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.

September 20, 2014


Yesterday night, the sound of rain made me happy .The morning was unusually pleasant and breezy, I walked out with my tea and noticed….I had visitors.I was greeted by not one, not two but an unending queue of black ants marching into my house.

The ants go marching
The ants go marching one by one, hurrah,hurrah
The ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah
 The ants go marching right past the flower pots, the door, into the kitchen ….Now, that’s not a visit but an INVASION in broad daylight, I realise.

Hold on, where is Junior ?... We find him is in his room,  sitting on the bed holding the jars of M & M close to his chest… "Ma, will the ants eat my M & M ? Will they eat me too "

Author – Kuntie Ramdat Balkaran –her story 'A pot of money for hard  times ' was the 2000 winner of a Canadian Writing for Children Competition.
Illustration – Sunandini Basu
Publishers –Scholastic India Pvt. Ltd
An adventurous little pink mouse decides to go out and see the world.

On his way he meets the butterflies, snails, bees, spiders and other creatures that children commonly finds in the garden and in the neighborhood. He invites all of them to join him on his trip but they are all busy searching for food. Finally he meets a cat and extends his invitation to him too…..
The illustrations are bright and vibrant with information about the animal world and their feeding habits strategically placed for little readers to notice and read.
A wonderful attempt to introduce children to the world of life science.
Paperback, 24 pages, easy to carry for kids

September 11, 2014

The Penguin Who Wanted to Find Out

The 2005, award winning nature documentary 'March of the Penguin', captured the  yearly journey of  the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica. It renewed our interest in the life of these beautiful creatures.Though it is a wonderful documentary, it does contain occasional imagery that are disturbing - some penguins freezing to death, others being killed by predators. Parents might not think it as appropriate for their little children's viewing.

'The Penguin Who Wanted to Find Out' by Jill Tomlinson tells the story of Otto, the penguin chick.Through Otto,the author traces the journey of transformation of a penguin, from chick to adult.

Otto is a curious penguin. He asks a lot of questions to wise Claudius, a male Emperor Penguin,who carries him around on his feet. The questions that Otto asks are the many questions that young readers might have about penguins and their life in Antarctica.The books gives a vivid description of the climatic conditions,the prevailing topography and how penguins survive in the harsh weather.
 Otto, being the first chick, takes care of the other chicks.He learns that penguins help and take care of each other. The book tells how all the adult penguins in the community take turn to feed and nurture all the chicks.
Otto along with other chicks - Leo, Nap, Gusto, Alex grow up together, eagerly wait for their adult feathers to come through and finally toboggan into the sea.

A wonderful, easy and fun way for our curious kids to know more about the life of  Emperor Penguins.

September 05, 2014

How deep is the sea ?

Age group - 5 to 6 years
Author- Anna Milbourne
Illustration- Serena Riglietti
Design -Laura Wood
Publisher- Usborne Publishing Ltd.
 The cover illustration is that of a little penguin swimming in the sea as if in search of the answer to the question “How deep is the sea?”. It immediately reminded me of the endless ‘how’, ‘why’ questions that Junior asks.
The book is a wonderful way of introducing the child to the underwater world – the different life forms at different depths of the sea. It is told through a penguin Pipkin who asks his mother “How deep is the sea?” His Mum asks him to take a dive and find it for himself.
Salty the dog with a submarine is his companion in his journey.

Early readers - 5 to 6 years can read it without help.
Follow up parent child activity:
-   Do praise Pipkin for being curious. Encourage your child to ask questions.
-   Your little one might have a lot of questions. Be ready to answer his many “whys”- “ why does the sea get darker and darker as we go deeper and deeper? What are these strange sea creatures with lights? Has man ever been to such depths? Check out http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/
-   Listen to the Beatles “Yellow submarine”. Ask him whom would he like to take along with him on his submarine trip and what food would he like to take with him.
- Make your submarine http://www.submarinesafaris.com/kids_build_your_own_submarine.php

For friends who are outside India, check out How deep is the sea ? in Amazon.com.

