The Renaissance is a much-loved period of art in the history of mankind. It was an era of peace and prosperity. Thus, people devoted a lot of time and money to arts and things of beauty. This art history book for kids introduces the Renaissance in a simple and easy to comprehend manner.
This book is easy to navigate since it is divided into apt chapters, each covering important aspects of the Renaissance period. Starting with what defines this period, the book goes on to describe the influences and techniques that dominated the era, the artists who made a mark with their works, the impact and influence of the period in general and the famous artworks of the era.
The young reader will understand how and why the paintings of the era stuck to predominantly religious themes, depicting scenes from the Bible. The book also talks about two main figures of the period, such as Raphael (known for his Madonna paintings) and Sandro Botticelli (known for mythological religious characters). At the end of the book, there is a small descriptive index with a few key works of the era and details pertaining to them.
By using illustrative examples from the artworks of these painters of the time, the book brings out the main distinguishing characteristics of the art of the period.
The young reader who reads the book will be enamoured by the sheer number of paintings used to illustrate the book. I read the e-book, and the quality of the images was very good as well.
The text has been written in a simple and easy-to-comprehend manner. However, it is not extremely detailed, but those looking at a very brief overview of the period would find this art history book for kids quite useful.
Title: I Like Art: Renaissance
Author: Margaux Stanitsas
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction
Age group: 6-10 years independently, and for the 4-6 years age group, I feel the book could be read with an adult.
Tashi, a cloth seller who lives in the mountains near Kalimpong wants to go to Benares to buy colourful silks. His aging mother asks him for a memento from Sarnath, the land where Buddha preached his first sermon. Tashi keeps forgetting to get a memento for her. However, one day, he picks up an old tooth fallen on the ground and presents it to her as the tooth of Buddha.
Will she know the truth about the tooth? What truth will the tooth finally reveal?
This is an old Tibetan folktale that is replete with beauty and wisdom. Maria L. Denjongpa recreates the magic of this tale in words that are simple and very accessible to children and adults alike. The illustrator, Chetan Sharma, also does a magnificent task of capturing the natural beauty and local flavour of Kalimpong, as well as the myriad emotions that the story talks about.
A concept like the power of faith is not a very easy one to explore, especially when the readership is targeted at young children. But, this book does a commendable job of that. It is a story that one cannot just read and forget. It is something that one revisits from time to time, even as the young readers grow!
The Truth about the Tooth is a picture book that explores the power of faith through the retelling of a Tibetan folktale. Maria L. Denjongpa’s words and Chetan Sharma’s illustrations capture the essence of the tale. It will be a delightful read for children over four years.
Title: The Truth About the Tooth
Author: Maria L. Denjongpa
Illustrator: Chetan Sharma
Publisher: Karadi Tales
Genre: Children’s books
Age group: 4 and above
Sonia Mehta is back with another stellar biography- that of Gautama Buddha. The fourth in the Junior Lives Series by Puffin Books, the book takes young readers through the lives and times of Gautama Buddha. Buddha is highly revered and immortalizing his story into this biography makes him more accessible to children.
The book reads like a chapter story book. It all starts with the birth of Prince Siddhartha. It gently propels the reader to discover how a prince raised in the lap of incredible luxury renounced everything worldly and turned to spirituality.
There are many legends associated with the life of Buddha. For example, it is said that he walked immediately after birth! These have been boxed and presented separately.
There are also various background facts about the life and times of Buddha. These are put in little boxes as sidebars to add an additional element of interest. For instance, I was surprised to learn that his wife Yashodhara was actually his cousin and the sister of his boyhood companion. They belonged to the neighbouring kingdom that was also home to his mother, Mahamaya.
I especially found the section on Nirvana described really well. The entire process of how Buddha attained Nirvana has been explained in a very simple and accessible manner. The Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path is also enumerated in a way that children will be able to relate to. The illustrations by Jitendra Mahadik enhance the reading experience.
The book goes much beyond the life of Buddha. It continues to describe the spread of Buddhism even after Gautama Buddha attained Nirvana. It talks about how the philosophy spread to other Asian countries. A later chapter also contains some stories about different lives that Buddha had touched.
This biography presents the story of Gautama Buddha in an interesting way, explaining several historical facts and shedding light on some unknown facets of his life. It not only narrates the tale of Gautama Buddha but also highlights key teachings, principles and symbols of Buddhism.
