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
Penguin

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: http://www.jesperjinx.co.uk/books/jesper-jinx-book-1/]

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

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Maharani the Cow




Author : Christy Shoba Sudhir
Illustrator : Nancy Raj
Published by: Tulika Books

As someone who is constantly in awe of picture book writers and illustrators, it is hard not to take notice, when a few simple and clever and witty books come along your way.

Picture books can get kids to ponder and wonder, inspire and imagine; and best of all, get them to guffaw uncontrollably, providing an endless source of giggles and laughs.

I will be reviewing a few recently published Tulika books, in no particular order, that managed to impress my “Picture Book Picnic” children (that I work with at a local art gallery), just as much as they managed to inspire me.

Maharani, an irresistibly “cool-as-a-cucumber” metro cow has decided to plonk herself on the road, and that too, right in the middle of a typically traffic-heavy city road. Well, what follows is a series of side-splittingly funny scenes as pedestrians, a policeman, school children, and auto drivers try tonudge Maharani to move.

The best part for me about Tulika’s style, and any such simple and clever books, is always the adoption of a no-fuss attitude toward the problem and solution elements. How the “ bovine-stops-traffic”, a frustratingly familiar problem, casually solves itself, much to everyone's relief, forms the crux of this funny tale.

Chirpy words describing the street as dusty, noisy, crowded thoroughly resonated with the children, while Nancy Raj’s illustrations were a delight to pore over down to the last detail. The charming streetscape artworks made the kids sit up and soak them all in. The zooming parakeets flying over the city scene in particular elevated our view to a whole new level.

There’s no way you can't notice the sophisticated presentation of the varied perspectives and views and angles of the cow, and the delightful expressions, sights and sounds, and frustrations of a stream of humans stuck in traffic. The pictures pop out of the page, transporting you straight to a zen-like zone with the gleeful charmer that is Maharani, and yes, you can't help yourself partaking in unseating-her-highness adventure.





Friday, March 17, 2017

Aboard a Paper Plane... and other poems

Aboard a Paper Plane... and other poems 
by Joe & Allison Kelly
illustrations by Supakit Chiangthong



When this poetry collection, Aboard a Paper Plane, by Allison & Joe Kelly came my way, I was absolutely delighted to read it! Not just to myself. I read it aloud to my kids, and, randomly tossed out some of the lovely lines to the other adult in residence as well.

Shel Silverstein meets Kenn Nesbitt meets Kurt Cyrus.

That's what popped into my head immediately. The random everyday quirks with a deeper thought-provoking perspective à la Shel Silverstein, the laugh-out-loud aspect of Kenn Nesbitt's works, as well as the amazing wordplay that Kurt Cyrus brings to his creations, these are what struck me when I read the forty eight poems in this collection.



Some are long and showcase their wordsmithing perfectly while others are crisp and short and make you double up with laughter.

The younger child's favorite was, of course, Bath for the "Ewww..." factor, and Painter, as he had tried that once and found that it was not appreciated.


The older child loved the Secret Club and Pop Quiz, while chuckling at Clover and nodding along with If Only I had a Dollar.

Vegetables - a cautionary tale is at once brilliant and funny, one of my favorites. The wordplay in Broke is superb.


 Before I start listing the joys of each poem here, let me stop and share an informal interview with this talented couple.


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

J: I started writing children's poetry when I was fifteen - right around the time I met Allison, actually.  I love the variation inherent in a poetry collection, and I love it as both a reader and a writer.  The imagination's zigzag from character to character, situation to situation; not knowing to which world the next page is going to take you, only that it will be a place you're sure to enjoy.  I guess that's why we were drawn to the paper plane.

A: Like most writers, I'm sure, I'm thrilled by the idea of creating something new that wasn't there before: a character, a plot line, a turn of phrase. I've been enthralled with the writing experience since the age of six or so; it's truly been one of the constant joys in my life.

J: And me, right?

A: Yes, Joe.  And you.

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

A: I will write for anyone! I recently started a small business in which I write and publish personal memoirs for people -- usually older folks whose children want to gather their stories and memories in one place before it's too late. I also write material for standardized tests for students ranging in age from kindergarten to high school, and for both native English speakers and English language learners.

