Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Farmer Falgu & an Interview with author, Chitra Soundar



Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip is an amusing treatise featuring a silence-seeking farmer. As Falgu sets off on his bullock cart, to free himself from the clamor his farm animals make, he meets a string of musically-inclined people - an old man who sings, a snake-charmer who can play the pungi, and a dance troupe, all of whom show him the many joys music and sounds can bring. This in turn leads to some solid introspection,which eventually steers the story to a happy ending.

The effortlessly woven-in onomatopoeic words are the real stars of the book. Crystal-clear writing by author Chitra Soundar is a breath of fresh air. Kanika Nair's vivid and vibrant illustrations capturing rural flavors and colors are an absolute pleasure to behold.

While farm-themed picture books are a fairly new concept in contemporary picture books from India, the story's unusual plot of silence and music was enough to pique my curiosity. Rhythm and music have always been the forte of Karadi Tales. Farmer Falgu with its rhythmic narration is sure to charm its way into the minds of little readers, who no doubt will demand more of Falgu and his simple, every-day adventures. We can't wait indeed.

And that's not all. I decided to ask Chitra Soundar a quick set of questions on what inspired Farmer Falgu. It's always a pleasure to have authors talk about their creations. That's what excites us most whenever we choose to review a free copy from the publisher.

Thank you Chitra for your enthusiastic responses. It's great to have you on Saffron Tree!


1) What was the inspiration behind the rhythmically narrated Farmer Falgu story?

I had two thoughts in my mind - Noise is not all that bad and the world is never quiet. The first thought came from my own relationship with sound – I craved silence as much as I enjoyed company. But my silence was never silent – I was either listening to music or reading a book by a train track.

The second thought was my observation of nature in the middle of a big farm in Pennsylvania – the night was never quiet, even in the coldest of winters.

When these two thoughts collided, Farmer Falgu came uninvited.

2)You have written a couple of books for Tulika. Farmer Falgu is your first one with Karadi. Is it going to be part of a series?

Yes, Farmer Falgu is going to be a 4-part series.

In each of the books, Farmer Falgu is going somewhere and in each of his trips, you can see his unflagging spirit and resourcefulness.

3)Tell us something about your childhood. Were you boisterous and noisy, or the quiet one who’d run away from all kinds of din, like Farmer Falgu?

I was a certified bookworm. I read everything with printed words on it. I found corners and crevices to hide and read in. I loved it when others were making noise – but preferred not to join in. I think I’m still that girl – I prefer to watch than join in – although Farmer Falgu has given me the courage to jump around and make noise in front of toddlers and young people.

4)When and how did you realize children’s writing was what you wanted to do?

When I was growing up, I was the family babysitter. We all used to gather at my grandpa’s big house during the holidays and I used to keep the younger ones occupied with made-up stories.

I moved to Singapore in 1999 and couple of years later, when I wanted to write books, instead of just diaries and journals, my sister suggested I should write down the stories I used to tell them.

One thing led to another and there I was writing stories for young people. I wrote business articles for newspapers and such for a year – but didn’t enjoy it as much as I did writing my own stories.

I rediscover my own childhood when I write for children. It is like picking up a seashell on the Marina Beach and imagining a story about the people under the sea. Only kids can do that. Adults kick it back into the waves. I still pick up sea-shells and smooth pebbles and keep them in my muse-box. And I hope the world will continue to fascinate me as much as it did when I was a child.

5) What are your favorite books from your childhood? Any current favorites in picture books that left you in awe?

Too many to list. But some made an impact. The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton was my big favourite for a long time. The tree became my refuge from real-life. When I made up stories, I created little people up a big tree too.

I loved Ruskin Bond and R K Narayan. Malgudi Days was one of my favourites, both in print and on television.

Other than books, I read a shed full of comics – Amar Chitra Katha in particular, Tintin, Asterix and magazines like Tinkle and Target. I had a lending library membership 10 miles away from home and my mum used to take me there every week to bring back volumes of comics.

