Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy holidays!

Summer is here and so are summer vacations! With most schools closed for two months starting this weekend, you can almost feel the holiday euphoria in the air!  Bye-bye to school work, homework and the frenzied mornings and hello to summer sports, camps, summer travel, unstructured play sans curfew and lazy mornings! Seriously... I envy our kids who can take a two month from their regular schedule and so wish we could do the same! Well.... that's what adulthood means! Right???

Like every year, this year too Abhay will spend some part of his vacation at "Shristi", his grandparents farm at Dharmasthala. We are already at Shristi where Abhay will spend his next two weeks after which he's back in Bangalore. Abhay's first day was as action packed as if it were a summer camp of sorts -Sanna-ajji in charge of nature exploration, reading, arts and crafts and dishing out his favourite food and Sanna Ajja  in charge of pet and outdoor play, getting him to eat his favourite food and of course responsible for what might become a daily hazard..... retrieving his origami flying plane from the coconut tree! 

So as a start I read "Holidays have come"  by Rabindranath Tagore and illustrations by Partha Sengupta. Originally published by National Book Trust in Bengali titled "Chutti", this story has been translated into English by a panel of eminent literateurs overseen by Tagore himself. 

Although I picked up this book for its title, (and it's author of course) it's got nothing to do with holidays in that sense.  I am not sure if Abhay fully understood the depth of this story, but the perceptive and poignant narration make it a delight to read. This is a story of the rebellious fourteen year old Phatik Chakravorti who is sent off with his uncle in Kolkotta. A village lad that he is, Phatik feels unwelcome in his uncle's house and is unable to cope with the regimented school life in the city, he then starts to miss his mother, brother and his carefree life in the village. He pleads with his uncle to send him back when his uncle asks him to wait till his holidays. An unpleasant incident at his uncle's house has Phatik trying to escape to his hometown. But as he gets stuck in the storm, he falls terribly ill and the police locate him and bring him back to his uncle's house. Phatik's condition gets serious and his mother is brought in. Phatik who longed to go back home during the holidays, hears his mother's voice and says that holidays have indeed come! I love the author's insightful take on early adolescence and particularly the confused mind of the fourteen year old Phatik, who is many things rolled into one- a rebel, a bully, an affectionate but non-demonstrative brother, nervous student, an unwelcome guest eager to please his exacting aunt and a doting son sorely missing his mother! Ideal for kids aged six and above, this is a moving story of a boy too old to be pampered but too young to understand the hard realities of life! Anyway, on this reflective note.... I take a two week break from blogging on Onestoryaday (a much needed one!) and here's wishing everyone, including Abhay a very happy summer holidays! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Ultimate Shape Game!!!

I can’t believe that we’ve reached the end of the 30 books in 30 days challenge!!! Sorry for cliché …but it only feels like yesterday that I decided to post our reading experiences on a daily basis on Onestoryaday, in order to participate in the challenge hosted by friend and fellow blogger Bubbleink!  Reading everyday was given, but I was not sure if I could live up to my challenge of posting it every day on Onestoryaday! I guess it’s not just the reading but the sharing of our reading adventures with other like minded moms that made this experience most memorable. It not only brought all the reader moms onto a single platform, but enabled us to interact and exchange notes on each other’s reading experiences, all thanks to Bubble ink! Kudos to Bubbleink and her blogger friends for this wonderful initiative and the follow-up support! We loved the day-to-day reading prompts on wide ranging topics and issues we’d want our little ones to dwell on! At first, I read whatever I had on hand …without paying too much attention to the daily reading prompts posted by Bubbleink. Well, it only got tougher as everyone began reading on the lines of the day’s prompt, taking the challenge to the next level! So it’s not a surprise that in between work, routine home duties and Abhay’s final assessments, finding books that conform to Bubbleink’s pick of the day became our priority No.1! J
Thanks once again Bubbleink and team!
I guess today’s reading prompt is the easiest of all, our favourite book! I guess every kid's favourite keeps changing like the seasons and the current flavor of the season at out house is “The Shape Game” by someone who we've grown to really like and look forward to -  “Anthony Browne”, who was the  Children’s Laureate for 2009-11! Anthony Browne is someone who believes that picture books are for anybody at any age and not just books to be left behind as we grow older! This is so true as we parents seem to enjoy Anthony Browne 's books just as much as our seven year old! Most of his illustrations seem simple yet they convey a profound understanding of the world around us. In this story, a family of four comprising of mother, father and their two sons decide to visit an art museum to fulfill the mom’s birthday wish and it becomes an enriching experience for all them particularly the younger son (who is supposedly the author himself!). As they enter the museum, the dad and the older son seem unsure of how much fun this trip would be as the dad cannot figure out modern art. They browse through some of the famous paintings and the mom is shown engaging her sons with questions about what the paintings remind them of or to spot the differences between similar looking paintings, while the dad non-chalantly regales his jaded sons with some of wisecracking jokes.

