Thursday, January 02, 2020

What did the Monster Child eat Today?

Publisher- Karadi Tales
Author- Sampurna Chattarji
Illustration- Vibha Surya

A young girl, imagines herself as a monster and plays make believe with her food. She starts in the morning with breakfast, right through lunch, snacks and dinner , drawing crazy parallels with 'creepy' stuff.

For instance, buttermilk turns to drool juice and a baked pie into an Egyptian Mummy. The fold out flaps revel what is in fact eaten, versus the hyperbole with which  the child views her food.

As the story literally unfolds, the book format engages young reader to explore in glee. The text is filled with rhyme and the font adds to the playfulness quotient of the book.The illustrations make it come alive and stay cheerful. The extreme close ups of the mouth with morsels make it delightful for the reader.

As an adult reader, it will be good to remember that children do enjoy what some adults may see as gross.
You can go here for an online teaser of the book which will make you smile, if not chuckle.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Can You?

Authors- Sheela Preuitt & Praba Ram
Illustrators- Ashok Rajagopalan
Publisher - Tulika
Ages- 6 plus

The authors’ love for nature and animals is well known and reflected in many of their works. In their latest from Tulika, they bring facts about the creatures around us, in an engaging and fun manner.

Each double spread comes with a picture and a ''Can you....'' question, followed by what the animal in focus can achieve. You will discover animals who can taste with their toes, see with their ears, smell with their hair , bathe with their nose, walk on water, hang from the ceiling like Spiderman.

The unmistakable charm and added zing comes from Ashok Rajagopalan's illustrations where the animals quirks/ traits and the resultant situations have been rendered in a comical, smile inducing style  

Can you go get your copy, right now? You will learn something more about the world of animals and birds and perhaps challenge yourself to try a few, select activities that animals are capable of !

You can begin a journey of discovery to figure out more ‘Can you’ questions of your own too!

This book is available not just in English, but also in multiple Indian languages.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Nurturing the Child the Montessori Way

Montessori education is a child-guided method of learning, which involves the use of specific materials and small objects developed by Italian educator, Maria Montessori over one hundred years ago. In montessori classrooms, children are intrinsically motivated to help in activities termed “work” - self-building tasks that lend themselves to an independent learning experience that’s limitless, yet structured.

Today, this time-tested pedagogy with its unique set of learning outcomes has traveled to cities and towns all around the world. And the historical connection that the city of Madras, as Chennai was known earlier, shares with this education method and Maria Montessori herself is indeed quite remarkable.

During World War 2, when Maria was exiled by Mussolini in the year 1939, she and her son fled to Madras. That November, following an invitation from G.S. Arundale, Maria established the city’s first Montessori school at the quaint, old Olcott Garden bungalow on the grounds of Theosophical Society. Since then, several montessori schools have sprung up in the city, quietly changing Chennai’s early childhood education landscape.

Manju Venkat, the founder of Sharanalaya Montessori, says “Montessori revolves around recognizing sensitive periods and stages of childhood. Individualised lessons, multi-age classrooms, free choice, positive disciplining and peer interaction are some of the key defining elements of a montessori environment - one that’s deeply ingrained in the joy of “work” without any extrinsic rewards to the child.”

Manju started Sharanalaya fifteen years ago in Mahalingapuram, and the school now has a new branch on East Coast Road in the beachside neighborhood of Akkarai, skirting Sholinganallur and Injambakkam. Sharanalaya’s classrooms are bright, airy and spacious, exuding a warm and friendly environment where children thrive in freedom. Aesthetically created Warli paintings adorn the walls in the corridors, while neatly laid red-oxide athangudi tiles render the clutter-free floors a joy to walk on, for feet big and little. In these open and orderly classrooms, elementary and primary aged children seamlessly explore their physical and intellectual independence.

Children by age six start to realize that the world is an enormous, interesting place. Continents, cultures, scientific concepts and great literature become part of the classroom catering to age-group 6-12. Elementary curriculum in Sharanalaya guides the child through multi-disciplinary areas of learning - math, geometry, language, zoology, paleontology, geography and history are all represented in a montessori classroom, which is filled with materials that lead to an understanding of fundamental concepts across disciplines, using both concrete and abstract methods.

With a meticulously planned play area, Neev Montessori in Injambakkam believes in letting children explore and experience their physical strengths in a myriad different ways. Hanging bridge, rope ladders, climbing nets, rope walking, and monkey bars are some of the many fun and challenging equipment the play area offers.