BOOKS IN THE JUNIOR LIVES SERIES:
Title: Gautama Buddha
Author: Sonia Mehta
Illustrator: Jitendra Mahadik
Publisher: Puffin Books
Age group: 8 +
Papa’s Marathon is a story that every family is familiar with. It all starts with Gia’s father going to the doctor, and the doctor advising him that he needs some exercise.
He is very enthusiastic about starting his exercise program. And yes, the latest fitness clothes and gadgets must find a way in as well. After all, they are required for his new hobby.
Well, the road to fitness is always paved with difficulty! Gia’s father loses the initial steam. But then, what are enthusiastic families for? It is clear that he needs motivation and the entire family is here to help! With great goals comes great motivation. Hence, he aims at participating in the Marathon.
Does Papa’s Marathon actually turn out the way the family expected it? They were all so enthusiastic about his participation that Gia’s grandmother is actually set to record the entire race on her camcorder.
But what happens to Papa’s Marathon on the D-Day? Does he cross the finish line? The surprising end of the story will leave the little reader with a smile on the face!
Nalini Sorensen’s words combine beautifully with cheerful illustrations by Prashant Soni in order to create a humorous account of how we approach fitness today. Papa’s Marathon may just be the right book to read as we are set to enter the season of marathons!
Title: Papa’s Marathon
Author: Nalini Sorensen
Illustrator: Prashant Soni
Publisher: Karadi Tales
Genre: Children’s books
Age group: 3-6
Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz describes a day in the life of a young boy, whose father is a miner. The boy lives by the sea and his father goes to work deep under the sea. The boy’s day is filled with play, while his father works tirelessly in the dark confines of the coal mine.
The bright and cheery scenes from the child’s day are contrasted with the dark and dreary coal mine, where his father works. The scenes that depict the day of the child have vivid detail while darkness envelops the mining pit. While the words used for describing the boy’s day are varied, for the father, it’s only as follows:
And deep down under that sea
My father is digging for coal
The ocean is ever present and the child can see it all the time, whether he is at home, in the playground or at his grandfather’s grave. However, his mind often wanders back to his father who is digging for coal. The book portrays the pattern of life in a mining town- both on land and in the mining pit.
The beautiful words are brought alive by stunning illustrations. Sydney Smith, the illustrator of Town Is by the Sea has won the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2018, UK’s oldest and most prestigious award for illustration.
Town is by the Sea may describe a coal mining town in the 1950s. But, the story evokes emotions that are relevant across time and geographical boundaries. Shared human experiences and stories can, after all, connect people from all over the world! This is a timeless picture book that children of all ages will enjoy. And yes, it will enchant adults as well!
Title: Town is by the Sea
Author: Joanne Schwartz
Illustrator: Sydney Smith
Publisher: Walker books, UK
Neel on Wheels, a picture book by written by Lavanya Karthik, illustrated by Habib Ali, and published by Duckbill books, infuses a refreshing spirit in the current picture book scenario in the country.
Neel is a boy on a wheelchair. His younger brother narrates the story. We commonly see a wheelchair as a sign of disability. However, in the book, Neel on Wheels, Lavanya Karthik turns the wheels and transforms the wheelchair bound Neel into a superhero of sorts.
The young narrator is in awe of his older brother. He feels that Neel can do anything and can protect him from a variety of ‘dangers’ because Neel has wheels! Children are quite imaginative and this lad does have a wild imagination!
The illustrations by Habib Ali merge beautifully with the flow of the story. One of my favourite drawings in the book is that of the boy imagining a tiger and a rhino in the living room. Ali has ingeniously transformed the living room furniture into these wild creatures.
No matter what the danger, Neel on Wheels always comes to the rescue, which is why he is a hero in the eyes of his brother. As the brothers go out to the park, or are on the road, Neel and his wheelchair always manage to face and address the lurking dangers that await the duo.
The wheelchair becomes a symbol of strength and resilience. As one of the verses puts it:
Whatever the dangers before us,
Whatever the bumps in our way,
Whatever wild creatures attack us,
Neel’s Wheels will save the day!
Neel on Wheels was a winner in the Children First writing competition organised by Parag, an initiative of Tata Trusts, and Duckbill Books.
In a sense, by changing the entire conception of the wheelchair as a tool that empowers Neel and makes him face the challenges before him, the book encourages young readers to alter common perceptions about children on wheelchairs.
Title: Neel on Wheels
Author: Lavanya Karthik
Illustrator: Habib Ali
Publisher: Duckbill Books
Genre: Picture Books
Age group: 2 to 6
Poetry, rhythm and movement. Young children love this combination and Something’s Moving! by Daya Subramanian is a perfect concoction of all three.
