Toilet training comes with a great relief for parents when the ‘training’ is finally done. But, ensuing that there is another unique problem that parents face. Once their kids have outgrown diapers and refuse to wear them, the parents must deal with this innocuous request at the oddest of times and places- I Need to Pee
Rahi has an odd problem. She loves to drink all kinds of things. Though little children drinking a lot of fluids is a good thing indeed, it makes her want to pee all the time. And that, is a bit of an inconvenience. This witty and funny picture book travels with Rahi, her mother and brother in tow, to all the public places where it is quite challenging to find a decent loo. Rahi has her book of important quotes with her, and any obstacle to her peeing, she is ready with a witty one-liner.
As parents don’t we often roll our eyes or get irritated when our child wants to pee at the unlikeliest of places and at the most inconvenient of times? In a subtle but humorous manner the book reinstates this situation from the point of view of this child.
Rahi’s attitude is amazing. She boldly reiterates her need to relieve herself despite all the ‘obstacles’ that include dirty toilets, stinky facilities and irritation from all others on her need for going to the loo all the time. I love the way Rahi sticks to her guns, demands what she wants without flinching a bit. She carries her “Book of Important Quotes” with her. Whenever any adult comes in the way of her ‘right’ to pee, she boldly reads a quote from her book and the adult is left stunned and wondering! On one level, it is humorous. But, think deeper and you will see that this is actually assertion of one’s rights. This is the stuff little children should be made of!
The book is beautifully illustrated by Meenal Singh and Erik Egerup. The artwork adds to the vibrancy of the story.
Well, I Need to Pee will certainly not solve all your ‘toilet-problems’ when you travel. But what this book truly stands for is the belief that a safe clean toilet experience is a basic right. Adults should look at it more seriously.
Title: I Need To Pee
Author: Neha Singh
Illustrators: Meenal Singh and Erik Egerup
Publisher: Puffin Books
Age group: 3 onwards
It is very special to read a Rani Lakshmibai biography dedicated to young readers. Not only is she an enigmatic historical character, but as a woman warrior known for her mental and physical strength, she continues to be an inspiration for many.
A different face of the Rani
We have known Rani Lakshmibai as a brave queen sitting on horseback with a child on her back and a sword in hand. But, Sonia Mehta delves into the childhood of the queen, to the very roots of her strong personality.
Through the well narrated tale we learn how the motherless girl who was not even a princess by birth, grew up to be one of the most revered queens in history.
My favourite aspect about the story is the thread of feminism that runs through it. The book describes how, as a child, Manikarnika (for that was what she was called) defied tradition and educated herself. She rejected gender boundaries set by the mores of the times she lived in. Not only that, but she inspired other women to break norms of the time. She had her own secret army of women!
Mehta’s narrative brings out these aspects in an inspirational and positive manner. Another small but important touch is at the of the book where Mehta gives a brief description of brave queens in the history of the world.
The story-like flow ensures that facts are narrated as if one is reading a fiction book. This angle makes it interesting for the reader. Since the story of the Rani Of Jhansi needs to be viewed against the backdrop of the British rule in India, it is necessary that the readers are aware of some relevant historical details (for example, the British policy of annexing states without an heir). Such historical facts and background information is provided in sidebars and side boxes. Thus, the flow of the story remains uninterrupted and the facts are also presented for easy reference.
The book is easy to read and divided into chapters, each dealing with a specific point in the queen’s life. It is based on extensive research. The illustrations add to the enjoyment of reading and appreciating the book. Interspersed with interesting facts and details, the book provides a refreshing insight into the life of a queen who is still very famous in popular culture, but who people actually know very little about.
A great story about Rani Lakshmibai that traces her journey from childhood through her valiant end in detail. It is pepped with interesting less known facts and supporting information which is sure to interest readers. This is a Rani Lakshmibai biography that every child must read!
Author: Sonia Mehta
Illustrator: Jitendra Mahadik
Publisher: Puffin books
Age group: 8-10 years
Other books in the Junior Lives Series
We are all familiar with a rich text environment. Look into any primary classroom and you will see that it has some elements of a print rich environment.
Way back in 1989, researchers Neuman and Roskos conducted a study. They made a classroom environment more print rich. They studied the children before and after this change. They found that after the experience of print, children used twice as much print in their play than they did prior to the changes!
Parents can benefit from this knowledge and turn their children’s rooms into havens for learning by creating a rich text environment.
A rich text environment means much more than having books all around!
Here is how you can design a home environment to make it rich in text.
A space for displaying words, text and pictures
Every child will benefit from good display space. This is also the best way to create a print rich environment since you can display any kind of print you want here. Ideas for what to include here- age appropriate charts, labels, signs, timetables, quotes, written text and work by the children.
Soft boards, magnetic boards, white boards and chalk boards are the common ways to provide a space for display. Nowadays we also get chalkboard and magnetic paint. Use them on any blank wall or even the wardrobe doors!
