June 01, 2015

Fly Away Home !!! -Christine Nostlinger translated by Anthea Bell

The cover page picture of the book, depicts a scene from a war torn city - flying planes, burning houses, rubble and a little girl standing amidst the destruction. The story is a true account of life in Austria during the end of Second World War , as seen through the eyes of a little girl, Cristal.

'The story I'm going to tell is true.
It happened to me. It is a tale of Gunpowdertown.'

Amidst the horrors of war, the air raids, the dark cellars, scarcity of food and constant fear of enemy taking over the city, curious little Cristal always looks for excitement and adventure. The wealthy and the poor, all are humbled by the war. After Cristal's house is reduced to rubble in an air raid, her family takes refuge in a wealthy suburb camping along with the daughter and grand children of Frua von Brun, the owner of the mansion. All of them live together in similar conditions without any distinction based on status.
 Soon,the Russians march into the city and worst of all, they chose to camp in the mansion in which Cristal,her family and von Brun family are staying. It is a mixed experience for the children, tense moments and friendly encounters with the Russians.

What I think about the book :

It's a wonderful read. A humbling one. Rich in emotions.

- For a mature audience( I would suggest for children 12 years and up).
- May require active involvement of parents. Lot of discussion opportunity regarding the dynamics of Second World War and some sensitive issues regarding the fears and worries of adults with respect to enemy occupation of their city.
- There is a little section at the end which has information regarding the war.

February 23, 2015

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

'The Incredible Book Eating Boy' by Oliver Jeffers comes with a disclaimer 'DO NOT EAT THIS BOOK AT HOME' :) and chances are  you might be tempted to give it a nibble !

Bookworms will love it !

It's about a boy Henry, who accidentally discovers that he loves  eating books. He eats all sorts of books, story books, dictionaries, atlases, joke books. More books he eats, the smarter he gets, even smarter than his teachers. Henry loves being smart.

But is his book-eating method a really smart way of gaining knowledge ??? Henry soon finds out.

It is a beautifully illustrated book with a funny story line. The illustration are creatively done on different types of paper. Some are drawn on cardboard,some on old books and maps.

It appeals to children and adults alike. For children it's pure fun. Lots of laughter, guaranteed ! My son spent a lot of time with the book.

Mature audience will appreciate the fact that there is no short cut to gaining knowledge and becoming smart.

My take :

It is a great read aloud book for 5 years and above.

A wonderful way of introducing children to different medium for creating beautiful illustrations.

A great way to telling children that stories can be told effectively and creatively told through pictures as well. You do not always need words, sentences and long paragraphs.

How about encouraging them to make flip books and their own comic strip ?

Found an interesting interview  Oliver Jeffers - the artist/ illustrator/writer here. Hope you enjoy it too!

January 23, 2015

Dirty Beasts - Roald Dahl

Presently,it's all about Roald Dahl in Junior's world. It started with The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me and The Fantastic Fox. The collection is steadily building up.

The lastest entry is Dirty Beasts.

  The description on the back cover says

" Roald Dahl has created a ghastly assortment of wicked beasts getting up to some extra ordinary and unmentionable things in this comic collection of verse. Meet the clever pig with a plan to save his bacon, the scorpion who likes to sting, the giant toad who can jump from England to France, and lots more."

My personal experience:
We had not read any of Roald Dahl's poems before. We were very excited. At bedtime, Junior and I took turns to read them aloud. We were rolling with laughter. The excellent illustration by Quentin Blake made the situations more comical.

 Suggestions : 
I would recommend it for children( 7 years +) who have read Roald Dahl books earlier and are familiar with his style and  humor.
Excellent  for parent-child bonding actvity. Please read it aloud along with your children. The stories though dark, are clever, fast paced and full of action. You might find your little ones giggling and squirming with disgust at the same time.( Some kids may not like the idea of an ant eater eating humans or crocodiles having boys and girls for lunch. But most 7 year olds I guess enjoy the yucky stuff :) ).

The poems are lengthy, vary from 2 to 4 pages ( except The Lion). There  are some sentences, which require careful handling and parental guidance. For instance, in The Cow,the reference to the man from Afganistan as horrid and cow dropping cow pat on his head. Also,The Scorpion, maynot be a good choice for bed time reading. It could be nightmare inducing.

