Category Archives: Books

The year so far…

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… has been great!

  • Met up with a few friends from college after many many many years! And realised that we still are the ‘gang’ :D. It is nice to see that nothing has changed between us…
  • Managed to meet more friends on a trip to Mumbai
  • A very good friend is moving to Chennai – yay!
  • Made it to the book fair – twice in fact. The first visit was short where I seemed to naturally gravitate towards the Tulika stall, salivating and buying followed – inevitably!  The second visit, armed with a huge backpack and some more bags was the one where most of the buying happened… CBT was a pleasant discovery – some really nice books there. Tara, Pratham, Young Zubaan were missing. 
  • My fav pick this year – Complete volume of Ponniyin Selvan and Silappadikaram with Sujatha’s notes – both in Tamizh… 
  • Pattu’s Fav – Tulika’s Panchatantra (she goes ‘valavalavala’ – The talkative tortoise) and the globe from TTK. She now wants to go to Antartica and wants to know if even her susu will become ice in Antartica!! Of all things she would like to experiment!
We checked out the Sanga kala unavu at Rassa, the restaurant at Krishna Sweets. I was reluctant since the Krishna Sweets Ghee puts me off. But then, I was in for a pleasant surprise – the spread was very interesting starting with ‘soma baanam’ (translation: Nectar of Gods) made out of panai vellam (palm sugar) and raagi-thandu vadai to a few familiar recipes with an interesting twist. Worth a try!
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I’m a Proud Owner of…

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...a Quentin Blake book!!! Finally!!!

                                              British Council had a sale and I rushed in time to pick up the only QB on sale – Mrs Armitage on Wheels. I really like Mrs Armitage – she’s crazy, clumsy and absolutely entertaining, with her little dog Breakspear. I was hoping to find my favourite – ‘The Clown’, no such luck though…

While I am quite pleased with what I took home, I really wish they would put books on sale while they are in reasonably good condition. Some were quite tattered.

But yes, I picked up few other interesting books…here’s the list…

A very good deal indeed!

 All Images Courtesy: Amazon

Ming Lo moves the mountain and others

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All Images Courtesy: Amazon.com
Pattu Rating: 4.5
Ming Lo moves the mountain is an interesting Chinese tale that we read last weekend. Ming Lo and his wife live at the foothills of this huge mountain. By the time we say, ‘Wow!’, they tell us how unpleasant it is, because small break away stones fall on their house leaving holes on the roof through which water drips during rain and  hardly a ray of light passes through their window since the mountain blocks the sun. SIGH. So, one day Ming Lo’s wife sends her husband to the wise man in the village (every Chinese village seems to have a wise man who just sits and smokes a pipe) to find a solution. So, obediently he goes. The wise man hears him out and draws long on his pipe and smoke swirls around his head. Then he tells Ming Lo to take a huge tree and push it against the mountain. He goes back home and executes the plan, but the mountain doesn’t budge. Ming Lo goes back, the wise man draws longer from his pipe and the cloud of smoke is thicker around his head. Then he gives another idea – take a spoon and some utensils and beat throughout the night. The mountain will get scared and run away. Well, few more such ideas are executed and while we are thinking, ‘If this is the wise man, then save the poor village’, the wise old man knocks you over with his final idea which actually works for Ming Lo and his wife! Yes, the mountain finally relents and moves!!  You realise then that it was the wise man’s way of telling Ming Lo and his wife it is such a folly to expect the mountain to move. There are some people who just don’t get the message and they deserve a solution like this…

Pattu Rating: 4.2
 How Far Will I Fly by Sachi Oyama is another beautiful tale from Japan. Quiet, profound and yet very very simple in its style. It tackles big questions through conversations of a small boy with his grandmother. He starts will, ‘How tall will I be?’ and moves on to ask many more such questions. The grandmother answers in a single sentence that leave you thinking for many more minutes and hours later. I particularly like, ‘How big will my arms be?’ and ‘How far will my friends be? and of course, the question in the title.
This book reflects the Japanese culture and leaves you thinking about many many more questions….The illustrations – soft pastels, pleasant, highlight the quiet depth of the messages. Go get the book, I’m not giving away anymore.
Pattu understood this in her own way – how deep? I don’t know. But this is something that I’ll treasure and read out to her at different stages. I’m sure she’ll get more out of this every time. And so will I, I hope.