Something’s Moving!, a bright and cheery picture book for children takes Daya Subramanian’s delightful verses and Anusha Sundar’s eye-catching illustrations to bring animals to life. So, as the pages unfurl, the child is exposed to a variety of animals and their specific movements. Fishes swim, monkeys swing, swans glide, frogs leap, horses gallop, deer bound gracefully, elephants amble, bulls charge, crows flap their wings, woodpeckers knock on trees, snakes slither and tortoises crawl into their shells.
Each verse describes the movement of a specific animal. As you read the peppy verse it will be only too natural to mimic the movement described and actually enact the verse.
The illustrations are also quite attractive. One of their distinctive aspects is that they quite aptly part from typical illustrations of common animals. They have an Indian folk art touch to them and this unique style makes the reader appreciate the entire experience in a different manner. Hence, one has a beautiful swan that is not white at all, a glorious horse of royal pedigree and many more common animals seen with a very different and immensely creative lens.
With one verse and animal for a double page, the book is not crowded and busy at all. There is a lot of bold colour to keep it attractive for kids. It is an apt picture book for ages two to five.
A book that is fun to read and enact as well. Mimic the movement of the animals and the entire reading process will turn into a fun drama exercise!
Do remember to also focus on the illustrations, which resonate with a unique indigenous feel.
Title: Something’s Moving!
Author: Daya Subramanian
Illustrator: Anusha Sundar
Publisher: Karadi Tales
Genre: Children’s Books, Picture Books
Age group: 2-5
OTHER PICTURE BOOKS FROM KARADI TALES
“When Morning Comes” by Arushi Raina narrates a fictionalized account of the turmoil of the Soweto Uprising in South Africa. It was on June 16th, in the year 1976, when school students in the Soweto township in Johannesburg, South Africa, began a series of protests and demonstrations against some very oppressive educational policies of the government. Those were the days of an apartheid government.
The uprising is central to the story that is narrated from four different points of view: Zanele, a black girl; Jack, a white South African boy, Thabo, a thug and Meena, an Indian girl. The narratives spin the story forward to its conclusion, though never losing sight of the central theme.
What I found very powerful were the insights by the author, gently sprinkled across the four narratives. Consider the following statements;
“Mama thought that her life, cleaning after white people who spent most of the time pretending she didn’t exist, was a life worth living”
“To be neither black nor white was to have different, unclear loyalties. It wasn’t assumed that we were political agitators”
“A week and Zanele still hadn’t been found. My mother gave Lilian three days off to look for her. Maybe, because she believed in a mother’s right to bury her daughter- even if the mother was the help”
The simple but powerful language grips the reader completely, leaving the story alive in the mind long after the book is over!
I grew up in South Africa in the late 90’s. South Africa’s apartheid history wasn’t history then–it was a recent past, that as a child, I saw in flashes in how adults, and children interacted with each other. But I never really thought of writing a story set in this past, perhaps because it was too complicated, and too close.
It was only years later, sitting in a dorm room in New York, so far away from South Africa, that writing something grounded in South Africa, in a history I had caught in flashes, in classroom discussions and in my friend’s parents’ stories, felt not only something I could try and do, but something very necessary for my development as a writer.
Multiple narrators tell the story. The story moves forward with narratives from Jack, Meena, Zanele and Thabo. Why did you choose this particular form of narrative?
I think it felt like the only honest way to tell the story. I’ve always been a bit in love with points of view, how different voices can collide and come together in unexpected ways that I can’t predict.
In retrospect, I also think multiple viewpoints as a technique is very closely paralleled with my experience growing up in South Africa. Whenever I go back to South Africa, there are different perceptions of the truth, depending so much on the unique and nuanced racial, ethnic and histories that make up South Africa, and really any country, including India.
We need to live with that difference, to find our truth between the spaces of our individual opinions and perceptions. One of the saddest things to see happening around the world right now is the lack of nuance and diversity of viewpoints coming together. Luckily, it still exists in fiction.
Teenagers are associated with rebellion. However, history is a witness to the fact that the youth have been instrumental in effecting many changes. The characters are young and very resolute in their own way, quite different from the more shallow adults in the story. In your opinion, is this true of our young adults today?
Absolutely. One of the things I say when I go into classrooms today, is that teens are powerful, so powerful that they scare us adults a bit sometimes! But, with this power comes so much opportunity to change the way things are. For good and bad.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
In addition to learning about the Soweto Uprising when I was in school in South Africa, and touring the sites of the uprising, I also relied heavily on multiple documented primary accounts online and in text. The amount of time I spent trying to find books in obscure college stacks across the US (I couldn’t get to South Africa near the time of the first drafts) was not funny.