But soon, dad find himself captivated by the beauty of some of the exhibits, especially a painting of a lion that he feels looks real, to which his sons cannot but suppress a giggle as they wonder how would their father react if a real lion springs out of the painting! J So that’s how the family spend the entire day admiring, imagining and reflecting on the paintings and art in the gallery while your little one vicariously lives through their amazing experience! Finally,  as they leave the gallery with high spirits, mom shows them the brilliant drawing game called the Shape Game….where the first player draws an abstract shape and each player thereafter adds his own shape to later give the shape a recognizable form! The author who is also a brilliant illustrator finally confesses that in a way, he has been playing the shape game ever since…..!!!!

Aided by spectacular illustrations of the gallery art and unique but realistic portrayal of the reactions and expressions of each family member, this is almost like a beautiful motion picture in front of your eyes ….only if you have the imagination to see it!  From the above....……it is an understatement to even term this books a-must read!!!  All I can say is ....go grab your copy today!!!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

ಮಾತೃಭಾಷೆಯ ಮಹತ್ವ!

ಮಾತೃಭಾಷೆ ಮುಖ್ಯವೇ? ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಗೆ ಅದನ್ನು ಸಣ್ಣದರಲ್ಲೇ ಕಲಿಸಬೇಕೇ? ಇತ್ತೀಚೆಗೆ ಮುಂದೆ ಬರುವ ಅವಕಾಶಗಳಿಗೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮಕ್ಕಳು ತಯಾರಾಗಿರಲಿ ಅಂತ ಹೇಳಿ ನಾವು ಇಂಗ್ಲೀಶ್, ಹಿಂದಿ, ಸ್ಪ್ಯಾನಿಶ್, ಫ್ರೆಂಚ್ ಎಲ್ಲ ಭಾಷೆಗಳನ್ನು ಮಕ್ಕಳು ಕಲಿಯಲಿ ಅಂತ ಬಯಸುತ್ತೇವೆ. ಆದರೆ ಮಾತೃಭಾಷೆ ಕಲಿಯಲಿ ಎಂದು ಅದೇ ತೀವ್ರತೆಯಿಂದ ಯೋಚಿಸುತ್ತೇವೆಯೇ? ನಾವು ಅಭಯನಿಗೆ ಎರಡನೇ ಭಾಷೆಯಾಗಿ ಕನ್ನಡ ಕೊಡಿಸಿದೆವು. ಬಹಳ ಜನ ಹಿಂದಿ ಯಾಕೆ ಕೊಡಿಸಲಿಲ್ಲ ಅಂತ ಕೇಳಿದರು. ನನ್ನ ಮತ್ತು ನನ್ನ ಗಂಡನ ಪ್ರಕಾರ, ಕನ್ನಡ ಕಲಿಯುವುದು ಬಹಳ ಮುಖ್ಯ. ನಾವು ಪ್ರಪಂಚದ ಎಲ್ಲ ವಿಷಯಗಳನ್ನು ತಿಳಿದುಕೊಂಡಿರಬಹುದು. ಆದರೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ನಮಗೆ ಗೊತ್ತಿರದಿದ್ದರೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಜ್ಞಾನ ಅಪೂರ್ಣ. ನಮ್ಮಲ್ಲೇನಿದೆ ಅಂತ ತಿಳಿದುಕೊಳ್ಳದೆ ಬೇರೆಲ್ಲ ಕಡೆ ಏನಿದೆ ಅಂತ ಪೂರ್ತಿಯಾಗಿ ಅರಿತುಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಆಗುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಎಲ್ಲದಕ್ಕಿಂತ ಹೆಚ್ಚಾಗಿ, ನಮ್ಮತನ ವ್ಯಕ್ತವಾಗುವುದಕ್ಕೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಭಾಷೆ ಬೇಕೇ ಬೇಕಲ್ಲವೇ?