J: I'm not quite as versatile as my wife.  It's been largely children's material to date - poetry, rhyming books, middle grade; even tried my hand at YA.  I'm drawn to the imagination bursting from the genre seemingly everywhere you look.  My "day job" is in finance, so I find balance in using the creative side of my brain after a long day or week of analytical thinking.

Aboard a Paper Plane is our first title.  While writing, however, we stumbled upon a few ideas that were too long to be part of the collection.  The game plan now is to turn those into stand-alone rhyming stories.  We've also started planning a second poetry collection.  We don't have any timelines or anything as of yet, but we're certainly having fun putting it all together.


3. What was the inspiration for this particular book? Why a poetry book? How did you settle on the 48 poems included, it's a tall order? Which of these are your top 3 favorites? 

A: A poetry book allowed us to experiment with a lot of tones, themes, characters, and settings.  We were writing the book in our free time (evenings, weekends), so we wanted to make sure the experience was always fresh and exciting.  And as for the inspiration, Joe's the idea generator, so I'll let him take it from here.

J: Thanks, Al!  The inspiration for the book was an odd collection of dozens of little things I've noticed throughout my day-to-day.  Normal things - things you see every day ,but maybe don't put much thought into.  Like a graveyard or a boomerang or a lobster - stuff like that.  If an object or situation catches my eye, I jot it down in the Notes app on my iPhone. It's also energizing to take lofty "life lessons" -- try not to compare with others, be grateful for what you're given, and so on -- and repurpose them in a fun and accessible way through poetry.  In terms of the forty-eight, we were trying to assemble a nice variety of lengths and subjects and styles. There were a handful that didn't fit with Aboard a Paper Plane.  We hope to find a home for them in the next collection!

A: My favorites are probably The Runner, Guardian Angel, and The Tiniest Ant & the Giantest Bear. They're all very different, and I think they give a good idea of our versatility. I think they best showcase our humor, wordsmithing, and wit.

J: I wouldn't say I necessarily have a favorite poem, but I do have a few favorite lines.  Like in the "Octopus Barber", the line about the monkfish.  Or in "Fortune Teller" when the narrator daydreams about body surfing.  Or in "Aboard a Paper Plane" - the part that goes, "You'll cartwheel to the moon and then you'll swim from here to Spain / Or close your eyes and scrunch your face to sprout a lion's mane."  That makes me smile every time.


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

J: When I was very young, my favorite book was Richard Scarry's "Best Ride Ever". In retrospect, it was a pretty odd story.  Essentially, the plot line revolved around this dog named Dingo.  Dingo Dog had a really, really cool red car.  What Dingo Dog did not have was much respect for traffic laws.  Dingo would drive his car down the sidewalk, through the supermarket - I think at one point he even drove through someone's living room?  At end of the day, the whole book was a pretty airtight case study on why we don't let animals operate machinery.  According to my dad, I would laugh nonstop through the whole story.  Guess I was kind of a weird kid...

A: You were a weird kid?  According to my mom, my favorite book as a little kid was "The Book of Virtues".  It was 1,000 pages and had no pictures.  I would ask my dad to read it to me every night...

J: Okay - you got me there. But since my Dingo Dog-days of childhood, I've accumulated a whole host of both authors and stories I admire.  Just to name a few: Norton Juster's "The Phantom Tollbooth" & Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" for their wordplay and structure.  Shel Silverstein for his characters and situations.  R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" for their zany twists.  But my absolute favorite?  I love "Oh, the Places You'll Go".  My grandparents gave me a copy when I graduated high school.  It's been on my desk ever since.

A: I loved the Berenstain Bears series -- the cute stories, the colorful full-page pictures! But most of the formative works I read as a child were when I was a little older, eight or nine or so. I loved "Little Women" most of all, followed closely by "A Wrinkle in Time" and the Babysitter's Club series.


5. How does the collaboration work? Each writes, and also edits the other's?

A: Writing children's poems has always been Joe's passion.  He comes up with the idea, any clever turns of phrase or characters, and writes a first draft.  Then, we both sit down in front of it to comb through line by line and word by word.  I'll suggest changes, shore up the scheme, and do my best to make sure every word counts.  We find that this process makes the best use of both of our skills.

J: That said, there were a few poems in the collection that we wrote pretty much top-to-bottom together.  These were, most notably: The Tiniest Ant & the Giantest Bear, If I Only Had a Dollar, Patient Pat, and The Gadget.  My favorite part about writing is being able to work with Allison.  I love having this as a shared experience.


