« Give me six months and I will teach your sons how to live wisely. They will make you proud » said Vishnu Sharma, the great Pandit to whom we trace the inception of Panchatantra. The famed guru employed the unique technique of storytelling to educate the sons of the king of an ancient kingdom. Through the annals of time, these worldly-wise stories have enriched generations of readers. A Basketful of Animal Tales by Sreelata Menon dips into this rich literary legacy and chronicles these timeless gems.
This book presents stories from the Panchatantra in an easy to read and accessible format. The text is simple and comprehensive, enriched with great vocabulary as well. This makes the book perfect for younger readers who could look at vocabulary enhancement in addition to the moral aspect of the story.
Each chapter tells a popular story in simple but rich language. The morals given at the end are short and snappy. The lovely illustrations by Megha Punater that accompany each story work well with the text.
Tales from the Panchatantra have been an important part of our literary heritage. This book sets the stage for some interesting tales involving a host of much-loved animal characters. Children may be familiar with some of the more common stories such as The Monkey and the Crocodile for instance. However, this is a mixed basket and you’re also sure to hit upon several unread gems.
In all, A Basketful of Animal Tales by Sreelata Menon is perfect for a weekend read and also a nice timeless gift for children!
Today, more than ever before it is necessary to create awareness about the reality of climate change. The signs of our abuse of the earth are showing clearly now. The wounds are bare for all to see. It is more important than ever to teach children about climate change. That is why perhaps, a guide to climate change, or rather to teaching children about climate change is called for. As we all know, children represent hope. Perhaps the way to change things for the better is to create awareness within children.
Teaching children about Climate Change need not be a daunting task, as many of us would assume. This book presents a curated selection of poems, stories and short information snippets, with enchanting and beautiful artwork, to bring forth the theme.
The text evokes wondrous images of the natural wonders that we are lucky to experience. But then, it gently introduces the concept of climate change and the dangers that this phenomenon brings for us.
Climate Change is a problem that belongs jointly to the whole world. It will not just impact one country or group. Keeping this broad aspect in mind, the book has pieces from varied places. Thus, a translation of a Gujarati poem sits alongside an old folk tale from Japan for instance.
Interspersed gently across the book are questions that encourage children to think about climate change and what they can do about it. How can they find their voice, and more importantly how can they express it?
Besides several well illustrated and simply explained facts about climate change, the book has clear and direct call to actions. These are simple suggestions about how a small child can make a difference at an individual level.
The book is also available in Hindi-Jalvayu Parivartan Se Prabhavit Dharti Hitrakshak Sandarshika
The Earth Carer’s Guide to Climate Change will resonate with children as young as 5 right up to 10-12-year-old children. It is a useful resource for parents and teachers to broach the subject of climate change in a humanistic manner!
Ziya Us Salam’s book, ‘365 Tales from Islam’, (published by Om Books International) for children is a treasure trove of fascinating reads. A supposedly closed window is opened and 365 stories tumble out one by one giving meaning to the different facets of Islam.
Assalam-u-aliakum! (A greeting or salutation in Islam meaning peace).
The Muslims believe that Adam was the first prophet sent to earth by Allah and Prophet Mohammad was the last to whom the revelations of the Quran in Arabic (foundation of Islamic faith) were revealed bit by bit in parts during his lifetime. The Quran mentions that Isa (Jesus Christ) was one of the last Israeli prophets and a healer and talks about Musa(Moses) to whom the scriptures were revealed ,a criteria on how people should lead a happy, content and harmonious life. There are 114 Surah’s (verses) in the Quran and Muslims should read them regularly. Insights are offered as to why preference should be given to education and all children whether a boy or girl should be welcomed in the family, why the first Athaan/Azaan was called out loud since in the early days there were no watches and people lived far away and hence they needed to be informed about the time for prayers, why performing the wudu/ablution, a hygiene ritual is important for the purity of a Muslim, importance of praying five times a day, observing rituals, fasting and the suhoor meal and so on.
The author, Ziya Us Salam is a noted social and literary commentator and author of many books for adults. He has been associated with The Hindu group for 19 years. In this book, the tales have been simplified so that the language and text is easy to comprehend. Each tale has something special to teach and moral stories of value have been highlighted. All the stories are illustrated and they are colourful and eye catching. Many a times, if the children find the stories difficult to comprehend, the illustrations provide a link.
