Category: children’s books

My Travel Scrapbook – A #Review

My Travel Scrapbook – A #Review

When the twins turned toddlers we took our first steps in travelling with them. There was no looking back. Their curiosity and enthusiasm motivated us to step out more frequently as they grew.

The first time they took a dip in the sea at Dapoli, climbed a hill at Hathgadh, wandered through the Bhool Bhulaya of Bara Imambara at Lucknow and went Strawberry picking at Mahabaleswar are all memories we treasure.

At the cusp of their teens, I find travel opening the children’s minds in a hundred ways, making geography and history so much more interesting. They come back bubbling with excitement, talking constantly of all they have seen and I just want hold on to those moments, forever, as do they.

We have photographs, hundreds of them, but they’re more for me than them. Besides, we don’t make physical photo albums like we used to, and that makes them hard to access.

The Travel Bug

…reached out to me recently, to review ‘My Travel Scrapbook’. As I went through its pages I thought it was a wonderful way to keep travel memories alive. I have to admit I have always loved scrapbooking.

My Travel Scrapbook

…is divided into two sections – National Travel (Ten pages) and International Travel (Five pages). I think that’s a fair allocation, though I wouldn’t have much minded doing away with the International pages, for now at least.

There’s a map where children can  mark off places they visit. A section asks them to mention the State they’re going to and the cities they visit. While on that, we kicked off a great conversation on Indian states, how they were formed and why they divided (because we had gone to Uttarakhand recently). We didn’t even realise when we had segued off to discussing the Cauvery water dispute. You really never know where the conversation will take you once you begin talking to the children.

A tiny section asks them about favourite local foods they sampled (Petha at Agra, Dal Baati in Rajasthan) that encourages them to try different kinds of food rather than sticking with pizza, noodles and ice cream.

The book also has space for them to record their travel stories. They do accumulate plenty of them from train tales to local legends. Mine wanted to write about a quaint restaurant they’d visited where they discovered a tiny library and the little boy who sang funny poetry at the Agra Fort. Those nuggets are priceless memories to look back upon.

Of course there’s space for photographs and also a box for the children to make and stick their own peel-off stickers. There are some pre-prepared ones plus some blank ones too. I loved the wonderfully glossy pages and the small cheerful boxes. The layout is clear and easy, perfect for the younger tweens. The book makes for a great keepsake, something the children can flip through (as can you) for a bit of nostalgia.

What I loved most

is that this turned out to be a fun, no pressure exercise. It’s a personal account, much like a journal, so there are no benchmarks, no specific way for things to be done, just a rough guideline. That leaves the children free to do it their way. I love that the book helped cut down on their screen time and kept them creatively employed.

What could be better:

Given that this is a scrap-book I would have liked a few more fun stickers (sun, beach, etc) to be picked from, and randomly stuck on to brighten up the pages.

Price: Rs 699
Published by: Curiosity Bug
www.littletravelbug.in

Final Verdict: This one is a keeper for the travelling tween.

Disclaimer: I was given a complementary copy of the The Travel Scrapbook in exchange for an honest review.

All Four Stars – A Book Review

All Four Stars – A Book Review

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

Here’s a scrumptiously wonderful book every tween is going to love. All Four Stars is the story of Gladys Gatsby, an eleven-year-old who is passionate about cooking. Her parents, on the other hand, are not. They are both working and don’t have the time or inclination to cook. The family lives on terrible takeaways.

However, Gladys cooks up complicated delicacies in secret, when her parents are away at work. All is well until one day when her parents walk in just as she accidentally sets fire to the kitchen curtains while making Creme Brûlée. As a result of that singularly bad piece of luck, she’s banned from further cooking experiments and her allowance is taken away.

Then, through a quirk of fate, she lands an assignment as a food critic in a frontline newspaper. The catch is – getting to that restaurant which is a train-ride away from the suburb where Gladys lives. Confiding in her parents and asking for help is out of the question. So how does she do it?

This is a story delicious enough to sate the most demanding of gourmands.

It’s a perfect read-aloud book
Each night after dinner, we’d sit with this one, the children and I, reading it aloud. The descriptions of food made H hungry while N started dreaming of a career as a food critic.