6. Why eBook? And how was the self-publishing experience? Were you interested in submitting to the traditional publishers?

A: At this point, self-publishing Aboard a Paper Plane as an eBook was our most practical and expedient option.  We've also submitted to some literary agents and traditional publishers.  We're hopeful that our run as an eBook isn't the destination, but rather a step on the journey.


7. How did you "meet and collaborate" with the illustrator? On behalf of the illustrator, will you be able to share how they created the art, and whether they are open for working with other authors interested in self-publishing?

J: We met Supakit on Fiverr (which - by the way - is a great platform for children's book authors to partner with illustrators).  Our experience with him was fantastic - he was professional, easy to work with, and very talented. For each poem, we'd put together a detailed description of what we were looking for in the picture, shoot it over to Supakit, and then let him work his magic.  Unfortunately, we don't know too much about his process.  As of today, Supakit has taken his profile down on Fiverr.  He was a student during most of our collaboration, and we got the sense that he was taking on other time-intensive responsibilities as he got closer to graduating.


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

J: When I'm not writing or working, I enjoy running on the treadmill while watching a movie or show (currently, season 1 of True Detective), practicing the piano, drinking Guinness, all things personal finance, and spending time with my friends, family, and beautiful wife.

A: I love trying new recipes, learning languages (I'm currently taking a Spanish class!), reading, entertaining, and slowwwly decorating our house. And of course, spending time with my family, friends, and Joe!


Our sincerest gratitude to the Saffron Tree team for featuring us and our debut poetry collection, Aboard a Paper Plane! We truly appreciate all you do to promote children's literature. We hope you enjoy Aboard a Paper Plane; please reach out at jkelly821@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments! Happy reading!


[Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book but the opinions shared here are entirely my own. Review policy for this blog is available.]

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Saffron-Picking, Khadi-Weaving

Book Title: Saffron-Picking, Khadi-Weaving
Authors: Sheela Preuitt, Praba Ram
Illustrator: Lavanya Karthik
Publisher: Mango Books

A couple of months back, we were reading about various pastoral tribes of India as part of social sciences curriculum of ninth standard. While locating them on the map, somehow the heterogeneity, diversity and vibrancy of our homeland had me enraptured yet again. The text in the book could not appease my curiosity so we read and researched some more, in fact a lot more and checked their unique nomadic lifestyles, their labour intensive art forms and much more. The common thread that became very apparent after having read about different tribes is how closely blended they are with nature, how respectful they are to the invaluable gift that is being laundered mindlessly by the 'developed societies', how so caringly they co-exist with their ecosystem and how they manage their annual routines in rhythm with changing guards in nature.

It is interesting to read about Meghwals of Mewar, Rajasthan who migrated to Sindh in Pakistan in the 17th century, and then on to Kutch in 1971 after the Indo -Pak war. They forged a partnership with nomadic pastoralists Maldharis of Kachch.  When a Maldhari cattle dies, adept hands of Meghwals convert the raw hide into a piece of utility or of art in leather. Meghwals also brought with them their exquisite embroidery styles and stitches, which still bear some resemblance to the embroidery done in Afghanistan. So what we see as a Meghwali (a form of Kachchi) embroidery is actually a beautiful amalgamation of northern and eastern styles of magic with needle.
Monpas, the only nomadic tribe in Northeast of India are known for their wood carving, carpet making and weaving. They are completely dependent on animals like sheep, cow, yak, goats and horses and usually do not have any permanent settlement or attachment to a particular place. The 6th Dalai Lama was a Monpa by ethnicity.
Banjaras, Kurubas, Kurumas, Gaddis and Gollas are some other pastoral tribes with riveting past and present.

