Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Poems, rhymes and more

The many sights, sounds and smells of changing seasons can be uniquely inspiring. They never fail to evoke in me feelings of wonder and awe for the unassuming manner in which nature works in rhythmic cycles. With spring around the corner here, the world around me seethes with expectations and the prospect of new life.

My fondest springtime memory in the US I recall is seeing daffodils for the first time(which of course a friend had pointed out to me during a long walk). The golden yellow beauties instantly reminded me of the poem Daffodils by William Wordsworth, I had read growing up in India.

With no clue whatsoever about how daffodils looked like until that point, it certainly was a joyful moment to gaze upon the sunny stems and get a little sentimental about the poem, alongside. Sure enough, each spring these pretty yellow flowers never fail to lift up my spirit.

Poetry came into my life well past my childhood years. Whether it was in the form of many centuries old, didactic verses in Tamil or as the unable-to-relate-to countryside scenes and sights in English poetry, I recall dreading the heavy-handed manner in which poetry was offered in the curriculum, during the middle and high school years.

Poetry can be deeply personal, and can touch and move different people in different ways. Offering this powerful form of expression early on to children in a fun and not dreary or heavy way can open their minds for more complex, peel-the-layers kind of ideas and feelings in poetry for the later years.

Letting children discover poetry and rhymes in the early childhood years need not necessarily be done through rigid memorization or recitation. Simple tales set in verses and rhyming text can be equally fun for little ones.

I was curious to find out from members of the Saffron Tree family contemporary books set in verses/rhymes/poetry collections that their children had enjoyed listening to, or any poets/poems they themselves were inspired by growing up. I also wanted to learn about modern day poets writing for children in India in English or in any other Indian language, while sharing a bit about modern poets writing for children here in the US. I thought this would be a fun sequel to the list of Dr.Seuss' books we offered earlier this month, a continuation of the tribute to the clever crafter, master of nonsense verses in modern children's literature.

In part 1 of our poetry series, we have four of our contributors in India who have shared with us some very interesting picks in poetry and tales set in verse and rhymes.

1) Vibha Sharma's picks:

World's Funniest Book of Poems by Sam Jam.

We haven't read many books on poetry but this book held my attention mainly because of the challenge given by Sam on the back cover of the book - 'Read without Smiling'. I picked it up.

I could see a little bit of nonsensical Roald Dahl-kind flavour in his poems. A few poems are really clever and hilarious. The ones that we liked the most are:

Template of a Perfect Day - where the words are actually substituted by the different parts of speech. The fun is in decoding the grammatical code and enjoying it. We had a great time trying out different options in words.

Just to give you an idea -

'I went out verbal nouning
On the second day of the plural noun.

I bought a noun, a noun, and a pair of nouns.
The noun was adjective, the noun adjective
And the nouns were adjective but nice.'

The World's Pickiest Eater. Secret revealed by the one maintaining a perfect shape - literally counting every grain that is popped in the mouth - Four hundred and ninety seven Choco Pops for breakfast, six hundred grains of fried rice for lunch three hundred blobs of sago as dessert… and on and on he goes about the strict regimen that he follows.

Illustrations by Eamonu O'Boyle are wacky and interesting, go very well with the poems.

Raja Nang Dhadanga Hai (Pratham Book)
Author : Kamala Bakaya
Illustrator : Audrey Kumar

I have /heard/read/told this story many times as a child and now as a parent while watching my children growing up but when I saw this story retold in verse, I had to pick it up. Read it to my children and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
A king who is befooled into wearing a dress which is visible only to 'people with brains' !!

2)Wordjunkie's picks

I’ve always loved nonsense verse, and read quite a lot of it to the Imp when she was younger. Apart from the humour, I think this is an excellent way to introduce a child to the sheer joys of language and the endless possibilities of playing around with words and phonetics.

Here are some old faithfuls, always good for a giggle and a rollicking bedtime read:

The poetry of Edward Lear, notably gems like ‘The Pobble Who has no Toes’, ‘The Mad Gardener’s Song’, and ‘The Quangle Wangle’s Hat’.

The poetry of Lewis Carroll, best exemplified by the verse in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass - especially my favourite,’ Jabberwocky’.

I discovered the poems of A. A. Milne as a schoolgirl, through the hilarious ‘The King’s Breakfast’, where a king is driven to tears over a simple pat of butter . I went on to discover – and love - such gems as ‘Disobedience”, about a silly woman who disobeys her infinitely wiser three year old, and ‘Buckingham Palace’ which stars his son Christopher Robin.

The poetry of Sukumar Ray. Now Ray wrote in Bengali, and I have only read –and been astounded by- his ‘Abol Tabol’ in translation (which, in turn, points to the brilliance of his translator, Sukanta Choudhary), but I think his genius remains unparalleled.

Older readers will love our other nightstand dependable – Vikram Seth’s ‘Beastly Tales from Here ad There’. A collection of retold fables ad folktales, as well as one original story, this is a terrific collection of poems revolving around animal protagonists.

Another poet I recommend for older readers is Edward Gorey. Gorey’s work tilts toward the macabre . That is to say, kids (and sometimes their parents) usually undergo all manner of unfortunate fates The all time classic, ‘The Gashlycrumb Tinies’, his best known work, is a good example - an alphabet primer about children and their , um, deaths …A for Amy who fell down the stairs, B for Basil assaulted by bears, C for Clara who wasted away..” need I go on? And yet, laugh-out-loud hilarious, and combined with his lovely woodcut-style illustrations, a huge favourite at the Imp's.