Om Publications always comes up with appealing and entertaining books for children and 365 Tales from Islam is just that! It is educational and highlights life in ancient era and modern times with funny anecdotes included so that children do not tire while reading or being read too. It is a book to keep, the tales are detailed and we learn so much more about Islam and its teachings.
Title: 365 Tales from Islam
Author: Ziya Us Salam
Genre: Religion and Spirituality
Appropriate for Children 6+ and with Parental Guidance
Publisher: Om Books International, Hardbound
‘Blessed‘ by author Deepa Agarwal comes as a breath of fresh air. It is a story that will appeal to modern readers – a fictional tale with some magic. It is a fast-paced read where the underdog emerges victorious!
The title ‘Blessed‘ primes the reader’s thoughts to someone with a gift or special power which is the central theme running through the story.
The story unfolds in a poor district, Kote, where girls are forbidden to read or write. The once prosperous kingdom was overthrown by the evil, neighbouring Agyanees. The drama unfolds with the search for a Blessed girl child who will recite the ancient hymns and close the shield of protection. This will restore the kingdom to its previous glory. Is the ‘so called blessing’ really a blessing? Or is it an unwanted burden in the guise of a blessing?
The plot takes many twists and turns which include a jealous brother, traitors, kidnappings, form changing characters and priests with super powers. Despite all the dynamic happenings, what holds appeal is the simplicity of the people, the eventual victory of good over evil and the new world order which makes it possible for girls to receive an education. The book is an admonition to backward cultures which treat women as secondary citizens and do not value education. The illogical nature of this behaviour and need for change comes through in spades.
Would a slightly longer book with more detail be preferable? Definitely! Would more depth to certain characters be appreciated? Surely! Would a better background have elevated the story? Probably! But all these minor aspects fly right out of the window when we find ourselves rooting for the innocent child protagonist, and that is indeed the strength of this novel.
This is the tale of Bhuri, a girl from the village of Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh. Dotted Lines – a visual autobiography of an artist (published by Katha Books) narrates the simple life of a village girl as she grows into a young woman. Each page is filled with wonderful illustrations made by Bhuri. They bring alive the beauty intrinsic to the little scenes of life in a village. It also highlights the superstitions and beliefs that the villagers live with, as well as customs and traditions they harbour. The book is apt for readers aged 5 right up to 12 years.
Here is a book that tells the tale of empowerment as much as it illustrates the unique cultures and artistic traditions that are a part of our diverse nation.
Bhuri moves to the city to work as a daily wage labourer. However, destiny has other plans for her. Thanks to a sensitive curator, she gets an opportunity to paint traditional Bhil Pithora art on paper. Well, she is used to painting on the walls in the village. Will the art on paper be good enough? By transferring her skills on paper, she is in a sense leaving behind ‘tradition’ and yet, continuing that tradition! Would she succeed in this task? How does painting free her and empower her in ways she had never imagined?
This narrative may sound complex for a young child. But then, that is the beauty of Katha Books. Such a nuanced story is made so accessible to a young child, who will be able to enjoy it as a picture book. In the process of reading the book the child also learns about the Bhil Pithora art tradition and painting in the Bhil way, complete with the dots inspired by the maize corm grown in the area.
In addition to that, there is a new window that opens up, illustrating nuggets from the lives of people in Indian villages, the tribals that strive so hard to protect their culture, the changes in their lives- both for the better and for the worse, and how modernity can take away so much and yet give a lot.
This is a true story that reveals how art can be a saviour, when we attempt to save it! Here is a book that tells the tale of empowerment as much as it illustrates the unique cultures and artistic traditions that are a part of our diverse nation.
Young school going boys are not normally expected to have monster hunting skills, but Karma Tandin is a non-threatening exception. Book 1 of Karma Tandin, Monster Hunter (published by Duckbill ) introduces middle grade readers to a host of delightful characters led by unassuming Karma, his partner in crime Chimmi, the enigmatic Dawa and many more. Karma Fights a Monster by Evan Purcell chronicles this amazing adventure.
So, Karma Tandin is a monster hunter and the twelve-year-old has fought many different monsters and kept his town safe. But not all monsters are born equal, and some of them could be extremely confusing. When he sees the new school librarian swallowing a frog, he knows something is amiss. But, just because someone is a monster, does not mean they are evil. Or does it?
