The ‘hOle books’ by Duckbill experiment slightly with the book form. As the name suggests, these books with a ‘hOle’, add a fun element to the book. There is a hole at the top right end of each book, which somehow younger children find very fascinating! Timmi and Rizu by Shals Mahajan takes on this format, and narrates a tale that many young children can relate to.
Timmi is a bold girl, and Rizu a sweet and quiet boy. He “sits on the last bench and pays attention, which is why he goes unnoticed”. But he has a problem, and a serious one at that! Three bullies lie in wait for him every day when they bully him and call him names.
Bullying is something that all kids face at some point in their school lives. Timmi réalisés that her friend is being bullied, and she wants to help him. With the good counsel of Idli-Amma and Juju the Giant, who help the two kids plan tactics against the ‘enemies’ the kids finally hit upon a plan to counter the bullies. The plan is fraught with its own challenges as well…at the end, do the children achieve their goal? Well, you’ll have to jump into the Duckbill Reading Hole for that!
In all, the book is a humorous take on how to handle bullying in school situations. Moreover, the apt illustrations by Shreya Sen accompany the text perfectly. The story is laced with humour that is quite appropriate for the young readers and will have them in splits!
‘Timmi and Rizu’ is a chapter book, and is a fun story to start-off your child on his or her independent reading journey as well.
Timmi and Rizu by Shals Mahajan
Illustrated by Shreya Sen
Published by Duckbill Books, 2017
If your child enjoys this book, do look at the following hOle books as well:
If your child adores Timmi (who doesn’t?) here is another one featuring Timmi’s exploits!
What can a little boy do if his Nani turns into his favourite cartoon character? Deepu is faced with a strange predicament. On a perfectly normal evening, he is fighting for the television remote with his grandmother in a perfectly normal way. Something happens. Then, she turns into a Ninja with Ninja superpowers! What follows is an eventful night filled with adventures. Nani takes her Ninja calling quite seriously. Welcome to Ninja Nani!
Lavanya Karthik introduces the very loveable Ninja Nani in two books, meant to be read one after the other. Ninja Nani & the Bumbling Burglars presents Nani’s fantastic transformation and Ninja Nani and the Zapped Zombie Kids builds on the adventure.
The language in both the books is extremely hilarious. There is an inherent humour in the language (for example, The Schoolbag Of Endless Sorrow as a word to describe his school bag). The situations described are also hilarious (Nani acting like Ninja, soumersauting in celings, backflipping quite efficiently and so on). Both these aspects combine to make for a comical read.
There are many illustrations throughout both the books which add to the fun of reading. In some of the key sections, the books also assume the form of a graphic novel. This is a very novel and interesting aspect.
In the first book Deepu and Nani take on a gang of robbers who are all set to rob a bank. In this book, both Deepu and Nani have just discovered the fact that Nani has Ninja powers. Both are coming to terms with it, and the adventure story forms a part of the entire story.
However, the second book, Ninja Nani and the Zapped Zombie Kids has a very confident Nani take on a huge challenge. She is the Mystery Hero of the town using her great powers quite responsibly for helping the residents of the town. Only Deepu knows her secret, and both of them work in tandem. This time round though, the challenge is bigger and tougher. Mrs.Godbole’s tuition class has something strange going on. Deepu’s friends who are a part of the class are acting like sleep-deprived zombies. Worse, Deepu may just join them! It’s all up to Nani to save the day. A lot more fighting and lots of excitement in store!
While the book is a fun adventure story on the surface, at a deeper level it also shows the beautiful grandson and grandmother relationship in the context of modern times.
Ninja Nani & the Bumbling Burglars
Ninja Nani and the Zapped Zombie Kids
Both books by Lavanya Karthik
Published by Duckbill Books, 2017
Oh…the turmoils of a 10-year old! A lot goes on in the minds of children and they have their own set of serious challenges to overcome. Manya Learns to Roar explores this. Manya, a lovable young girl badly wants to be Shere Khan in her school play. The Jungle Book is her favourite film. Moreover, she knows all the lines by heart. The only issue? She stammers.