We live in a world where sadly, but definitely, children and young adults are exposed to conflict, war, inter-group hatred and the darker side of human nature. What impact do you hope the book has specifically for the young adults who read it?
I hope that they are powerful. That there are small moments, personal moments, family moments…that they have a voice and a chance to act.
Can you share any feedback that you have got for this book from your readers?
One thing I’ve always enjoyed hearing from teens is: why don’t they teach this in school, instead of boring historical textbooks? And I sort of agree. I mean that’s why I secretly wrote the book. I love history, but I only read fiction for fun. Why can’t more education thread in interesting diverse avenues, including fiction?
Another thing I hear a lot, which sort of breaks my heart, are teens who come up to me after a talk and tell me that this history in this book reminds them of their home in the Philippines, or in Egypt, or the US. Racial segregation and state abuse are big words but teens recognize it as well as anyone, and carry this experience from the places they came from.
You have lived and travelled in many countries, and this must have honed your world view. What is the role of literature in a society that is often fuelled by hatred?
Foremost, to experience something different from what we know, and then, to think about something a bit differently. It is not my goal to convince my readers of any particular message–not at all. It is to present a story and hope they will make the sense of it that they need to.
Are you thinking of a sequel following the story of Jack and Zanele? I am sure anyone who has read the book would want to know that!
I am, very abstractly. It will depend so much on my future as a writer!
The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. “When Morning Comes” by Arushi Raina reasserts the power of the youth to effect change in a world that is increasingly being torn down by violence.
Title: When Morning Comes
Author: Arushi Raina
Publisher: Duckbill Books
Tsering is setting off home after completing his tasks for the day. His taste buds tingle when he thinks of reaching home and relishing the yummy noodle soup, thukpa, that his grandmother (Abi) will cook. He encounters many people on the way, and invites each one to taste this delicious soup. But, will Abi be able to cook for so many? Will she have enough ingredients so that no one goes hungry? Well, when people have big hearts and a desire to share, there is always plenty for everyone!
Read the tale carefully and you will see that it is told from a blind child’s perspective. In that sense the narrative is layered. It gently weaves in multiple themes: the story of a visually impaired child who confidently and independently manages himself, a story about a close-knit neighbourhood community as well as a window into the exquisite beauty of Ladakh.
The simple story has a very heartwarming end…not to mention a delightful thukpa recipe as well!
Thukpa For All brings Ladakh to life. The beautifully rendered illustrations show the natural splendour of this cold desert located in Jammu and Kashmir. Right from the clothing that the characters wear, to the minute details of the region (such as prayer flags fluttering and a pristine river flowing) the reader sees a vivid picture of Ladakh. The use of a few words from the local language makes the story sound more authentic.
Thukpa For All is a story about sharing and caring set amidst the breath-taking landscape of Ladakh. A sub-theme also concerns itself with the normalcy with which a visually impaired child goes about his daily routine. This is also a great book to introduce children to the beauty and unique culture of Ladakh.
Title: Thukpa for all
Authors: Praba Ram and Sheela Preuitt
Illustrators: Shilpa Ranade
Publisher: Karadi Tales
Genre: Children’s books
Age group: 4 years onwards
Magesh is a lively and very active child. He loves playing with Vignesh, his older brother. Magesh speaks very little. However, his immediate family understands what he wants to communicate perfectly well. Though, outsiders often do not! Magesh loves drawing, and especially drawing cats. Vibhuti Cat is his constant companion and assumes varied forms. Soon, he too desires to go to school just like his older brother. How will his schooling journey be? What role will Vibhuti the cat play in school?
What words don’t say….
The book thoughtfully illustrates the inner life of a child who has a difficulty with speaking and verbalising. Vibhuti Cat becomes a form of expression for Magesh and a tool for him to gain confidence. The story also shows how a gentle, understanding and supportive family can go a long way in helping a child achieve his optimum best.
The book is meant for younger readers. It has wonderful illustrations by Shubham Lakhera that aptly portray the theme that the writer wants to evoke. The illustrations of Vibhuti the cat look exactly like drawings done by a child, adds to the realism. There is good enough text to accompany illustrations, and hence, the book is also appropriate for slightly older and independent readers.
A story about a differently abled child and how he sets off on the path to personal growth armed with his love for art and a loving family!
Title: Vibhuti Cat
Illustrator: Shubham Lakhera
Publisher: Duckbill Books
Age group: 6-8 years