I loved mysteries even as a child and read every Famous Five, Secret Seven, Nancy Drew ever written.

Some of my current favourites are
The Growing Story by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by the wonderful Helen Oxenbury
The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool
How do Dinosaurs say Good-Night by Jane Yolen
Gruffalo and all other books by Julia Donaldson

6)What are your upcoming projects?

I’m working with Karadi Tales on the Farmer Falgu series, which is just about complete. We are also working on another project together.
Apart from these, I’m also working on a picture book and a chapter book. The picture book is about how bedtime stories were born and the chapter book is for 7+ ages about Aurora Watts, a junior inventor who loves chips (crisps in the UK).

Couple of stories, which are in their early stages with UK publishers, will hopefully become real projects soon.

Thank you to Saffron Tree and Prabha Ram for introducing me and Farmer Falgu to your audience.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Conversation Between God and Man

Title : Conversation Between God and Man
Author : G.Venkataraman
Publisher : Media Division, Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust

There comes a time when strongest of the strong anchors give way, leaving the yet inexperienced boats and ships that are tethered to it, bobbing in the open waters. The sheltered life comes to a halt abruptly and the unsettled boats are thrown exposed to the meddling of winds and waves. Human life is no different and one inevitably finds oneself in a situation where the most trusted of the relationships reveal their transient nature. That is the situation when one is left confounded and robbed off - of enthusiasm and even the will to move forward. What for? Why? How? - questions pose a big threat to the natural flow of life on those junctures. One gets acquainted with the feelings which know no language or expression. An amateur human mind may interpret it as insatiable hunger, unquenchable thirst, inadequate sleep, untreatable pain or irreparable broken pieces of heart. But it is far beyond that, it is an absolute vacuum, a bottomless abyss and deep dark tunnel with no light in sight. Where does one go? How does one progress? Even if one starts moving, is it progressing or retrogressing? Who will hold the hand at that time?

While being in that abysmal state for a few months, I often wondered, how a human could equip him/herself to maintain sanity and equanimity during such phases. And as  a parent what can we do to help our children tide over such situations as and when they happen to confront them. After searching unsuccessfully for answers everywhere, one realises that perhaps there's only one way to seek the peaceful state - embarking on the journey towards one's inner self - where the seat of the soul actually is. It may be termed as almighty, omnipresent, all pervasive or by any name that one feels comfortable with. The connect with the supreme authority or one's own true self can be the only permanent anchor and support.

When we so painstakingly pick the best schools, hobby classes, books, besides the regular things of basic needs for our children, shouldn't we be conscious of the fact that they would need a big store of their inner strength as well for all crests and troughs in their lives. Contrarily, who are we to teach them because the spiritual age of an individual may not have any connection with the worldly years that one keeps piling on. Nevertheless, we can do our bit by encouraging them to read in order to build that store house.

'Conversation Between God and Man' is one of those books which can/should be read along with children or to them starting from the primary section itself. It is a simplified version of the conversation that happened between Lord Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra - the essence of Bhagvat Gita. After seeing his family and friends in the rival camp, Arjuna lost all interest to fight the battle and the feeling of futility of the whole bloodshed overpowered him. He was ready to accept defeat over triumph because the victory would come by killing his own kith and kin. Lord Krishna then taught him the mystery of reincarnation and the philosophy behind being a true action-oriented (Karma yogi) person. A karma yogi is the person who can stay in the moment without letting the past or future interfere and that is how one can hope to dedicate oneself to that moment entirely. Reincarnation which is often compared to change of clothes by the soul reinforces the cause and effect theory - as one sows so one reaps. As a soul continues its journey from one life to another, it learns, it enriches and purifies itself to eventually merge with the supreme power.