Neelu Dhungana, the co-founder of Neev, says “At Neev, primary environment for the age-group 3-6 is all about letting a child explore his or her physical independence and language development while ages 6-12, called the older primary or elementary environment, recognizes a child’s insatiable curiosity and excitement for learning.”

Free play works in a multitude of ways, and research points to its myriad benefits: it stimulates senses, develops fine and gross motor skills, enhances imagination, enables understanding of self, others and the world around. Neelu further elaborates, “Free uninterrupted play is a necessary component for cognitive development, which includes skills such as planning, organising, regulating, sequencing. These skills are necessary for carrying out executive functions in daily life and work.”

Housed in a red brick building with well-lit classrooms, arches, open spaces and hallways, architecturally unique Abacus Montessori in Perungudi on OMR was designed by well-known architect, Benny Kuriakose. Abacus’ recent farm program initiative has been a unique way of engaging children with the community and the environment during montessori’s older elementary years. Children work on organic farming through sustainable practices: they sow seeds, grow paddy and vegetables and grains, take care of cattle, and in the process learn to grow their own food, respecting Nature.

Temple Tree, Redwood and Besant Arundale school in Kalakshetra, Besant Nagar, Navadisha in Velachery, Learning Tree in Adyar, Sprouts and Vruksha in Alwarpet, Patashala in Nungambakkam are some of Chennai’s other montessori schools doing significant work in bringing this system of education to families across the city.

All pedagogies in early childhood education agree that every child needs time, space and freedom to explore learning on his/her own terms. Conventional schools abound in the city where exams and marks define education in every frame of mainstream thought. But thanks to Maria Montessori, families were introduced to an alternative system of schooling 80 years ago. To this end, these schools have gone out of their way to help parents understand the philosophy of Montessori.

Meena Nirmal, who has been a montessori parent for more than ten years says, “During the primary years, all five senses are equally stimulated, enabling learning through all of them. The child gets to progress at his or her own pace in a non-competitive environment, some areas fast while some slow, not at all affected by other kids in the environment.”

Meena further adds, “One more equally interesting fact is that the learning material in the classroom is very simple and non-distracting, absolutely no fancy stuff in the classroom with a lot of orderliness.” Meena also believes that the concrete presentation of the number system helps the kids develop a mental picture of the numeric system. This, she thinks, can be especially helpful in problem-solving, giving children a mental picture of the problem, combined with a realistic, hands-on way of coming up with a solution.

Sheela Preuitt, another Montessori parent says: "Fostering independence and encouraging self-care, Montessori’s Primary environment was the perfect place for my kids to become self-motivated learners, driven by curiosity and individual interests. The multi-age classroom in Elementary allowed them not only to improve their own learning process by observing the older children, but also gave them an opportunity to be a role model for the younger ones. The freedom to choose a subject or topic and delve as deeply as they want via self-initiated projects, until they are satiated and ready to move on to something else, has set them up for a lifelong journey of discovery, cultivating an unbridled joy of learning.”

Convenience can be a crucial factor when it comes to choosing schools, especially for a child’s early years of education. With more than fifteen Montessori schools spread across neighbourhoods, for parents who want their children to thrive as individuals joyfully learning without any comparisons and pressures of ranks and marks, and other unnecessary system-induced stress and anxiety, options to choose from schools following montessori education are plenty today, at least till the end of elementary years.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Thukpa for All

Karadi Tales
Reading age- 4 and above
Authors- Praba Ram and Sheela Preuitt
Illustrator- Shilpa Ranade

Big pleasures in our lives are derived from small uneventful days.

Many of our memories tend to be food-centric. In fact, every child will have one or more special foods to relate to. And more often than not, that special food would have been made in his/her home. They look forward to it, savor it, brag about it and like to share it with their friends.

Prabha and Sheela take us on a journey to savour Tsering's thukpa as he announces to his friends and invites them home for a share of his grandma's special thukpa.

Prabha and Sheela (and the wonderful illustrator Shilpa Ranade) have recreated the locales with such  degree of detail, that it transports you to Ladakh.

It is a beautiful story of give and take in a community.  At the end of the story I was left with a longing for a Thukpa bowl and what is fantastic is that the book holds a recipe too to satiate that longing.

That Tsering is blind is woven subtly into the story. Everyone around him accepts it and you do too, because that becomes beside the point. You see him walking alone, meeting and greeting people enroute and helping around the house as any child would.

