Category: Reading aloud

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

Why reading aloud to older children is a good idea

Why reading aloud to older children is a good idea

I lie on my stomach, chin propped up on my hands, a book open in front of me, reading aloud. I am flanked by H and N following the story. The book is ‘Wonder’ by R. J. Palacio.
The twins are ten years old and yes I still read aloud to them. They’ve been reading on their own for sometime now yet for some reason they love to hear me. Each night we snuggle up and we go through a chapter or two. We take a month, to finish a book sometimes more if it’s a big one. They don’t seem to mind.
Since when they were babies, H and N have loved stories. When they were younger they insisted I narrate it in my own words. Slowly they got used to me reading.
As they grew they started reading on their own but I didn’t stop our nightly sessions. I took up different books – bigger books, books with better vocabulary, books handling trickier issues. And we kept on reading. It has become a night-time ritual of sorts.
I’ve found I enjoy it as much as the children. Here are seven reasons why reading aloud to older kids is good for them too.
It nourishes their passion for stories
The twins aren’t very avid readers. I didn’t want their lack of proficiency in reading to rob them of their love for stories, which they love passionately. Listening to me read keeps their imaginations alive and their minds ticking.
Its whets their appetite for reading
There has hardly been a day when I have been able to stop without  the twins begging for more. Yet, there are days when I just have to stop. And one day I found H carrying the book to school ‘to read on the bus’ because he just couldn’t wait to find out what happened. Of course that complicated things a bit because he had read it and N hadn’t but interestingly he never minds it when I re-read those bits. That’s another mystery about kids – they don’t mind listening to their favourite stories over and over again.
It encourages them to try different kinds of books
The kids pretty much pick their own books. Their favourite reads include Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Captain Underpants and Tom Gates. I try to let them be. However, when I read to them I have a say in the book we choose. This becomes a great way to introduce them to new and different ones.
It encourages them to try bulkier books
The text heavy books still put them off. And those are the ones I pick. I’m hoping they will realise that great stories emerge from those fat books. And that one needs patience to truly savour a riveting read.
It adds to their vocabulary
When they read on their own they often skip words they don’t understand or deduce their meaning, which isn’t bad at all. However when we read they often stop me to ask what exactly a word means. They ask about varied usages of words and exclaim if they stumble upon a biggie second time round (specially homophones and homonyms).
It helps talk about sensitive issues
The discussions we have are priceless. ‘Wonder’ gave us the chance to talk about middle school, about bullying and about judging people based on their physical appearances and about being judgemental.
It adds to the cuddle-time
Yeah that one’s my favourite. I get to hold on to their childhood for a bit longer. I know I know and I’m trying not to be that clingy mum but I cannot help but enjoy this bit of their extended childhood.
Today on World Read Aloud Day pick up a book and share it with your child. You can read more about the events related to the day here.

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