Monday, October 30, 2006

The Closet Ghosts by Uma Krishnaswami. Illustrated by Shiraaz Bhabha

Here's a spooky pick for halloween! Have a "boo"tiful one!

The book, The Closet Ghosts, is a brand new addition to my preschooler's library for this year's halloween.

Here's why I ended up picking this title for my daughter:

1) During the 3-4 yrs of my daughter's preschool stages, we read a lot of animal stories, simple folk and fairy tales from India and the US. Of late, I have been trying to slowly transition her into picture books with stories depicting little children in it. I got her a few titles from India, which worked well. However, I was keen finding a picture book with a simple story with characters that she can relate to - mainly a cross-cultural picture book depicting a simple day-to-day story or an event in an Indian American family! My search led me to Uma Krishnaswami's The Closet Ghosts.

2) Secondly, the title seemed to fit perfectly with my daughter's recent obsessions with all things spooky and scary - bats, owls, ghosts, and snake. And with October being the halloween month, this was a perfect little gift for her to get into the spirit of the season.

Here are a few snippets of the story:

The Closet Ghosts tells a delightful story of a little girl named Anu who is anxious about having to adjust to a new home and a new school. She misses her old friend, Mira, and her new classmates do not seem friendly at all. All these anxieties lead her to imagine that there are ghosts in the closets of her new home waiting to scare her. Not just ghosts, but she also imagines Hanuman, the monkey god, has appeared in her room so she can talk about her fears, friends, and get help in chasing the ghosts out of her closet.

Anu, with Hanuman by her side, experiments a couple of different ideas to chase the imaginary ghosts out of the closet - one of which one fails, but boy, the other one does indeed work. The story ends with a fun little twist. The author has done a wonderful job keeping the text simple, and the text flows beautifully - not to miss the ghostly songs in Hindi, which add to the playfulness of the story. Shiraaz Bhabha's illustrations are vivid and colorful, and her attention to details is awe-inspiring - particularly Anu missing a few teeth - a pointer to her age, her ear rings, and the cover page with a picture of winking Anu - all playful and fun! It clearly shows how synchronized a team the author and the illustrator must have been working together!

The book helped me talk to my daughter about Anu's emotional issues such as sleeping alone, moving to a new house, etc. I am really thankful to the author for creating Anu because personally, I felt like I had gotten a new voice through Anu that I could use to talk to my daughter! I also extended the discussion further, and asked her, if she were Anu, what would she have done differently in order to chase the ghosts away from the closet, and it was fun to hear her answers - although similar to the ones in the story - not much you can expect from a 4 yr old - she told me she would have asked riddles, played tambourine, played hide and seek etc... It was really interesting to me that this was actually the first time I felt comfortable using a story's character to discuss further....wonder why I couldn't do it so long - may be because I thought my daughter was too young for questions like these?? Even with all the animal books that we have read so far, I have never asked her - if you were the tortoise in the story, what would you have done? Or does it underscore the need for more and more cross cultural books for mothers like me??


Priya said...

Hi Prabha, I remeber you from your comments as 'desimom' on other bloggers pages. Wonderful to see your own blog. Love your theme on books. I was a HUGE fan of Enid Blyton books when I was kid...I shud say still am...its one of my lil crazy dreams to own a complete collection of her books !! Now I guess your blog is going to add a few more to that library :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Prabha, Came in thru your comment on my post. I must say I love your idea of exposing our kids to our culture, traditions and stories through books(esp the ones that are being brought up outside India). I have been reading to my daughter since she was about 4-5 months old (she is 1 1/2 now) and i can proudly say she loves her books and relates the pictures in the books to things around her. infact she opens up magazines and store coupon pages and identifies objects. I have seen kids her age or even older that have not been taught to read. They tend to tear up books and pages. So, keep up the good work and I am definitely going to be a regular visitor to your blog. I would love to see your recomendations for babies and toddlers as well.

Praba Ram said...

thanks guys for your comments.
There's a certain child like enthusiasm that I feel doing this blog about children's books! It's like I am looking at the world starting from scratch through the lens of my daughter's books now!
:-)Keep visiting, and I hope to be able provide you with interesting titles!

I have to say I love all your food blogs!! HUGE fan! You guys have given cooking a whole new meaning!

FH said...

Hi beautiful desimom! you are doing a good job with your daughter. I have two , a tween and a teen!:)) I brought them up with Amar Chitra Comics.All you can do is to give them a foundation of our traditions and roots,then they will choose their own path in life.
Great job:))

Latha said...

Hi Prabha,
Thank you for your kind comment on my blog.
You have a lovely blog. I love reading. I am mostly into intense fiction - authors like Dan brown, David Baldacci, Jeffrey Archer etc. etc. I like variety and would'nt mind picking up a book just to find out what the author's style is.
Among the Indian authors - I really enjoyed Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Arundhati Roy and couple other names that dont come to mind now.
I am trying to get my kids to read good books. They love to read. For the most part, they like books on Dora, Arthur, Dr. Seuss books and all the fairy tales. I will definitely visit your blog and take pointers on some reading material.
Thanks for your updates.

TNL said...

Great blog you have here Prabha! I too have 2 small boys. Reading to the kids is probably one of the best things a parent can do to help their children. Thank you~ I'll be dropping by frequently!


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