Where was Tsering coming from? What else happens in Tsering's life?
Wishing there will be more books ...

This is a review by Sreelatha - parent of 6 year old Kalyani.

You can look up the publishers' link here.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Pickle Mania by Srividhya Venkat

Author: Srividhya Venkat
Illustrations: Shailja Jain Chougule
Publisher: Tota Books
(Review Copy)

Grandma and grandpa aren’t too excited to let Nithya try their pickles. Nevertheless, Nithya can’t wait to sneak in, and have a taste of the pickles while her grandparents are away. What follows after much pleading and begging is that Nithya learns to make her own little pickle with grandma’s help. What happens during the process of pickle-making makes for the rest of the plot - one that is a riot of fun, color, filled with sensory explosion to tantalise your taste buds.

The attention to detail comes through the illustrations by Shailaja Jain Chougule. The cheerful and kid-friendly drawings capture the little girl’s fascination for pickles and evoke beautiful grandparent-granddaughter connections. Written by Srividhya Venkat, Pickle Mania is one “licky lick, dippy dip”, tangy-as- tamarind and sweet-as-jaggery kind of a delicious picture book that encourages problem-solving.

Zippy, light and fun descriptive words make it a great read-aloud book for the 4 to 8 age group. All in all, I found this to be a warm and likeable book, perfectly suited for the pickle-loving daughter in the family who promptly devoured it. A picture book that celebrates family traditions around pickles and the passing down of joys of these tastebud stimulating foods, while subtly encouraging kids to try new foods.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Amma Take Me to The Golden Temple

Amma Take Me to The Golden Temple
Ages- 4-10 years
Text- Bhakti Mathur, Illustrations- Priyankar Gupta

A mother of  two curious boys, embarks on a journey of discovery and bonding through stories. The destination- the awe inspiring Golden Temple , Amritsar.

The religious references are well balanced and backed by facts and stories that enrich a visit to any place. The language is easy for children to follow and the banter between the brothers impart a warmth to the narrative.

The significance and historical development of the monument ( ranging from the structure itself, to the religious tome, the water body and the trees of significance, the architecture and so on) and along with it, Sikhism and its precepts, are well highlighted. The social thread of the significance of Langar and the community volunteering  will inspire young minds. The summary page on the Sikh Gurus and the glossary are very useful.The author has steered clear of Operation Blue Star as her target reader belongs to the younger age group.

The illustrations are detailed and retro, a bit ACK like, a style you do not get to see often in picture books nowadays.  It met with mixed reactions from my children, one loved it and the other found them unexciting.

This is a good book to read before you set off on a visit and a great book to read if you wanted to visit and have not been able to. For those who have visited, like us, it still offers some refreshing perspective and takes us back to compare notes!

There will be more books in this series. Any guesses what places they will take us to?

This was a review  book copy from the publisher, but the review is unbiased.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Two Bedtime Stories -Unhappy Moon and Not Yet

Unhappy Moon

Written by Saras
Pictures by Proiti Roy
Published by Tulika Books

Simple storylines based on space themes come as a rare and delightful treat in the world of children’s literature. Here’s one recent book from Tulika Books titled Unhappy Moon that captured my attention.

Moon is not happy since nobody notices her. And that's because people sleep when she's out. Just like the Sun, she wants to be seen and appreciated too. So in a relentless pursuit, she decides to position herself in places where she can be seen - right from where the three seas meet at the tip of India all the way to the mountains, eager to seek attention. But things don't work out the way she imagines them to be, but the ending is a happy one, after all!

A tightly woven travel story that will get your family to embark on an adventure with the moon as she moves to various locations around India. The narrative, without a glitch, comes back to where it all starts from. In that sense, you can call it a circular tale too. The author, Saras, in writing for children has hit a home-run through Unhappy Moon.

This new fiction-nonfiction crossover story has opened yet another aspect of amazing India to children. This story is simple enough for a three year old to comprehend, and a great add on to text books for both educators, as well as parents. In that, the book can be paired as a teacher resource serving as a good introduction to moon cycle and geography for young readers.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed poring over the rich, vibrant colours of the illustrations in this book. The lively play of colors makes each page a pleasure to pore over. According to the 10 year old picture book aficionado in the household, the star attraction of the book are the illustrations and the various playful expressions on Moon’s face. Enjoy a little late-summer moon and star-gazing with your children, picking this picture book!

