthdays are complete!) couriered to 'Shristi"!

I had saved a nice little book specially for this, “Jack and the Flumflum tree” by one of our favourite authors Julia Donaldson of the “Gruffalo” fame and illustrated by David Roberts. Besides a wonderfully funny story, the illustration also throws in a few characters from her other works that lay hidden for your little one to find. This is a story of grandma’s loving little boy named Jack who embarks on a daring journey along with his two friends to bring the fruit from the Flumflum tree that only grows in the faraway island of Blowyernose, in order to cure his grandmother’s of moozles (red and purple spots on the face)! Just as he is about to set off on his adventure in his giant boat, granny gives him a bulgy patchwork sack…and in that were a few inane objects like a pair of wooden spoons, a porridge bowl, tent pegs, some red blue balloons, granny’s old skipping rope, a pack of chewing gum, a tom-tom drum and three spotty hankies, much to Jack’s wonder! As they set sail for the faraway isle of Blowyernose, they are surrounded by sharks that scares the life out of his crew, when Jack blows up the red and blue balloons lets the sharks follow them through. Just then, they discover a leak in the boat and patchwork sack comes to their rescue to help them stay afloat. Thanks to the chewing gum, Jack and his crew manage to plug the hole. So after a couple of mishaps including Stu falling overboard (promptly rescued by using Granny’s skipping rope!), they reach the isle of Blowyernose. As they land on the exotic isle and zero in on the flumflum tree, they encounter a number of obstacles  - flumflum tree being smooth to climb, a monkey running away with the flumflum fruit, all overcome by the knick-knacks from the patchwork sack! (Tent pegs used to climb the tree and tom-tom drum used to attract the monkey thief) and finally sail back home with the flumflum fruit for granny! Sure enough, granny is completely cured of all her spots. But Jack doesn’t understand what is the use of three spotty hankies and asks his which his witty granny says “ To blow your nose, silly”!!! J Needless to say …out of all books by Julia Child, this one is our favourite! After all, a grandma’s heart is a patchwork of love! Happy Birthday to amma…..more known on Onestoryaday as Abhay’s Sanna-ajji!:-)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Books Galore!

Over the weekend, we attended Bookalore's birthday bash!!! Bookalore, known as Bangalore's big little book club is an independent forum that aims at popularising contemporary Indian books amongst kids and young adults through monthly events centered around stories, activities and of course books, books and more books. Though we had attended a couple of these events before, we haven't been as regular as I would have liked due the fact that the events are spread across different venues every month. Frankly, Bangalore plays host to so many children's events that we parents find it hard to keep up, thus weekends getting busier than weekdays! :-)  Nevertheless, Bookalore's first anniversary was hard to miss and so there we were at our favorite children's library on a sunny Saturday morning, just like we had been on Bookalore's launch last year! :-) So it has been a full circle for Bangalore's children's writers, illustrators, editors and publishers who joined hands to start Bookalore a year ago, as they once again got together at Hippocampus to bring to us another action packed session for kids of all ages and sizes!:-)

I am not sure if it's sign for all the upcoming children's events this year (I so hope so!),  but for a change.....we reached Hippocampus on time (Yay!)  and had Abhay seated well before the event began!!:-)  What's a birthday without a cake? So Bookalore's first birthday started with a cake-cutting ceremony, thanks to which Abhay refused to leave the cake out of sight and almost missed the next session with  "Little Indians" author Pika Nani (something he had looked forward to!) fearing he wouldn't get a slice of the birthday cake!  After a lot of convincing and cajoling, we got him to attend and have fun at the "Desi-videsi Jamboree", and what's more he got to snack on a slice of sponge cake along with the birthday cake!:-)) 

While kids find Bookalore's event exciting for the story time followed by fun activities, it is most certainly a treat for us since we get to meet liked minded parents, plus we find books that are hard to come by in regular bookstores. So I couldn't believe my eyes when I finally landed the book that I've been looking for in every single bookstore I’d been to since I learned about it. Commonly confused with the "Song of the Bookworm" by Anushka Ravishankar, "The Bookworm" is a Karadi Tales publication by Lavanya R.N and Shilo Shiv Suleman. As one might guess, the story revolves around a ten year old bookworm by name Sesha, who has his nose always buried in books. Other kids in his class look upon Sesha as a freak and even have a song to tease him with. Sesha couldn't care less as he is happy to be immersed in his world of books. But one day as he accidentally runs into the bully brothers Rohan and Rohit, everyone learns of his speech disorder. Sesha is now an easy target of class jokes that only isolates him further. But a small incident in class changes the way everyone sees him, that not only helps Sesha discover his true self but also helps the entire class discover the world of books. Have your little bookworm read on to find out! Abhay loved the book and I see him wanting to revisit Sesha's triumph again and again! Complemented by unique collage and scrapbook styled illustrations, this book is must read for every growing kid for many reasons......most of all for inspiring kids to turn to books. Here's to Bookalore for doing just that......Happy first anniversary and here's to many more! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Abhay's prized top!