Dedicated chapters on happiness, conscience, awareness, rebirth, surrender to God and purpose of life convey the timeless teachings of Bhagvat Gita - the voice of Lord Krishna. The connection that it establishes between mind, soul and body brings a lot of clarity and peace. Special emphasis is laid on the importance of one's duty and submission of all that one does to the supreme authority.

'The Gita is not, as is commonly imagined, merely about Krishna giving advice to Arjuna to shed his doubts and get on with the fight. Nor is it specific to any particular religion or school of Spiritual philosophy, as many seem to believe. Rather, it is all about a LIFE BOAT, which, if availed of, can save individuals, entire communities and indeed the whole of humanity, from being drowned by the innumerable difficulties that plague today's society at the macro as well as the micro level.'

I am sure there is sufficient reading material available in all sects and religions and comparing them or picking one over others is not the objective here. The aim is to study enough and to understand enough in order to enjoy the peaceful blissful state - which is the true nature of an individual. I would like to pick many books written by enlightened souls across various religions to read myself and to read to the children so as to see which path makes the understanding easier and lays long lasting impression on the minds.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wanting Mor




 Wanting Mor
Author: Rukhsana Khan
Duckbill Books
Ages: Young Adult

Characters of colour remain  under-represented in mainstream  literature; Muslim characters, even more so. To the outside world, the closed culture of Islamic societies remains an enigma - often misunderstood, too easily stereotyped.  Pakistani-Canadian author Rukhsana Khan is one of the few writers of YA fiction today writing about ordinary Muslims and their everyday problems, demystifying that enigma for us, one book at a time. Through her novels, and picture books as diverse as Big Red Lollipop, King of the Skies and the haunting The Roses in my Carpets, she has led thousands of young  readers into the lives of Muslim children, showing them the many ways we are all different, and yet, the same.

Wanting Mor, first published in 2009, won the Middle East Book Award for Youth Fiction, and is now available in an Indian imprint as part of Duckbill’s Not Our War series. It is one child’s account of struggling to survive harsh circumstances in the aftermath of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It  also voices complex sentiments  the’ free world’ has traditionally had trouble understanding  – those of a devout Muslim  resentful of so-called ‘American’ values  (and the gender equality that goes with them) while willingly submitting to  what seems like acute discrimination, in the culture of her choice.    The book is all the more poignant for being based on the true story of a girl living in an orphanage the author is associated with.  
 
Jameela is an illiterate girl in rural post-war Afghanistan , whose life falls apart after the death of her beloved Mor (Pushto for ‘mother’).  She is then uprooted from the only home she has ever known and forced to follow her father to Kabul where he hopes to better his prospects. Things go even further downhill for her when he spends all their money on alcohol , and then rushes into a marriage with a well to do widow who treats her like a slave.  Jameela toils in the house, endures hunger and humiliation, and struggles to please her stepmother. For her pains, she is abandoned in the marketplace by her own father.  The kindness of strangers saves her, however, and Jameela eventually reaches an orphanage for girls where she finds refuge, companionship and an education.  More significantly, a simple operation for her cleft palate finally frees her from having to hide her face from the world.  But just as she contemplates building a life for herself, circumstances bring her father back into her life. Will Jameela have the courage to live her dreams?

The narrative style of the book (told in first person and the present tense, a device the author seems partial to) lends a touching immediacy to the story, and makes you feel the pain and loneliness  Jameela suffers. The memory of Mor and the values she has instilled in Jameela, remain the mainstay of the child’s life. Mor's homily - If you can’t be beautiful, you should at least be good. People will appreciate that.- becomes the child's anthem, and it is heart breaking to see her throw her energies into housework, struggle not to give in to her anger, and cling to the rituals of prayer in the face of ever-increasing hardship.