This is a book that takes you on a roller coaster ride. In terms of language it is delightfully funny. Loads of humour packed in and overflowing…not only in situations that arise in the book but in the language as well. And as the young reader chuckles through the chapters, the quick paced turn of events and surprises play their role in adding to the thrill.
Karma is a protagonist that every child can easily identify with. He is not shown to be a superhero of sorts, though he is the famed monster hunter. He is as ‘human’ as any of the readers reading the book. Excellent story, capturing plot and loads of good humour…. Karma Fights a Monster by Evan Purcell is definitely a must-read for children aged 10 upwards.
If you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited you can read the book for free.
One of the best ways to inspire children to reach and perform at their optimum best, is to narrate stories of individuals who are recognised as achievers. No wonder, biographies and autobiographies that are written for children and young adults are quite popular! Wonder Kids- 100 Children who grew up to be champions of change is an impactful read. Written by Anu Kumar, and published by Hachette India, the book has short and compact stories that provide a window to view the childhood of icons from different walks of lives. The essence that one takes away is that greatness and spectacular achievements often have roots in childhood.
A great mix of personalities both alive and dead, men and women, Indian and foreign, young and old find their way onto these pages. Arranged in alphabetical order according to the names of the famous personalities, each chapter briefly narrates the life story of the individual. A short introduction provides a snippet of what he or she has accomplished. The chapter then illustrates their story. I love the way the focus of the narrative is always on the role of childhood events and the childhood experiences of that personality.
I think this element really works wonders for the young readers. For example, when they read how Bill Gates, at thirteen, made his first acquaintance with computers, they would be able to see his success in context. After all, the seeds of that success were sown at that tender age!
The inclusion of key figures who may be less known but still have made remarkable achievements is another factor that works for this book. The story of Janaki Ammal, one of the first women scientists in India for instance, is very inspirational as is the story of computer visionary Ada Lovelace.
The illustrations by Mohit Suneja work in tandem with the text. In each chapter a speech bubble highlights a key fact or quote from the personality, adding to the fun of reading it.
There are some popular current icons such as Sachin Tendulkar, JK Rowling, Mark Zuckerberg, Malala or icons from the past such as Rabindranath Tagore and Anne Frank. Some of the personalities go way back in history, such as Akbar and Mozart! There is a good balance between the male and female personalities chosen, and I think that makes the book quite well-rounded.
Wonder Kids- 100 Children who grew up to be champions of change by Anu Kumar is a book one must buy to dip into from time to time, to read, and then reread. It will resonate with children from age 9 up, as well as with young adults. In addition to the inspirational angle, I think this book is a captivating way to introduce information about different people from varied walks of life, with the point of view of enhancing general knowledge.
Unlucky Chumki by Lesley D Biswas is a hOle book by Duckbill, that takes a peek into the life of Chumki- a bright fun-loving little girl who lives in an Indian village. She loves going to school and is brimming with life and enthusiasm. But, there is a little problem. Chumki is considered unlucky. Everyone says that she can make things go wrong with her “magic”. Why is this so? How can she get over this obstacle that makes her feel terrible every single day!
As the story cruises Chumki’s life the reader gets many undertones of the gender stereotyping and the prevalence of superstitions in our country and society. The reason why Chumki is perceived as unlucky is rooted in superstition and lack of knowledge. However, this is brought out quite beautifully in a very fun filled story, that is also loaded with humour.
Luckily, Chumki is a spirited girl, and does not allow anything to dampen her spirits, lest of all tradition and superstition. Turning a supposed disadvantage to an advantage is the sign of a winner, is it not? As luck would have it, her brother Aki hatches a plan, and she is a part of it, but on her own terms. The story follows the children as they execute the plan. Will she now get friends? Will she be happier? Does her luck finally turn around? The illustrations by Anupama Ajinkya Apte add to the spunk of the story!
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!
Art as a subject is not something that we as parents may be entirely comfortable with, or knowledgeable about. When it comes to teaching our kids about great Indian artists, we may find that we lack information ourselves. However, it is essential that we expose children to the very rich and diverse world of Indian art and artists.
Why should our children know about Indian artists? The popularity of Indian artists is not restricted to India alone. Indian art has been revered over the world for centuries, and continues to be so even today. Children must know of the modern masters that their country has created! It makes them aware of their heritage and culture. This is not something they will find in a history book, but it is something that is still very much a part of their culture.
