Writing for the tween and teen community is always a challenge, and giving tips for teenagers, that is, presenting a self-help book (read ADVICE!), is all the more difficult. With 150 Brilliant Ideas to Keep YOUNG MINDS Fit & Fine, author Neeraa Maini Srivastav has found the perfect balance between putting forward key suggestions to this age group, without sounding preachy or talking down to them.
At a very basic level, the book is a collection of tips for teenagers…simple tips that comprehensively cover three key areas in life: the mind, body and spirit. Each tip is short, concise and to the point (with snappy titles for each tip and apt illustrations that add to the fun of reading). These thoughts seed the idea of wellness in a fun and engaging way. Moreover, they are also targeted specifically at teenagers and hence cover issues that are of primary concern to them (menstruation, sex, tattoos, technology amongst many others).
At a time in society when young people are increasingly grapping with issues related to identity and fast-changing social mores, it is important for them to have something to rely on for advice and guidance. The tips presented in this book will fulfil that role to a certain extent.
The icing on the cake is probably the list of affirmations at the end of every section. There are a set of affirmations for the body, mind and spirit, and this part of the book is probably relevant across all age groups.
Anyone who has handled teenagers knows very well that moralizing does not work at all with them. It is heartening to see that the book avoids any kind of moralizing, nor does it ‘talk down’ to the reader. At the same time, the author’s belief in metaphysics and new-age spirituality gently permeates many of the tips, adding to the overall positive feel that one gets on reading it.
I would look at the book as a simple and comprehensive ready reckoner for a teenager (or parent of a teenager!) for whom holistic development and wellness is a clear goal.
Published by Pustak Mahal, 2016
My Big Book of Kindness, edited by Geeta Dharmarajan and published by Katha books speaks about a very simple and essential, but deeply neglected quality- kindness.
What does it mean to be kind? What are the small simple actions one can do to show kindness. Here is a book that helps young readers understand one of the greatest virtues- kindness.
A little poem with fun illustrations; A Japanese folk tale; A short message from Mother Teresa, illustrated beautifully with a painting by M.F. Hussain; an inspiring story about a hummingbird, who did the best she could despite her size; the true story of Prakash Amte and Mandakini, doctors who treated tribals in remote Maharashtra; a little point wise list on how children can be kind to animals and the inspiring story of a young boy called Ajay Gopi who changed the lives of farmers for the better…All these make up this lovely picture book.
Of course, as with all Katha books, there is also a gentle call to action, delicately interwoven in the pages. Towards the end, there are simple tips on how a child can be kind. There are some easily implementable ideas such as maintaining a kindness journal, being kind to tress, being kind to the planet and encouraging others around us to be kind.
The book will resonate well with the 2-6-year age group. A must-addition to your child’s personal library!
Look out for other Katha Books that also talk about kindness in a sense, albeit in a different manner…
The Earth Carer’s Guide to Climate Change talks about kindness to the earth, and the impact of climate change. Kindness can be towards trees too, and this beautifully illustrated book, a tree! a Poem by Klara Kottner-Benigni, is a call of a tree for survival, which is heard quite sensitively by a child. My Big Book of Dogs may be about dogs, but it does touch upon the gentle nature of kindness. With My Big Book of Kindness, Katha Books adds one more gem to the child’s library.
Paint like Franz Marc by Geeta Dharmarajan (published by Katha) introduces a much-loved artist to children. There is something about Franz Marc’s paintings that completely draws children in. It could be the amazing bright and vibrant colours that just make the paintings come alive. Or maybe, it could be the fact that a lot of his work depicts animals, and as we all know, this resonates a lot with children. Perhaps, it could be the sheer delight that they experience when they see animals in unexpected hues and poses that they do not associate with them!
Geeta Dharmarajan introduces the concepts of art appreciation in a very simple manner, that children will find quite relatable. She poses simple questions about the paintings that have been depicted in the book. Well, these may be simple one-liners, but it will lead the child to look carefully at the artwork in the book. Questions such as “Can you see the tiger’s eye?”, or “how many gazelles can you find?”, make children look at the work in question more deeply.
However, the questions go one level deeper as the book progresses. For example, in a painting depicting a yellow cow, she poses the question, “Can a yellow cow give milk”? The book takes the child on a beautiful journey right into the works of Franz Marc.
Towards the end of the book there are short snippets of information about the painter, on how to paint like him, and other divergent issues linked to the themes of his paintings.
The book is a delight to read because it is so vibrant in presentation. Moreover, the text is minimal but impactful. It is a book that will appeal to children as young as three unto seven or eight years. A wonderful book to add to your collection!
Paint like Franz Marc by Geeta Dharmarajan adds to Katha’s repertoire of books that honour art and artists.
If you are interested in exploring books about introducing art to very young children, you may also want to read this.