She may want to act, but not everyone has faith in her ability. Her classmate Rajat openly makes fun of her stammer. Even her English teacher thinks it’s risky to let her get on stage and her principal seems to agree. To make things worse, her stammer worsens due to the anxiety. The book follows Manya’s journey through this very tough and sensitive situation.
The story is quite delightful and is told in simple engaging language. It is easy to read and quite accessible for most kids. Children have their own set of challenges and this book will be highly inspirational thanks to its powerful message. It will not only inspire readers but also sensitize them to the thoughts and feelings of other children who may face a problem or a disability.
The pictorial code language between Manya and her friend Ankita adds an interesting element. The dialogues are also laced with humour which makes the book a very light read.
It is a story that comes straight from the heart. The author, Shruthi Rao, has also grappled with issues related to stammering and the book boldly targets the stereotypes associated with it. The beautiful illustrations by Priya Kuriyan make the reading experience all the more enticing!
Manya Learns to Roar was a winner in the Children First writing competition, organised by Parag, an initiative of Tata Trusts, and Duckbill Books.
Manya Learns to Roar by Shruthi Rao
Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan
Age group: 6 years onward
Published by Duckbill Books
Shah Jahan and the Ruby Robber by Natasha Sharma is a part of the History Mystery series published by Duckbill. Young Indian readers often see history as a fact-based subject learned in school. They see it as a chronology of events. However, the History Mystery series responsibly juggles storytelling and history.
The book starts off with emperor Shah Jahan waiting to try out his new jewelled throne that has taken seven long years to make. It is a grand throne that displays all the jewels and precious stones that speak of the glory of the Mughal empire. But, wait! The jewel of the throne… that is to say, the star and the pinnacle of the multifarious jewels, the great Timur Ruby is missing! What’s worse, there is a squishy squashy plum in its place!
Moments after the emperor discovers this great mistake there ensues a lot of confusion. A hilarious sequence of events follow. Shah Jahan places his daughter Jahanara in charge of finding out who the thief was. Of course, his brood of seven, including the famed Aurangzeb who is shown as quite the angry young man here, must take up the challenge collectively.
The entire play of events takes place as the plans for the construction of the Taj Mahal are going on. This context itself adds an element of fascination to the story. The simple and surprising twist in the end shows the ingenuity of the author. It proves that if one looks carefully, history has great stories to tell!
There is a lot of subtle humour in the language, which makes it funny to read and is sure to elicit some heartfelt smiles and giggles! Consider the following line:
For before him stood the greatest, the grandest, the most glorious throne in the whole world -his brand new Jewelled Throne. There it stood, awaiting Shah Jahan’s bottom for the very first time.
The genre of historical fiction for children is a relatively undeveloped one when it comes to Indian literature for young readers. However, with Shah Jahan and the Ruby Robber, Natasha Sharma once again merges history and fiction to tell an appealing tale.
Shah Jahan and the Ruby Robber
Author: Natasha Sharma
illustrated by Lavanya Naidu
Published by Duckbill Books and Publications Pvt Ltd.
October 2nd will soon be upon us. We will celebrate the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Some of us will take the opportunity to narrate stories about Gandhi to our children. For the current generation of young children, the implications and impact of the struggle for independence is something they have not known in their collective consciousness. But, they do know about the far-reaching impact of the teachings of Gandhi. Hence, this would be the perfect occasion to introduce My Gandhi Scrapbook. The book is apt for all school going children, including older ones.
Sandhya Rao, the compiler of this unique scrapbook, is an avid scrapbook enthusiast. A Scrapbook is personal and it is a canvas to explore and
express your inherent creativity without being bound by any rules. My Gandhi Scrapbook does just that, making the father of the nation become a part of your child’s life in a more participative way.
