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
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
Insects are not called ‘pests’ for nothing right? The Insect Boy narrates the story of a little boy’s repeated encounters with all kinds of insects. Right from the time little Roy was born, insects…those pesky winged creatures have really bothered him in many different ways imaginable.
However, once he grows up he starts to see insects in a different light. The book presents two possibilities here, as these are actually two books in one! In both, the story starts in a similar fashion, with insects harassing Roy, but both stories end differently.
Alliterations add to the fun
“Many marauding mosquitoes mauled him” or “wicked wasps made him weep” or “An army of angry ants bit him” ….these are but few of the numerous alliterations that fill up the book. As most of us acquainted with little kids know, they simply love alliterations. This makes “The Insect Boy” an apt read-aloud picture book on insects.
Well, this is a picture book and the illustrations show larger than life versions of insects which makes it quite fascinating. They show the insects all absorbed in their very natural activities of biting, marauding and in general harassing Roy! The child’s expression of fear, pain, disgust and wonder also come forth very clearly and openly through the images.
It goes both ways
You can start the story from the front or from the back. Yes…these are actually two books in one, but present two very different endings. This is an innovative spin to a picture book on insects for children. It shows how much there is to discover in the world of creepy crawlies and that they are not just ‘pests’, but fascinating creatures who have a world of their own.
Short and snappy alliterations, larger than life illustrations, an introduction to a variety of insects with some interesting facts gently interwoven in the story…this picture book on insects is a great book to read and keep for ages 3 and above.
Title: The Insect Boy
Author: Shobha Viswanath
Illustrator: Monami Roy
Publisher: Karadi Tales
Genre: Children’s books
Age group: Ages 4+
OTHER PICTURE BOOKS BY KARADI TALES
Sadiq wants to stitch by Mamta Nainy is a picture book that takes us right into the verdant valley of Kashmir. Sadiq is a young boy and he loves stitching colourful patterns on rugs, just like his Ammi. However, Ammi can be quite stern when it comes to this! She reminds him that boys in his community don’t stitch. Instead, they tend to the livestock.
But things are about to change. Winds of change blow over and Sadiq happily crosses the line. Will his mother be angry? Or will she embrace this change?
This is a simple but heart-warming tale that shows how gender norms must and can be defied. It also highlights the beautiful relationship between a mother and her son. It shows how intergenerational change can be simple and can be embraced openly.
The main theme of this book is to do with defying gender norms. However, underlying the principal story are other interesting strands. The story also highlights the culture of the ‘Bakarwals’, a nomadic community of shepherds and goatherds in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir. The Bakarwal embroidery is very well known. However, like other indigenous crafts, this too is slowly withering into oblivion. The book in a sense highlights this by talking about the beauty of this embroidery and the importance it has for the livelihood of the tribe.
Niloufer Wadia’s illustrations do justice to the breath-taking beauty of the Valley and the mountains surrounding it. Simple, joyful and very colourful, they add to the story beautifully.
Sadiq wants to stitch is a picture book that is apt for children aged 5 onwards. The beauty of this book however, is that there is no upper age limit. At every age and stage, a child will be able to pick up something from the book that is relevant to his or her life. For younger children the appealing story also illuminates the fact that age or gender should be no bar in pursuing what you love. Older children may additionally find the lives of the tribal nomads and references to their culture, quite interesting.
Title: Sadiq Wants to Stitch
Author: Mamta Nainy
Illustrator: Niloufer Wadia
Publisher: Karadi Tales
Age group: 5 years onwards
OTHER BOOKS BY KARADI TALES
For readers who enjoy reading on-screen, a new Juggernaut release, Jambavan, King of the Bears brings forth an interesting tale.
By the time most Indian children reach their tweens and teens, they are aware of the epic stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Even if they have not read the numerous translations and interpretations of these texts, there are cartoons and TV shows based on the same. They would be aware of basic stories from these ancient texts.
However, Jambavan, King of the Bears takes a dip into the realm of Indian folklore and mythology, and tells many tales on the side line. The story of Jambavan begins with the popular scene in the court of King Bali, when Vamana, that is, Vishnu disguised as a poor Brahmin requests for land from the king. He asks for a mere stretch of land that his three footsteps will cover. The king obliges. Little does the king know that the three steps would cover three worlds and Vishnu would claim everything! Right here in the court is the just, fair and very intelligent bear Jambavan.
The story follows Jambavan from here to the forest where he has a role to play in the larger scheme of things. He interacts with Hanuman, opening his eyes to his immense powers. But, a greater turn of events is to come. When he spots a lion carrying a jewel in its mouth, he senses something amiss. He takes the jewel away from the lion and gives it to his children to play with. Who comes to claim the jewel? What implications would this have for humanity? What lessons does this hold for humanity?
The author Arshia Sattar has a PhD in classical Indian literature from the University of Chicago. In this short rendition she charms the reader once again with an interesting tale elicited from the sidelines of the great Indian mythical works.
These two tales show a side of Indian mythology that has been eclipsed so far by larger and popular narratives. Quite short and simple to read on the Juggernaut website or App, these two stories are a quick-read for children between 7-14 years.
Read the story on https://www.juggernaut.in
Title: Jambavan, King of the Bears
Author: Arshia Sattar
Genre: Fiction/ Short Stories
Age group: 7 – 14 years