ಇವತ್ತಿನ ಬ್ಲಾಗಿನ ವಿಷಯ "ರೀಡಿಂಗ್ ಇನ್ ನೇಟಿವ್ ಲ್ಯಾಂಗ್ವೇಜ್". ನಮ್ಮ ನೇಟಿವ್ ಲ್ಯಾಂಗ್ವೇಜ್ ಕನ್ನಡ. ಹಾಗಾಗಿ ನಾನು ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲೇ ಇಂದಿನ ಬ್ಲಾಗನ್ನು ಬರೆಯೋಣ ಅಂತ ಯೋಚನೆ ಮಾಡಿದೆ. ನಾನು ಮೆಂಬರಾಗಿ ಇರುವ ಗ್ರಂಥಾಲಯಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಗುವ ಮಕ್ಕಳ ಪುಸ್ತಕಗಳೆಲ್ಲಾ ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಷಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಇರುತ್ತವೆ. ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ನೆನ್ನೆ ಸಪ್ನ ಬುಕ್ ಹೌಸಿಗೆ ಹೋಗಿ ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ ಬುಕ್ ಏಜೆನ್ಸಿ ಪ್ರಕಟಿಸಿರುವ "ನೀತಿ ಕಥಾ ಮಾಲೆ" ಎಂಬ ಸರಣಿ ಪುಸ್ತಕಗಳನ್ನ ಕೊಂಡು ತಂದೆ. ಕನ್ನಡದ ಮಕ್ಕಳ ಕಥೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಹೆಚ್ಚಾಗಿ ನೀತಿ ಇರಲೇ ಬೇಕು. ಪುಸ್ತಗಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಚಿಕ್ಕದಾದ ಆದರೆ ಸುಂದರವಾದ ಕಥೆಗಳು ಇವೆ. ಇದರಲ್ಲಿ ಕೆಲವು ನಾನು ಚಿಕ್ಕವಳಾಗಿದ್ದಾಗ ಕೇಳಿದ್ದೆ. ಒಂದು ಕಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದು ನಾಯಿ ಕುದುರೆಗಳ ಲಾಯಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಗಿ ಅವುಗಳ ಮೇವು ತುಂಬಿಸುವ ಬಾನಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮಲಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಕುದುರೆಗಳು ದಿನದ ಕೆಲಸ ಮುಗಿಸಿ ಬಂದಾಗ ಅವುಗಳಿಗೆ ತಿನ್ನಲು ಬಿಡುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಕುದುರೆಗಳು ಯಾಕೆ ಹೀಗೆ ಸಣ್ಣ ಬುದ್ಧಿ ತೋರಿಸುತ್ತಿರುವೆ ಎಂದು ಕೇಳಿದರೂ ತನ್ನ ಹಠ ಬಿಡುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಕಡೆಗೆ ಯಜಮಾನ ಬಂದು ದೊಣ್ಣೆಯಿಂದ ನಾಯಿಗೆ ಬಾರಿಸುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಆವಾಗ ಅದು ನಾನು ಮೊದಲೇ ಸರಿಯಾಗಿ ನಡೆದುಕೊಳ್ಳಬೇಕಿತ್ತು ಅಂತ ಹೇಳುತ್ತದೆ. ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಕಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮೊಲಗಳೆಲ್ಲ ಒಂದು ಸಭೆ ಮಾಡಿ, "ಎಲ್ಲರೂ ನಮಗೆ ತೊಂದರೆ ಕೊಡುತ್ತಾರೆ, ಕೊಲ್ಲುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಆದ್ದರಿಂದ ನಾವೆಲ್ಲರೂ ನದಿಗೆ ಹಾರಿ ಪ್ರಾಣ ಬಿಡೋಣ" ಎಂದು ತೀರ್ಮಾನ ಮಾಡುತ್ತವೆ. ಹಾಗೆ ನದಿಯ ದಡಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋದಾಗ ಬಿಸಿಲು ಕಾಯಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಕಪ್ಪೆಗಳು ಗಾಬರಿಯಾಗಿ ನದಿಗೆ ಜಿಗಿದು ಅವಿತುಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತವೆ. ಆಗ ಒಂದು ವಯಸ್ಸಾದ ಮೊಲ ಎಲ್ಲರಿಗೂ ಕೂಗಿ ಹೇಳುತ್ತದೆ - "ತಡೆಯಿರಿ. ಸಾಯುವ ಯೋಚನೆ ಬಿಡಿ. ನಮಗೆ ಹೆದರುವ ಪ್ರಾಣಿಗಳೂ ಇವೆಯೆಂದಾಯಿತು. ಅವುಗಳೇ ಆತ್ಮಹತ್ಯೆ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳದಿದ್ದ ಮೇಲೆ ನಾವೇಕೆ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಬೇಕು"?
ನಿಮ್ಮ ಮಾತೃಭಾಷೆ ಯಾವುದೇ ಆಗಿರಲಿ, ನಿಮ್ಮ ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಗೆ ಕಲಿಸಿ. ಅದು ಖಂಡಿತ ಅವರ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿತ್ವವನ್ನು ರೂಪಿಸುವುದರಲ್ಲಿ ದೊಡ್ಡ ಪಾತ್ರ ವಹಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ನಾನು ಕನ್ನಡದವಳಾಗಿ ಉಳಿದ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗರಿಗೆ ಹೇಳುತ್ತೇನೆ - "ಎಲ್ಲಾದರೂ ಇರು ಎಂತಾದರು ಇರು ಎಂದೆಂದಿಗೂ ನೀ ಕನ್ನಡವಾಗಿರು"

Friday, March 28, 2014

The joy of grandparents!