From the very beginning itself, she introduces this premise:
My Gandhi Scrapbook is a very thin book almost mirroring the look of a typical scrapbook. It is a book in which the author invites the children to become active participants. There is information about Mahatma Gandhi, but there are many empty spaces calling on the child to fill with his own thoughts, feelings and reflections on what Gandhiji means to him or her. The child can draw, write, stick and colour into the book without any restriction.
The book thankfully abandons a chronological account of Gandhi’s life. Instead, each page highlights some interesting aspect of his personality, or his life and influence. The pages are filled with many images and graphics: photographs, stamps, notes and what not. Quotes from his books and excerpts from letters are gently interwoven. You’ll find interesting and less known nuggets of information as well.
In between all this are little activities for kids. They have a chance to try out drawing Gandhi’s silhouette, stick their own pictures of him, scribble their observations, and of course, write down their own nuggets of information about Gandhi. This is one of those rare books which gives authorship to children. They are actively involved in making the book.
The last few pages of My Gandhi Scrapbook are blank. And that’s the way it should be. They are for the reader to add what he or she wants to about Gandhi. At the end of it all, this is not a book they read. It is a path of making Gandhi truly their own!
My Gandhi Scrapbook by Sandhya Rao
Indian publishers have come up with a great variety of bilingual books to introduce regional languages to children from an early age. However, for those who live abroad, the story is different. There is either a paucity of such books, or they are not accessible for parents and caretakers who may not be fluent in reading the local script. Geneticist Pridhee Kapoor sensed a lacuna in the market when she was looking out for books in Indian languages for her kids, while living abroad. Hence, she decided to write and publish such books herself. Three books later, the Founder and CEO of T4Tales is all geared up about the world of opportunities that this venture has opened up.
Excerpts from a conversation…
Das din, is an interactive lift the flap and pull tab Hindi board book for 0-6 year olds.
Gol Mol Bol is an old Hindi nursery rhymes book with downloadable music by Ramya Shankar for 0-6 year olds.
Bolo Kya? Is a lift the flap Hindi board book for 0-2 year olds.
All three books at the moment are in Hindi.
The objective has always been to spark an interest in children to learn Hindi in a fun way. But if you have a cheat sheet in English, it stops you from achieving that objective. A child or a parent will always take the easy way out and just read the book in English. The Hindi teachers I have met here complain of the same challenge with the current set of books at their disposal.
When we started writing the content, we were considering doing the books in only the actual script. When we showed our prototypes to some parents, most of them got back saying “Oh wow! I struggled to read the Hindi script. It has been too long” or “Oh I didn’t study Hindi when I was in school but I would like my child to learn Hindi”. Based on that feedback, my father, who has been in education for the last 30 years, suggested that we add the English transliteration, to help the parents and also older kids (who are confident with phonics) to read Hindi. It gives the child a sense of pride being able to read a Hindi book. Especially so for an older child who is trying to get comfortable with speaking and reading Hindi.
I also believe that there several other Indian book publishers that do a wonderful job with Hindi (and English translation) books.
Yes, the books by T4Tales are specifically for introducing the Indian language to infants and really young children.
I have heard back from parents of older children who didn’t think their kids would enjoy the book saying that their children have shared the books with teachers in class about how they good they felt to be able to read the book. I had a mom share with me that her 6-year-old daughter enjoyed the book so much that her daughter practiced her script writing by copying the words from the book on her own without the mom having to ask. That for me was a nice surprise since we were always targeting really young children.
I once attended a talk in Singapore about the history of pop ups and other interactive features in books. Popups had started coming up in the 1770s and were not made to keep children quiet or to teach them. These books were made to give children pleasure and help them understand the spatial orientation and movement being described in the books. Today’s children learn that easily from watching movement of characters on screens (especially in animation). They don’t need the books to help them understand. I was very intrigued by this. So I thought ‘What if we did it the other way round? What if you used interactive features to take kids away from screens?’
And that became my goal – to make board books with interactive elements that are so much fun, that kids don’t need to, or want to look at the screen to understand and learn something! Although financially the costs become higher, but if I can manage to pull one child away from the screen to learn Hindi, my job is done.
