Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Phiss Phuss Boom

Phiss Phuss Boom
By Anushka Ravishankar, Jerry Pinto & Sayoni Basu
Illustrated by Vinayak Varma
Duckbill Books
Ages 6-9

Phiss Phuss Boom is a very tastefully done book (strange thing to say about a book with fart stories, but it is true!) There’s no potty humour, just explosive blasts at the end of each story. Three stories, short and engrossing, take the reader to Kerala, Goa and Bengal. Perfect for young readers taking their first steps in the world of chapter books. And how nice to have characters with names like Appukuttan and Phool Dida! (I would be erring if I didn't mention that Phool Dida’s grandfather played football with Robi Thakur.) The illustrations by Vinayak Varma are brilliant; a lot of thought has gone into each of them. ‘Farts? Intelligence?’ You ask? Did you know the connection between Boyle’s law and farts? See!

As a prelude to each story, the author introduces a doting grandparent and proceeds to describe his/her affinity for fart humour. So of course I must do the same before I get on with the review. My paternal grandfather wouldn’t let anyone enter the house if they’d eaten onions or anything that would induce vaayu, like raw banana or cabbage. The menu was carefully planned with the vaayu-meter being constantly monitored. This grandfather was very serious and looked exactly like Amrish Puri. My maternal grandfather, on the other hand, indulged us with stories and jokes featuring farts and things that the rest of the world found offensive. And we lapped them up! I’m sure today’s kids will enjoy Phiss Phuss Boom just as much.

Lijimol and Jijimon

The first story by Anushka Ravishankar transported me to Kerala, where Lijimol has to figure out a way to make her twin brother Jijimon win a race in the pond. If he doesn’t, she will lose her hair. And with it will go their brains. For the twins’ brains are in Lijimol’s hair a la Samson. Does Lijimol find a solution? Does Jijimon win? What happens to Lijimol’s hair? And their brains?

The writing is superlative. Lijimol is full of spunk and spouts clever lines. The illustrations are great fun so be sure to pay attention to them while you’re reading.

The six year-old enjoyed the story as much as I did, addressed his father (Appa) as Appukuttan for weeks and eyed my hair rather suspiciously for a while.

Attulem and Bittulem

The next story, inhabited by characters like Attulem, Bittulem, Monsterlem and Gonsterlem, is set in Goa. This one doesn’t have as much of a local flavor as the other two, but the wordplay and witty one-liners more than make up for it. What makes it so wonderful is that the author doesn’t underestimate the child reader one bit. My first reaction was that my son is fortunate to be reading Jerry Pinto at six. A treat for anyone who loves words.

Ghontu and Shontu

The formidable foursome - Ma, Dida, Phool Dida and Raja Dida – get hapless young Ghontu and Shontu Mama to "see" a girl. There are five rules to be followed – Touch everyone’s feet, Speak only when you are spoken to... What happens four rasogollas, fourteen sandeshes, seven samosas and three banana fritters later?

This is one rollicking story. The fun is in the descriptions; love the way Sayoni Basu makes the characters and scenes come alive.

Friday, April 04, 2014

5 Carrot-themed Picture Books for International Carrot Day

Carrot sticks. Carrot discs. Crinkle-cut Carrot oblongs.
Carrot with nut butter. Carrot with ranch dip. Carrot with red pepper hummus.
Carrot Bran Muffin. Carrot Saffron Rice. Grated Carrot Salad.
Carrot pickle. Carrot purée. Carrot any-and-every-which way.

Feels like every other day is Carrot Day in our house.

So, when I came across International Carrot DayI dismissed it as another gimmick last year, their 10th anniversary.

This year, knowing that carrot is much-loved and much-consumed at home, I reconsidered and decided to make it a celebration of not just the Vitamin-A-and-beta-carotene-packed tapered natural orange delicacy, but also of books.
Carrot-themed Picture Books.

Among the eight or so carrot-based picture books we found at our library, these five resonated with us enough to share here, in no particular order.

for International Carrot Day 5 carrot themed picture books for childrenThe Carrot Seed
(60th Anniversary Edition)
by Ruth Krauss
illustrated by Johnson Crockett

The fact that this book is still in print attests to its timelessness and charm. A little boy plants carrot seeds.