It is a beautiful thing- this fascinating bond that children share with animals, especially dogs. Most children would have asked for a dog as a pet at one time or the other. Or maybe, at least contemplated the idea in their little minds!
The short stories and snippets in this book are all tied together with a common theme- dogs. The book begins with a short autobiographical essay of a pet dog. We then have a wonderfully illustrated story of a small puppy that runs away and has quite an adventure. Another story is about the daily routine of a pet dog. There are a couple of poems as well, all easily relatable for small children. One of the stories looks at an old painting dated to the Mughal times and gives a little snippet of information about a dog in it. Other stories deal with sensitive topics such as the child’s feeling on the death of the pet and a helping dog who works at a hospital for children.
The book ends with short and comprehensive information about the role of dogs in our society. There are also some questions to ponder on. The book is filled with wonderful illustrations that are colourful and very appealing to kids.
The book is apt for 3-6 year olds. It is great to read it with your child, and also a good read for beginning readers to read by themselves.
If your toddler likes dogs, or has a dog for a pet, you’ve gotta read this one!
Have you ever wondered why we have not heard about the lives and contributions of some really worthy kings and queens who lived in ancient India? Indian Monarchs…now I bet you thought that you could count them on your fingers. Well, it’s time to look beyond our history textbooks and delve into the thrilling and exciting stories that dot the past of our country.
10 Indian Monarchs Whose Amazing Stories You May Not Know by Devika Rangachari (published by Duckbill) is a slim but impactful book that spins a fascinating tale that brings to the forefront Indian kings and queens who have faded away in the pages of history…. but deserve to be remembered.
10 Indian Monarchs Whose Amazing Stories You May Not Know by Devika Rangachari is a fun and illuminating read. History should read like an interesting story, and this is exactly what this book offers!
My Big Book of Girls comprises of stories, poems and short write-ups that highlight how girls over India are empowering themselves. The book seeks to provide inspiration to other children, especially girls, that they can make a difference to their own lives and the lives of others around them.
Here is a peek into some of the stories that find their way into this delightful book: Two teenage girls from Bengaluru started a “Why Waste” campaign that aims to sensitise people to the issue of water conservation; a short snippet about Malala, the young Nobel prize winner; the story of a village girl who gets to go to school and a few more.
There is a mix of real-life instances and stories that showcase the bravado of the female protagonist.
Towards the end there is a little section with questions and food for thought that young children can easily understand in order to fully assimilate the point that the book is trying to make.
While the stories are about girls, it is also a book that I feel boys should read!
Who should read this book…
Katha Publishers give a voice to the stories of girls who have braved little or big challenges. My Big Book of Girls edited by Geeta Dharmarajan is a short but inspiring picture book!
Skills that Build by Gayatri Kalra Sehgal (published by Rupa Publications) comprises of a series of three books. There is a subtle difference between learning something and between honing practical skill sets. Skills that Build sets out to do the latter. While a traditional education system and curriculum focusses on learning facts and reproducing them, real life calls for skills that are absolutely different.
This is the gap that Kalra’s books seek to fill. As an accomplished artist on one hand, and a person involved in Early Childhood education on the other, she somehow has a foot set in each of these distinct worlds. And these books bridge the gap.
The series is rightly called “Skills That Build”. The focus here is on building skills that involves thinking and creative expression.
Readers are plentiful…..Thinkers are rare! In the humdrum of school and education, very often, we realise that while children learn to read and write, they often miss essential thinking skills. The activities presented in this book targets different aspects of thinking- memory, assoication, synthesizing, reformulating, analysing, inferring, problem solving and so on.
My favourite thing about this book is that it involves a lot of talking and discussion with the child. For most of the sub-skills to be targeted, there are proposed situations. The author then provides leading questions which help the parents, teachers or adults to talk to the child. This leads to an open conversation, where the child actually articulates his or her thinking.
Besides actually working on thinking skills, which these activities most certainly do, I also see these activities as a great bonding exercise.
Children are born creative. If nurtured, creativity may well continue into adulthood. This book is filled with ideas and suggestions on how parents and teachers can nurture and hone creativity within children (and probably rekindle it within themselves as well!).
The detailed introduction provides a glimpse into the nature of the creative process, which will help the adults reading the book understand the context and background to creative thinking and the creative process.
The activities are divided into different categories: curiosity, attention, observation, association, perception and skill development. All these are established qualities that further creative thinking and development. Hence, the activities specifically target these qualities.
Have you ever thought about open ended mathematical conversations with your child? Fear not…math can be a fun part of life! The activities in this book are based on one crucial belief, and for me, that’s really the crux of being a good mathematician- the premise here is that math encompasses much more than mere numbers. It is related to our day to day life and various other academic areas as well.
