Category: reading

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

Finally, A Reader!

Finally, A Reader!

The other day I saw H sneaking into the washroom with a book hidden rather clumsily behind his back.

And that dear friends, was the very first sign.

After years and years of cajoling, of telling delicious stories, of quoting wondrous quotes, of strewing books around the house, of talking teasers and stopping at the best bits and also of running a book club, we have a reader in the house.

Finally, H has graduated to being a true-blue reader.

There’s a little bit of my grandma in me that forbids the children from reading in the loo. I may not throw a fit any longer (The Husband, who had no such qualms and no such a grand mom apparently, cured me long ago) but I’d much rather the children don’t make it a habit. I have to mention here that I did get them The Diary of Amos Lee (where the protagonist writes his diary in the loo). See? I was that desperate to get them to read. So perhaps I was sending out mixed signals in the first place.

However, I digress.

There was more proof coming my way. Another day H threw a huge tantrum and refused to leave his book during dinner. Yes yes I know a lot of us read while eating but that’s another bit of my grandma who insisted we were dishonouring two gods if we did that – Annapurna, the goddess of food and Saraswati, the goddess  of learning, both of who deserved undivided attention, according to her.

I’m digressing again but my grandma did talk a lot of sense, I see that now.

Getting back to H, last week at his Open House in school, his art teacher complained he wasn’t focussing on his artwork because he was in a hurry to finish and get back to his book. Art is not his favourite subject and he got his book confiscated. Twice. I stifled a smile at that, since I had mine confiscated during embroidery class!

I shouldn’t have smiled because soon after I found him lost in a book right before his Hindi exam and that wasn’t funny at all. “I finished the Chamber of Secrets,” he told me excitedly, while I struggled to decide whether to take him to task or to high-five his outstretched palm.

I find him curled up in various corners of the house, he insists on reading out the ‘best’ bits to me (which, by the way, are often the most unsavoury ones) and laughs so hard while telling me the funny bits that I can barely make out what he’s saying. It’s delightful to watch this transformation even though his timing is not quite right. But then passions never come in half measures.

He’s managed to inspire N too. She was a late starter at reading and still struggles a bit, but is all enthused and is making her way through The Philosopher’s Stone, slowly but steadily. ‘Ma I met Hermione,’ she shouted out when she first found her between the pages.

For years they were stuck with Captain Underpants and Wimpy Kid and  Dork Diaries. I am relieved they are finally graduating to ‘real’ books.

So here’s a reminder – Don’t give up on your child, ever. No matter how stubborn they might seem or how resistant, the things we do and say are getting registered somewhere in their super busy brains. And one fine day they will throw us a surprise.

Do you have a reader at home? Did your love for reading ever get you into trouble?

Linking up with #MondayMusings at Everydaygyan

 

and with Mackenzie at Reflections from Me #mg

Enchanted!

Enchanted!

If you have a child between the ages of 5 and 12 years you’re going to love this. I don’t do product reviews too often, this time, however, I am making an exception because I stumbled upon this absolutely fabulous subscription box for readers – Enchantico.

Have you heard of it?

I’m really really excited and I’ve been longing to share it here. I’ve often rued the fact that H and N are rather selective, reluctant readers. And yet I’ve refused to give up on them. Ever so slowly I see H getting hooked and N coming around too. They’ve stuck with Captain Underpants, Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries but I’m not complaining — beggars-choosers and all of that.

Anyway so I picked up Enchantico because of the way it matched books and activities. It sounded just the perfect thing to entice them to widen their reading. Of course I wanted to blog about it the moment I saw it but I held on and went in for a three-month subscription before I spoke about it. Now at the end of three months I can recommend it with complete conviction.

A typical box contains:

– At least two books (sometimes three).
– An activity kit related to one of the books or to an upcoming festival.
– and the coolest collectibles.

My major reservation was:

‘What if we already have the book?’ To answer that – the books are picked from Indian as well as International publishers and are all new releases . And I can vouch for them – they are fantastic reads. I’ve been having immense fun reading them, even more than the kids, perhaps. I’ll be reviewing them here shortly.

Some specifics:
The boxes come in four age groups so that the activities and the books are age appropriate 5-6, 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12. I got my three month subscription at Rs 2999/-. There are other options for longer subscriptions too.

Here’s a peek into our latest box:

There are three books along with author cards. Oh I didn’t tell you about the author cards. Each book comes with a small card with bits of trivia – some serious some just fun – about the author.

The activity this week was making a Goody Box. So we got to put together a box as also paints, sponges and decorating material.

There was also this huge stocking with the suggestion that the children fill it up with goodies and gift it to someone.

And lastly there was a Santa pencil stand and a ‘Booked for Life’ badge.

What I love most…

… are the small touches like this card which we’ve put up on our soft board. Then there are the author cards as well as those badges.

 

The box seems to be put together by people who truly love books and reading. I am sold on it. The kids find enough reading material to last them through the month and I find my Book Club meetings becoming more colourful. Do hop across to enchantico.in and take a look.

Picture Credit: PIXABAY

Disclaimer: I’ve in no way been compensated for this review.

Happy birthday to The Book Club

Happy birthday to The Book Club

It’s
been some time since I posted news from The Book Club. This week it needs to be written about since we turned ONE! Isn’t that wonderful? I had forgotten about it till facebook memories sent me a reminder. I do love the idea of revisiting memories.