Abhay's latest fascination is the "Beyblade" which is nothing but our good old spinning top packaged as a prized merchandise of the Japanese animated series! Abhay has had his eye on the said toy for a long time now and knowing better than to expect his mom to buy it for him, he tapped the daddy! Nevertheless, it wasn't a complete walkover with his dad too! Daddy managed to extract a few promises (well done daddy!) here and there about Abhay eating on his own and sleeping on his own, and Abhay finally became the proud owner of a Cosmic Pegasus Beyblade!  But as it turned out, neither was the Beyblade an original (so claimed his Beyblade brethren at school!) nor were his promises fulfilled !!:-)  Gone are the days when kids regard a much sought-after toy as their  most cherished possession.... now with every other wish fulfilled, where's the thrill in it? Anyway, after all said and done, the Beyblade or it's imitation is nothing but a spinning top! So when we saw a couple of local boys playing with spinning tops at a playground last week, it rekindled my husband's childhood passion. Overcome with nostalgia, he made a pit stop at a local shop and bought one for Abhay. When he wound the string, tight and taut and released it into action, we realised that the pleasure is the same, or may be even better! The only difference being one cost Rs.590/- (plus the ignominy of not being the original) and the other just Rs.15!!!

Today I had Abhay read “Mangu’s Top” by Kamakshi Balasubramanian and illustrated by Amitava Sengupta brought out by National Book Trust publication. Mangu longed for a toy but couldn’t afford one as his parents were poor. Mangu sat outside watching other kids play with toys like top, marbles or a kite, when suddenly he stumbled upon a top that lay by a large stone in the corner. Mangu found that it was an old, pock marked toy with hardly any colour on it. Mangu brought it home and began to play with it. As it spun, Mangu thought it looked dull and tired and did not exhibit the same vibrancy like the other tops. So Mangu decided to give it a makeover – he rubbed the top with a piece of brick, so as to cover up its pits. He then coated it with a spoonful of oil that his mother gave, some leftover paint that his father borrowed and left the top to dry overnight, while Mangu slept dreaming about the top. During the night, the colourful top rolled towards him as if to surpise him in the morning when he opened his eyes!  But while he was delighted to find his colourful top all ready for play, he was also dismayed to see a gaping hole on his top that ran from one end to another that made sadly conclude that the top may never spin again. Without giving up hope, Mangu wound a string around the top and as he released it, his red and yellow top spun merrily reflecting colour, sunlight and what’s more, his top even whistled as the wind blew through the hole. Finally, Mangu had his own spinning whistling top! A nice little story of longing that our kids today may find it hard to relate to! Well…who’s to blame??  

Friday, February 14, 2014

The V-day debate!

 How many people realize that Valentine’s day is a day to celebrate love, not just romantic love but all kinds of love touching one’s life – the love of a mother, grandmother, a family member, a teacher, a friend and of course the love of a partner in a romantic relationship. But I am not sure what to make of the attempts to reduce this day to just “Lover’s day” and then juxtapose it with the execution of three of our most revered freedom fighters which supposedly took place on this day eighty-four years ago. While it is true that like many events, V-day celebration is an import from the West, but that doesn’t mean that we respect out freedom fighters any less or that celebrating V-day will make us any less Indian. Many facets of our current lives are inspired from world over. While there is no point in blindly following them, there is not point blindly decrying them either. Well, three decades ago when not many knew this day to be Valentine’s day, not many knew that February 14th was a day when Bhagat Singh was executed either! So where does that leave us? After all, love for one’s country is love too..isnt it?  

