Sunday, March 15, 2015

Our collection from Lalbagh

When you go on walks with your children (no matter how old) do be ready to pick up tree-related things you find on the way, and take it home. But very, very strictly - no plucking things off plants and trees. It's good fun to try and find out what they are. This is our Lalbagh loot for today.

Here, we have a Cassia pod, a pod from an elephant ear tree, some figs, a prickly cone from a Monkey Puzzle tree, and some other things that we are yet to identify.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


What--or who--makes your child go starry-eyed? For instance, as a child, I think I used tolook up to writers. To me, they were of a fabulous species descended from the skies.  From what my mother says, I guess that for her, it was musicians. Some go gaga over sportspeople, superheroes--we all have a category of people that we look up to, to put it mildly.

I've wondered what worked for Puttachi. But I know what it is not - writers. Though she loves and devours books, writers for her aren't some unknown species sitting on some pedestal churning out books by magic. She actually knows, and has met many of the authors she reads. In fact, if I hand her a new book, she says, "Is it by one of your writer friends?" or if I'm looking for a book online, she saunters up and asks, "Looking for a book by one of your friends?" Writers for her are commonplace. Nothing to get all excited about.

So what was it?

I found out unexpectedly. One of my latest writing projects involves my interacting with scientists and researchers. When I speak about them to Puttachi, she drops everything, and listens, eyes shining. If I tell her that I shouldn't be disturbed for half an hour, since I have to call up a scientist, she says, "Really? Boy or girl? What is his name? What does he work on? Is he famous? All over India? Is he world-famous?"

If I take a quick call in front of her, she hangs around me, ready to do my every bidding--only if I'm talking to a scientist. She brings me a book to take notes in, scurries about finding a pen, and makes space on the table for me to place the book on, and then hangs around, mouth open, excitement on her face.

Usually, if I tell her that I have an urgent mail to reply to, and could she be quiet for two minutes, she doesn't listen. But now, she says, "Are you replying to a scientist?" and she goes completely quiet.

It amuses me no end--especially because though we do talk a lot about science and stuff at home, I don't recall talking about scientists per se, or praising them, or speaking of them in high regard--ok, perhaps I do, in some context or the other, but not, you know, specifically in a way that would have brought about this kind of respect in her eyes.

I have no idea where it comes from! But I like it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review of three Karadi books

Puttachi and I have been fans of Karadi Rhymes and Karadi Audio CDs for a long time now. I've written before about how we love Usha Uthup's energetic, uplifting voice, and the catchy music in Karadi Rhymes (which I would recommend to everybody, adults and children alike.)

We hadn't checked out their picture books, though, and when an opportunity came my way to review three of them, I jumped at it.

A Pair of Twins by Kavitha Mandana, illustrated by Nayantara Surendranath.

Sundari is a mahout's daughter who has an unlikely twin in Lakshmi. Set in the elephant stables of the Mysore palace, this is a lovely tale of a little girl who dreams big, and breaks barriers. It is also a story about friendship and courage. Beautifully narrated, with attention to detail, the story is a delight.

The illustrations are lovely too, intricate and evocative. They complement the narration beautifully. Particularly clever is the cover page - you can't really make out that the twins are not, well, twins exactly, when you look at the picture - but after you read the first page, and look at the cover again, you can "see" it immediately!

The Bookworm by Lavanya R.N., illustrated by Shilo Shiv Suleman.

I was particularly interested in reading this book because I could identify with Sesha - he loves books, and he is teased because he speaks differently. I am always happy when children's books highlights people who are "different," but the resolution of this story left me feeling--"Ha, that's certainly wishful thinking!" My opinion is obviously coloured by my own experiences, and you might not feel the same way. But the story does a good job in dealing with the issue of bullying, and its effect on the bullied.

The illustrations are fascinating. Puttachi wasn't too impressed with them initially - she felt they were not bright enough, and the collage-like effect seemed to distract her from the text. But on the second reading, she caught details in the illustrations that she'd missed before. And that made her think and pay more attention to the illustrations--which makes me feel that these are the kind of illustrations that grow on you, and makes you take away something new with you each time you see them.

The Rumour by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Kanyika Kini.

This book was by far Puttachi's favourite. Though it deals with an age-old concept, the author has done an excellent job with the narration, with little verses interspersed throughout the book. Puttachi loved the story, and giggled through it, telling me that it was just like Chinese Whispers. I also seized this opportunity to talk about why one shouldn't pass on "information" without verifying it. She seemed to appreciate it.

The illustrations are gorgeous. Puttachi and I pored over the little details, each one done with so much love; I liked the wide-eyed expressions of all the village people, especially those gossiping, and particularly, those listening to gossip. In one illustration, even the cow has an adorable, wide-eyed, curious look. Puttachi was pleased to recognize a Plumeria plant, which bears her favourite flowers. After that, she started observing the illustrations of the trees closely, commenting on how accurately they have been depicted. She has been trying to see if all the colourful birds are "real" too, and wants to identify them. I think this book has done much, much more than what it set out to do!

Link to their picture book catalogue.

Note: I was sent pdf versions of these three books by Karadi Books, for an honest review.
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