Having boards on the wall is not in the only way to display texts and posters. Display spaces can be created quite innovatively. One can use colourful strings and ribbons across the room and display stuff on fancy pegs. Other spaces that could be utilised for display include the back of the door and the space above the study table.
It is also important to ensure that children are able to interact with the display. For example, a child is more likely to look at a chart that is placed at their height.
When a child starts recognizing letters, it is the perfect time to label stuff in the room. This enhances and stimulates their interest in reading. However, one must make sure that the print is clear. Labelling is a classic example of how something small makes a big difference. If labelling is combined with images, it would have the maximum impact.
Playing around with colours for the labels is a good idea. For very young kids it is better to use solid colours like red or black for labelling their stuff. Later on, you can experiment with the numerous options that the markets are crowded with.
Well, this is something that obviously goes into making a space a rich text environment. A little reading corner will give the best advantage of a print rich environment. A good book-nook should be well lighted. Ideally, a child should be able to access books by himself. Books must be well organized. A seating space for cuddling up with a book is not so bad either! Rotate books regularly to ensure freshness.
Today, the market is filled with great wall décor options. For instance, wallpapers that have informational text or maps are great for a child’s room. Interactive wall décor through reusable wall stickers is another option. These come very handy there as they are repositionable. They can be peeled off as soon as the child outgrows a learning phase. They do not leave any damage to the walls. For example, an alphabets wall display can be easily converted to nursery rhymes or an animal recognition chart the following year. They are also versatile and can be used on everything from painted walls, furniture, glass, windows, and doors to bathroom tiles – so one can be creative with their display options. This is a great way to personalise a room and turn it into an interactive play area.
While map wallpapers are a good idea, map prints themselves work great. Maps look great in a child’s room and they have so much packed into them. In addition to all the print on the map, they open up literally a world of possibilities for discussion. Another subtle touch is to add a globe. It’s a great accessory to have.
The above changes can be incorporated in your child’s room or your own if you share space with your child. One can keep these factors in mind while redesigning or creating a new room. But, the most important thing to make these design ideas work is to use them for the way they are intended.
Different children respond to print-rich environments differently. For some merely having the stuff there is enough. For others, parents need to help the child interact with the room to benefit from it. A reading nook will work if your child actually sits there and reads as would a display space, if your child actually looks at what is put up there! As always, design works for those who help themselves! Well, here’s to a rich text environment then!
Here is a selection of posters for younger children:
The Feather Tales series of books by Deepak Dalal are quite special. For one, they are inspired by nature and the Indian wilderness finds a prominent space within them. Secondly, the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous! The third book in Feather Tales series, Feather Tales: The Paradise Flycatcher, brings one more exciting adventure for young readers.
Meet young Mitalee- a brave girl who loves her feathered and furry friends. But, where is Snowdrop, aka Shikar…her rare and exotic squirrel? The creatures who inhabit the beautiful Rose Garden are sad and gloomy. The beloved white-headed squirrel is missing. He was last seen with a paradise flycatcher, a stunning bird with a long white tail. He has left no other trail.
Can the animals and birds of the rose garden find him? Can Mitalee find him? The creatures and the humans….both embark upon a quest. Both have one goal in mind- to find Snowdrop.
While the loyal band of birds fly to distant forests to track down the beautiful flycatcher, Mitalee and her friends uncover the cruel world of illegal pet trade. Both these instances are linked to finding Snowdrop. Will they be able to coordinate their efforts for this goal? In an exciting and fast paced narrative, the creatures and the children work to get the squirrel back. But, it is a path wrought with danger. The thrilling chase is a testimony to the power of friendship and love.
The author Deepak Dalal is an avid nature enthusiast and this comes across strongly in the vivid descriptions of India’s flora and fauna in the book. Of course, the cherry on the cake are the absolutely gorgeous illustrations by Krishna Bala Shenoy.
Well, Feather Tales: The Paradise Flycatcher has an exciting plotline to keep young readers on the edge till the very end! Add to this the beautiful illustrations and evocations of the Indian wilderness!
Other books in the Feather Tales series:
Author: Deepak Dalal
Publisher: Puffin Books India
Age group: 8 onwards
Fly little Fish by Lavanya Kartik is a heartwarming picture book about a little fish who wants to fly. Well, fishes can’t fly…or can they?
In the first half of the picture book, the little fish does what any little one would do- confide her deepest desire to fly to her parents, and then her friends. Of course, her parents and friends try to explain to her what most adults do when children come to them with their impossible dreams- they nicely and very politely tell little fish that fishes don’t fly, fishes swim.
Then, thankfully, little fish does what little ones should do- try to achieve the impossible dream by itself. What’s more, the little fish is successful! It flies all the way to the sun and moon and back.
In a touching end, the little fish inspires a little bird. Now, the little bird wants to swim!