Despite hearing that nothing might come out it, the boy waits patiently and hopes for the best. He is finally rewarded.

A gentle yet simple story sure to inspire young gardeners.

[image source: Multnomah County Library]

The Giant Carrot
5 carrot themed picture books for children for International Carrot Day
by Jan Peck
illustrated by Barry Root

A variation of the Russian folktale, The Giant Turnip, this delightful book celebrates teamwork in gardening and enjoying the rewards of the soil.

Papa Joe would love a tall glass of carrot juice; Mama Bess would rather have carrot stew; Brother Abel prefers carrot relish...

As each member contributes to the planting and care of the seed to watch it grow, the repetition and progression of the tale makes for a gratifying read. And when we see Little Isabelle dance when she notices the carrots begin "to shiver and shake and quiver and quake," we know that Nature has rewarded their collective effort. Hugely.

Plus, we get the recipe for Little Isabelle's Carrot Pudding. Illustrations are gorgeous, the narration flows smoothly, and the text is peppered with folksy dialect.

[Activity sheet at]
[image source: Multnomah County Library]

Carrot Soup
5 carrot themed picture books for children for International Carrot Dayby John Segal

Rabbit's favorite dish is Carrot Soup. He plants carrots, tends to the garden and waits patiently for the harvest time so he can make is favorite carrot soup.

But come harvest time, the carrots have disappeared. He asks his friends and neighbors if they've seen his carrots and all of them uniformly feign ignorance.

Of course, by this time, young readers are giggling and bursting as they can see the other animals with balloons and party hats and bucketfuls of carrots, behind Rabbit, out of his sight. It does make them wonder why the friends are lying, though.

Anyway, all's well that ends well. Rabbit goes back home, completely disappointed at not getting to make carrot soup, but finds that his friends have thrown him a Surprise! party.

The soft-hued watercolor illustrations are gorgeous (reminded me of Visitor For Bear). The book reminded the younger child of I Want My Hat Back.

Children love clever and entertaining stories with plenty of visual clues tucked in plain sight. They love being privy to facts that the main character in the book is not. They love to scream, "Look behind you, he's got your carrots!" This is a fantastic read aloud book.

[image source:]

The Very Big Carrot
for International Carrot Day 5 carrot themed picture books for childrenby Satoe Tone

Some books are such a  visual treat that a gentle and simple story line enhances the reading experience.

Six rabbits find a carrot and immediately try to think of the best way to use it. Make a boat and visit the fishes? A plane to fly off to far-off lands?

 The question format speculating what the rabbits can do with the carrot is perfect for children to imagine and come up with their own ideas for how best to use the carrot.

Imaging such possibilities as turning the very big carrot into the biggest house or the most beautiful garden makes the six rabbits very hungry and they decide the best way to use the very big carrot is to - eat it!

I could not turn the pages in a hurry, the illustrations are brilliant and each of the six rosy-cheeked rabbits have unique shape and personality that makes it a rich visual experience.

[EerdWorld post about the book]
[image source: Eerdman's Publishing]

Creepy Carrots!
by Aaron Reynolds
for International Carrot Day 5 carrot themed picture books for childrenillustrated by Peter Brown

As the title suggests, not for kids who are sensitive to spookiness. Having said that, I have to also mention that both the 8 and 6 year old found this book suspenseful yet funny, not at all scary.

Jasper (rabbit) loves carrots. He picks them whenever he wants. He doesn't think twice about munching on them. He grabs them and takes them as he pleases. Until one day, he senses someone watching him, following him. The creepy carrots are stalking him.

Jasper comes up with a plan to trap these creepy carrots, to stop them from hounding him at their will. But, does his plan work?

Spoiler Alert: Since I find it rather cruel when I am left with a cliffhanger when I can't get my hands on the book to find out how it ended, I don't want to do the same to others. So, what happens when Jasper builds a huge fence and a moat to boot to keep the creepy carrots from stalking him? Well, in the fun twist that is becoming the norm these days, the carrots rejoice knowing they have managed to keep Jasper out!