Jameela could so easily have been written as a saintly do-gooder. It is to author Khan’s credit, that she lets her heroine be flawed and prickly, brimming with resentment one minute, grudgingly  grateful  the next, and  always struggling with herself to be more like Mor.  She burns with jealousy when her friend Soraya marries her step brother Masood, one of the few positive male characters in the book. Though she has herself been abandoned, Jameela finds it hard to empathize with children like Arwa, a clingy younger inmate of the orphanage. She is less than enamored of the American goodwill that she encounters at the orphanage, and distrustful of Christian missionaries. And while she is her own harshest critic, I couldn’t help but feel that she is far more judgmental of women than she is of men – the orphanage director who seems shamelessly forward with American men, girls who are careless with the rituals of prayer or their conduct outdoors, domineering women like her stepmother and Agha Akram’s wife who mange to manipulate their respective husbands into abandoning her.  Despite her strained relationship with her father and his betrayal of her, she never stops yearning for his return – until, of course, he does, and brings her to the biggest decision of her young life.



The book’s stance on gender equality is likely to furrow a few brows, leaning as it does towards the conservative. The male characters in the book feel oddly undeveloped; all three (Jameela’s father, her stepbrother, the kindly Agha Akram who rescues her in the market) are written as weak, well meaning men who are controlled by their wives. Now all three have suffered the trauma of war, and Jameela’s father has clearly taken Mor’s death hard. Yet they are never given a chance to tell their story. “Men are supposed to be the caretakers of women, Jameela chillingly declares, ’ not the other way round.” 

Jameela’s epiphany comes to her cloaked in betrayal and disappointment. She learns, the hard way, that she will have to fend for herself and make her own fate.  She decides to embrace Mor’s homily, dedicating herself to a lifetime of service. For centuries now, girls across cultures have been conditioned into believing they can only be defined by physical beauty and/ or a selfless devotion to service, with no entitlement to the liberties boys are encouraged to take for granted. This conditioning is the very reason Jameela had remained illiterate, ashamed of her face and bound to the hearth, lacking even the sense to get the medical help that might have saved Mor.  While I loved that she takes charge of her own life, I do wish she could have at least questioned the codes of conduct she chooses to bind herself in.  But that is still a minor gripe - this is a book that had me hooked from page one, and is definitely on my re-read list for its compelling story and memorable heroine.

 Image courtesy: Duckbill Books 

I received a copy of this book from Duckbill for review purposes; the views expressed in this post, however, are entirely my own. 


Monday, June 16, 2014

Trout, Trout, Trout!: A Fish Chant



Trout, Trout, Trout!: A Fish Chant 
Ant, Ant, Ant!: An Insect Chant
by April Pulley Sayre
illustrated by Trip Park

Bird, Bird, Bird!: A Chirping Chant
by April Pulley Sayre
illustrated by Gary Locke


April Pulley Sayre is the author of many popular non-fiction animal picture books. Some of her books we liked are shared in the Non-fiction Animal Picture Books post. Her commitment to accuracy of facts and her talent with lyrical text makes many of her books popular with the kids, especially for read-aloud sessions.

What's not to love about American freshwater fish? Being in trout and salmon country here in the pacific northwest, the younger kid has been learning about fish and other sea creatures as and when they catch his fancy.

As the title says, it is a fish chant. The rhythm sets the pace, making it addictive after the second read.

Threespine Stickleback.
Freshwater Drum.
Lake Chub. Creek Chub.
Chum, chum, chum!

Sockeye salmon. Arctic Char.
Mooneye, Walleye,
Gar, gar, gar!

The book is filled with freshwater fish names some of which are quite silly - makes one wonder how they got their names. The illustrations capture this silliness of the names while not straying far from what the fish really look like. There is a certain wild humor woven into the pictures that my kids easily picked up on and enjoyed heartily.

At a certain level, it is possible to dismiss it as just a gimmick of listing names of fish in some enchanting order, but at another level, it is pretty clever and multi-layered for learning and read-aloud fun.

What's the point of a good formula, if there aren't more along the same lines, right? So, we came upon Ant, Ant, Ant!: An Insect Chant. Unlike some sequels that disappoint, this one is a winner again, at least with the 6 yo.

