Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Three Green Books

Every day is Earth day if you ask me, but the formal occasion did serve as a reminder for us to revisit some old favourites.  Books on nature and nurturing nature-

image source Candlewick Press
The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone
By Timothy Basil Ering
Candlewick Press
Ages 4-7

Dark pages with text scrawled over, wacky illustrations, a boy with tons of attitude and a “monster” that he creates… Browsing through this book, I knew there were two possibilities – it would either be rejected outright on the grounds that it was scary, or it would be a big hit. I decided to take a chance. The book was being sold at a third of the marked price at the Strand book sale, after all. My gamble paid off. What I did not anticipate was the magnitude of the book’s success with the then five year-old.

The mock-scariness of the book gives it a special appeal. The fun quotient easily overrides the fear factor. Books with a message don’t have to be remotely preachy; they can even be highly entertaining. Timothy Basil Ering, illustrator of the Newbery award winning ‘The Tale of Despereaux’, shows us how in ‘The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone’.

In dull and grey Cementland lives a boy with “a singular wish” to find a treasure. Searching through piles of junk, all he finds is… well, junk. Just when he is about to give up, he finds a box with “wondrous riches”. Following the instructions, he puts the tiny “specks” into the earth. But nothing happens. The next day, when he finds the wondrous riches dug up by thieves, he comes up with a plan to protect the treasure. With smelly socks, used underwear and scraggly wires from the junk pile, he conjures a scarecrow-like creature that he calls Frog Belly Rat Bone. FBRB does more than just protect the treasure; he shows the boy what to do with the wondrous riches –
“One, two, three…
You must be patient
And then you will see!”

Want to know what happens in Cementland? One, two, three…  Read the book and you will see!

This book’s a keeper. Amusing words, an engaging story, quirky illustrations… very refreshing with none of the cuteness usually associated with kids’ books. The one drawback is that the dark font on dark pages can be a strain on the eyes. But it’s only a couple of pages that are hard to read, and even those are not bad in broad daylight. Otherwise, the book’s a treasure, full of wondrous riches!

Giving Thanks
image source Candlewick Press

By Jonathan London
Paintings by Gregory Manchess
Candlewick Press
Ages 3-7

A young boy tells us about something he has learnt from his father, who in turn has picked it up from his Indian (Native American) friends – That things of nature are a gift and in return, we must give something back. We must give thanks. The father-son duo walk along a creek, past trees, through the woods, till the hills, thanking quails and hawks, deer and foxes, the sun and the moon.

The lyrical prose and gentle oil paintings have the same soothing effect that nature does. A wonderful way to wind down at the end of the day – both the book, and the habit of expressing gratitude for one’s blessings.

Since we were on a roll, we went on to read some non-fiction - Katha’s ‘The Magical Web bridge’, ‘Walk the Rainforest with Niwupah’ and ‘Earth Song’ (featured earlier here and here) and 'The Coral Tree' - an interesting concept by Tulika.

The Coral Tree
image source Tulika Publishers

Text Mamata Pandya
Photographs Pankaj Gorana
Tulika Publishers
Ages 8+

Visitors to the coral tree include black drongos, tailorbirds, sunbirds, babblers, koels, parakeets, a dove, a rat snake, langurs, cats, bats, and the gardener! Lilting text and photographs take us through the day, and tidbits satisfy the curious reader seeking to know more. The book has a set of questions to help make a tree diary.

This is a book to sit outside in the balcony with (or garden, if you have one). We may not have a coral tree outside our window, but we do have the good old Gulmohar that is bursting with colour right now. We are making our own tree diary. Are you?


Subhashini said...

Hey,we picked up the first book at Strand too. Haven't read it to the kid yet because I was not sure how he would take it. But now after your review I think I can go ahead without doubts.

Coral Tree and the Katha series are also at home, waiting to be read once the kid turns a bit older.

Arundhati said...

Happy reading! :)

Choxbox said...

Wonderful picks Arundhati.

Arundhati said...

Thanks, Chox.

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