What can I say that I haven’t about Abhay and his grandparents! Haven't I said that Abhay is lucky to have his grandparents from both sides close to him? (Touch wood!). If he has his maternal grandma to regal him with stories and engage him in pretend play, he has his paternal grandma to dish out his favourite crispy dosas and piping hot rottis as he comes back home from school! If he has his paternal grandpa to pick him from the bus-stop and drive him to his bi-weekly music class or tennis class, he has maternal grandpa to plan on a new bicycle for him before he’s outgrown his existing one! As if that’s not enough…he has his great-grandma who is the first one to come to his rescue when he’s being disciplined at home! To rephrase Mary DeMaree’s famous saying about grandmas, grandparents always make you feel that they have been waiting to see just you all day and now the day was complete! Well, frankly, grandparents are your own parents with added affection, extra softness, more patience and fewer expectations!!! J

Ever since his maternal grandparents have shifted base to their farm in Dharmasthala, we’ve not been able to meet them on a regular basis as before. So when Abhay’s maternal grandpa happen to visit Bangalore for a couple of days, Abhay couldn’t have been more excited to be with his favourite Sanna-ajja after a gap of almost three months (which is quite a thing as we used to meet him almost ever other day earlier) So much so, that Abhay refused to let go of him and accompanied him almost everywhere….even on his routine errands! So today’s prompt about his grandparents couldn’t have been more apt and I had his grandpa read “Granpa” by John Birmingham.

 Revolving around the relationship between a little girl and her grandpa, this book also deals with complex issues of love and loss that Abhay couldn’t quite understand. Anyway, grandpa despite his age, engages her various activities like gardening, fishing, sunbathing in the beach, tobogganing in snow and even pretend play of sorts during his much cherished teatime!  Featuring interesting conversation between grandpa and the little girl, with no continuity or relation between each conversation and the other, this book is also about a child’s discovery of the world through her interactions with her ever sportive grandpa. For instance, as grandpa-grand-daughter play with the skipping rope in the garden, grandpa gets nostalgic about his boyhood days, when his grand-daughter wonders if he was ever a baby!!?? This is a book of few words no doubt but the water colour illustrations speak volumes about the affectionate relationship between a growing grand-child and an aging grandpa albeit with a touch of melancholy and nostalgia.  As I said, Abhay didn’t quite get the ending and considering this was a happy occasion for us, neither did I dwell too much on the same. In a way, I could relate to this book much better than Abhay as it reminded me of the few summers that I had spent with my maternal grandpa during my early childhood …..before he went away like the granpa in the book! Dedicating this to all our grandpas…….we will always love you!! :-)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A celebration!!!

Birthdays are all about celebrations! When your little one's turned one.... It's a celebration for the parents for having made it through one of the toughest phases of parenthood! As our little ones are growing up, it's a celebration they look forward to each year .... even dictating how it should be celebrated as they grow older! During their tween and teen years, the centre piece of their celebration moves away from home to friends! During adulthood, the hullabaloo surrounding birthdays may be a lot more subdued, but nevertheless wishes pouring are far more widespread given our ever growing virtual connections.......and not to forget birthdays during adulthood are also testing times for the spouse/partner!:-) 

Today's reading prompt "Birthday" for 30 books in 30 days challenge had us go down memory lane recalling my little one's birthdays from his first year to now. We’ve always had a celebration of Abhay’s birthday, starting with.....
......a gala event with extended family and friends on his first birthday ..... an at-home maiden celebration in the US for his second birthday ....

followed by an outsourced fun event at Chuck-e-cheese for his third birthday...

an advance birthday celebration for his fourth birthday to coincide with his grandparents' visit to the US ;


 from a quiet gathering of  close family immediately on our return to India for his fifth birthday...

 to a more settled celebration with a bigger gathering of friends and neighbours for his sixth birthday ....

 and finally a rather unconventional celebration at our farm house for his seventh birthday!

 Phew!……celebrations are hard work actually!!!!  

I began blogging at Onestoryaday when Abhay was over 4 and ever since we’ve  celebrated his birthday on Onestoryaday too…with a birthday themed book! With today’s prompt being birthday…the first book that comes to my mind is Dr. Suess “"Happy Birthday to you"”…no matter what you do…you cant match the celebration at Katroo! Then there is the much subdued but colourful birthday message with " The Secret Birthday Message" by Eric Carle.

Today we read Charlie and Lola's "This is actually my Birthday Party" by Lauren Child.  It is Charlie's birthday and his little sister Lola is all excited as her mother asks her to help out. Lola  takes it a little too far and decides to surprise Charlie with pink iced cup cakes, as she feels that no birthday party is complete without pink cup cakes!  In her excitement, she almost hijacks Charlie's monster themed party by opening his birthday cards, suggesting they play musical chair and blowing out his candles! Charlie then chides her  that it is his birthday after all but when he sees that his little sister only meant to help, he relents, taking solace in the fact that  at least she didn't frost the cupcakes with pink icing in an all boys' monster party! (Oops!) Just as Lola is about to scrape the icing off the cupcakes, one of Charlie's cake starved friends asks to try one of her pink cupcakes and soon the whole crowd is begging for more!!! So, the brother-sister duo conclude that even monsters cannot resist Lola's pink iced cupcakes!:-)) What's a birthday without a cake ...right??


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Parks and Recreation!!!