Based on the objective of T4Tales to expose little ones to Indian languages in a fun way through board books, we plan to do more board books with fun interactive elements. We hope to able to publish in other languages as well. We have always been asked if we would consider Tamil or Marathi or Gujarati. We hope to publish in those categories in the near future.
Staying in Singapore, when I shared the books with a school library that offered Hindi as a subject, to my surprise, the librarian got back to me saying that she had noticed that not only the Indian children but also children that did not speak Hindi were picking up our books. For me that was a great feedback in terms of illustrations. Pictures don’t speak a language yet can convey meaning. If the illustrations are able to connect with a child that can’t speak Hindi, the book in my mind has completed its objective of engaging that child to pick up a book and not a screen. To me that was the biggest benefit of a well-illustrated and good quality book.
Parents have got back saying that they are excited to read a Hindi book that won’t fall apart at the mercy of the little one’s hands!
At the moment most of the retail and distribution for T4Tales is directly through us or online through Amazon US, Amazon India and Shumee in India. But recently we have been contacted by boutique bookstores in India and US to stock our books. Our books are available on Amazon US which automatically makes it worldwide.
T4Tales has made an amazing start and opened up a world of possibilities for parents who want their young kids to be in touch with their mother tongue. We’re surely looking forward to new releases that promise to take our little ones on another flight to fantasy!
There are few leaders who leave an indelible mark in the world, not only during the times they live in but much beyond. Nelson Mandela is one such leader who continues to inspire long after his death. His autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, chronicles the story of the long and painful struggle for freedom in South Africa.
This amazing story has been beautifully abridged by Chris van Wyk and charmingly illustrated by Paddy Bouma, especially for children.
Those who have read the original autobiography, will understand that the task of picking out relevant bits to include in the children’s version would have been a Herculean one! Yet, Wyk has done a fantastic job on this one.
The text is in first person and traces Mandela’s life from his birth in a small village, a life filled with struggles and sacrifices, to finally become the first elected president of independent South Africa.
It also weaves in a lot of contextual information about apartheid, the various tribes of Africa and the political scenario of the times. This helps children connect with the book and place it in context.
When ‘Madiba’ as Mandela is called, was young, his father nicknamed him ‘troublemaker’. As the book traces the development of the playful child to the socially aware young adult who grew to be the staunchest supporter of equality and justice in the world, one realises how this label eventually became true, albeit in a very positive manner!
The parts about the development of the African National Congress and Mandela’s long prison sentence are particularly interesting. Mandela’s life had been long but filled with struggles and sacrifices on his part for the greater good. Long walk to freedom touches upon several such sad instances in a mature, simple and straightforward manner, quite apt for children.
The illustrations accompany the story beautifully. They aptly aid the understanding of the text. Starting off with a map, placing the geographic context the illustrations move with the story taking us through the life of one of the greatest men who ever lived!
Long walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela
Published by MacMillan
If you’re also inspired to read the actual autobiography, that’s a great idea as well!
I’ve always loved picture books, and the profound messages that these apparently simple books convey. In today’s competitive world where children enter the rat race in the same manner and intensity they should be entering playgrounds and parks, maybe, it is time to pause and really ask yourself and your children, what is their inner voice…Their true inner voice. Maybe, The Blue Songbird will facilitate this process.
Written by Vern Kousky, The Blue Songbird tells us the story of a little blue bird. It is springtime and a young songbird hears beautiful songs all around her. These joyous songs are sung by her sisters, who are, no doubt, quite accomplished singers. The little songbird wants to add to this. She wants to sing what her sisters sing and be a part of the chorus. But, she finds this difficult. She gets dejected.
Luckily, she has a wise mother. When she complains to her mother that she does not seem to blend in with her sisters, her mother advices her instead to stand out.
“My dearest one,” replied her mother, “Not just any notes will do.You must go and find a special song that only you can sing.”.