Artist Peter Brown shares in a video that the inspiration came from the Twilight Zone show. The illustrations perfectly complement the text - the mood and tone. And the text is just perfect for a flashlight-under-the-blanket fashion read-aloud.

[image source:]

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

International Children's Book Day 2014

ICBD 2014 - Imagine Nations Through Story

International Children’s Book Day (ICBD), an annual celebration since 1967, serves to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children’s books. Hosted by the non-profit organization, International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), the event is organized on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, April 2.

Seems like every day is a Children's Book Day for some of us. However, as the world gathers to celebrate the love of reading, and inspire children to share their stories, here are some ways to join in:

  • arrange with the teacher so children can share a favorite book with their friends at school
  • a small-scale book-exchange party where children can pick out a book they have outgrown, wrap it and bring it to the party; after a story-telling session, kids can pick out one of the other wrapped books to take home
  • make up a chain story with the children
  • make a book and read it together
  • visit Andersen Fairy Tales website and read one of his tales like Shoes of Fortune or Elfin Hill
  • listen to Me and My Cat read by Elijah Wood or No Mirrors in My Nana's House by Tia & Tamara Mowry, among others, at Story Online 
  • read favorites from yesteryears like A was an Apple Pie and The Square Book of Animals online
  • write to your favorite author/illsutrator to let them know how much joy their work has brought for you and your kids
Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Junior Kumbhakarna

Junior Kumbhakarna
by Arundhati Venkatesh
illustrations by Shreya Sen

Kumbhakarna was HUGE...
He ate as much food as 100 men... 

We've all heard this story from mythology and pictured this giant in our minds.

Of course, what he is most known for is his sleep. A deep, deep sleep. A sleep which is not easily disturbed by braying donkeys and lively drumbeat; nor trumpets nor elephants; not even the smell of delicious laddus.

His legendary deep slumber is oft-referenced to rebuke a reluctant riser, be it young or old. So, it is no wonder that our little Kukku enjoys listening to his story at bedtime. Again and again. Is it any wonder he starts to emulate his favorite person.

Our own ST contributor Arundhati's book Junior Kumbhakarna is amusing kids all over India. Shreya Sen is no stranger at ST  and her vivid illustrations laced with humor beautifully complement the story in this book.

We are delighted to have Arundhati and Shreya share some of their thoughts with us here at ST. So, grab a pot of chai and samosas, relax, and enjoy the extended conversation (via email) with the author and the illustrator of Junior Kumbhakarna.


Cheerful and sanguine Arundhati tells us about this delightful book and her journey into the children's books world.

ST: What sparked the imagination for this book?

I remember pestering my grandfather for stories every summer. The moment one ended, I would demand another. Most of these were stories from mythology. I’m sure many of us have such memories. Today, we have to make a conscious effort to introduce the epics to our children.

While there are excellent retellings for older children, there is nothing appropriate for the younger lot (under six years). Kumbhakarna is such a fascinating character; it is a hilarious tale with strong visual possibilities. I wanted to take off from there, but it had to be something readers could relate to. This was back in 2011. I turned it over in my mind, and six months later, wrote the book you've read. I felt children would enjoy it and parents would be able to identify with it too. Getting kids into bed and waking them up in time for school is such a struggle. I thought why not look at it through a different lens, with some humour? We might as well laugh about it together. It’s gratifying when readers (like this parent who is a picture book enthusiast) say it resonated with them.

ST: "Burped", "Stretched", "Yawned", "Slid", "Fled" - many action words are set in a different typeface. Was this your intention or is it something the editors felt would lend visual interest to the reader?

I wanted to tell the story through action and dialogue; I wanted it to be crisp. I was conscious of page turns when writing and I’d capitalised a few words in my manuscript. The typeface was a nice touch by the experts at Tulika. I was thrilled when the drawings came in; Shreya has brought so much joy to the book with her playful illustrations. My favourite bit is Mt. Laddu.

Thanks to the translators, parents and children can bond over the book in their mother tongue too. Apart from English, Junior Kumbhakarna is available in eight Indian languages.