So on the occasion of Valentine’s day, I picked out a story from the February issue of Highlights Champs titled “A Valentine for Nanima” by Anita Nahta Amin and art by Kathleen Kemly. Reenu missed her grandmother who lived on the other side of the world. Rinu felt that her nanima may forget all the good times they had shared together and so she decided to make Valentine’s card using a photo of her and Nanima and embellished with things she found lying around the house, like cereal box, red paper, cotton balls, etc. Just as she finished, she wondered if Nanima knew about Valentine’s day and decided to write a note about it. But not knowing how to write in Hindi, the only language spoken by her Nanima, she sought her mom’s help and learned that love is “ pyar” in Hindi. Reenu mails the package to Nanima and eagerly awaits her reply. But as days pass, she gets impatient and persuades her mother to call Nanima. A phone call to Nanima’s has them talking to all of the extended family, except Nanima. Nanima finally comes on the line and amongst all the commotion and disturbance in the telephone line, Reenu hears her Nanima say a Hindi word she recognized “Pyar”! Surely no one should have a problem with “Pyar”, isnt it? Happy Valentine’s day everyone!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Great Show-off!

Abhay loves to show off and play to the galleries! If Abhay finds someone in sight, he is in his best elements- be it at park, music class or his recently enrolled tennis class! J So when asked to demonstrate the swing of his tennis racket or sing a music verse to a fellow batch mate, Abhay will act as if he was born to play tennis or sing classical music! I still cant forget the day when as a three year old in the US, my little one began to croon his version of the film song “My Desi girl” in the park at the sight of Indian-origin girls his age! Similarly, I never knew he could do a Bollywood style dance until I saw him groove to a Bollywood number at the aquatic play area in an amusement park last week, only to realize there were other kids looking on!:-) I guess we all love to bask in others’ attention and the same is harmless as long as our sense of self worth is not dependent on the attention others shower on us. So also it is important to be able to share the limelight without a fuss while enjoying it just as much. Being a single child, though Abhay doesn’t have to rival with siblings on a day-to-day basis, but there are times when he does feel challenged by his cousins as they seek to share his spotlight. But I guess, in time Abhay will realize that the world does not revolve around him…. after all …and that’s what is called “growing up!”J

Today I read a book titled “Limelight Larry” by Limelight Hodgkinson, which centers around a peacock who thinks that he is fantastic, so fantastic that he feels that there should be more books about him, let alone this book! Suddenly, Limelight Larry sees a threat in the form of a mouse who peeks in wanting to share the page with our Mr. Showman! Closely following on the heels of the mouse, comes a bird hoping to put up a funny show on the next page! Not amused at all, Limelight Larry makes it clear that if anyone’s going to do anything funny, it will only be him! But then an elephant, a wolf, a bear and a bunny, all join in one by one, as if it were picnic, threatening to steal Larry’s limelight!  Faced with the prospect of the others raining on his parade, Limelight Larry doesn’t waste any time in pushing everyone out and taking the whole of the next page to spread out and show off his beautiful peacock feathers! But after a while,  Larry begins to feel alone and wonders what's the point in showing off on his own! Larry then calls out to the others and as a grand finale, Larry happily shares the last and the most important page with everyone…..though he still saves the very last page for himself! :-) Hilariously written and vibrantly illustrated, this book is a sure-shot entertainer for one and all! If you have a little showman at home ……let him hog the Limelight ….with Larry of course!




Friday, February 7, 2014

Abhay for tennis!!

Staying on the subject of physical activity for growing kids, I read that it is important for kids to take up at least one sport seriously during their growing years, not just for fitness sake but to imbibe essential  life skills that come with playing a sport, be it individual or a team sport. While there is some team sport like basket ball or cricket organised at school, Abhay being kinesthetically slow (Sorry about the labeling Abhay!) I doubt if he'll ever get chosen to play in his school team!:(  Similarly, while it will always be incumbent on us parents to involve him in extra-curricular activities, I do wish his school lets their students choose a certain sport as a regular physical activity as opposed to general games during their weekly PT session.  Anyway, we did rounds of some of the sports coaching camps in our area and were to zero in on the perfect sports camp for our boy - one that is physically engaging and yet not too strenuous, professionally organized yet has a flexible schedule, housed in a great location yet easy on the logistics, a weekday schedule with options for the weekend too …..Phew!  Getting your kid play a sport is a big time commitment ……and you got to be a sport to let him play a sport!!!!! J