3) Artnavy's picks

Our perennial favourites, Karadi Rhymes and any Dr Seuss book, have already been reviewed here.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is the next lively tale in rhyme that Anushka latched on to. Written by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault and illustrated by Lois Ehlert, this quirky, colorful, alphabet adventure is about foolhardy letters, who climb up a coconut tree!

" a told b, and b told c, I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree"

Ambitious and eager, the letters race up until the tree bends, the coconuts fall and the alphabets themselves tumble down. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. 'Older' capital letters come to help the wounded letters. The injuries are delightfully described and illustrated with aplomb- stub toed E and black eyed P and so on. The naughty end involving the alphabet A, leaves the reader in splits.

Anushka loves to whoop out- "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!" and other nonsense words such as " skit skat skoodle doo" with great fervor.

Ray Charles renders the book in the CD that accompanies this book. There are also number versions and the alphabet in reverse as part of the CD. If your child is learning phonics it may be wiser to only read aloud to her or have her listen to the CD. So make sure you "have enough room" for "Chicka Chicka boom Boom" in your library.

Orient BlackSwan's The Sun All Golden And Round, is a Kannada folk tale retold in English, in rhyme. Written by Jane Sahi and illustrated by Harriet Mayo, it is a cumulative tale about the cycles in nature.

"The sun is all golden and round, warming the rice in the fields around....."
Put together rice fields, clouds, rain, thunder, rice pounding, the sun and a grandma who is old but strong and works all day long. Guaranteed to be a hit with kids as it is with Anushka - they will clamor to finish the lines and find it easy to dramatize as well.

The thing with rhymes and tales in verse is that they are delightful and easy for kids to recall and recite. When children complete a line with the apt word it provides them a sense of accomplishment and it is also easier for them when they begin reading by themselves.And while on poetry, I cannot resist naming some of our other favorites, the first part of another Kannada tale The Never Ending Story, the endearing Malu Bhalu and the educative Look, the moon- all from Tulika.

4) Choxbox's picks

We just had a friend over from the US and I handed over two audiobooks for his 4 year old - Karadi Rhymes Book 1 and Book 2. They are among my 'most reliable' items to gift, something that is bound to be a hit.

Growing up in blazing Hyderabad, I wondered why one should ask the rain to go away. Or what hot cross buns were and that they couldn't possibly beat mom's mind-blowing mirchi bhajjis. Some rhymes were positively dark too - Humpty Dumpty falls apart and we are supposed to chant it over and over! And if the bough breaks and the baby falls down, oh God, what will happen to the baby?!

Karadi Rhymes are gentle and make sense to a child living in India - they invite the rain, they talk about yummy mangoes and bhelpuri, tell you how to make onion sambar and describe the chaos on a typical Indian railway station. They celebrate the sari, the national craze that is cricket and the rich diversity of this country. There is a song that acknowledges the fact that even a child can have negative feelings like anger, despair and sadness and suggests how to help him/herself. You get more goodies - the accompanying book has delightful illustrations that are sure to catch even a reluctant reader's eye. Then there is the addictive music and the full-of-life voice of Usha Uthup.

A birthday party is coming up next weekend. See you at the bookshop then, by the Karadi Rhymes rack!
( On the same note an earlier review from 2007, written by Meera Sriram about Karadi Rhymes )


Sheela said...

Thanks, Praba - I nodded along as I read your piece - you put it so well. And, it was refreshing to see the diverse picks from fellow contributors.

Artnavy said...

such varied reccos!

karadi tales/beastly tales are wonderful.Need to check out the others

i find apple tree has some interesting regional songs in Tamil and Hindi though only in cd format

SoulSpace said...

i was planning to suggest a look at poetry for kids..and here you have done it...!!
Once the ball is rolling...there is no dearth is there?
will check out Anushka's...

Karadi rhymes is staple at my place...in fact, Jan 26th my daughter (all on her own), chose one of the songs from Karadi rhymes...the one about the children from different states (My name is madhavi)...and sang it on stage, along with a bunch of kids(which had my son)...doing a Puppet dance dressed as dolls from different states...
hehe..just showing off...

but my point is ...these rhymes/poems are great and connects with our kids so well..isnt it?

I picked up a compilation of poems by Ruskin Bond...for my daughter..and myself...and one of her holiday tasks is to choose her fav.poems and illustrate it...

love this bonding over words ...yeah!

Karadi Tales said...

Thanks for this, ChoxBox. :-) We're humbled by your thoughts on Karadi Rhymes!

sandhya said...

Great compilation. I have immediately noted a few-Beastly tales, Edward Gorey- for future shopping expeditions.

sandhya said...

If I could add my personal favourite to your list-- Alot of Dr. Seuss' books read in rhyme and make for wonderful reading.

Praba Ram said...

Thank to Chox, Vibha, Art & Wordjunkie for the lovely recommendations. It was fun putting together this list.

And thank you, Sheela. :)

As always, great seeing you Sandhya & SS and thanks for cheering us! We love hearing your thoughts and neat recommendations. Thanks for taking the time.

And @SS - lovely hearing about the karadi inspired performance by your children. I would love to hear more about that Ruskin Bond poetry collection. Please pass on. We LOVE Ruskin over here! :)

sathish said...

praba, nice write up at the beginning. Could relate to it. And great set of reco.

Good Muslim Girl said...

First time on this site and I love it. My girls read book like they are going out of style.

Thanks for being a great resource!

Praba Ram said...

Karadi, thanks for stopping by.

Thank you, Sathish & GMG! :)

Playing by the book said...

Wow so many goodies here - it's like being a little kid in a sweet shop!

Choxbox said...

@Wj: Found Beastly Takes today and is as you described, thanks!

@Karadi Tales: Can never say enough good things about that product!

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