ST: The transition from original Kumbhakarna to our Kukku being woken up to get ready for school is seamless. Were there any alternate endings you toyed with for this story? 

There weren't any alternate endings. Once I'd written it, I was quite pleased with the last line.

ST: Tell us about your journey into the children's book writing world.

I studied Electronics & Communication and worked in Information Technology for several years before stumbling into the magical world of children’s books. Writing children’s books is what I love doing. Both picture books and chapter books. The next one is a chapter book for young readers – ‘Petu Pumpkin: Tiffin Thief’.

ST: What are some of your your favorite picture books? What draws you to them?

Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and One Smart Fish by Chris Wormell. The ideas are ingenious yet simple.

I find myself gravitating towards books that are tightly written with plenty of wit and humour thrown in. With picture books, brevity is important. Young children have short attention spans. And picture books have to be read aloud by parents again and again and again! Picture books can look deceptively easy, but it is extremely difficult to convey what you've set out to in a few hundred words. Jon Klassen manages to do it remarkably well.

ST: Many of us have favorite children's writers, writers whose immense talent leaves us in awe. Who are some of your favorite picture book writers?

There are so many! Julia Donaldson, Shel Silverstein, Crockett Johnson, Oliver Jeffers, Emily Gravett, Leo Lionni, David Wiesner, and of course, Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss. Barring Julia Donaldson, the rest of the names on that list are author-illustrators. Among Indian picture book writers, Anushka Ravishankar, Shobha Viswanath, Nandini Nayar.


Bubbly and full of joie de vivre, Shreya Sen shares some of her inspirations in her journey into children's picture book illustrations.

ST: Please tell us about your journey into children's book illustration.

My mother has been a huge inspiration and pivotal point for books in my life. I grew up in a tiny place in Northeastern India. My childhood memories are those of my mother taking me to the book fairs. She would buy me CBT books and Russian picture books. The visuals of those books are still fresh in my mind.

As a kid, I would read Enid Blyton books and if a character wore some interesting dress, I would pester my mom and my grandmother to stitch something like that for me.

 After Enid Blyton it was discovering Roald Dahl books in my school library.  My friend and I would spend hours discussing what Roald Dahl wrote about the witches and how to identify them. Did you know that witches have fire in their eyes and have blue spit! More than anything else I loved Quentin Blake’s illustrations.

In third year of college we had to go for a six week internship. I applied to Tulika Publishers and was happy to have joined them. And here I am.

ST: What inspires you to create? Who are your inspirations in the illustration world?

What inspires me to create?  I would say everything!  Everything, that happens in my life. Getting late for work, fights with friends, my father's birthday, a new crush on a guy, deja vu, funny catch phrases, puns in random conversations...

For me definitely art is a medium to express what I am feeling. Many times it could be something that I can’t actually do! I draw myself doing that. For instance sitting under an orange cloud which shoots out orange juice. Art has been a way of escaping from reality at times.

 Also, travelling by bus is very calming and rejuvenating for me, plus I get to see interesting characters on the way. During my spare time I try to draw them out or make little comic strips about them. I have also started collecting bus tickets. I have a huge collection now. I have been sticking it in my sketch book. Would love to share them soon!

Who are my inspirations? Quentin Blake for one. The way he drew Matilda, Trunch bull, The Big Friendly Giant ... he brought all the characters alive with minimal drawing. There lies a soul in his work.

Things took a turn in my life when I began brimming with stories. I made up stories of insects that got drowned in watermelon juice. Chickens that had chicks, ABCDEFGH became characters.  That is when I started making a lot of comic strips.

I don’t have any one inspiration in my life but I have taken little things from everyone around me. There is something good about each and every illustrator. Let me take this opportunity to name some people whose work I have really looked up to- Anish Daolagupu, Lavanya Naidu, Priya Kuriyan , Kavitha Arvind, Navleen Kohli, Junuka Deshpande, Sekhar Mukherjee, Manasi Parikh and many more.

ST: What were your first thoughts when you read Junior Kumbhakarna, in terms of illustration possibilities? And how did you settle on what we see in the book?