September 01, 2014

Hello Pepi : A Toy Dog for Real

This is 'Dragon' a.k.a ' Draggy'-thats what the children of my neighbourhood call him. We do not know what his owner had named him, but he responds with wags when the children call out for Draggy.
 Ageing and abandoned by his owner, he has found refuge in our neighbourhood. He has struck a friendly chord with the children as well as  with the adults. He has been adopted by one of the Security Guards of our neighbourhood and can be seen  patrolling with him at night.
It is amazing to see his williness to survive, ability to forgive and forget and move on.
Animals have the ability to teach us what a lifetime of learning cannot.
Now, meet Pepi - a spirited little Chihuahua, ever curious, a bundle of endless energy.  Based on a true story, Hello Pepi : A Toy Dog for Real - books 1 to 5, is a celebration of love and friendship.
In books 1 to 3 ( Hello Pepi,  Pepi's First Things and Pepi Goes Parkies) Pepi, raven black with a lightning bolt on his chest, piglet ears, warms up to a little girl Mona and in a way, chooses her to be his owner. Mona now a responsible Mum, feeds and trains Pepi with the basics. Pepi meanwhile, is busy exploring his new home, braving little accidents now and then. He loves going outdoor , a cynosure of all the little girls and boys of the neighbourhood. Pepi enjoys his trips to the park, specially ball fetching games. Once while playing in the park, he meets with an accident and is forced to stay in bed. It is a lesson for both Pepi and Mona. 
Alarna Rose Gray has written the book in verses funny, sweet and smart. There is a lovely rhythm. It is difficult to stop turning the pages. The illustration, done by Kim Sponaugle, in black and white is adorable.
Perfect gift for young readers.
Kindle edition available.
If you want to know about real Pepi, please visit Alarna's blog site.
Pepi is a hot favorite in our home. Junior enjoyed reading  books 1 to 3 and is looking forward to read the rest of the series. Pepi  is featuring regularly in Junior's dinner discussions..won't be long before he says," Mum, can I have a puppy too !!"  :)

August 29, 2014

The Giving Tree

On my last visit to the local bookstore, I picked up a book from the shelf marked 'Inspirational'.  
Hardbound, green in color with a sketch of a tree, apple and a child on the cover - looked more like a children's picture book. But why was it in the 'Inspirational' shelf ? I wondered.
I settled down with the book in one of the many 'moorahs' that careless lie around in the store.Reading it did not take much time. But I did sit there for quite sometime contemplating... questioning our attitude towards Mother Earth, our  short sightedness and our unending ' I want's..
What a wonderful way of telling the children and at the same time, reminding us adults to love and take care of our beautiful Mother Earth.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein 
Quoting a few paragraphs from the book :
"Once there was a tree…… And she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come And he would gather her leaves And make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk And swing from her branches And when he was tired,he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree…..Very much..And the tree was happy."

As time went by the boy grew older and his visits  and love for the tree grew less. He no longer played on the tree branches, he started to WANT...fruits to sell, branches to make house and so on...
"And after a long time the boy came back again.–“I am sorry, Boy,”said the tree, “but I have nothing left to give you— My apples are gone.” –“My teeth are too weak for apple,”said the boy.–“My branches are gone,” said the tree.”You cannot swing on them—”–"I am too old to swing on branches” said the boy. –“My trunk is gone,” said the tree.“You cannot climb—-” –”I am too tired to climb,” said the boy.–“I am sorry” sighed the tree. “I wish that I could give you something… but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump.
I am sorry…” –”I don’t need very much now” said the boy. “just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired” –“Well” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, “well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down…and rest.”

Add this wonderful, thought provoking book to your 'Must Read ' list ...Spread the word ...

The actual 1973 'Giving Tree' movie  in the voice of Shel Silverstein is   available on youtube.
The book is available in Flipkart, India as well.
Age group :  can be read to kids as young as  3 years, revisit when they can read on their own again, read it whenever you need to stress on"  recycle, reduce and reuse" mantra.

For more , read The Giving Tree - Wikipedia.