Yesterday I was talking to a friend back in the US where we’d lived for three years, and as every Indian in the US would do, she asked me if we miss living in the US. I had no hesitation in saying that I actually didn’t and in fact, it now seems as if we’ve never lived there at all! But after our brief chat, I began to think….is there something I really miss about the US? Of course, driving on the US roads is a pleasure whereas driving here is a pain! But one thing I really miss about the US in general and Portland in particular are it’s open spaces and parks that have a little something for everyone one in the family - a children’s park, a jogging track, open lawns with stone benches to settle into with a book in hand or picnic tables for families to enjoy their evenings snacking on their picnic meals while their kids play!  In Bangalore’s defense, however I must say that the Garden city does boast of some good old parks, like the Cubbon Park, the Lal Bag, the Coles Park and other local parks in the inner suburbs and it all depends on us to make the best use of the available resources. After all, the grass is only greener on the other side!:-)

For today’s reading prompt of garden for the 30 books in 30 days challenge, we first read “The Green Ship” by Quentin Blake.
Two children explore the neighbouring garden, come across a giant bush neatly pruned to form the shape of a ship. As they climb on the green ship, they befriend their neighbours, an aging couple who engage the children in a pretend play of all kinds of sea adventures, including steering the ship through a heavy storm (which is a real storm)… that almost destroys the ship!  This book subtly touches upon various facets of life and growing up viz. neighbours, friendship, aging, imagination, nostalgia, complemented by quintessentially Quentin Blake illustrations …… a must read for all kids aged five and above!

Speaking of parks and playgrounds, we also read “Ruby Nettleship and the Ice Lolly Adventure” by Thomas and Helen Docherty and illustrated by Thomas Docherty.
Ruby loves climbing, sliding, running and jumping in the playground. In the park near Ruby’s house, all the playground equipments are in a rundown condition, except for the swing. But one day, even the swing comes crashing down, much to the disappointment of all kids. Just as all the children leave the park dejected, Ruby stays on to find a ice cream van approach the park. As the lady in the ice cream van offers Ruby her last ice lolly, Ruby polishes it off clean to find the words “plant me” written on the ice stick. Ruby plants the ice lolly stick and a multicoloured shoot pushes its way up through the soil and sprouts new branches that in turn twist into a beautiful swing. As Ruby launches herself on the swing, the branches sprouted more ladders and poles that in turn blossomed into swings and slides.

The magnificent playground then grows and takes over the rest of the city, taking along other children with it. Soon the adults join in too stalling the traffic and all other routine activities in the city. Ruby is then gently nudged into the mayor’s office by the playground branches. As she entered the mayor’s office, she sees a familiar figure seated at the mayor’s desk. Does the mayor understand Ruby’s concern for a place for everyone to play without having to wait for swings or slides? Read on about the magical adventure of a little girl that brings a rundown playground back to life!!! I love way the author mixes fantasy with real world issues and tries to inculcate a sense of responsibility towards one’s community. Not to forget the detailed illustrations that wonderfully represent a city downtown while at the same retaining the colour and vibrancy of the suburban green landscape. So here’s hoping for another ice lolly kind of an adventure like that of Ruby’s in Namma Bengaluru!!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of food in the context of your little one? For me….its the biggest bone of contention between me and my son ….ever since he was started on supplements! I have written enough about my little picky eater....and dug out enough books on the said subject! When I started writing this blog, one of the first issues I wanted to address or rather vent my frustration over was food and the mammoth task seeing its journey into the little one’s system… least three times a day!!!! At the risk of sounding repetitive ….I had even done a week long special on picky eaters!!!! But all said and done……food still remains the last thing on my seven year old’s mind!!!

So today we did something different for today’s reading prompt for the 30 books in 30 days challenge, we reflected on some endearing aspects of food! One of the most delightful reads  surrounding the making of food…is Nandini Nayar's What shall I make? , a must read in any Indian household with the staple diet of chapatti!  We also happen to revisit a youtube version of  "The Sandwich Swap"” by Her Majesty Queen Rania Alabdulla with Kelly Dipucchio and illustrated by Tricia Tusa, that we'd read a while ago, which explores how one can be prejudiced about another’s lunchbox at first only to try it and actually like it later!

Today we also read "Scrummy "by Leigh Hodgkinson, starring a little girl named Sunny McCloud who is a  popular character in Leigh Hodgkinson’s stories. Sunny  recalls her dad saying that every family has its own special magic recipe with lots of scrummy stuff inside and Sunny feels that her family is like a sandwich! It may sound boring but it all depends on what is inside. Sunny rattles on the ingredients of her family sandwich, with Ingredient No.1 being cheese and being ever so bendy and stretchy. Sunny decides that she represents the cheese in the family! Sunny then compares her twin younger brothers to the greeny salady stuff in the sandwich that always seem to tickle …… an ingredient which is always there…..even though sometimes you’d wish it wasn’t! J There’s Mayonnaise, a little of which makes a sandwich tasty but too much makes it soggy…just like her dog Mr. Honeycomb! Finally the most important ingredient of all…..two slices of bread as they hold the sandwich together, just like her soft and spongy parents who hold the family together! But then Sunny decides to spice her up sandwich a little more ….with additional ingredients  ….like bananas, ice cream, milk chocolate and marshmellows that reminds her of monkeys, penguins, cat and sheep respectively, who all would be a great addition to her family too! Alas...her family sandwich seems too tall to hold up and falls over making a giant mess! So Sunny realizes that no matter what…its best to stick to her original ingredients…..and nothing beats her fabulously filling family super sandwich…with all the ingredients she loves! Accompanied by striking illustrations, this book beautifully uses food as a medium to celebrate the love one feels for one's family! Well our family's magical recipe is Abhay's favourite palak paneer....with the hot-headed mommy representing the Masalas (Spices), daddy being as evergreen as the Palak (Spinach) and Abhay.....may be aiming to be the paneer???  J What’s your family’s magical recipe?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Me and my Body!