Pattu Rating: 4.8
 Something Good was Bizarre Fun! Tyya goes shopping with her dad. While dad throws in spinach, milk, eggs, bananas and the likes into the trolley, Tyya decides to looks for something good instead of all the boring things that is in the trolley. So, she picks up her own trolley and loads it with 300 candies. All excited about her find, she shows off to her dad who promptly tells her that candies are ‘sugary junk’. The disheartened Tyya puts them back and looks for something else that is good… this goes on and finally her dad has to tell her to be stand quietly in a corner while he  completes shopping. Tyya following her dad’s instruction to the T finds herself being poked, knocked and finally put on the shelf with even a price tag on her! And finally, how both Tyya and her dad buy something good from the store makes this cute little story.
Pattu obviously related to this so well. Did this make our shopping trips and the bring down demand for candies and chocolates? NO! 😀

The Story Blanket

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Story: Ferida Wolff,  Harriet May Savitz
Illustrations: Elena Odriozola
Image Courtesy: Flipkart
Pattu Rating: 4.5

Babba Zarra has a heart that is huge enough to love everyone in her village. No wonder the children of the village visit her every evening for a story. Babba Zarra has a special blanket that she spreads out for her little visitors, to keep them warm and cozy. One day she notices a hole in Nikolai’s shoes and decides to make him a socks. But getting someone to dleiver wool to their snow covered village seems to be next to impossible. Babba Zarra always believed that every question has an answer. As she mulls over the problem, an idea dawns on her. She just has to unravel a bit of wool from her story blanket! The story thus unfolds with Nikolai finding a pair of socks at his doorstep, the postman receiving a scarf, the school teacher getting a pair of mittens and the children suddenly find that the story blanket has shrunk. They cuddle up closer each day. By the time everyone in the village get their surprises, the story blanket has disappeared altogether. How the villagers find the source of their little presents and how they repay Babba Zarra for her kindness makes the rest of the story. I couldn’t help feeling that Babba Zarra’s kindness is what kept the villagers warm more than all the wollens that she knit for them.
What I liked about the story was that it didn’t fuss too much over Babba Zarra’s kindness, else it might have probably been a bit too cloying. The illustrations are beautiful in soft pastels and simple lines.

Pattu struggled a little to understand ‘snow’ and how people in the village felt ‘cold’ etc. I don’t blame her – we live in Chennai 🙂
She slept over it the first day and took one more day for it to sink in. Then the questions started, ‘what is snow like?’ ‘like ice?’ ‘hands will freeze?’ ‘what will happen if there’s a hole in the shoe?’ ‘Did Nikolai cry?’ ‘you need thick blankie?’ ‘Babbu Zarra is a good lady’ ‘She helped everyone?’ and so on. Unlike lot of other books that left her excited, animated, made her jump and scream and all that, this one left her deep in thoughts – positively, I gather.

Of Books and Borrowers

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First line from the book that I’m reading: ( yeah, reading only now….and no prizes for guessing the title….)

In the beginning there was a river, The river became a road and branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry.

Recently, someone I know was ranting about his colleague who borrowed a book long ago and hasn’t yet returned it. While this person was chasing him and hunting him down to have his possesion back, I know many others who would just wait silently or at best just drop weak hints clumsily and hope for the best. Me being one of them. Somehow, these episodes always reminded me of this anecdote by Stephen Butler Leacock

I find that some people just don’t seem to take borrowing books seriously. Maybe it is in the genes; it is one more thing along with the sugar and coffee powder that we borrow and never return. While most books are expensive and it pinches when you lose them, there’s more to it than just the money. Books are personal and most often they stand for more than just their contents. Some books mark a turning point, an emotion, experience, a person, a sentiment, an occasion…. many things… and I can’t bear to lose them or see them treated shabbily. I even know some who don’t part with their books – it is like a part of their soul. I can understand that – there are some books I would never lend. Having said that, I don’t worry about giving my books to some very close friends because I know that they value it just as much as I do.

Innocent lenders beware! The ‘Borrowers’ spectrum looks something like this. Those who borrow and

1.Return in decent time and in good condition
2.Return the book in bad condition with a look of apology
3.Return the book, its deteriorated condition not bothering their conscience
4.Return after some polite reminders
5.Return after some polite reminders and annoyed follow ups
6.Lose the book but offer to replace
7.Lose the book and believe an apology will suffice
8.Lose the book and laugh about it like it is a joke
9.Have no intentions of returning
10.Deny that they ever borrowed a book from you
11.Borrow and disappear

Which ones have you met?

I’ve renewed and upgraded my membership with Book and Borrow. This arrangement suits me so well since the good libraries are quite far from where I live. I must say their service is more than satisfactory!

Books or eBooks?