August 27, 2014

The Story of FERDINAND

“Books can make a difference in dispelling prejudice and building community: not with role models and recipes, not with noble messages about the human family, but with enthralling stories that make us imagine the lives of others. A good story lets you know people as individuals in all their particularity and conflict; and once you see someone as a person—flawed, complex, striving—you’ve reached beyond stereotype.”  ― Hazel Rochman
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf  and illustrated by Robert Lawson conveys the above-mentioned message beautifully.
Ferdinand , is a bull from  Spain. Unlike other bulls,he does not like to fight  or butt his head  or stick other bulls with his horns. He does not dream of being picked to fight at the  bullfights in Madrid. He prefers sitting quietly under the cork tree and enjoy the smell of flowers. His DIFFERENT behavior and preference worries his mother. However, she realises that Ferdinand enjoys his quiet moments and lets him sit there and be happy.After some years, due to an unexpected, highly dramatic event, Ferdinand  gets the reputation of being the fiercest bull in Spain and is selected to fight at a bullfight at Madrid.
What does Ferdinand do in the bullfight arena ? Do the Banderillos, Picadores and the Matador manage to make Ferdinand snort, butt and stick his horns?
Tonight, I'll read The Story of Ferdinand to him. I want Junior to feel secure, understand that it's Okay to be just yourself.
I'm also expecting a discussion on bullfighting, tonight. Junior, is bound to have many question about the sport and the blood bath involved. Personally, I find the tradition cruel and wish this abomination ends soon.
The Story of Ferdinand - Wikipedia gives an interesting insight into the story, its  political relevance, the subsequent film adaptations.
This picture book is suitable for Early readers age group - 5 to 7 years. 

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Is your little one in love ♥ ♥ ♥ with crayons ?
Are the walls of your house, now, canvas for your budding artist ?
Does your little one have a favorite color ?........G-E-R-EEE-N or BU-LOOO...

Harold loves his Purple Crayon. One evening he decides to go for a walk in the moon light. He draws anything that he thinks 'needs to happen' with his Purple Crayon.
He draws the moon and a straight road to follow and sets off on his adventurous journey.  He draws  what he desires and sometimes falls in difficult situations. He is a smart child and  draws his way out. When Harold found himself drowning in the ocean, he quickly drew a boat, climbed on it and sailed off.
He comes across a forest, is frightened by a dragon,  enjoys a picnic on the beach and has many more adventures before he returns home and falls asleep.
This book is a wonderful way of exploring the powers of imagination, quick thinking and perseverance. It encourages the child to think creatively when faced with problems.
Age Group : Early readers, 4 to 6 years
After reading the book, there are a lot of parent- child activities that you can do with your child.
  • When you are stuck in the traffic, next time, you can ask your child what Harold would draw to help  you out of the situation. Hopefully,  you can  avoid the usual - "why is the car not moving, Mom ????" question  by doing this :)
  • On a big drawing paper both of you can take turns to draw. Say, you draw a mountain,"It is the highest mountain in the world". Your child adds some more details.He draws a boy with a bag pack "This is me, I want to climb it".  Go on and spin an amazing story together !!!
What is your child's favorite color ?

August 24, 2014

Room on the Broom

Forget the old ,wicked witches from Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Welcome the friendly, kind hearted witch from Room on the Broom.
One day, while the good natured witch and her cat are flying through the night they are hit by gusty winds. The scatty witch keeps losing most of her possessions -her hat, bow and wand.  She meets various animals - a dog, a parrot and a frog who help her find her lost things. In return, they ask for a spot on her broomstick which she willingly agrees to give.
However, the broom soon breaks under the weight of its passengers and disaster strikes !!The witch is at the risk of becoming dinner for a fire spitting dragon....
This fun picture book is a great 'Read Aloud!' for the little ones. It has  rhythm and repetition. The Early Readers ( 4 to 7 years)  will enjoy reading it too.The clever use of words, help add new words and their usage to their growing vocabulary.
It's excellent for a group reading activity as well. Each member can pretend to be one of the characters and modulate his voice and add expression while he reads his part. Expect lots of croaks and woofs and purrs.... :)
Interesting use of words to describe the characters and situations makes the story very engaging. My favorite part is
The colorful and vibrant illustration captures the attention of the audience right from the start.
Through this fun story the children learn to appreciate the importance of friendship and sticking together in time of need. They sense if you treat others well, others will treat you well too.
Room on the Broom is one of Julia Donaldson's best sellers. She is one of UK's most popular children's author. Some of her award winning works are GruffaloRunning on the cracks novel for teenagers, the Princess Mirror-Belle stories and The Giants and the Joneses.
 Gruffalo and Stick Man are some of his other award winning works.Axel is the illustrator of Royal Mail’s official Christmas stamps 2012 too.              
Alex Scheffler's  amazing illustrations have won worldwide acclaim. 
Visit  http://roomonthebroom.com/  for more. It is packed with activities for kids, apps, DVD and 'Room on the Broom' merchandise.
Whoosh !!!  Go ahead and enjoy the magical journey........
Board book, easy to hold and carry for children, Glossy pages.
Available in Amazon and Flipkart.