Honestly speaking I was very scared when I got the script for  'Junior Kumbhakarna‘ from Tulika! I was scared because I have never done mythology before.

But, in due course of time things changed.  I realized that mythology does not always have to be what we have seen or heard growing up. We can tweak it and make it ours.

I took some time to get used to Kumbhakarna and realized that in the last year I have been behaving like Kumbhakarna - sleeping and being lazy. From there, it was a short step to creating the images to bring the story alive.

ST: What are your own artistic interests - projects that you'd much rather be doing if you could choose to do anything you want?

This list is ever growing and ever changing. I would like to do so many many things if given a chance.

I want to teach art to kids for 6 months and paint a wall for them.
I have also been trying to animate a favourite song of mine along with a friend.
I want to work under an architect one day.
I want to paint more. Illustrate many children's books because that is my first love.
I have always wanted to make a documentary film on Banaras, travelling in second class trains and drinking chai

ST: What are some of your favorite picture books?

My favourite picture books have been.. Hmmm I don’t know if I have any favourites! Many that I've enjoyed were from second-hand book stores in Pondicherry and Sunday Market in Ahmedabad. They were random authors and illustrators but what I liked was the way they coloured and painted each book. I don’t even know who they are. I think one of my all time favourites has been Swimmy by Leo Lionni. Also, The Giving Tree and Very Hungry Caterpillar.

[book cover image source:]
[photo coutsey Arthem Sagadat]

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wool Gathering

Wool Gathering

A Sheep Family Reunion
by Lisa Wheeler
illustrations by Frank Ansley

Ms.Wheeler is an inspiration. Perfect verses and delightful themes make her books ideal for repeat reads - not just for kids, but for kids-at-heart like me who linger just that extra few seconds to appreciate the beauty and explain it to the kids when they'd much rather keep on reading. 

Every family has their set of quirky members, from oddball to adorable. And the Sheep family is no exception. 

The book is a collection of poems, often funny and always clever, introducing us to the various members from sweet spring "Lambie Kins" to "Sister Alabaster" a Kung-Fu master (not to mention Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Judo); from odd Cousin Ephram (who wears sauerkraut instead of fur, don't ask) to Dear Hiram whose horns kept growing and growing.

Witty wordplay and catchy format, not to mention utterly silly things, make for a rollicking fun read. The very young might not get all the subtleties in the poems but will surely giggle at the bright and brilliant art by Mr. Ansley. The cheerful illustrations perfectly complement the poems.

"Aunt Ewegenia" who always makes ewesful things was an instant hit with the 5 year old as he immediately commented that it reminded him of "Pterosaurs" by Douglas Florian in the Dinothesaurs collection, another brilliant book. [Has Mr.Florian ever written&illustrated a non-brilliant book?!]

Many poems are silly and light and short, with a comfortable lilt that attracts the young.


Itchy is a little lamb 
His fleece is white as rice 
You wonder how he got his name? 
Just ask his fleas and lice!

All in all, a perfect book for enjoying poetry at home via brilliant picture books.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Happy 110th, Dr. Seuss!

We at Saffron Tree love Dr.Seuss, and therefore never miss a chance to celebrate him. Here's to his 110th!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

This post is from guest reviewer, Bubble Ink : A not-so-avid reader turned into a children's book enthusiast who in her day job works in the IT sector, in her night job, dreams and in the time between reads to her 2 year old.

Reading aloud to children is magic unfolding; for some, it is transportation to a different fantasy world, while for some, it is therapy. All in all, it is joy, and this joy gets better when you get to pass on to your little ones, something that you yourself read and enjoyed as a child. Dr Seuss books are one such. We want to do our bit by passing on your books to the next generation by reading them aloud to our children.

There is great inspiration in books like Oh! The place you'll go. A lovely read.

“Step with care and great tact. And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)

His debut board book My Many Colored Days, is sheer genius. With watercolor illustrations and rhyming sentences, he speaks to the many moods of toddlers, while introducing colors. It is no ordinary board book.