“Wiggle your nose”, “blink your eyes”, “show me your ears” is what we would have our toddlers do in order to help them discover their own bodies. Children are naturally curious about their own bodies and this curiosity will only grow and change with age. My seven year old is at a stage where he is not only curious about his body but is also more curious about the differences between him and others. In fact some of his questions are simple and straight forward, some seem simple but the answers don’t lend themselves to being age appropriate and some though innocent are downright embarrassing! J Nevertheless, we’ve always encouraged him to ask questions ….as curiosity leads to awareness and awareness leads to understanding. Mind you….. as your kids are growing up…’d better pull up your socks and get your science right! If not…there always Google! J

So today we read “The Secrets of Our Body” put together by Macaw publications, a book my dad suggested I pick up for Abhay at a book fair in Mangalore. This book contains a series of “Tell-me-why” kind of questions about the human body. The book also features those tricky aspects of our body that are most often joked and not taken seriously. Accompanied by comical illustrations, this book seeks to unravel the science behind some of the routine functions of the human body - from why do we sneeze or to why do we have to pee or why do we get hungry to why do we have have tears ? Ideally meant for kids aged six and above, this book allows your young reader to discover facts of the human body while having a good laugh over its caricature-like characters! But don’t blame me if your little one cant stop giggling at the boy with a bulging tummy or with a sneeze forceful enough to drive away his pets!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Best friends!

Friends are a big part of life one's life and more so when your growing up. Does your little one have a best pal - with whom he wants to do everything? Abhay was in such a phase in the US. We even switched schools, enrolled into classes because his best friend was there. At the final leg of our US stint, we even moved to the same apartment complex where his best friend stayed….and so his best friend’s house was literally a hop, skip and a jump away! With children as best buddies, we moms couldn’t stay far behind…..we became really  good friends too and there were times when our husbands used to wonder who were the best of friends – the sons or their moms! J Anyway, ever since our move to India, Abhay has been looking for a best friend  like the one he had in the US…….and so is his mom! J

When you are a twosome… there space for another or what happens when your best friend defects and finds another pal more interesting? Richa Jha’s “SuSu Pals” features a situation like this. Illustrated by Alicia Souza, this book is as much a celebration of friendship as it is about finding one's own comfort zone. Rhea and Dia are two best of friends …..whom you would in India colloquially call “Chaddi pals” (and it is literally so!). They do everything together….play, study, eat…even go pee-pee together! (We totally get this….as something like this almost had happened with Abhay and his friend) One day Dia has a new classmate Isha who turns out to be her new neighbour too. The girls befriend Isha together, but it is Dia who hits it off really well with this new friend. So much so, that Dia misses the next day’s play with Rhea. Even at the Dragon-Slayers Picnic, Dia turns up with her new friend who is not so enthused about playing with Rhea. As Rhea watches Dia cozying up to Isha, Rhea vows never to play with Dia again and forms and becomes a lone member of “Dia-is-a-mean-girl club”! Does this friendship story have a happy ending?? This is a delightful coming-of-the-age friendship story with an added twist of diversity in the end ….. albeit reserving the su-su bit only to the original team members! J Just like the last book of Richa Jha’s that we’d read, we love the illustrations and find it hilarious! We even enjoyed scanning through the little dialogue prompts in small print that echoes the probable thoughts running in the readers’ minds!  If you or your little one have ever been through the best friends-turned-enemies-turn best friends again phase, you’d totally relate to "The Su Su pals"! If not, this is a great book to read and explore and is sure to be laughing riot at home…!! J

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Clara Button and the Magical hat day!

Abhay is extremely particular about his appearance   So much so that even at home or when he attends his weekly music or tennis classes near home, he is always trying to make a style statement - either his own or Bollywood inspired! For a while, our little fashion icon was into sleeveless waste coats and hats a la Dhoom 3 (Thank God that's over!) Anyway, the fall-out of all this is his little wardrobe that always looks like it's just been ransacked! Though we've mutually sorted his clothes into home clothes, music/tennis class clothes, outer wear and special occasion clothes, he couldn't care less and tries on whatever he likes, whatever be the occasion or not! So now, whether any other wardrobe is locked or not, Abhay's is most definitely always under lock and key!!!  