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Browsing through the internet recently, I came across two pieces of information – both alarming and enlightening. This article says that, “children are more likely these days to own a cell phone than they are a book” and another study also goes to prove that “the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate”

This has triggered some arguments for and against technology with the naysayers likening it to the pandora’s box and the soothsayers pointing out that it in fact opens up a plethora of information and is just redefining ‘reading’ and not killing it altogether.

Having grown up with print, I love having a book in hand, the way it feels, the way it smells, etc. However, I wouldn’t deny that there have been times in the recent past when I’ve thought it would be really nice to own a Kindle and more recently the iPad. I’m feeling this way, and mind you, I’m still very conservative when it comes to technology, so, isn’t it quite natural for the current generation to gravitate towards the digital format? With all the talk about preserving the forests, shouldn’t we be taking the digital route? What about reading Dr Seuss, Eric Carle, Karadi, Tulika etc in the digital format? If youngsters are hooked to their mobiles, how about serving them a book on their mobile? I think there’s an opportunity everywhere and that the path of least resistance will work.

What’s your argument?

Clown

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Clown, Quentin Blake. Pattu Rating: 4.7

I’ve been wanting to review this for a while now. Finally got around to doing it now.

For me, it was love at first sight. For Pattu, the scribbly lines ceased to impress initially but it grew on her and when the story unfolded it had her completely hooked. I’ve become a huge fan of QB’s illustrations after just a few books (including the Roald Dahl ones) and am hunting for the rest.

The clown along with some of his friends (all of them toys) are abandoned and have nowhere to go. The clown is not willing to give up and goes looking for a home for himself and his friends. A series of adventures where he meets different kinds of people in different situations. Adults who don’t think much of him, who don’t find him worthy enough, a child who wants him but whose mom doesn’t let her keep him, a burly guy who is rude and so on. Finally he lands up in a house where he instantly turns around a situation by being resourceful and winning the smile of an infant. At last how he goes on from there to rescue his friends from the garbage bin and how all of them eventually find a home makes the rest of the story.

The illustrations are so expressive and make the story powerful and compelling. Words would have probably diluted the effect of the illustrative style. I loved this also because it allows the reader to interpret and imagine the story from their own perspective. For instance, when the burly man throws the clown up in the sky, my version of the story, had I been telling Pattu, would have been something like, ‘the clown got scared when the man threw him up in the air’. However, without this influence, Pattu’s version was, ‘the man threw the clown up in the air and the clown was super exited to go so high up in the air’. Also, in Pattu’s version, the clown was seldom sad…he enjoyed his adventures just as much as he enjoyed finding the home at the end. Am I happy that I didn’t narrate the story to Pattu – I like her version better.

So, what’s your version?

Slam by Adam Stower

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SLAM by Adam Stower. Pattu Rating 5

We read this book We viewed this picture story book – Pattu’s first and boy, did we have fun!

The book tells a story of consequences through just the illustrations and some sounds (through onomatopoetic expressions). It all starts when this boy goes out with his walkman on, oblivious to the complete mess that results from SLAM-ming the door! The ball that is caught on the roof falls on a resting cat which springs in fright, causing further fright and a row of disasters. All this while the boy walks on with just the music in his ears, completely insulated from his surroundings.

We discovered a variety of sounds… sound of a soft fall, hard fall, bounce, bump, clash, splash, screech, scrunnnch, huff puff…oh so many more…

Another very insteresting aspect is that there are multiple threads of consequences that come together in the final mess and there are lots of little details that you’ll discover (like a little jet that crashes into a little girl’s kite, a cat that goes after a fish and so on) in the second, third, and subsequent readings. Pattu pointed to a couple of them that I hadn’t noticed myself! So you can even weave many stories by just shifting your perspective. Last night was riot with Pattu laughing till her jaws ached and me acting the disaster till all my joints and my throat ached – but it was all worth it to see Pattu laugh like that 🙂

Now, I have to hide this book before my joints give in! I’m looking to buy a copy (the one I have is from the library).

There’s one more like this by Quentin Blake… will review shortly.

You Know What We Did Last Week

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Shades of Grey

I had written about how Children slot characters into Black and White and that they don’t catch the shades of Grey for long – well, it looks like Pattu is discovering the Grey shades.

Regular conversation about friends at school etc and she says, ‘B is my friend, S is my friend – they are good girl and good boy’. And then it goes, ‘B is very troublesome in class, S is a very good boy. B doesn’t listen to anyone, S is very obedient’.