The activities given in this book cater to different learning styles. All the activities work on specific math concepts. However, they are more like games which makes it fun. There are activities that involve the child physically (measuring things, drawing, making parts and so on). Some encompass an auditory learning mode (using verbal instructions, musical games and so on). Then there is the verbal learning style involving another set of games and activities. Finally, there is the solitary learning style.
There are plenty of variations for all the activities and further suggestions for parents.
They target skills that are not taught in schools, but will be vital to the future.
2. Books are ready-reckoners for parents
3. They consider Indian scenarios and experiences specific to those living here.
4. Each activity has been presented as a recipe of sorts, in point format…just choose and pick and implement!
5. An excellent way for building a bond with your child….think of it as a resource to dip into at all times!
Skills that Build, the life-skill series by Gayatri Kalra Sehgal is a treasure-trove of activities that parents and children can do together. Building life-skills in different areas is the wonderful side-effect of these timeless editions!
Ranjit Lal knows how to grip the attention of readers. When I began to read 10 Indian Animals you may never see again in the wild, I thought it would be an interesting informative book. That it is…but way more! This book is like a joy safari ride into the jungles of India filled with information and humour- both in truckloads! Published by Duckbill, it is a part of a series of much-anticipated non-fiction books.
Humour is definitely a major part of the ‘game’ here! “Whatever you do, please, please do not call the Asiatic or Indian lion, the ‘loin’. The noble animal will be grossly affronted- and may take matters into his own hands” he writes in the beginning of the chapter on Lions. He goes on to describe an incident at the zoo where insensitive people were well taught a scary lesson by a lion!
Humour, which definitely strikes a chord with readers makes you smirk and guffaw as you go through the curated information about Indian animals on the verge of extinction.
“Deer are perpetually on the verge of having panic attacks” or an imagined conversation between vultures in a vulture restaurant!
So far, the books on conservation that I have come across are filled with facts and figures. However, navigating through this essential information in 10 Indian Animals you may never see again in the wild makes you feel like you’re reading a well-crafted story.
The titles of the chapters are quite whacky too…like “Susu in the river” a chapter on river dolphins.
Yes, there are facts and informative nuggets on the endangered animals. But, Ranjit Lal also paints the current scenario and often conflicting situations that spell doom for wildlife. He fairly points out the actions and indeed the inaction as well, on part of the government to address the issue of wildlife conservation in India.
I think there is great value addition in terms of different facts coming together. For instance, the chapter on vultures (I do see a few of them in South Mumbai where they encircle the Parsi Tower of Silence, and even to my untrained eye it’s clear that their numbers have dwindled over the years). He brings forth the point that they were threatened by illnesses due to the use of diclofenac, that used to be given to cattle to increase milk yield, and entered the system of vultures when they fed on the carcasses of these, only to cause havoc to them! Such facts pepper the book and make for interesting reading.
More than anytime else I think that this book shows how everything is interrelated. Our modern lives and interests cross paths with nature and wildlife. Very often there are no clear solutions to the man-nature conflict (sad that we are now compelled to use these terms!). But, as a generation that is more and more affected and impacted by this issue, awareness is indeed the first step.
10 Indian Animals you may never see again in the wild by Ranjit Lal opens our eyes to the living treasures that we choose not to acknowledge. It is a humorously written book, but extremely hard-hitting as well, as it makes you aware of known and lesser known native animals that are in danger of extinction. I do wish there were some pictures and illustrations though!
Do pay heed to this basic advice by the author- “Visit national parks and wildlife sanctuaries (and other wilderness areas) as often as possible: with your family, or with your school. Then you’ll see what’s actually happening on the ground and will be able to ask the authorities some really embarrassing questions. Remember this country belongs to you- and not to those who are intent to rip it off by making the excuse that we have to ‘develop’. Any ‘development’ that destroys natural habitats is not development at all, just sheer destruction “. And yes, don’t forget to take a copy of this book with you! Trust me, it will make all the difference!
Read the book free of cost on kindle unlimited.
History is a funny thing. When we read history we often take it as absolute truth, forgetting sometimes that it is but a point of view. More often than not, it is the point of view of the victor or the person in power! It is quite heartening then, to observe voices of women from history being heard strongly through a variety of books thanks to the painstaking efforts of some writers. One of the fascinating voices from the past belongs to an admired queen- Nur Jahan, known as the co-sovereign of the Mughal emperor Jehangir. In a bold and highly creative attempt, Deepa Agarwal imagines the teenage diary of Nur Jahan, in a book that goes by the same name. This piece of historical fiction is especially targeted for the YA readership, and has been published by Speaking Tiger Publishing.
Nur Jahan is a name that evokes awe and respect. She is one of the rare queens known as a co-sovereign. Yes, her beauty captivated the king, but her intellect, skills and power have firmly stamped her name on the pages of history. She may have been Jehangir’s twentieth wife, but had a great influence over him and the state. She was the de-facto ruler and the most powerful Mughal empress.
