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
Getting a child on to classic mystery chapter books may seem daunting. However, Mira the Detective by Pavithra Sankaran is an apt book to hook younger readers on the genre.
The protagonist, Mira, is an eight-year-old girl who is curious about everything that goes around her. With her wit and quick thinking, she is able to solve some challenging problems that people around her encounter. This book has three mystery stories for younger readers.
In “Tic Tic Tic Trouble” an antique watch is stolen from Mira’s mother’s shop. How does Mira manage to find the culprit?
In “The Mayamix Mess” packets of the popular and tasty Mayamix are destroyed in the factory. What could be the motive behind the crime…and how does Mira find out?
In “The Payasam Puzzle” a neighbour goes missing and is supposedly kidnapped. How will Mira get her back?
Mira the detective is always ready to solve a new mystery!
Vandana Singh’s illustrations make the reading all the more enjoyable. The three stories have a familiar cast of characters that the reader will get acquainted with. There is enough suspense to keep young readers intrigued, and yet, not so much that they get overwhelmed!
Moreover, this book belongs to the popular hOle series. Put very simply, it is a book with a hole on the top right hand corner. Believe it or not…this is endlessly fascinating for young children as well!
Crime….curiosity…suspense…a lot of deductive thinking….and of course, a brave little child- this book has all these elements of an exciting mystery story. With three stories packed into a single hOle book, it is a great collection of mystery stories for younger readers.
Title: Mira the Detective
Author: Pavithra Sankaran
Illustrator: Vandana Singh
Publisher: Duckbill Books
Age group: 5-8
OTHER hOle BOOKS
As most of us know, children can be extremely cruel, especially when it comes to treating other kids who are different. Duckbill Books has been a forerunner in tackling this theme in its well-crafted stories for children.
Susie Will Not Speak by Shruthi Rao continues this theme. Susie, a young lively girl, speaks with a lisp. Needless to say, she is the butt of jokes in the playground…and sometimes even with insensitive adults. However, she handles these difficult situations with grace and bravado.
Enter Jahan- a fun-loving boy who has a strange knack of hurting himself all the time. They develop a close friendship. However, something happens and Susie just stops speaking at all. The adults do their bit to set things straight…but ultimately it is all up to Jahan. Will he succeed in making Susie speak again?
Narrated with a generous dose of humour, it will have the reader smiling all the way to the end. While the book shows how mean adults and children can be to people who are ‘different’, it also shows how there are many sensitive people around. It illuminates how more often than not, children do have the power to overcome their own problems no matter how difficult it seems!
Susie Will Not Speak by Shruthi Rao is a part of the hOle books series by Duckbill Books. It is a chapter book and a great way to introduce beginning readers to chapter stories. With the illustrations by Lavanya Naidu, the book becomes all the more fun and accessible to children. But, more than anything else, it is an inspiring read for younger readers!
Title: Susie Will Not Speak
Author: Shruthi Rao
Illustrator: Lavanya Naidu
Publisher: Duckbill Books
Age group: Younger readers, 6-8 years
OTHER hOle BOOKS BY DUCKBILL BOOKS
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