"A person's a person no matter how small" There is something for every toddler in his books, take him/her to Suessville and there is no looking back. Giggling, cuddling, prancing, teaching, practising reading and inspiring - you can do it all with Dr Seuss and your toddler.

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."

He himself rightly said, "Adults are just outdated children". Reading Dr Seuss is sure to take you on a nostalgic trip if you had read him as a child or if you didn't, you are sure to enjoy it even now. One never outgrows a Dr.Seuss book. The illustrations bring a smile to you, the witty stories remind you to revel in silliness, the rhymes enchant you and his quotes touch your hearts.
“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”

(img source:

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Dr.Seuss: You One-of-a-kind, No-one-like-you You!

tribute to dr.seuss

With The Tooth Book gripped in her sole baby tooth,
and The Foot Book squashed under a toddler foot,
she waddled on over to Hop on Pop 
who was juggling One Apple Up On Top.

When Pop asked, Mr.Brown Can Moo Can You?
She wondered, Can I swim in McElligott's Pool?
Would I really love to eat Green Eggs and Ham?
And, where is the silly old mister Fox in Socks?

The Lorax, Yertle the Turtle and Cat in the Hat
became her best friends, as she thought to herself,
how wonderful it would be If I ran the zoo 
and what fun it would be If I ran the circus too!

Oh the places you'll go! Pop exclaimed, when she complained:
I had Trouble in getting to Solla Sellew.
Oh the things you can think, Pop applauded, when she said:
I wish that I had duck feet, Would you rather be a bullfrog?

Mastering Dr.Seuss's ABC
Going On beyond zebra with her own alphabet
Chanting One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish
Singing Happy birthday to you... 

One-of-a-kind, No-one-like-you You!

Thank you, Dr.Seuss, for bringing so much joy to us all through your books!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Minu and her Hair

Minu and her Hair
Written and Illustrated by : Gayathri Bashi
Tulika Books
Age 3+

“Why me?” Do you recall the number of times you’ve said that, when faced with a seemingly impossible hurdle?    Especially when that hurdle was some inconvenient physical trait that you could do nothing about, but that set you apart from the rest of your family?

The eponymous Minu’s hurdle is particularly worrisome  – her  hair. And what hair it is -not just untidy, or disheveled but positively wild! For in a family of neat-haired (and neatly hairless) folk, Minu’s  mass of swirling curls seems almost rebellious.  It defies taming, confounds her family’s attempts with comb, scissors and oil, treats gravity with disdain, takes on the strangest of shapes and manages to  drive our poor little heroine utterly crazy.  “Why me?” she whines… until her grandfather opens her eyes to how special her hair really  is.  

In Minu.. author and illustrator Gayathri Bashi gives us a sweet, simple tale about embracing the  little quirks that set one apart, and the powers of the imagination in revisiting one's problems. For Minu's grandfather doesn't underplay the chaos that is her hair - he shows her why it is a blessing.

I liked the economy and whimsy of the illustrations , and the inventive use of mixed media collage (spare art, embellished with about a ton of black thread!) that turns Minu’s hair into a tactile, three dimensional  creature that had me rubbing my hands over each page.  And rather fittingly for a book about changing one’s  perspective, Minu.. make some clever use of it as well  - I particularly liked the spreads where a furious Minu seems to dwarf her hapless parents,  and the lovely, worldess page where she and her  grandfather (and, it must be said, her hair)  share a quiet moment together. 

 On a personal note, the book struck a chord with me – I am as wild haired as they come, and my childhood is peppered with many a misadventure involving scissors and combs. And it wasn’t just the hair, was it – there was the chubbiness, and the shortness and the two left feet… an endless list.  As a parent, I see a new generation struggling with all the same issues, made worse by the effect of media and its obsession with unrealistic standards for beauty and success. Minu and her head of hair would make a good starting point to talk to young readers about body image issues and the importance of accepting oneself .

Thanks to Tulika Books for a review copy of the book.

Image courtesy: Tulika Books

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Mostly Madly Mayil

Authors-Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran
Illustrator- Niveditha Subramaniam
Publisher- Tulika
Ages- 11 plus

We got introduced to Mayil in 2011. 