An experience in art in form of looking at the life and works of an artist is a way of opening up the mind to creative thought. Art education and appreciation helps to understand human experience, emotions and thoughts.
What was the genesis of Raza’s obsession with the Bindu? How did a simple dot become a defining factor? This book takes us through the childhood of one of the most famous painters of our times. It introduces children not only to his life story but also the themes of his works. The book is interactive and contains several fold out pages that enable the child to become more ‘hands-on’ with the book as he or she delves into the world of Raza!
This is a set of four books that talk about Indian artists. However, these books introduce the masters in form of a story, where a young protagonist encounters the artist and interacts with him or her. Fact and biography meet fiction and the delightfully woven tale makes the child feel as if he has met an artist friend! The books feature interesting illustrations as well as reproductions of the paintings by the artists.
In Barefoot Hussain, the young Jai offers to help the artist find his shoes when he loses them. The fun story follows the duo as the reader learns of vignettes and stories and works of the master’s life.
In A Trail of Paint, Biswajit is dragged unwillingly on a culture trip, to an exhibition of Jamini Roy’s paintings. Once there, however, an encounter with an old man leads him to an intriguing discovery of fakes and forgers, down Kolkata’s by lanes!
In My Name is Amrita, the dairy narrative is used. The book reads like Amrita Sher-Gil’s diary, and is interspersed with photographs and paintings.
In Ravi Varma: The Veena Player, a young girl, Valsa is helping her aunt restore a painting when she befriends the subject of the painting- the Veena player. Through this uncanny friendship she learns about the artist Ravi Varma!
This book beautifully chronicles the life of a multifaceted artist, who unfortunately died young. She was an artist, a dreamer and a rebel! Who exactly was Amrita Sher-Gil? She was a little bit of all these things, really. Her roots touched Hungary, as well as colonial Shimla. This book is relatively detailed and is filled with many images, sketches and photographs, all complementing the text so beautifully and literally bringing the artist alive on the pages. Divided into chapters, the book brings out how her childhood experiences and travels shaped her personality and work.
Amrita Sher-Gil: Rebel with a Paintbrush looks at her work in the context of the times she lived in, including many key world events. The book is organised well. The text gives information on Amrita and her life, while boxes of related information such as political and artistic movements of the times is also woven around. Many of the photographs have been taken by her father, who was one of the finest photographers in India. Her beautiful paintings are spread throughout the book. This one is for keeps, and also makes a great gifting option to a child who is fond of art.
Anyone dealing with children knows that when information is presented in the form of a story or in an interactive way, children are extremely receptive and enthusiastic. These books present the lives and works of renowned Indian artists in an extremely simple, interesting and accessible way. Do indulge in these books introducing Indian artists to children!
How does it feel to have to move away from home? How does it feel when the beautiful landscapes of childhood homes become just memories? The issue of exile is real, and it is sad. Being displaced from familiar surroundings and loved ones is something that no one chooses, but it is often forced on entire populations due to political and other disturbances. These portraits of exile now find a voice and expression that brings these concerns to children and adults alike. Three books – Homecoming, Homebound and Homeland talk about the stories of Tibetan refugees living in Bylakuppe, Karnataka.
Homeland is a story of a boy who came to India to become a monk. His idea of home is his mother. He says, “Home for me, is wherever my mother is. Once she passes away I will no longer know where that home is”. Homebound tells the story of a little girl who came from Tibet, and has matured into a young adult, nurturing dreams of writing. Homecoming is the story of an old woman who came to India as a young girl.
Poignant and heart-stirring, these are human stories that need to be told. They strike a chord in your heart, but are not depressing or sad at all. Herein lies the beauty of the words and the illustrations which evoke a happy tone in the three books. The gorgeous illustrations in all the three books, brings the breathtaking scenes of the Tibetan homeland alive on the pages. The exquisite nature of these illustrations truly mark a very high standard! Another helpful feature is that meanings of some of the longer or more challenging words used in the text are given on that page itself.
The series is a great started point to understand the life of refugees, and how beauty can be found in other lands as well. Yet, their struggles and pain need a voice, which comes out beautifully. The books are apt for children above 7 years and older kids will also appreciate these. The series is a must-have addition to school libraries as well.