Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Friendship Books at Saffron Tree

Periodically, I ask my kids, "What do friends like to do?", "Who is your friend?", "How can you be a friend?", "What does friendship mean to you?"

I get different answers each time.

I ask myself the same questions and have found my answers evolving over time.

As Fred Rogers of Mr.Rogers' Neighborhood said, "When people like each other and like to do things together, they're friends." Of course, friends don't have to do things together all the time, and they don't have to like the same things. "Good friends can make each other laugh or smile; try to make each other feel better."

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I asked our Saffron Tree family to share their favorite books on friends and friendship. Here they are!

Sandhya's picks:

Winnie the Pooh / The House at Pooh Corner
Written by A. A. Milne
Illustrated by E. H. Shepard
 Published by Puffin / Dutton books
 Ages: 4+

 When I asked A to recommend the first book that came to her mind about friends and friendship, she promptly said- "Winnie-the-Pooh."

Contrary to the image of Pooh Bear, the Bear of Very Little Brain, as the fiefdom of very small children (no thanks to the Disney version of Pooh), Pooh belongs to everyone from 0-adulthood.

These stories are a labour of love- written by an indulgent father for his son Christopher Robin Milne, and featuring his collection of toys. I'm sure most parents would have at some point in time made up stories for their own children, with them featuring large in them.

As variegated a collection of friends as possible, staying in the wonderfully named Hundred-Acre-Wood. Muddleheaded Pooh with just one thing on his mind- food. A scaredy-cat Piglet, who can be the most courageous sometimes. A very Bouncy Tigger, who makes everyone want to 'unbounce' him at times. Rabbit, who can take his workaholic and irritating ways to limits, but has his heart in the right place. Wise Owl, (the only one who can spell, and who spells his own name as WOL) who everyone goes to when in need of some timely help. Kanga- affectionate, yet a stickler for discipline- the perfect mother figure. Grumpy Eeyore, who seems dry on the outside, but a softie inside. Roo- the littlest one of the lot, who gets into many scrapes with the irrepressible Tigger.

 Enjoy the gentle humour and wonderful characterisation in the books, there is no substitute.

 [image source: amazon.com]

Lord of the Flies
Written by William Golding
Published by Faber & Faber
Ages: 15+

A chillingly dystopian book, whose writer, William Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

Set during WW2, a plane carrying children evacuating to a safe place crashes on an unknown island. The pilot, the only adult, is killed. The children are left to fend for themselves. What begins as an adventure (reminding one eerily of the Enid Blyton adventures where only children feature) slowly but relentlessly descends into a primitive desire for power and survival.

None of the children, except those in a choir group, have ever met each other before. Unlikely friendships are forged; those seemingly most like each other ending up bitter enemies, not even stopping at murder. Again, a diverse group of characters, who bond and repel in the most unexpected ways. With echoes of the cat-eat-rat mentality seen in many of today's children. Friendships gone wrong. Survival of the fittest.

[Image courtesy: flipkart]

A few more lovely books reviewed here earlier on the subject:
On My Honor
Teddy Robinson Stories
Number the Stars (voted one of the top 10 friendship books for children aged 9-12)

Utbt shares:

Title: The Indispensable Calvin And Hobbes
Author: Bill Watterson
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Age: 12+

Having made this age recommendation, I have to say that my 7 year old is mad about this book. She has read the whole book from cover to cover, a minimum of 15 times in the past one year.

The first time she read it, she did not understand any of the jokes. But over a period of time, after many re-readings, she say, 'Oh! That's why this is funny!'. At times I wonder, if she does not understand the content, what keeps her going!

From a parent's perspective, I feel that the concept of imaginary friend and the gravity of content discussed makes more sense if read by a 12+ year old. I indulge her nevertheless, because there is nothing drastic in the content. Just a few 'morons' and 'sissies' here and there.

She comes back with questions like, 'Amma, Calvin tried hitting Susie with a snow ball and he missed. So he is okay, because he didn't actually hit her. Right?!'. After a few more readings, she says, 'Amma, though he did not hit her, he did think about hitting her and acted on it. The intention was there. So that is not right.'

Overall this book has been an interesting addition to our home library.

[image source: overstock.com]

Title: Horace and Morris But Mostly Delores
Author: James Howe
Illustrator: Amy Walrod
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Age: 6-9

Some where around 6 years of age the physical definition and expected behavior patterns of 'boy' and 'girl' gets defined in a child's mind. If not encouraged by the adults in the environment, pretty soon they start playing separately.

This book is a story of three mice. Horace and Morris are boys and are best friends with Delores, a girl. They boldly 'go where no mouse has gone before'. But suddenly they find them selves pressured to join same sex clubs. Pretty soon Horace and Morris get tired of the 'boys-only Mega-Mice club'. Delores on the other hand finds the Cheese Puffs club and their ways sickening. So they break protocol and decide to hang out with people who makes them happy as opposed to what is expected of them. Thus continues the adventures of the mice.