The illustrations by Satwik Gade and Ashwathy PS complement the story perfectly. The little fish is in the water, looking at the sky. The illustrators have played with the perspectives quite innovatively and shown the sky from the point of view of a little fish in the water.
In a subtle but beautiful way, the pages that show the little fish flying do not have any words, but only illustrations that show the little fish flying blissfully, crossing a dense forest, meeting the sun and also flying with a flock of birds. In one sense, the absence of words and sole inclusion of pictures alludes to the fact that the bravado of the little fish renders everyone speechless!
Well, the little fish returns back to the ocean, all safe and sound but highly enriched and probably more confident by the experience. Her ocean mates are still speechless but what is inspiring is that in the end, a little bird in the sky wants to swim!
The little fish is a very lovable character with all its grit and determination. Pictures speak louder than words and this is clearly seen in Fly Little Fish!
Title: Fly little Fish
Author: Lavanya Kartik
Illustrators: Satwik Gade and Ashwathy PS
Publisher: Karadi Tales
Genre: Picture books/ children
Age group: 3 years and above
At the very face of it, One Dark Cloud is a Counting book. Counting books are quite important and interesting for young children in that they develop math and number awareness.
As a counting book, One Dark Cloud tackles a specific area- it is a counting book for a rainy day! So right from one dark cloud in the sky on a rainy day, to blankets and umbrellas and gum-boots, the author Shobha Viswanath incorporates a theme to the numbers. She gently weaves in the concepts of counting with the art of storytelling, building up to the essence of a rainy day.
The arty feel
While the concept and the counting that follows definitely delights the child, there is something else that makes this book special- the arty feel that the design brings with it. Illustrators Ashwathy P.S and Anusha Sunder have used a combination of art techniques in order to bring out a very arty and textured feel. Each number from one to ten is beautifully depicted on a jute mat. Lightly painted newspaper cut-outs in different shapes and sizes illustrate the city on a rainy day. The illustrations are a heady combination of collages, photography and design.
The design of the book is exceptional and it is these nuances that contribute to the enjoyment of the book. For example, in terms of content the objects which are to be counted generally assume more importance. The child has to identify these. Each object to be counted, such as the frogs, raindrops, umbrellas and so on are highlighted in their own special way since that they stand out against the backdrop of the page. Little details such as the steam from the samosas made of newspaper scraps or the clouds themselves which are a collage best described as a merry mishmash, could well be a good initiation into art appreciation!
The book has an Indian ethos in terms of design and content. Hence, tea and samosas also form a part of the rainy day list!
It is a timeless book that shows visual storytelling at its best. Much after the children have learned the numbers, they can still look at the book for its beautiful art. One Dark Cloud also makes for a good gift to an early reader.
Title: One Dark Cloud
Author: Shobha Viswanath
Illustrators: Ashwathy P.S and Anusha Sunder
Publisher: Karadi Tales, 2017
Mathematics can be very cool. But, if you’re got a set of math techniques up your sleeve, that can be supercool and impressive. Yes, even in this day of calculators and computers, math prowess does score points! Maths Sutras from around the World: Speed Calculations on your fingertips by Gaurav Tekriwal takes a shot at bringing some marvellous math techniques from around the world.
A mathematical world
Have you ever spared a thought as to how exactly math is taught in different countries? Tekriwal has explored and studied math systems world over. He picks out the best amongst the lot and presents a fairly diverse range of math techniques drawn from different cultures.
The concepts of Indian Vedic Mathematics have been given key importance. The bar modelling technique from Singapore is another system that the author talks about. Then, there is the famous Japanese grid puzzle culture (think Sudoku!) that finds expression in the book through the description of Kakuro and KenKen puzzles.
The book has ten chapters covering different math concepts through specific and well-researched math techniques.
Turning conventional math over
I always thought that addition and subtraction are only done right to left. However, the chapter on Addition highlights a left-right method of mentally adding large numbers! The Super subtraction method described in the book also does likewise. He describes the Base Method of Multiplication derived from teachings of the Indian saint Tirthaji in the early twentieth century. Besides the four basic computational skills the book also tackles word problems, fractions, squares, percentages, square roots and times tables.
This adage is probably most true for mathematics! The book has numerous activities and worksheets for all the concepts and techniques described.
Yes, this is a book about math, but do look out for some interesting stories inside as well! Wherever relevant, Tekriwal has included some interesting stories and facts related to the mathematical concept. For instance, I found the story of Jakow Tractenberg who built a new system of mental arithmetic whilst at Hitler’s concentration camp quite inspiring!
Age no bar
While this book is primarily addressed to school going math learners, it would be of interest to anyone interested in mental arithmetic.
With gadgets at our finger tips, many people actually wonder at the relevance of mental calculations. As the author describe in the book, the brain behaves exactly like a muscle. It needs regular exercise. Besides impressing people with your skills, metal math prowess lead to a sharper mind and better logical reasoning skills! So, it’s time to sit back and let these Math techniques work up some mathe-magic!
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