Employing a similar catchy rhythm, Ant, Ant, Ant! lists various insects,some of which I had never heard of until now. And by the third read, we get curious and start researching these new insects.

Billbug, bed bug,
bark beetle, bee
Painted lady butterfly,
flea, flea, flea!


Cockroach, Earwig.
Like them? Can't!
Firefly, Flower Fly,
Ant, Ant, Ant!

Again, Trip Park has cleverly integrated some subtle humor that kids pick up on. For example, one of the pictures shows an insect reading Trout, Trout, Trout! and a Perch leaps out of the water to make a cameo. Enough to make the resident 6 yo squeal with delight at the discovery.

While Bird, Bird, Bird! is not illustrated by Trip Park as with the other two books, it still has the same lilt and charm and eye-catching popping-out-of-the-book caricature-ish appeal.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker,
picture that!
Chachalaca, Chickadee,
Chat, Chat, Chat!


Kingbird, Kingfisher,
Kinglet, Kite,
Frigatebird, my word,
what a sight!

While most of the birds were familiar to us, there were quite a handful that we enjoyed learning about.

The only thing that the 6 yo objected to: The inconsistency in title of the 3rd book! While the first one is "Trout! Trout! Trout!" - a particular fish, and the second one is "Ant! Ant! Ant!" - a particular insect, the 3rd book should have been "Chat! Chat! Chat! A Chirping Chant" --OR-- Keep the 3rd the same, and the first should have been "Fish! Fish! Fish! A Bubbling Chant" and the second should have been "Insect! Insect! Insect! A Buzzing Chant" to be in alignment with "Bird! Bird! Bird! A Chirping Chant".


[Teacher's guide for Trout, Trout, Trout!]
[image source: April Pulley Sayre website]

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Curious Sameer series




Written by Nandini Nayar
 Illustrated by Francesco Manetti
 Karadi Tales
 Ages 3 to 6

I’ve always enjoyed Nandini Nayar’s picture books - spare text, minimal characters, and always some simple prop or idea that sends those characters  (and us readers)  off on imaginative journeys.  The Curious Sameer books , a series starring a little boy and his wise mother, follow much the same trajectory. 

What Will I be? begins with our little hero and his Amma  playing hide and seek. Petulant at being found almost at once, Sameer declares he will run away, become a train driver and travel somewhere his mother will never  find him. But I will, she assures him, and explains how.  Then I will be a pilot, says Sameer, and  never be found among the clouds. Think again, says Amma,  and explains how she will track him down . Again and again , Sameer  thinks of something new to be, that will take him far away from her.  And again and again, Amma cleverly proves she will still know where he is -  until an unexpected twist  that has our little hero reconsider his lofty  plans. The book  charmingly explores the world through Sameer’s eyes, as he flits from puffy clouds to  candy mountains to subterranean mines.   As a parent,  I couldn’t help chuckling at Sameer’s increasingly ambitious plans to prove his independence, only to be gently reeled in by his Amma  every single time.  



What  Could it Be  is all about the power of creativity. The book has Sameer trying to solve a mystery – what lies inside the blue package waiting  for him when he gets home from school? Amma knows, of course, but  keeps Sameer guessing, only willing to tell him what the gift isn’t. Is it a doll, he asks, which will be my friend? A friend, yes, says Amma, but not a doll. A kite, perhaps, asks Sameer, that will make me soar high? You will soar high, says Amma, but it is no kite.  What follows is a wild flight of fancy, much like What Will I be?, as Sameer  imagines what the gift could be, while Amma’s answers  gets increasingly more profound and mysterious.  I especially enjoyed the pacing of the book – it builds up  the suspense neatly, has us pause with Sameer as we consider all of  Amma’s cryptic clues, before presenting us with the answer in a colourful flourish.