[image source: Simon & Schuster website]

Praba's pick:

Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
Author: Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, Paula Kahumbu
Photographer: Peter Greste
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Age group: Ages 4 to 8

Owen is a baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami in 2004 and Mzee, a giant, 130 year old tortoise. When heavy rains wash a family of hippos down the Sabaki river to the sea, one little hippo is seen stranded on a coral reef. And there, he struggles to stay alive. The locals, after an awfully long rescue operation, somehow manage to get the baby hippo out to safety. And the cheering crowd name him Owen after the volunteer who brought the hippo to the ground.

Owen immediately moves to a new home - an eco-sanctuary to protect wildlife. Exhausted and confused in his new abode, Owen reaches out to a 130 year old tortoise, Mzee, and quickly adopts him as his new friend. With the help of the tortoise, he slowly starts rebuilding his life. Though Mzee shows a little hesitation in the beginning, she gradually adopts him, exuding grace and love.

It is an amazing story that teaches love, respect and friendship - all dealt in a subtle way and where one least expects it. The book offers much material for discussion. Kenya-based photojournalist Peter Greste's photography aptly portray the drama of Owen's rescue and the warmth of the friendship between two unusual animals.

[image source: barnes and noble website]

Choxbox shares:

Vicky Angel
by Jacqueline Wilson
Ages: 8-12 years

Wilson, recently voted one of the most widely-read British children’s author, writes with intensity, she gets under the skin of her subject like few children’s writers do. So much that after I read Vicky Angel at bedtime, I could not sleep for a while, and I usually do not have issues of the sort. I would slot it to an older age group – perhaps age 12 onwards.

Here’s the story in short: Jade and Vicky are best friends – they have been inseparable ever since they started school more than ten years ago. Vicky is very popular and also the dominating party in the friendship. Jade is the submissive one who never does anything without Vicky’s consent and approval.

And then suddenly, Vicky meets with a fatal accident when the two are having a tiff. Jade blames herself and her love for her dead friend overwhelms her to the extreme. Till, Vicky turns up – as a ghost. She once again takes over Jade’s life.

What happens next? How does their bond of friendship continue even beyond death? Is Vicky really there or is it a mere fragment of Jade’s imagination? And finally, can Jade move on?

A powerful story of grieving after the loss of one’s best friend, one that led to us to talking about what friendships really ought to be. Jacqueline Wilson in her element.

[image source: shopping.com]

Beany and the Meany
Susan Wojciechowski
Ages: 6 and up

Third-grader Beany ends up with Kevin the class meany, for a science project. She lands in this predicament because her best friend Carol Ann decided to partner with the new girl in class.

Beany realises that Kevin is not as bad as he seems and they go on to ace the competition. By the end, she can count Kevin as a good friend, and Carol Ann is still her friend, as is the new girl. A lovely story that deals with the simple yet complex issues of friendships in a typical primary school scenario. It even packs in simple science lessons.

There are four more in the series, and have all been a massive hit with my 6-year old. So much that she takes them regularly to school to share them with her friends, and I was recently informed that they all even act out parts of it together!

(Special love today to Sandhya for introducing us to these books. Also to all my other SaffronTree pals for sharing their book love – here’s to you guys!)

[image source: amazon.com]

Vibha shares her favorites on friends and friendship reviewed at ST a while back:

Charlotte's Web
Flute in the Forest

My picks include:

Unlikely friendships appeal to me. 'Unlikely' is rather relative and quite subjective. In the most positive and generic sense of the word, when two polar opposite personalities come together and manage to establish a bond that stands the test of time, it is indeed heart-warming and reassuring.

Toot & Puddle books
by Holly Hobbie

Ages 3+

Holly Hobbie has created two endearing pigs in Toot & Puddle.

Puddle is a homebody who enjoys cooking and gardening, while Toot loves the outdoors and seeks out new adventures.

Opal, their cousin is a lovely little pig who makes an appearance on and off in the stories, plus takes center-stage in The One and Only, Charming Opal, The New Friend.

There are many Toot and Puddle books and quite a number of them have managed to amuse and entertain  the kids (and hopefully illustrate the finer points of friendship.)

As an adult reading the books, I liked the way their personalities show through Hobbie's elegant characterization. The first few books made me ponder on the sort of relationship Toot and Puddle have, the easy comfort with which they are present in each others' lives.

The stories are endearing and sweet and the illustrations are charming and humorous; the gorgeous watercolors are priceless. The half a dozen Toot & Puddle (& Opal) books on our bookshelf has given me many hours of joy just gazing at the exquisite and lively illustrations by a master at her craft. And many wonderful read-alouds with the kids.