The songbird goes on her quest. The story follows her varied encounters with different birds. Finally, when she returns home she realises that she has her very own song to sing. This is because of her own experience, her own story born out of her travels, and her very own song created from her adventures!
The words in the book have a very simple lyrical quality to them. The watercolour illustrations are sure to delight!
This is a gentle way of instilling a desire for individuality, at ones own pace, in a child. It is an empowering book that you may want to turn to from time to time. Like the songbird, our children are all unique individuals who need to be set off on their own adventures of self-discovery so that they can discover who they really are and express themselves when they choose to. This process must take its own time and not be a hurried one. While we all know this simple truth intrinsically, sometimes it takes a little picture book to remind us. And, The Blue Songbird does the task well!
Published by Running Press Kids (20 April 2017)
A huge range of books are published each month globally, but choosing the right one can be a herculean task. Hence, to ease your efforts, our curation panel at Enchantico goes through an extensive curation method and picks the best 2 to 3 books for every age group.
The first book for our young readers aged 5 to 6 is about a princess named Cinnamon who stays along with her parents, Rajah and Rani, in the kingdom. She had eyes of pearls, meaning she is blind. She never spoke, either. The king and the queen were worried. A talking tiger then entered the kingdom to teach the human cub how to talk. Will he be able to do it? Or will Cinnamon never talk? Let’s find out with Neil Gaiman in ‘Cinnamon’, brilliantly illustrated by Divya Srinivasan.
The second book for our 5 to 6-year-olds will allow the kids to dive into the world of art and painting. Mona Lisa was just painted and she now rests in the Louvre Museum. But, one night she gets stolen. Mona Lisa is now missing! Everybody is panicking. Neither the cops nor the intelligence unit is able to find her. Will they be able to retrieve the world famous portrait of Mona Lisa? Or will she be gone forever? Presenting, Ruthie Knapp’s ‘Who Stole Mona Lisa?’ beautifully illustrated by Jill McElmurry!
The first book for our 7 to 8 year olds will take you back to the Aztec reign. Chantico is a young boy and wishes to be a soothsayer like his Uncle Ahcambal. But, one day a fiery comet appears in the sky and none of the priests are able to explain what it really means. King Moctezuma orders them to be killed. But young Chantico has the gift of second sight and has seen the future in his dream. He comes up with a plan to save his uncle from death. Will he be able to save his uncle? Or will the prophecy be considered false? Presenting Karen Wallace in ‘The Comet of Doom’!
The second book for our 7 to 8 year olds is a series of true stories about five animals who outsmart humans in a really amazing manner. From pick-pocketing parrots and farting fishes to baby-snatching monkeys and so much more, you’ll go bawling over the range of extraordinary antics pulled by these animals. Join in the fun with Nicola Davies in ‘Animals Behaving Badly’, exceptionally illustrated by Adam Stower.
For our readers aged 9 to 10, this month’s first pick is a story of the Bolds. They are just like you and me; they live in a nice house in Teddington and have a job too. But, there’s one slight difference, they’re not humans. They’re hyenas and this is their best-kept secret. They love to giggle and laugh and bawl over anything and everything. However, the next door nosy man smells a rat (a hyena in this case) and a trip to the nearest wildlife park, wacky heists and loads more might bring an end to the best-kept secret. Will the nosy man be able to reveal the secret? Or will the Teddington’s best-kept secret stay secret forever? Find out with Julian Clary in ‘The Bolds’.
The second book for our 9 to 10-year-olds is an amazing compilation of two crazy stories, Spaghetti Triangle and Teacher Trouble. John and Nicky love to eat everything from a piece of chocolate cake to a bowl of chips. But their strange aunt won’t let them eat anything raw. One day they slurp down a plate full of spaghetti and they want more. Jenny, on the other hand, has her first day at school, which is weird and it gets even weirder when she is mistaken for the teacher. Giggle, laugh and tickle your funny bone with these two amazing stories compiled in Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘Marvellous Mix-ups’, beautifully illustrated by Kate Hindley.