Reading The Teenage Diary of Nur Jahan gives a fascinating glimpse into the inner mind and world of such a multifaceted persona. Agreed, this is an imagined inner world, but Agarwal has been faithful to existing records about the empress’s life and deftly constructed the diary around it.
The diary of a young teenage girl who nurses the wish to marry the crown prince, is sure to be fascinating! How did she develop the grit and confidence that marks her rise? How did she navigate her way through the gender stereotyping and the veiled and sometimes forthright discrimination against girls that sadly marked those times?
However, Nur Jahan was no ordinary girl. Her desire to be the queen and uses her power was present right from the start. Her dreams to serve her people and add beauty and happiness to the world around her were strong and resolute. And, the imagined teenage diary of Nur Jahan gives the perfect glimpse into the mind of this fascinating historical character, as seen from the extract…
“What would I do if I were the governor of this province? The very thought makes me breathless. To be enthroned in a splendid court- even if it is behind a veil- with supplicants bowing to the ground before me. To issue commands that men rush to obey. To be responsible for the fate of thousands. To possess power over the life and death of any human being in this territory…”
In the foreground is the story of a young girl coming of age. But the background is peppered with tales from the emperor’s harem, life in the time of Emperor Akbar, the social scenario that accompanied those times and such other details that add their own flavour to the story. The beautiful sights of Kabul, where Nur Jahan’s father was posted for a few years accompanies the major chunk of the book. The family then returns to the Mughal courts where her dreams have a chance of turning into reality.
The diary pertains to Nur Jahan’s teenage years. I was delighted by the colourful slices of life presented here. Equally interesting are the psychological insights that Agarwal deftly weaves in. Of course, the personal diary as a genre in itself is appealing since it gives a deep insight into the innermost thoughts of the writer!
The Teenage Diary of Nur Jahan by Deepa Agarwal will delight young adults and adults who devour the genre of historical fiction!
If you’re interested in the life of Nur Jahan you may also want to read Empress- The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan by Ruby Lal
If you find fictional diaries of historical personalities interesting, here’s another pick up this interesting fictional diary- The Mozart Girl by Barbara Nickel, which talks about the sister of musical genius Mozart.
2 self- designated teen detectives, Neha and Johan are the best of buddies, 13.75 years old and solving cases and mysterious happenings however big or small at their school in Delhi is their number 1 passion. Experienced and dedicated they are and the best part is that Johan, psst…. has a secret weapon up his sleeve.
There was a theft at school and excitement was buzzing in the air. The Sadanand Trophy for Extramural Excellence, which was a rolling award had been stolen from the principal, Mr Jamaal’s office and Ramji the peon had been blamed for it. Neha and Johan smelt something fishy and knew they had a case on their hands and got to work to prove Ramji’s innocence.
Neha thought logically and believed that solving cases is about observation. And Johan, an intelligent nerd, teacher’s pet and Mr know-all smelt things differently. His secret weapon was his long nose that had a mind of its own (yes, you read it right!). His secret ability is his nose. His nose is able to smells clues….it snorts, sniffles, scrunches and also makes sounds of different tones, shrill squeaks and sub human whines whenever excitedly close to solving a case.
Using their skills and ideas after watching many episodes of CSI AND Criminal Mind they follow clues left behind by the culprit and are successful in catching the real thief. Now, whenever the two are on a case prowl, they usually do it unofficially but since they were successful in solving the case of the rolling trophy they manage to win the trust of Mr Jamaal and for some time are treated as mini celebrities by students who have either bullied them in the past or many who have paid them no attention.
One day after the summer vacations Mrs. Menon, the warden of the girl’s hostel is attacked and left unconscious in her room with the room in complete disarray and the police have been called for investigation. At the same time mysterious strange goings- on in the girls’ hostel are noticed which are stranger than ‘Stranger Things’ the Netflix serial. The principal calls the two to investigate. Amid rising tensions Neha and Johan go to the hostel to have a look and Neha channels her inner Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games and goes into strategizing mode with the Nose sniffing away.
Meanwhile beautiful solitaire earrings go missing from Sarika’s room who is the undisputed queen bee of the school and most of the boys at school have a crush on her including the Nose whose nose goes quivering, hormones and all when she passes by. Amidst all the excitement and tensions, edge of the seat moments, Neha and the Nose try to find if there is a connection between all the happenings and catching the culprits in time. How, Why, What, When, Where are the answers to the questions that Neha and the Nose have to solve before the police do.
Read this captivating and gripping book by Ruchika Chanana who is a writer, editor and theatre practitioner. She has written short stories, non- fiction books and is a content writer for many websites.
Buy the book and go on an enthralling reading ride with Neha and the Nose!