All said and done, inspite of people being eaten and stinging scorpions, it's a must read. Funny,  nonsenscical, engaging....

Oh yes, it might encourage your kid to try writing some funny verse too. Junior got creative and wrote his nonsensical piece :
The lion came out of his lair
To eat a pear.
Is it fair ?
Are you sure, it is not a hare ?
A vegetarian tiger ! it's a night mare.
Such rumours are flying in the air.

 Next the lion wanted to cut his hair.
He went and sat on the barber's chair.
The other customers in the shop got a scare.
They ran as fast as a hare.
The barber shouted " Get up from the chair !"
The sad lion went back to his lair.

Image courtesy : http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/91zVXZSIurL._SL1500_.jpg


January 06, 2015

Born to Run - Michael Morpurgo

Born to Run - The many lives of one incredible dog......I could not resist the look in the eyes of the dog featured on the cover page of the the book. Those deep pleading eyes melted my heart. I picked up the book silently and put it in the cart. Reading the backcover was unnecessary. I was already convinced.

I was right. It is a heart warming story of a grey hound,right from the time he is rescued from drowning in a canal by a school boy. He is dognapped by a greyhound dog racer who does not care for his dogs. For sometime he is homeless and spents nights in streets but finally finds himself as the mascot of an oldage home. His incredible journey has its share of joyful and sad moments. He comes across wonderful and caring people. With each new owner he gets a new name.

It is a fast paced gripping story with a wonderfully gorgeous ending. Perfect for adults and young readers( 8 years and above). I enjoyed reading it along with my seven year old.There were times he would get upset and emotional but happy times weren't too far. It was a completely different and mature experience for him.

Try it out...you'll definitely get hooked to it.

Know more about Born to Run and Michael Morpurgo.

October 14, 2014

Sun, Moon, Stars and Beyond

Twinkle , Twinkle Little Star
How I Wonder What You are...
Look !! What I found Junior doing on a bright sunny afternoon with our old Handycam..."I'm trying to see the Sunspots with my telescope " he said nonchalantly .
We, humans, have always been fascinated by the wonders of the Universe - the Sun, the Moon, the Stars and beyond. They have been a part of our tradition, folklores for centuries.
We consciously or at times unconsciously , pass  this curiosity of ours on to our children.
We love showing the magical night sky to them.Their attentive eyes follow our fingers when we trace Orion, the Hunter constellation. Together we watch the bright Full moon from our bedroom window and tell "Moon will watch over you "as we kiss them Good Night. Sun, Moon and Stars figure in our lullabies.We tell them stories about the Sun and the Moon giving them humanly character. Among the first things that we teach our kids to draw is the Sun with a smiling face and Moon with a long chin.

Then, one day the little Pre -schooler comes home and excitedly tells  " Mama, Man has been to moon, Neil Armstrong has been there !!!
We are excited too... the time has come, we are brimming with information about the Universe and its mysteries. We have studied ,followed them on T.V and internet over the years and now would like to share them with our child - Big Bang Theory, Andromeda Galaxy, Black holes, Pluto no longer a planet and a lot more...
Hold on.......go slow.........take baby steps....
Let us begin by introducing the child to our friend Moon  and Man's First Step on Moon, first.

Age group : 4 to 5 years
This beautifully illustrated picture book is a nice way to tell children, what it would be like to go to Moon, walk on it and see our wonderful world from far, far away.  It brings astronauts, their rockets and their way of work into the child's world.
Another picture book that can be introduced at the same time  for the same age group is
A mouse, rabbit and chicken go on a moon mission on their rocket. As the name suggests the books tells a little more about the rocket  - its journey to moon and back to earth, the lunar lander, the zero gravity feeling inside the rocket etc.
Age : 4 to 5 years
Imagine all this conveyed wonderfully through pictures for our little ones.
For the children who can read fluently, the next book will further boost their interest in space travel vehicles.

Age Group : 5 to 7 years
It briefly describes rockets -its types and stages,the Apollo spacecraft and the Moon Mission, Hubble telescope, different types of satellites, space probes, astronauts life and work in space .
It is easy to read and comprehend for young readers. The detailed illustrations compliment the available informations beautifully.