Even divinity helps a seeker in many strange ways, and I actually experienced it once again when I was sent the book 'Saffron Picking, Khadi-Weaving' to review on ST. Oh, what a treat it was for me, especially at the time when my mind was almost invariably wandering with the nomads of different regions. This little book is a befitting tribute to eight communities across India. The journey begins from a household of saffron-growers in Pampore region of Kashmir. All members of the family pitch in at every stage of the lifecycle of these bright-hued strands to roll out the world famous condiment. The next stop is Rann of Kutch where Agariyas, the migrant salt makers work untiringly for two quarters of a year under extremely trying circumstances. From the white expanse of salt desert, the readers are led again to colourful world of Moosahar tribe, engaged in Sikki basket making. From cutting of the sikki grass, drying it, dyeing it into myriad colours to weaving and coiling the grass - every step demands loving hands, committed heart and patient mind.  Leaving a grandma passing on her sikki handling skills to her grandson, the narrative takes us towards the Eastern Ghats, somewhere in Odisha, where we meet a group of women setting off to collect Sal leaves for plate making. They dedicate the following day to drying them, stitching them and pressing them to make them ready for the market.
By this time, I had my laptop open along with the book and as I read about each community, I sifted the net for more images and more details.

Furthr, the following pages open a small window into the worlds of Kumars and Hiras (traditional potters) of Assam, Changpa (pashmina wool traders) of Ladakh, indigo growers of Bagru-Rajasthan and khadi-weavers of Ponduru, Andhra Pradesh.


Lavanya's illustrations perfectly accentuate the earthiness of the narrative. Her strokes and choice of colours add depths to the stories picked up from different regions of the country. Lavanya, wrinkles on the face of that pot-making grandma just had me captivated for quite some time. Her lines of age speak volumes about her experience, her commitment and her contentment. 
Praba and Sheela, reading and reviewing your book was a delight and I must compliment you on your beautiful tribute to these everyday-heroes who work silently in tandem with nature, fighting all odds to keep their skills and crafts alive. I so wish that books like these become a part of school curriculum so that children learn to appreciate eco-friendly coexistence and if possible visits to these places should also be organised by the schools. Will look forward to more coming from your pen!!!

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Case of the Candy Bandit


The resident nine-year-old won Archit Taneja's The Case of the Candy Bandit in a giveaway on the Duckbill Gangstas page a few years ago. I had first reading rights (of course!) and for a couple of nights, had dreams as bizarre as Rachita's. I could see the kid would love the nerdy-meets-madcap fun-ness of the book. This is his review.

The Case of the Candy Bandit (Superlative Supersleuths)
By Archit Taneja
Image courtesy duckbill.in
Duckbill Books
Ages 9-12

The Case of the Candy Bandit is the perfect title for a detective-mystery. The cover, with pictures of sweets, grabs your attention. The drawings within the book are even more interesting and funny. If the idea of a gulab jamun pancake is simply outrageous, so is the drawing of a gulab jamun pancake maker.

This book is about Aarti and Rachita, two budding detectives in sixth grade. They are the Superlative Supersleuths. The PTA has decided that treat packets be given to the students on the condition they eat their lunch. The treat packets start going missing. It’s upto the Superlative Sleuths to sniff out the thief. Do they succeed or get completely spooked out?

Aarti, a rather creative and cheerful person, suggests a Pirate Case Book. Rachita on the other hand, is a serious and straightforward person. She is enthusiastic about detective work. The Detective Decree they make is brilliant and way too funny. I’d use the 3 Ws to describe it - Wow, Wacky and Wonderful. Rachita’s birthday presents are rare and totally unbelievable. Wonder where they were bought really!!! Vipul’s theory on the Observer Effect is perfect. If an experiment is conducted on someone, they should be unaware of it, otherwise they will behave differently. I like Vipul because he is a smartypants just like me.

This story is like Aarti - hyperactive without the hyper. There’s a lot of action, things keep happening like a relay of events. One thing’s a bit disappointing. In every detective story, this happens - There’s one suspect. Then the suspect changes and the thief is caught. That could have changed.

As a nine-year-old, I can certify that 8-11 year-olds love their candy. The level of maths used in the book is quite high, there’s even some calculus. Rachita is so scientific in her approach to the case that there’s science even in her dreams. Rachita’s dreams about Archimedes teaching the pirates to balance and finding the centre of gravity are witty and certainly well thought out. If Rachita’s dreams are burgers or fries, then there’s science as the sauce to go with them. Yumm, I love burgers. Talking of food, that purple-tongued seventh-grader is rather lucky to have a packet of jamuns. Oops, my appetite is gone because of those tongues. You’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean!

This is a wonderfully spicy book. Super entertaining for little spies like me and just a FANTASTIC BOOK!!!

Psst ... The next in the Superlative Supersleuths series, The Case of the Careless Aliens is just out.
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