Come to think of it, I have always had a wardrobe issue with Abhay even when he was toddler! So one of our favourite books has been Mo Willems' "Naked Mole Rat gets dressed" -   brought out in the context of Wilbur's, a mole rat's fascination with clothes, this a great book on holding on to one's individuality and not being afraid to speak one's mind! 

For your little one, who loves to try on different costumes, there's Curious George "Costumes" by Margret and H.A.Rey from  Curious about Phonics series. For the Indian girl that you are and have or wish to have ...there is  "Granny Sari" by Asha Nehamaiah and by "My Dadima wears a Sari" Kashmira Seth and the ever so popular My Mother's Sari by Sandhya Rao.

Today reading for the 30 books in 30 days reading challenge is  "Clara Button and the Magical Hat day" by Amy Del La Haye and pictures by Emily Sutton. Little Clara has a fetish for hats and is particularly fond of her late grandmother Elise's exquisitely crafted hat, which her older brother mindlessly steps on. Clara is heart broken as she thinks she shares a special connection with her granny who was herself a milliner (Person who makes hats). To cheer up her daughter, Clara's mother takes the children to London's famous Victoria and Albert museum. This book also provides an armchair tour of one of world's famous museums. In the hope of finding someone to mend her broken hat, Clara carries her grandma's hat in her backpack. While Clara's jaded brother Ollie tours a part of the museum that displays weapons and artifacts of kings and rulers in the past, including the famous tiger statue named after Tippu Sultan, Clara  stumbles upon a section that is full of hats of various shapes and sizes and literally loses herself in it! Finally she finds a "hat doctor" who fixes her grandma's hat, much to her mother's relief! While this book highlights a little girl's penchant for beautiful creations, it works on different levels, including subtly showcasing sibling rivalry which is easily relatable if you have big-brother-little sister duo at home! Sure to serve as guide book for an upcoming visit to the museum, this is a great read not only for its story but also for its stunning visuals and imagery of London's streets and of  the Victoria and Albert museum. A relaxing read ...especially on a lazy weekend like this!:-)


Friday, March 21, 2014

Beastly times!

Poetry and sing-alongs have been an integral part of children's literature from probably time immemorial. These days even infants respond to nursery rhymes, as none of the new generation toys come without built in sing-alongs or rhymes! Of course, we've come a long way since the days when Barney's Nursery Rhymes was the only music being played on our car stereo! But, off late I have been trying to introduce Abhay to poetry. Well, I can't say he is greatly enthused but a little exposure here and there will certainly help him appreciate the art of words in verse, if not kindle his poetic spirit!  
 So in keeping with today's reading prompt "Sing-along” for the 30 books in 30 days challenge and on World Poetry day, I read a couple of poems from "Beastly tales from here and there" by the one and only Vikram Seth and illustrated by Prabha Mallya. Originally published in 1992, this collection has been given a new lease out of life in its illustrated edition published by Puffin books. This is a collection of famous animal fables from all over the world but narrated in verse. There are some children’s works that seem passable but make great reads when read aloud, then there are those that delight you as a parent but your little one doesn’t mirror the same feeling as its being read aloud………..and finally there are those works that are a joy to read…… and it doesn’t matter if you have kids or don’t to share this joy with ……and the Beastly tales is one such work of poetry. Bracketing this as a children’s book would be unfair as it would only limit the audience who’d otherwise pick up and  revel in his amazing play with words! Most of the stories aren’t new but it’s the poetic retelling that’s telling!:-)
"Beastly tales ..." is a collection of ten animal stories, with first two "The Crocodile and the Monkey" and "The Louse and the Mosquito" are from India and other tales from China, Ukraine, Greece, etc. Though recommended  for children aged five and above, I feel its tongue-in-cheek-humour  and a brush with reality best resonates with older kids.  For instance,  in "The Hare and the Tortoise"  the author adds several nuances to the characters of the cocky hare and the wise tortoise, and the final outcome puzzled Abhay as it did not seem as straightforward as the ending in the age old tale. Our favourite however is  "The Crocodile and the Monkey" where the monkey fools Kurup, the crocodile about having left his heart back in the tree....when Crocodile scared at the prospect of upsetting his wife,  pleads ...
"How my sweetheart will upbraid me! 
Monkey, monkey --- you must aid me"
"Well ....'--- the monkey placed his paw
Thoughtfully upon his jaw---
'Well, although the day is hot
And I'd rather not---
We could go back and fetch my heart, 
Check its sweetness, and depart.'
....Like I said, you are in for beastly feast! :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Story-teller!

Today being World Story-telling day and Happy World theatre for children day, the Aantarya Film and theatre house held a special event at Atta Galatta called "Night Night", a story time presented by Padmavati Rao. In fact Abhay first exposure to stories in India was through Padmavati Rao’s story sessions at Little Cloud at Rangashankara back in 2011 when we’d just returned from the US.