In my opinion,these three books are like stepping stones leading our curious children into the world of space travel.
Let the little ones unlock the secrets of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars and beyond....

October 05, 2014

Ten apples up on top

Age - 4 to 5 years
Author - Dr. Seuss writing as Theo. Lesieg
Illustration - Roy McKie
Publisher - HarperCollins Children's Books
I had heard mixed reviews about this book from parents. Those who loved it always grinned at the mention of it.

Ten apples up on top” was the first one I picked up. Both Junior and I fell in love with it. It’s about a lion, dog and tiger that show off how many apples they can balance on their heads as they skip, climb trees, tight rope walk and skate. The story is full of action and excitement which had Junior rolling with laughter.
The sentences are short and have a rhythm which makes reading easier. It also introduces elementary counting. As he reads the child gets to know his number names one, two, and three well. For instance
 You can do three       or      “And now, see here.
But I can do more.               Eight ! Eight on top !
You have three                    Eight apples up!
But I have four. “                 Not one will drop. “
The illustrations compliment the fun part very well. Junior read and re read it every day with lot of joy.
There are three categories of books –  Green back is for the beginners , ‘Ten apples up on  top ‘ can be tried as first read.
Please visit http://www.seussville.com/ for more.

Follow up parent child activity:

-   Ask your child to draw his picture. Ask him to draw as many apples he wants on his head. After the drawing is over both of you count the apples and write “……… has ……… number of apples on his head”. Display it proudly on the fridge for all to see.
-   This activity requires some pre-work. Draw and cut out of at least 10 numbers apples. Keep a strip of long stiff paper and glue handy. Ask your child to stick as many apples cut- outs he wants on the strip. Stick this strip on your child’s head band. Now he can pretend to be the lion himself.
-   Ask your child to bring his favorite toys – cars etc. Ask him to place the apple cut-outs beside the toys starting from one end. Both of you count aloud the number of apples required to cover the whole length of the car. A nice way to introduce the concept of length measurement to the little one.
-   During playtime you and your child can have a ‘highest tower’ contest with building blocks. All along make sure both of you count loudly.

September 24, 2014

The Mouse And The Motorcycle

" Now come on. Tell me, did you or didn't you ride my motorcycle off the bedside table ?"
This took Ralph by surprise. He had not expected the boy to guess what happened.
" Well, yes. I guess you might say I did," confessed Ralph, rubbing his aching muscles.
"I thought so," neither the mouse nor the boy was the least bit surprised that each could understand the other. Two creatures who shared a love for motorcycles naturally spoke the same language.

This marked the beginning of a wonderful friendship between an adventurous mouse named Ralph and a boy named Keith. They met when Keith and his family decided to stay in an old motel in the California foothills for a vacation. Ralph's family ( mother and siblings) and extended family ( countless Uncles and Aunts) lived in the mouse holes and knot holes of this motel and survived on the crumbs guest left in their rooms.
Ralph was not an average mouse,nervous and scared. Per his worried mother, he was ' a reckless mouse' who loved to stay out late in the daytime when he should be sleeping safely at home.
'Pb-bb-bb' 'Pb-bb-bb' that's how you start a toy motorcycle, Keith taught Ralph. The little mouse went zooming around in the motel.
The story is a very engaging one. Readers will love to roam the corridors of the motel along with Ralph.At times, it also takes readers to mouse world where a mouse house is furnished with a clutter of things - bits of Kleenex, hair and raveling people drop on the motel floor. 
The story has it's share of climax too. Ralph like a real hero, saves himself from near death situation when he lands up in a laundry pile. He like a true friend, risks his and his families life to help his friend Keith.
As a Mom, I loved what Keith had to say when Ralph asked him if he was mad at him for losing the motorcycle.

"I guess you might say I'm mad but not real mad,"Keith decided. " I've been lying here thinking. It wouldn't be right for me to be real mad, because I get into messes myself. My mom and dad tell me I don't stop to use my head."

Wow ! it takes courage to own up that even we make similar mistakes and therefore, be kind to the offender.

A enjoyable read for readers aged 7 and above. Paper back, 184 pages.