What I liked
The descriptions of food were absolutely delectable. The good ones (that she had at Parm’s house or out at restaurants) were mouth-watering but it’s the bad ones that H and N enjoyed most because they were hilariously funny.

I loved that Gladys sampled and enjoyed all kinds of food – African, Malaysian and Indian too. She has an Indian friend and the rather foreign descriptions of familiar Indian foods like chhole and raita and palak paneer had the children completely thrilled.

If you’ve read any of my earlier reviews you’ll know I love a book with great side-characters. All Four Stars had many of them – Sandy, Gladys’ friend and neighbour, Parm, her Indian friend, Charissa the most popular girl at school, the kind Mr Eng who runs a cosy grocery and patisserie and Mrs Anderson, Sandy’s adorable mom. Although some of them are rather stereotypical they all manage to do something to redeem themselves, to break the stereotype. That, I was grateful for.

There are bits on friendship – on making and keeping friends – on shared secrets and making plans which the children completely loved.

If I have one complaint it would be that the author didn’t do justice to the parents. They come across as uni-dimensional, too taken up with their work, barely bothered about their daughter and rather unkind. They did get better towards the end of the book, though, so that was something.

We talked about
Whether the punishment Gladys got was fair/unfair.
Could Gladys have done things differently? Perhaps, taken the help of other sympathetic adults.

What we did
– We read up all kinds of cuisines that Gladys talks of.
– We pored (and salivated) endlessly over food pictures.
– We made up a game of trying to describe a food to someone who had never known Indian cuisine.
– And we tried baking.

This book came to us through Enchantico – a delightful book-activity box we subscribed to. Read my review of the box here. It came with a cookie recipe, premixed flour as well as cookie cutters.

With all that help we had to try our hand at baking. The first batch came out near perfect. But then we got caught up in something and ended up burning down the next one and had to rush around dousing the flames in the oven.

So you see, there really is never any guarantee with cookies but the book – that’s a sure shot winner.

 

Linking up with the Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge #writebravely #writetribeproblogger

Celebrating Differences – A Book Review

Celebrating Differences – A Book Review

We’ve done stories from this book at the book club. I’ve shared it at almost every children’s reading forum and with every mum I know. I wonder how I left out talking about it here.

Celebrating Differences – Stories for the Children of India, is a book every child should read, every Indian child, most definitely. That’s because the setting of the stories is Indian the ideas, however, are universal.
Seven authors come together with seven stories about people with disabilities and their interactions with others. It talks about perceptions and prejudices. Sometimes we (specially children) are impatient with or unkind to people because we don’t think about the difficulties they might be dealing with or have pre-conceived notions about how they will behave.
This delightful melange of stories is an attempt to set that right. 
All it takes is the story of Ritika a hearing impaired girl who learns to stop feeling sorry for herself.
The Perfumed Prowler is about Amtan a speech impaired boy who earns the respect of an aunt who had always pitied him.
Who is Faster talks about Rudra who learns that a boy in a wheelchair could be just as smart and as much fun as his other friends.
The New Neighbour is about an old school teacher who helps a little boy being bullied by his older brothers.
I Don’t Understand It is perhaps the most touching story of all. It is told from the point of view of a mentally challenged child and his perception of good and bad.
Leaf Feel is another fun story where a visually challenged girl teaches some kids a new fun game.
And finally Wheels from Kerala talks about a young girl Priya and how she learns to empathise and bond with her arthritic grandfather.
Each of these stories embodies a world of wisdom and helps to sensitise children, making them empathetic to people with differences. The print is comfortably large and the stories are suited for kids between 7-8 years of age. Though they can be read out to younger kids.
The book comes with interesting nuggets of information and also some fun colouring pages.
Priced at Rs 125 and Published by Ekansh Trust Pune, this book is absolutely invaluable.
Here are the details in case you want to get a copy: email info@ekansh.org
Phone: +919503715015
We had some of the most amazing sessions at our book club when we took up a story from this book. The children learnt a little bit of sign language – they learnt to spell their names as also simple phrases like I am sorry, Thank you and of course I Love You, which they continue to use even today. I think this is a good exercise for all children.
Like in the story Leaf’s Feel they tried to recognise trees, leaves and flowers with a blindfold on their eyes simply by feeling them. That was great fun because they got to run around and touch and feel.
And lastly for the story Wheels from Kerala we got them talking to their grandparents and got back with fun tales of their parents’ childhood.
This one is a must read.