Francesco Manetti’s art captures  the charm of Nandini Nayar’s little stories – his illustrations are playful, beautifully textured and  bring Sameer’s imaginary worlds  to life . Each colourful spread is a delight to  the eye, full of interesting details and humorous depictions of Amma’s relentless pursuit of little Sameer.  Cities of blocks with wavy clothes lines,  faraway moon colonies,   candy mountain peaks – and my favourite image, Amma flying towards mountaineer Sameer on a folded newspaper  ‘plane!   My one regret is that Sameer didn’t consider a career as a deep sea diver – I would have loved to see Fransesco’s  depiction of his underwater capers!

An electronic version of this book was sent to me by the publisher for review; all views expressed, however, are my own.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Daddy Come Lately


Daddy Come Lately
Author: Rupa Gulab
Publisher: Duckbill
Ages : Young Adult


Now here’s a blast from the past, I thought, when my copy of ‘Daddy Come Lately’ arrived in the mail . For wasn’t this once a book called Chip of the Old Blockhead, published  way back in 2006 by Rupa & Co. ? Well, back it is in a brand new avatar, courtesy Duckbill, with a few minor edits.

Thirteen year old Priya has grown up believing her father died before she was born. So imagine her surprise – read shock – when he turns up for dinner, then moves into the house next door and insists on making up for lost father-daughter time.  Priya is determined to hate him, of course, but when the whole world and its mother – okay, her mother – seem utterly taken by Dad the Bad’s charms, what is a girl to do?  It doesn’t help that the rest of her life chooses precisely this moment to get more complicated – her favourite teacher faces dismissal, her mother’s best friend seems overly friendly with Dad the Bad, and why is the boy next door acting so weird around her?

Priya makes for an entertaining narrator – she is sarcastic, whiny, devious, quite the drama queen – in other words, your average thirteen year old. Add to this a vocabulary fed by too much British school  fiction (Has anyone had ‘brekker’ since the ‘60s?  Or 'fancied' anyone outside of Old Blighty?) , a penchant for snide asides about everyone on her radar and a flair for over- reaction  - Priya , with all her quirks, is utterly believable. The plot, breezy  for the most part, takes a serious  turn when Priya runs away from home, and comes disturbingly close to being assaulted by a slimy hotel manager in faraway Mussoorie. Worry not, O reader - she gets away, in an escape  re-engineered in this edition of the book, to sound more with the times. ( Chip..  was, after all, released before Facebook and mobile phones shrank the world and changed the way we live our lives.)

Daddy… deals with some serious issues – divorce, incompatible parents, a lack of real communication between parents and their kids . While I wouldn’t say these were always dealt with realistically- the swift manner in which Priya’s parents reunite, for example, left me incredulous-  these are certainly situations a lot of the book’s young readers would identify with. I also imagine that a generation that has grown up with tools like Facebook and Google is going to find some aspects of the book hard to believe.  I found the portrayal of  Priya’s less than perfect mother interesting -  Tanu, we soon realize, tells lies to suit her purpose, manipulates her parents, spouse and daughter, and is childishly impulsive.  Incidentally, this is the second Duckbill  YA  I’ve read featuring a flawed maternal figure; this one, however, gets a far more sympathetic hearing.   

  I received this book as a review copy from the publisher; however, the views expressed here are entirely my own. The image used here is from the publisher's website.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Au Revoir, Children's Book Week 2014



There is a book for every reader and a reader for every book.

After a week of celebrating what we at Saffron Tree love best - i.e., children's books - it is time to wind down the frenzied activity and take things slow and steady again, one book at a time.

Do you have books that resonated with you? Books that turned you or your child into an ardent reader? Books that you know others will love to read?  Feel free to share it as comments in any of the posts here, any time. And, join us on Facebook to start a discussion on children's book.

Thanks for reading along with us during this Children's Book Week and participating in our Giveaway. The winner will be announced in the comments of the post by May 20th, 2014, and will be contacted via email for further information.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

7 Clever and Funny Picture Books

seven clever funny picture books


Of course, what's side-splittingly funny for one may not elicit even a chuckle in another. And adults are notoriously harder to please when it comes to rib-ticklers, while the kids find humor in everything silly.