Not Yet/Abhi Nahin! (English-Hindi)
Author : Nandana Dev Sen
Illustrator : Niloufer Wadia

A little girl is lost in her own world where she must learn to kiss a kangaroo, snuggle a whale, fly with the birds in the sky, and it's no surprise that sleep is the last thing on her mind given that she has so much to do!

Not Yet is a playful trek at bedtime, along with a little girl who wants to interact and have fun with her imaginary animal, bird and insect friends. The text is simple enough for young readers because it can help the reader visualize each action she is eager to participate in. And it gently tells you, you can learn something new from everyone. A great book to be used within a preschool classroom for younger students to help learn about different animals, while also learning new words.

As for the illustrations, the luminous and bright landscape reveals a special beauty and the prevailing mood is one of celebration. Overall, a perfectly sweet, thoughtful and whimsical book that will ignite the imagination of wee little ones, while giving them a sense of warmth, wonder and delight, derived from life's simple and bountiful moments. Combining bright, cheerful illustrations and wonderful lines, Not Yet is bound to become a household favorite.

I was sent these two books for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Dream Writer

Title: Dream Writer
Author: Sandhya Rao
Illustrator: Tanvi Bhatt
Publisher: Tulika Books

Last winter, while scouting for writing supplies and reading materials at my local bookstore, the picture book cover, Dream Writer snagged my attention.

The dreamy-looking picture of a child with closed eyes and the intriguingly simple title piqued my writerly curiosity, and obviously, it was hard not to resist the temptation to pick up this brand new picture book from Tulika Books, written by my favorite editor and children's writer, Sandhya Rao.

The narrative revolves around the varied colourful dreams that a child named Shobha dreams, and she's only eager to know how all of her dreams end. With a gentle nudge from her English teacher, she quickly figures out a way to find a solution to her predicament.

A picture book plot in the hands of a great children's writer can sometimes pen itself - and this one probably did exactly that with its awe-inspiringly simple and clever pen-oriented theme.

The slightly poignant touch added to the pictures reveals a parallel thread that the reader sees unfolding - a hidden story element that does not needlessly parade pity, but one that speaks the state as is and deserves five stars for the not-at-all-heavy handling of it.

Dream Writer is one of the books that made my “Picture Book Picnic” children at the local art gallery, drool over the delightfully funny images, especially the page with Shobha’s nose growing like an elephant trunk.

Vibrant artwork by Tanvi Bhat speaks more than a thousand words, while the crisp and clear writing leaves you smiling and craving for more of Shobha’s bite-sized stories and their dreamy endings.

Coconuts flapping and buzzing like flies evoked many laughs. I started off asking my group of raucous children what they thought dreams were made of. I wanted them to get a little descriptive in describing what a dream was, and these were some interesting responses I got from the children.

“Dreams are like a cloud. They float in your head when you sleep.”

“Dreams are like fantastic things that form in your mind when you sleep”

“Dreams tend to have a fuzzy quality. Some are blurry whereas some are very clear.”

Clearly, Sandhya Rao’s Dream Writer spoke to little minds in more ways than one. More power to stories that inspire children in a myriad different ways!

Monday, May 01, 2017

Jesper Jinx Series by Marko Kitti

Jesper Jinx (series)
by Marko Kitti

jesper jinx wonderfully wicked books by marko kitty

Quite by the sweetest coincidence, I e-met the author, Marko Kitti, and got to read his delightful set of books. Well, not all of seven of them yet -- but, enough of them to know that this is a light and fun chapter book series for kids to get hooked on.

"Jesper Jinx is eleven, and probably the unluckiest person in all of Puffington Hill. Everything he touches seems to end up in sweet disaster. Hence his nickname 'Jinx'"

In the first few pages of the first book, in the Intro Sequence, the author sets the tone and the mood that made me realize that kids would love this style of writing: the author has promised Jesper that he won't share Jesper's embarrassing moments in print; Yet, the author breaks "at least a zillion promises and moral obligations" and asks us readers to not breathe a word to Jesper about this breach. Conspiratorial, or what?!

Things always seem to happen to Jesper. His heart is in the right place. His intentions are usually nice (not always!). But he manages to come out fine in the end.

Finnish author Marko Kitti took up writing in English as a challenge and has come up with an entertaining set of books that are a pleasure to read.

I e-interviewed the author to know more about his writing journey and the various aspects of bringing Jesper to the readers.