Every reader must have wondered what would happen next?

Would Mayil remain the spirited, honest, outspoken and lovably fearsome girl?

God forbid, would she turn into an awkward and shy teen?

2013 end and Mayil is back. 
Madder and Bolder, at times unreasonable too. But overall sensitive and lovable.

Mayil , now 13 years old, continues to pour her heart out into her diary/ journal.
An aspiring writer, she stands up for Thamarai, her brother, unless she is the one fighting him.
She adores her grandpa but not his taste in friends or a particular friend.
She swings between love and disdain for her mom.
And is mostly embarrassed by what the elders do and say.

She continues to have opinions on a lot of things- from boys to bras , from caste system manifesting in Harry Potter to body piercings. In all this, she also manages to go to school, enjoy parties, create facebook ids, edit her school magazine and study.

This book will also have you empathize with Mayil, you will laugh a lot. Some of the passages may leave you uncomfortable - but you are reading a teen's diary and she lives in today's reality.

The content though sensitive in parts is well timed for the recommended reader age of 11 plus. parents will hopefully have had chats on periods, CSA and sex with their children) The illustrations are witty and giggle inducing - look out for Mayilstone and Pea & Pete.

To quote my earlier review -
Mayil will remind adult readers of their childhood.
She will be a reassuring comrade to the child reader.
I personally felt with Thamarai ( Mayil's brother) also writing a diary, we could soon have another gem from this talented duo of Sowmya and Niveditha.


Some anecdotes from the authors:
Something we've both been quite kicked about is how boys have responded to Mayil. At one of our first sessions with the first book in Sishya Chennai, we had more boys queuing up to buy it and yesterday evening, BLPS (Book Lover's Program for Schools) dropped in at the office and said that they used Book 1 in a boys school in Madipakkam and the response was overwhelmingly positive! 

At Junior Writer's Bug, there was one boy who came up to me and asked in a disbelieving voice if I'd indeed written the book...apparently, he'd read Mayil Book 1 and loved it. In his words, 'That was a real good one!'. He couldn't believe that he'd met one of the authors :)

At Bookaroo Pune, we had a group of girls from a Muslim school who had come with their teachers. Though they were laughing and responding with their facial expressions to the discussions in progress (for example, what should an ideal hero/heroine look like, what sort of boy or girl does the whole school develop a crush on etc), they didn't speak much. One girl blurted out that this was because their teachers were sitting at the back and they were afraid of getting into trouble later! The teachers, however, were enjoying the session too and one of them came and personally thanked us for the lively session. The girls also spoke to us after the event and said they could really relate to Mayil.

This 13 year old liked the book so much, she not only did a review but drew her own cover and more!

We're very happy it resonates with different audiences.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Endangered Animals of India

Written by Praba Ram & Meera Sriram
Illustrated by Lavanya Karthik
Published by DC Books- Mango

"Threatened in their own home" reads the sub- title. It is indeed saddening that there is need for such a book-  that nature's beautiful creations do not feel secure in their own homes.

Authors Praba and Meera have put together fascinating and unnerving facts about ten endangered animals in this book- a wake up call to  readers of all ages, everywhere.

From Near Threatened to Critically Endangered, which are some of these animals in India? Where are they? Why are they vanishing? And what can we do about it?

Journeying across India- from the snowy slopes of the Himalayas to the deeps of the Indian ocean , from the Sundarbans to the the deserts of India, the book tracks these animals highlighting their quirks and their habits.

This book will certainly help children and adults empathize with the plight of the many diverse wild animals of India – from Snow Leopards to Red Pandas, Fishing Cats to Gharials.

The text is easy to follow and there are crisp ready reckoners on each animal which you can go through if you are short on time or patience or just in need of a refresher.

The illustrations are fabulous in detail and look very life like. It is interesting how illustrator Lavanya Karthik adapts the style of her work to suit the theme and spirit of the book.

Every school and animal lover needs to read this book. And if I have learnt something from this book, every lover of life too, since we all have a role to play in a balanced eco-system!

The book was recently featured on Mango's blog as one of the best-sellers of 2013.

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