There's the clever-witty humor; the wry-sophisticated humor; the slapstick-goofy humor; and then there's the cause-convulsive-giggles-each-time humor that is popular with the kids.

Every once in a while, a few books come along that are so clever and witty that it makes the adults sit up and take notice; at the same time are so starkly comic that makes the kids giggle uncontrollably and request immediate repeat reads.

In honor of CBW festivities, here are a few offbeat books, in no particular order, that managed to impress the kids just as much as they managed to inspire Mama, who is constantly in awe of picture book writers and illustrators who keep pushing the envelope.



Press Here
by Hervé Tullet

Interactive books provide an immediate gratification for the very young - touch, push, pop-up, lift-the-flap. And then, there are interactive books that ask the reader to actively engage to move the story forward. And some of these latter kind of books can fail to hold the interest of the kids.

However, Press Here is not one of those. Press Here engages the kids in a respectfully funny way that makes them think as they laugh and play along. Each page has a simple set of instruction urging the child to follow and then turn the page. And, if they follow sincerely and turn the page, there is the reward. Of course, the trouble is, even if they don't follow sincerely, there is the same result on the next page.

For such books to be a success, children must want to play along. And this book opens up such a whimsical and imaginary world that the children certainly want to enter and play along.

[image source: amazon.com]


How to Babysit a Grandma

by Jean Reagan
illustrated by Lee Wildish

Much like How to Babysit a Grandpa, this book turns the tables to put the child in the center and in-charge. From the child's point of view. Which is what matters.
When you babysit a grandma,
    if you're lucky...
         it's a sleepover at her house.
So starts this endearing book that is not just cute and funny but warm and witty. The cleverness may not be obvious for the very young, but as a parent, I could not stop smiling. Like the page listing "How to keep grandma busy" - with Go to the park, Bake snicker doodle, Have a costume parade, Go to the park to feed the ducks, look at family pictures, Go to the park to swing... I am sure every (grand)parent can identify with the numerous requests to go to the park, not to mention the cookie-baking. Now, the brilliant touch is:
As the babysitter, you need to let her choose.
As both kids visit their Nana once in a while for holidays, they identified with this book more than the Grandpa book. The nine-year old guffawed at every page, pointing out the funny bits to her little brother.

[image source: Jean Reagan website]


Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite
by Nick Bromley
illustrated by  Nicola O'Byrne

There is no discounting the power of interactivity, of including the child reader into the adventure of the book, involving them in the story and yet keeping them in suspense. Along the way, if children use their powerful imagination to come up with creative solutions, the book has done its job.
What would you do if you were settling down for a quiet bedtime story and you realized that a crocodile had fallen out of one story and into yours and was - not to put too fine a point on it - furious? A wonderful picture 'book about books'.
So what can the reader do about a disruptive crocodile in the tale about the Ugly Duckling? Shake the book to see if the croc falls out;  rock the book to see if the croc will fall asleep; finding a way to get rid of the crocodile is only part of the fun. Of course, there's the die-cut holes left by the crocodile chomping his way out. But to where? A-ha! The adventure may not be over yet.

[view sample images inside the book at Nicola O'Byrne's website]

[image source: Nosy Crow]


17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore

by Jenny Offill
illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

There are some books that irk some parents because of what a child is allowed to get away with. This is potentially one of them.

While stapling her brother's hair to the pillow will not occur to my daughter and she will not learn to do it or even attempt it by reading this book, there are some highly curious children who would like to give it a try if they have not done so already.

Parents might squirm a bit at "I had an idea to show Joey Whipple my underpants." Rather inappropriate would be the pronouncement. But the blurry cartwheeling picture of the little girl on a handstand with underpants revealed, in combination with the background made up of layers of elastic-waist underpants  in colors of sky and grass, doesn't seem offensive.