So what was our final pick?? “Anyone for tennis?” by Shane McG is the book I picked on the occasion of enrolling our seven year old into Bangalore Tennis Academy!  A nice little picture book that highlights the excited amusement of a kid when introduced to a new sport only to enjoy it so much as to later drag his father into  play! (Abhay loves the last page!) Tom Foley just celebrated his seventh birthday and amongst other birthday gifts, there was one gift that didn’t beep, crash or whirr and that is a tennis racket. Tom then wonders who plays Tennis? Well, neither his older sister who according to Tom leads a boring life sitting in her bedroom all day and talking to her friend on the phone; Nor his mom who looks dumb standing on one leg doing her yogurt (err…yoga!); Nor his best friend Kevin who rides his lovely new green bike that he never shares thereby likely to be demoted to being Tom’s sixth best friend; Nor his cat Smudgy or dog Spike; Finally Tom is shown following his dad onto the tennis court as he repeatedly asks him the same question again and again, to which dad appears to have turned a deaf ear (Just like Abhay’s dad sometimes….as Abhay points out !). We soon know the answer as dad serves and hits the ball across the court. Tom ducks for cover and falls over. Dad then asks him not worry as playing tennis requires a lot of practice and practice is what Tom does. As they drive back home after his first practice…it’s dad’s turn to ask “Who plays tennis?” Well, that’s easy-peasy …isn’t it Abhay? Abhay Karanth plays tennis….for now! J


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Abhay in the race!!!

Abhay’s latest predicament is that he is always the last in a running race – be it during his weekly physical training class, or at a friendly game during recess, or while racing to the school van in the evening! Last Friday, he woke up with a foul mood at having to repeatedly lose to a couple of other kids as they raced him up to the school van from their classrooms and thus didn’t want to go to school… about ingenious excuses to cut school! :-) I have always maintained that Abhay has never been as kinesthetically driven as the other boys and that he couldn’t have cared less if other kids beat him in a race or a game. Added to it, the scope for a regular physical activity was affected by our move to India, owing to fewer public parks (like in the US) and the fall out of living in an independent house as opposed to an apartment complex. So barring a few exceptions, Abhay has lagged behind other kids his age, when it comes to sports. So as long as Abhay wasn’t bothered, we couldn’t be bothered too. But now as Abhay seems to want to better his kinesthetic skills…. here we are doing rounds of sports camps/coaching academies in our area. So now our latest predicament is to fit in a sports/games class in our perpetually busy weekly or weekend schedule! J

So while we zero in on the right class for Abhay, I had Abhay read “Boris for the win” by Andrew Joyner from the Branches series by Scholastic which is intended to help emergent readers transition from graded reading to chapter books. Scholastic has brought out  about seven books’ series under the Branches banner that not only features characters and settings that early readers can easily relate to but also seek to motivate them to go on and progress into higher levels of reading.  I found this Branches series perfect for Abhay who is not yet comfortable with chapter books….and hope that Scholastic would soon begin market them in India too. Since they are currently available mainly in the US, I had a couple of books from the “Boris series” ordered to be delivered to one of our relatives who was visiting India around December last year, so as to  serve as an ideal read for his Sports day. But his school had other plans and decided to instead hold only School day this year! L Anyway, this series meant for children aged 5-7 is centered around an endearing little warthog named Boris, who like any other kid loves adventures. In school, Boris and his friend Fredrick find themselves being the last in most sporting events and are tired of having their classmate Eddie always win! So Boris along with Frederick draws up a plan for the upcoming Sports day with the help of another classmate Alice, their self-anointed coach.  So while they train hard to beat their school’s Usain Bolt, Boris encounters various obstacles, including Frederick suddenly afflicted with hay fever on the D-day thus making Eddie invincible. Boris however, still has a chance to redeem himself during the round-the-track marathon, which is the most important race of the day. Boris has a great start and runs past many of his classmates, dodges some of Eddie’s friends who try to slow him down and reaches the second place, behind Eddie, much to the sprinter’s surprise! But as Boris races past Eddie and nears the finishing line, he remembers his friend.  Frederick who is reeling under an allergy attack, is barely walking and is most likely to be the last in the race again. But being the loyal friend he is, Boris decides to help his friend and does something that no one in his position, would ever dream of and ends up winning the “Best and Fairest” prize. But who wins the race? Well, it's not Eddie…have your early reader read on to figure out the suspense! So while Abhay devours this delightful series, I hope he too gives it his best to be the fastest yet the fairest! J