1. Tell us about your writing journey - when did you start, what was your motivation for writing?

I've been writing fictional stories for as long as I can remember. As a child, I enjoyed writing all kinds of short stories, most of them which were actually my own versions of the stories I'd read. So my love of writing comes from my love of reading. But it wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I sent my scribblings to a publisher, and I've been a professional writer ever since.

2. Do you focus on writing only for children? What are some of your other works?

I have published several novels and short stories for adult and YA readers in the Finnish language, but for the past four years I've been focussing on writing only for children, mainly in the English language. I find writing for children wonderfully enjoyable, although it's one of the most difficult types of storytelling. I've always loved challenges and, funny enough, it didn't take long before I found my comfort zone in writing children's literature.

3. What was the inspiration for Jesper Jinx? Were you drawing from your own life perchance?

Jesper Jinx was born purely by accident. What started as a simple "experiment" soon turned into something completely different. Finnish is my mother tongue, and about five years ago someone challenged me to write something in English. More precisely, what that person actually said was: "I don't believe your English is good enough for writing a book.” That was a huge trigger for me. Being told "you can't” was all the motivation I needed, and a few months later Jesper Jinx was born. I wanted to create a character who was someone the young readers could identify with. I also wanted to involve the reader in the Jesper Jinx books by directly addressing them, making them feel like they are part of something important. I wanted to take a humorous approach to the stories, and that proved to be a good decision. After all, these days more than ever, children need laughter as well as a sense of security and acceptance in their lives.

4. Tell us about your favorite children's author(s) and book(s)?

As a child, my favourite children's author was Enid Blyton. I can honestly say I've read most of her books at least twice; The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Adventure series, you name it. I also gobbled through Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan series, which I found absolutely fantastic. Nowadays, I enjoy reading all kinds of children's books. Some of my favourite authors include Roald Dahl, David Walliams, Jeff Kinney and Anthony Horowitz, and I'm also a great fan of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

5. How was the self-publishing experience? Do you handle the business-end and technical-end of self-publishing as well?

Yes, I'm involved in every step of the self-publishing process from writing and graphic design to the actual publishing and marketing, and I can honestly say I have enjoyed every minute of it all. But I haven't been doing the project alone. I'm lucky to have a fantastic team of editors, proofreaders and marketing professionals around me, so I can easily say that the Jesper Jinx series couldn't have become as successful as it has without a brilliant team effort from everyone involved.

6. What do you do when you are not writing? What are your other interests/passions?

I love travelling and exploring new places and cultures. I was born in Finland but I'm living in England now – and who knows, someday I might be living somewhere else. I also love baking and cooking and you will always see me in the kitchen.

Jesper Jinx website

[image source:]

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Gory Story of Genghis Khan

The Gory Story of Genghis Khan a.k.a. Don't Mess with the Mongols  
Nayanika Mahtani
Puffin India
Age- 9 plus

When I heard the name of the book I expected something like the Horrible History series or the Duckbill historical fiction set. Instead here is a book that is rendered in a style and format, all its own.

It takes a close look at what drove the outcast child Temujin to become Genghis Khan, the conqueror of one sixth of the world! While not condoning his ways, it throws light on his foresight and adaptability. It humanizes one of history's leading villains and tells you that despite his failings, he had surprisingly commendable qualities- his respect for women, the religious tolerance he extended, the horse-powered postal system he started, the spy network that flourished under his rule and more.

There are many information nuggets dropped casually -from clothing to cultural norms to army tactics that existed then. Some scenes come with a "do not try it at home" clause but parents of younger readers could emphasize the message!

My only worry was that children may celebrate him like an unlikely hero - sort of like a Robinhood- but the atrocities are laid out openly for all to read.

The protagonist makes the read quite a ride. The puns are wonderfully witty and the tone is light for a subject who is distasteful in his ruthlessness. 

The breaking news format with Yuherdit Hearfirst and the narrator Yakkety Yak, the rap- like songs and rhymes, use of 'yakoo' to explain difficult words, are charming, clever, contemporary touches that would appeal to today's readers. The puns are there all over, some may get missed by the younger reader but they add irreverent fun to what could have been a drab narrative ( a traditional history text). 

The illustrations by Tapas Guha are apt and the book cover by Devangana Dash looks gory enough to get children curious. The closing notes, alongside the map and the family tree, will entice you to look up on more such books.

I am sure we can expect more in this series from the author. 
Would be a good read aloud in schools too!

This is based on a review copy but it is my candid opinion of the book
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