There is an age of innocence when such antics just test the limits of what they are allowed to do, rather than an attempt at being provocative. Of course, most schools require girls to wear play-shorts over their underpants, especially under a dress or skirt these days; and revealing the play-shorts is not considered inappropriate.

Now, having gotten that out of the way, this is a clever take on the insanely wild things some kids do and how the adults deal with them. The older child enjoyed reading this to her younger brother, pointing out all the silliness.

One idea after another meets the disapproval of one adult or another, leading our protagonist to list the things she has been forbidden to do anymore. The text is dry and stark, but is paired with hysterically detailed illustrations. This polar pairing makes it terribly funny rather than upsetting and obnoxious.

[image source: jennyoffill.com ]


Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum

by Lisa Wheeler
illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

Ms. Wheeler has a way with words. She can make them dance and create music with their rhythm and rhyme.

What happens to a carelessly spat out piece of gum that lands on a hot road and is forgotten by the spitter?
Bubble gum, bubble gum,
Chewy-gooey bubble gum,
Icky-sticky bubble gum
Melting in the road. 
Along comes a toad…
A fine, fat toad,
A fine, fat, wild
- SPLAT -
wart-backed toad.
Ew! Yuck!
The toad got stuck~

And along comes a parade of unlikely animals who all get stuck on this piece of melting gum. Of course, that alone is not funny enough. Where's the crisis, the problem?
Along comes a truck…
A big, blue truck,
A big, blue
- COMIN’ THROUGH -
Honk-honk truck!
What can these stuck animals do to not get squished by the truck? There is always a clever solution for every sticky situation, right?

Many stories try to circle back and end self-referentially. Only few manage to do it well. This is one of them, thanks to the master-writer.

[image source: Lisa Wheeler Books ]


That Is Not a Good Idea!

by Mo Willems  (Author Illustrator)

Being a huge fan of Elephant and Piggie books, the kids brought this home from the library. It didn't look anything like Elephant & Piggie books, but it had Mo Willems as the author, so it must be clever and funny, was probably their reasoning.

Some stories move along in a predictable way and you read along thinking, yeah, this is nice, the pictures are lovely, i think i know what happens next... and then wham! you are hit with a 180° twist that leaves you smiling for long. This is one of those books. Enough said.

[Browse Inside at Harper Collins]

[image source: Harper Collins]


More Bears! 
by Kenn Nesbitt
illustrated by Troy Cummings

A curmudgeonly writer refuses to allow any bears in his book. But what can he do when there is repeated requesting for increasingly numerous bears in the story?

Kenn Nesbitt's style of humor resonates so well with the kids that despite its rather boring, possibly annoying progression, it manages to impress the kids. And parents sit up and notice the sophisticated presentation. Some of the clever bear monickers will be lost on the young ones but the adults will get a laugh out of it while reading it to the kids.

Almost always, the twist in the ending makes such books irresistible to the kids. Sure enough, the author, overwhelmed by bears, decides to get rid of them entirely and start over with a new story when out of the corner, we hear the request for "More Chickens!"

[image source: Poetry4Kids ]


Speaking of funny, for those unbridled laughs anytime, every time, the staples at home are Shel Silverstein and Kenn Nesbitt poetry collections.


What's not to love about poetry, especially the rhyming kind that is also quirky and riotously silly and playful? Turn to any random poem in these books and one is guaranteed to be amused. Every few months, the kids go through this phase of reading the three Shel Silverstein books cover-to-cover over a few days of bedtime reads. Pure wholesome fun.


A Light in the Attic Special Edition
by Shel Silverstein  (Author Illustrator)


Runny Babbit 
by Shel Silverstein  (Author Illustrator)


My Hippo Has the Hiccups: And Other Poems I Totally Made Up
by Kenn Nesbitt
illustrated by Ethan Long

[image source: Poetry4Kids, Wikipedia]

Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Shel Silverstein  (Author Illustrator)

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