Linking up with Pragmaticmom  for her wonderful linkup on #DiverseKidLit.

DiverseKidLit
Confessions of a book snob

Confessions of a book snob

The mind changers

It really is true that despite years of living with someone, despite spending each waking-sleeping moment with him-her, you don’t really get to know them.

And so it was with me. After years of thinking myself a liberal, only recently I realised I am a book snob.


But first I must present my defence.

I come from a generation when we had few distractions – no TVs, no computers, not even phones to chat away with friends and no friends other than school friends. School was a good 10 kms away which by the standards of those times was pretty much in the ‘jungle’. 

So what did we do in the long summer vacations, Christmas breaks and weekends? We read, my sister and I, and we bonded, perfectly.

The other thing was that we went to a school run by strict Irish nuns who set high reading standards. The books we got were screened, I am sure. We had ‘age appropriate’ cupboards neatly labelled with the class they were suited to. We weren’t allowed comics till after class VI, not even Amar Chitra Kathas. We HAD to choose one book of fiction, one biography and one Hindi book each week. We HAD to have a book mark and a book cover failing which we weren’t allowed a book. All wonderful habits, I might add. Habits I cherish and I’m very proud of. Habits I wish I was better at inculcating in my children.

And so I grew up on Enid Blyton, Louisa Alcott, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and then – Georgette Heyers and Victoria Holts.

Later, I spent years at the news desk meticulously changing ‘color’ to ‘colour’, correcting language, following the ‘right’ way and getting more and more set in that right way, more sure than ever that I KNEW what was best when it came to reading.

I lost touch with kids’ books till I had kids of my own some two decades later. What a rude shock that was. Wimpy Kid, I am not a Loser, Geronimo Stilton and Lord my God!! Captain Underpants! Peppered with pictures and illustrations, arrows and diagrams, doodles and drawings with coloured text jumping at you from unexpected places, with font that changed like a shape shifter – an unwarranted assault on my senses! What were these? Half-comic-half-book-half scribbled notes? Mongrelised reads, all.

I saw Midsummer Night’s Dream as a comic and my heart broke a bit. When I spotted a Captain Underpants in my son’s hands I freaked. The spellings were blasphemous. How could I allow it?

I looked down upon them all. I pushed forward my favourites. Noddy, Faraway Tree, Wishing Chair, Amelia Jane. As if in retaliation, the children rejected the lot. Each of them. I was heartbroken and I gave up on my kids as non-readers.

And then, very recently, I stumbled upon this article that said to ‘Everyone Loves Reading – Just Find the Right Book’ written by Tanushree Singh. And I was forced to re-evaluate my attitude.

I wasn’t all wrong. However things have changed. 

Books are now not competing with other books. They are competing with television, the iPad, the PS-3 and the lure of friends at the door. They have to squeeze themselves between dance class and karate class, hold their own with Othello and Topple, fight off the Barbies and the Power rangers.

It cannot be easy.

What they need, desperately, are friends, friends not book racists, not heartless, judgmental critics. Friends, among parents, teachers and all sensible adults. Friends who would understand why they have had to change avatars, why they have to dress themselves up as graphic novels and comics. 


Besides, wasn’t Enid Blyton banned in schools in her time? Isn’t Roald Dahl irreverent and gory and yes, rude, in bits? Who’s to judge the good and the bad? By all means ban the obscene, ban the bad language, ban the overtly violent but stop there. Rather than choosing just the best, reject just the worst. Let more of them make the cut.

God knows our kids need them way more than they need our kids.

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Not everything is awesome #BookBytes 6

Not everything is awesome #BookBytes 6

I’m sharing a quote from the book 1984 by Gerorge Orwell. The first time I read it I must have been in my early teens. I have little memory of it perhaps because I would have had little or no understanding of it. Then I read it again some seven or eight years ago and […]