This last weekend the meeting was pretty special what with birthday celebrations as well as Friendship Day on Sunday.

After much sifting through stories on friendship from Harry Potter to Kabuliwala to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn I settled on a relatively obscure one about a young Irani girl who finds friendship in London even while retaining her uniqueness. With pre-teens staring us in the face that’s an important aspect of friendship – this idea of loving and retaining your difference even while being best friends. 

The Friendship drawing

The funnest part was the ‘friendship drawing activity’. (I modified the idea from a book of the ‘My Weird School’ series. Review coming up soon on my other blog, do watch out). Each of the kids were asked to think up something they’d like to draw – it could be anything. They came up with a flower, a bird, a train, a boat, a scene from the Irani girls life, a robot, a scenery etc. 

I then paired them up making sure the bete noires were put together. You should have heard the protests!! ‘Aunty I can go with ANYONE but her!’ (Oh they can be rude and blunt) ‘Aunty may we PLEASE exchange our partners’. But I stuck to the plan telling them none of them was so intolerable/intolerant that they couldn’t be with each other for 15-20 minutes. And then I asked them to  put together their two ideas and make up one drawing. It was amazing how quickly they settled down and got to work with absolute concentration. Even H and N who are always at loggerheads and who I’d paired together worked like a team.

We ended up with a bird-shaped boat, a robotic flower, a girl playing with a toy train while hiding under the bed during a bombing (That was from the story of the day) and bombs destroying a pretty scenery.
These kids are seriously brilliant.

If you work with kids anywhere this is an exercise I completely recommend. Not just does it teach children to work with people they don’t much like, it also prompts them to align their thoughts and ideas with completely divergent ones and work towards a common goal,towards a common win. Those are skills they’ll need to hone in life. 

I was pretty pleased with myself. The problem is I made it out to be a contest and now I have to pick the best drawing and I’m stumped.

The Bunker Diary – A Review

The Bunker Diary – A Review

Today I have on my blog a book review by a guest – a young guest. Meet Varun, a student of class IX. He is an avid reader and loves a good game of basket ball. He has the brain of a techie and the heart of a book-lover – some combination, isn’t it? He blogs, though infrequently, at www.asiaticvrun.wordpress.com.
Here’s what he had to say about himself –
Hi I’m Varun. My interests are game development and writing. I aspire to become a game designer-cum-author. I like to – 
  • Read storybooks (and then re-read the awesome parts)
  • Watch good TV shows (and  repeat the cool lines before the mirror or in my sleep)
  • Watch movies with a solid IMDb rating
  • Play basketball (I’m still learning, albeit rather slowly)
  • Make my ideas come to life in form of little video-games or animation (my works are not perfect but I enjoy developing them)
  • Write little stories or even cool sentences in my head (usually I feel too lazy to put it on paper)
  • Kill the bad guys, hurt the bad guys, or beat ’em up (in video-games, for scores…)
  • As for the things I hate – there’s nothing much (except the bad guys…in games)

The review


Title – The Bunker Diary
Author – Kevin Brooks

About the story
The Bunker Diary is a record of the time teenager Linus Weems spends in a reconditioned nuclear bunker held hostage by ‘the man upstairs’. Written in first-person, the book begins with a dazed narration by Linus describing the bunker where he was immured. The writer then attempts to hook the reader with increasingly sinistrous mystery. The readers are told about a stranger who lures Linus into his van, drugs him, and throws him into the bunker. But never reveals his motive.
Soon, Linus is joined by five other people in the bunker. His diary describes their daily activities, escape struggles, and demises. Throughout the plot these characters are subjected to cruel abuse. ‘The man upstairs’, their kidnapper, controls everything in their prison- temperature, electricity, illumination, water, availability of food, and even the perception of time.

Writing Style
Kevin Brooks makes good use of punctuation to emphasize and express.
Since the book is written in first-person he alters his diction to befit Linus’ character. 
His writing style morphs with the characters’ development and shows when they are dazed, distressed, dejected, deranged, drugged, or dying. He also deliberately arranges the text with some extra spacing here and a line break there for subtle expression but his language is raw and forthright.
Here are some excerpts from the book –

“12.15 p.m.
      Nothing moves.
      Time is slow.

 “I thought he was blind. That’s how he got me. I still can’t 
 believe I fell for it. I keep playing it over in my mind, hoping
 I’ll do something different, but it always turns out the same.”

“Jenny dies in my arms. 
     Goes to sleep, doesn’t wake up.
     My tears taste of blood. “

My Thoughts
This book is awash with morbidity. The plot is enveloped in darkness with only traces of light. I was thoroughly disappointed by its unusually dark ending. “What was the point of reading this book?” I asked myself at the last page.
If this book had been a literary work, I might have relented. But this is dark and pointless fiction. It isn’t even poignant or plausible. You might argue that I have a different taste in literature, an affinity with the positive, and that’s true indeed. But I can see the clear line that separates praiseworthy poignancy and psychotic morbidity.
********** 

Note: I asked for a review of The Bunker Diary because it is an award winning book with a teenage protagonist written for ‘young adults’. I thought a young perspective would be good. And then right away I was apprehensive wondering if it would be too morbid. However I needn’t have worried.

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