The first book for our grown up readers aged 11 to 12 is of Ned Waddlesworth who thinks that the world around him is exceptionally ordinary until he discovers it isn’t ordinary AT ALL! He is on a journey from leaving his home to joining a circus, when he realises that, without him, the world would be engulfed with monstrous beasts and beings. It’s up to Ned, now, to go on a magical mission to save the world. Will Ned along with his flying circus be able to save the day? Find out with Justin Fisher in ‘Ned’s Circus of Marvels’.
The second book for our 11 to 12 year olds is a fast-paced historical mystery adventure. Sophie and Lil find themselves faced with forgery, deceit, and trickery from all sides when a priceless picture is stolen from Mr Sinclair’s art exhibition. Be amazed as the duo put their wits to test to solve this perilous adventure filled with loads of questions and puzzles. Find out if they unmask the villain and prove themselves as worthy detectives with Katherine Woodfine in ‘The Sinclair’s Mysteries – The Painted Dragon’.
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Lend Me Your Ears: The Puffin Book of Elocution Pieces, edited by Terry O’Brien, is supposed to help students who are working on their elocution skills. While it surely accomplishes this aim, it does much more. It brings the best literary gems across genres and authors to the discerning reader. This is a book that any book lover will cherish!
But, coming back to its stated purpose- communicating effectively is a skill that is undoubtedly quite essential in survival kit of mankind. One of the formal ways of developing and assessing these skills is by elocution. Remember those elocution competitions at school? Or those very popular speech and drama classes that almost every child does nowadays? We have all heard various speeches but only some of them really stand out and entrench themselves in our minds and hearts.
Lend Me Your Ears presents a collection of poetry and prose that will add spice and meaning to your speeches. These are not merely run-off-the-mill pieces. Each one has been carefully handpicked and curated for its potential applications to public speaking.
The book starts off with a comprehensive checklist of how to improve and build on public speaking skills, including how to select the right piece. It is then divided into varied sections.The section on poetry presents a collection of well known poems from the annals of literature. It also elaborates on specific points to consider while reciting poetry. Appreciation of a poem is a prerequisite to understanding it completely and incorporating it in a speech or as an elocution piece. Hence, before each poem there is a short background note that aids understanding. From the evergreen “IF” by Rudyard Kipling, to poems of the English Romantic poets right through the Indian literati such as Tagore, Sarojini Naidu and the very beloved Ruskin Bond, it has enough to ponder over!
What I like best is the “Kiddies Corner” which has a selection of poetry especially meant for children. Leave behind the notion that poetry must be esoteric, and revel in these gems for children, coming from the best poets across ages.
Terry O’Brien has picked true gems from known classic works by American and English writers. There are excerpts from Indian writers as well, and that’s quite welcome!
Of course, when we talk about public speaking how can we forget famous speeches that have captivated generations so far? Many political speeches fall into this category. These historic orations by world leaders such as Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, John Kennedy and so on, will remind you of the time when political leadership truly inspired change through the power of words.
The prose section also has a ‘kiddies corner’, that follows the main prose selection of essays, independent features and short stories by well known writers. These are humorous or philosophical pieces that resonate with a wide group of readers.
Elocution and drama are overlapping and related. The last section comprises of extracts from well known plays. Shakespeare obviously takes centre stage here! Anything that has to do with good language must include Shakespeare, and the book has charming selections from the bard’s works.
Lend Me Your Ears took me back to some very pleasant memories of studying literature at school and college. It reasserted the belief that words do make a difference and that the ingredients of powerful speeches can be found amidst the beautiful world of literature! Lend me your ears is a handy book that provides for interesting reading, definitely for young readers who seek to build on their public speaking (and writing) skills, but also for older children and adults. In my opinion you could safely add it to the collectible list!
Lend Me Your Ears: The Puffin Book of Elocution Pieces, edited by Terry O’Brien
Penguin Random House India (5 July 2017)