Today's story time had children come in their pyjamas and bringing in their pillows too. Today was also Abhay's last day of school before his summer break and so we headed to Atta Galatta to be snuggled to sleep by Padmavati Rao's soothing rendition of traditional lullabies. Need I say anything about one of our favourite story aunties, Padmavathi Rao and her quirky yet relatable characters you can make yours, her home grown stories, and her inimitable narrative style that has not just the children enthralled! Today's story revolved around various characters from the jungle, Motu, Natkhatu, Shilku and Kok-Kok trying to mollify the angry Sunny boy.... the sun! Thanks to Pinty Aunty, I can now "Kok-Kok" Abhay into doing the daily routine activities he hates! :-)

I need not underline the power of stories and their Impact on children's mind and imagination. Stories have become a part and parcel of the bedime routine of our kids. So much so that they do not sleep without stories being read to or narrated by their parents or grandparents. What happens if the situation is reversed? Well, on the occasion of the World Storytelling day, we read a book where the tables have turned and Unni’s grandma can’t fall asleep without one of his stories! “The Glass Tree” a Katha publication by M. Mukundan and illustrated by Poonam Athalye. “Tell me a story” Unni’s Muttashi requests him as Unni, studying in second standard is busy finishing up his homework. As Unni concedes to his Muttashi’s request for a small story…an Unnikatha, Muttashi sits up, all ears! Unni snuggles up his grandma and so vividly narrates the story of the glass tree that they watch the images unfold on the bare wall in front of them. Kuruman Panikkan was a chieftain and as described by Unni as riding a palanquin by four men on a journey to the famous Champakam tree under which lies a stone idol to whom he sets out to pray. Just then a small man appears and tells him that the Champakam tree is very old and is soon to die. Melkoran then promises the chieftain to a build a tree that never grows old or dies. In preparation of the new tree, Melkoran cuts down the Champakam tree and with it went away all forms of life including its fragrant flowers, lush green leaves and birds with their nests. A year and a half later, Melkoran erected an exquisitely carved glass tree- with it's intricately designed trunk, branches leaves and flowers. People came from all over to see the tree made of glass that reflected the light of the sun, changing colours at sun rise and sunset. Yet it's flowers had no smell, no bird laid nest or no children climbed on its branches, much to Kuruman's dismay! So Unni asks his Muttashi if a glasss tree can be a real tree?  But Muttashi was fast asleep! So Abhay..... are we ready for a role reversal at home too????

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Little Monsters!

"Let the wild rumpus start!!!!!" the first thing that came to my mind as I got to know about today's reading prompt - Monsters and Dragons. Children are fascinated with magical creatures like monsters and dragons. These so called monsters are hardly the scary creatures you would keep your little one away from, but silly little characters they can  can easily relate to and have a hearty laugh over. Who wouldn't be amused by a nose-picking, burping monster trying hard to look scary??  Not to forget...monsters make great tools for pretend play and dress up! What's life without a little mischief and muddle with your little one...huh? Go on …….let your little monster explore his wild side!!!!

Let your little one roar his terrible roar, gnash his terrible teeth and show his terrible little Max in Maurice Sendak’s "Where the wild things are"! A must-read classic that explores the power of a child's imagination! We first revisited the world of wild things today!

Another book that comes to my mind is Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by our favourite author Mo Willems which beautifully conveys the message to accept who you are and to make peace with your true self. We had just read "The Rumblewick and Dinner Dragons" by Hiawyn Oram and Sarah Warburton, a quirky comic tale on how to befriend the dragon by a story pie!

While we've been reading together, Abhay has also been reading on his own "The Monster-hunters" by Parinita Shetty and illustrated by Pooja Puttenkolam, part of the hole book series for younger readers by Duckbill publications. A delightful read that  revolves around two best friends Abhay (Yes.....and our seven year old was totally kicked about reading his namesake!)and Nithya who go finding  monsters in theirs and their friends rooms as a part of their class project. Abhay enjoyed the book and in fact imagined himself and his friend doing the same! :-)

For our reading adventure together, we also read "Vile - A Cautionary Tale for Little Monsters" by Mark Robinson and illustrated by Sarah Horne. At the start of a brand new term at Beastville, little monsters are faced with the choice between 'The Ancient school of Manners' for bright, smiling and friendly little monsters and the 'University of Vile' for the mean little monsters. The University of Vile encourages the monsters to explore their true potential of being the naughtiest, meanest and the dirtiest monsters of all! So at University of Vile, its vital that the students are messy, loud and spiteful in classroom, play with food and burp loudly at lunchtime,  experiment and explore with toxic and stinky gases without goggles or safety wear, and then be unfair and not take turns at the playground! Wow....University of Vile sounds fun...right?? One day, two little monsters are out playing when they fall into a big hole in the ground. As they try to shove one another to get out, they realize that there is only one way to do so - is to co-operate. The next day when everyone, including the Principal gets to hear of their good act, they are banned from the University of Vile as having disgraced the mecca of mischief! The two little monsters join the ancient school of manners instead and learn the right way of life and graduate as good little monsters at the end of the school term. Well...not quite they indulge in what is probably their last act of mischief - as the university of Vile is shown exploding to bits! A funny little that is sure to have your little monster in splits!