Amma: But you said B is a good girl
Pattu: Yes, she is a good girl
Amma: But you said she is troublesome
Pattu: Yes she is
Amma: How can she be a good girl if she is troublesome?
Pattu: (A bit annoyed) Ammaaa… she is troublesome and she is a good girl. So she is a good girl. Ok?

If you think I am the one having trouble figuring out Grey shades, I don’t quite blame you.

Its Raining Words!

We went for a walk when the rains stopped a bit. Small streams of water joined in one place to fall into the storm water drain. Pattu follows the path and exclaims, ‘ Amma, see, the water is Rivering

It was drizzling and Pattu says, ‘Amma, see it is very-small-raindropping

I was busy with something (usually quite unimportant) and Pattu pulled at me with mouthful of spluttering sentences. I turned around and (in an effort-to-inculcate-some-manners-at-the-right-age) said, ‘ I’m doing something and you have to be patient’, and pat comes the reply, ‘But you have to be My Patient Amma!’

“Watch me deliver – Live from Minneapolis”

The latest is the live streaming of Lynsee’s delivery. The streaming started when she went into labour and was on till the mother delivered and the doc said Mom and Child are in the pink.

The website talks about how the traffic peaked towards the delivery, the number of unique visitors, the advertisers, rue about how they missed on the baby products advertisers etc and a whole lot of the ‘Analytics’ mumbo jumbo would follow I suppose.

Wonder how it must have been – ‘scream scream…’ ‘While the lady is screaming, let’s take a short commercial break..we’ll be right back, stay there’
‘Will Lynsee have a boy or girl – Guess and the lucky winner gets blah blah… on camera’ – Now, we’ll do anything for the camera!

While all this is happening, I can’t quite fathom how it can happen! Just why would anyone want the whole world to watch her labour and delivery? I’m still reeling from this…

Found Book & Borrow.com.

They drop books at your doorstep and pick them up as well. The range is quite limited as of now but I am told that they are adding as they have just started. If you have a request, they procure the book for you if they don’t have it already. Nice. Finished my first book and waiting for the next that should arrive today/ Monday.

Pattu’s latest addiction

…is Thumb Thumb Thambi & Thangi (Tulika). There’s a project to paint her thumbs as Thambi and Thangi today. God save the walls, upholstery and the furniture from the Thumbs!

Btw, it is Thundering loud as I am typing this…

All’s Well That Ends Well

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I notice lately that the not so happy ending stories upset Pattu considerably. There we two specific instances that revealed this:
1. The Pied Piper of Hamlin – she was so upset that the Pied Piper took the children into the cave on the mountain leaving their mothers pining after them. She would ask: ‘then what did the mothers do?’ , ‘Didn’t the mothers cry?’ and so on.
I tried to explain that the Piper did that to teach the bad mayor a lesson and that the kids had lots to eat and play inside the cave and they were very happy etc…but she would have none of those. She insisted that the Piper was indeed the bad man since he took the kids away from their parents and she was almost at the verge of tears that made me alter the ending to, ‘and then the kids returned to their mothers and they lived happily ever after…’

2. The other instance is more recent – we were singing Rock-a-by-baby and by the time we came to the last line, Pattu came running to me and burried her face on my lap, clutching me tight. After some, ‘what happened?’ she tells me, ‘this is a bad song, let’s not sing it…’
..and after some ‘why’s, it comes out, ‘where did the baby’s mother go leaving the baby to fall?’, ‘did the baby get hurt?’ etc… It was a revelation that she paid so much attention to the lyrics! So, again we made some changes to the lyrics to make it ‘happier’ …

This got me curious and led me to look up on when it would be a good time for kids to be exposed to the not so happy stories and found some interesting links:

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/specials/edinburgh/article6808533.ece
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/authorinterviews/6111573/Michael-Morpurgo-we-dont-read-to-our-children-enough.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-485644/Campaigning-parents-plan-burn-childrens-books-grisly-endings.html

Interesting things that I found:
1.Children up to a certain age slot characters in black and white – they are either ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’. ‘Grey’ characters confuse them. I guess that’s why Pattu couldn’t see the ‘good side’ of the Pied Piper.
2. Fantasies are important for children – it helps them explore a world that they don’t ‘see’.
3. Children at some stage (whenever they are ready) have to be introduced to the ‘not-so-happy-endings’ – it need not be grisly or gloomy but something that’s sad, but indicates that there’s hope still… like for instance, not getting what you want but you still go on and make something out of life …
4. Open endings are a good way to let the child ponder over possible endings , debate them and explore their feelings.

However, what is most important is that they have to be introduced to these at the right stage. I guess that’s the role that we, as parents should play.

It would be interesting to hear your views – please air them here…