Other such "unlikely" friendships that the kids have enjoyed at home, reviewed earlier at ST:

Pete & Pickles by Bekeley Breathed
Ivy+Bean by Annie Barrows

[image source: goodreads.com]

Artnavy's picks on friends and friendship shared here at ST earlier:

Year of the Rat
George and Martha: Complete Stories of Two best Friends
Amos & Boris
Mr.George Baker
Mountain that Loved Bird
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel


Choxbox said...

@S: Knew you were a Pooh fan, loved reading your review :)
Lord of the Flies sounds intriguing, shall pick it up some time.

@utbt: Lovely pick! Hi-five to the 7-year old for the observations!
Our entire C&H collection has been learnt by heart by certain small people here, manage to evoke giggles even when read for the 1000th time.
Also was going to reco Asterix as a pick for this post, those are massive hits too.
The James Howe book sounds interesting. Hunting it down right away.

@P: What a beautiful story! Where does one find this book?

@Sheels: Toot and Puddle is delish!

@Vibs: The 6-year old has just discovered E.B.White, deja vu for me :)

utbtkids said...

@Sheela: Thanks for doing this.
Toot and puddle would so go so well with my younger one.

@S: I remember what the princi of the previous school used to say. 'Pooh is a classic....tarnished by Disney'. So I get what you are saying :)

I have the original version too.

Lord of the flies is in my list. Was made in to a movie right?! One of my biggest fears - children might end up watching the movie versions before they read the book.

@Chox: Beanie sounds very interesting. Much need at our house to reinforce the boys and girls can be friends and good ones at that! Right now the older one has a few friends from the other team, but both the boy and the girl sweep it under the rug when they are in school with the other 'bully-cricket-boys' club and the 'cooking-girls' club. *rolling eyes*

@P: You are a nature lover aren't you?! I wouldn't expect anything lesser from the co-author of Dinaben :)

Praba Ram said...

"Unlikely friendships appeal to me" as well. Very well said. Owen and Mzee charmed our hearts. Wildly excited for this list!Thank you, Sheela.

@CHOX - Flipkart has it for 300 bucks I think. I did send a request to Hippo, Chennai - mentioning it's a terrific "friendship" story of a real hippo and the Tsunami. May be they have it already. :)

Praba Ram said...

Thanks, UTBT! Your comment made my morning! :)

Artnavy said...

Lovely post and compilation

Closer home I loved the friendship stories of Krishna-Sudama and Karna-Duryodhana when I was growing up

The latter with its shades of grey still appeals to me

These I think were the first ones I shared with Anushka

She of course rates the George and Martha (Hippo) series as the best one on friendship

Praba Ram said...

Sorry, one more comment.

@ Sandy - "disney, no thanks" - LOL!! :)) Well, I confess, our very very very first book purchase for the girls, was Bedtime with Pooh, disney stories from Costco - a week or so before K's birth. We spent the first year reading those and Goodnight Moon and one Lamaze cloth book. The book ends all chewed up and cover, completely tattered...preciousness preserved to date! :)

Quite sad that I don't have the "The Complete tales of Winnie-the-pooh!" do you have any other recos of A.A.Milne's classic? Thanks!!

Sheela said...

@Sandhya: Loved reading Pooh books to Ana last year, can't wait to read it to Og next year. You are right, the language style and story-telling is priceless. Things that are left unsaid make the story - like when Pooh and Piglet decide to build a house for Eeyore...

@P: We loved Owen & Mzee, the board book version was just perfect for the little one!

@Chox: Added Beany to the reading list

@utbt: Loved the questions your little girl asked about Calvin's intentions vs. actions :)

@Art: I love Krishna-Sudhama story too - was one of my favorite Amar Chithra Katha books; also, another (pen) friendship that stayed in my head about a Tamil poetess Kakkai Paadiniyar Nachellayar...

@Vibha: Charlotte's Web is a favorite at home - why does Charlotte takes it upon herself to save Wilbur is something Ana is still looking to understand...

Lovely collection, thank you all!

Devika P said...

Seriously an interesting collection of books by all. Thanks to all for taking this creative step.

little millennium

sandhya said...

Thanks, Choxbox, UTBT, Prabha, Art, Sheela, Devika. I suppose I am a purist as far as books go.:)

Sheela nailed the Pooh books in her comment with "Things that are left unsaid make the story - "

Lord of the Flies was first read by me as recommended reading at school in my 9th grade, and has been read and re-read many times since then. It is a classic, a must-read in my eyes for all teenagers.

@UTBT: Horace and Morris but mostly Delores sounds like just the book for A- "So they break protocol and decide to hang out with people who makes them happy as opposed to what is expected of them." - she would love it! Calvin and Hobbs is of course, a classic.

@Prabha:Owen and Mzee sounds wonderful.

@Choxbox: Vicky Angel sounds scary. Will have to check it out myself first-you know how A is! And Beany rocks!

@Sheela:You had me at your first para about unlikely friendships. Very true. Happens all the time, doesn't it?

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