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Snowboard Twist - Winter Sports I

TITLE: Snowboard Twist
AUTHOR: Jean Craigbead Geroge
ILLUSTRATOR: Wendell Minor
AGE GROUP: 4-8 yrs
PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books
Picture: Author website.

I picked up this book because, considering how books on sports and outdoor activities are relatively rare to find, one that involved snowboarding was hard to pass. The little one is taking lessons in ice skating and we do live just a few hours away from some generously snow covered ski slopes. These should qualify us I thought. I also succumbed to the seasonal temptation of a book sporting icy blues and whites, with evergreens all around. The more important rationale was to expose the little girl to adventure sports - to learn and enjoy the subtler details and experiences of such a sport while we safely resorted to accomplishing this through a picture book. At least for now:)

Axel is on his way to Glory bowl in the Teton mountains with his dad Dag and his dog Grit. The place has just received heavy snowfall and it seems perfect to bring out the skis and snowboards. But fresh snow with its weak slushy older layers beneath could trigger an avalanche. Dag is a snow patrol officer in the mountains and is testing the slopes for avalanche signs before the skiers came in. Kelly, Axel's snowboarding rival joins them there. Axel and Kelly start showing off their snowboarding moves, neglecting the potential for disaster around them. Just then, an unimportant event gets a snowball rolling, setting off an avalanche. However, Grit leaps into action and ensures that all ends well.

What we actually took away from the book was an interesting insight into ski slopes, snow conditions and the science of avalanches. Just the backdrop of the tall mountains and pines, piles of slush and snow brought out through impressive artwork left us thirsty for ruggedness. However, considering how the stage was set with all the action, the text as we approached the end seemed to be lacking in zest.

Jean Craigbead George has many books encompassing nature, for children and young adults, to her credit. But she still claims - "The list is not really long when you consider that there are almost 250 million beautiful plants and animals on this earth that I could have written about." This book is third in line, following two of her other "outdoor adventures" books called "Cliff Hanger" and "Fire Storm". If I were to come a full circle and jot down one more excuse, it seemed like a good book to celebrate another amazing form of nature and how giving it is. Inspired by the book, we are now reading up more on how the sport came about and about serious snowboarding races. And we like this book for having initiated just that. Also, Jean Craigbead George, Newbery medal winner (Julie of the Wolves), has an energizing website: http://www.jeancraigheadgeorge.com/. Now where is that backpack?
An Ode to a baby
Lullaby - Etymology From Middle English lullen, to lull + bye. First recorded circa 1560, says an online resource.

Some lullabies, I think, are intentionally devoid of logic. Some are intelligently crafted to educate. While some are soaked in love, some others are plain funny. But interestingly most lullabies carry meaningful particulars of the land and its culture.

The books below are well enjoyed by my toddler and me, so much so that when read at times other than bedtime, he typically wants to at least lie down for a bit after our session.

Hush Little Baby

Title: Hush Little Baby
Author & Illustrations: Sylvia Long
Published by: Chronicle Books


Disturbed by the materialistic attitude of the lyrics of the traditional American lullaby “Hush little baby” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hush,_Little_Baby), award-winning artist Sylvia Long has reworked it for a more nature-centric version. This one oozes warmth and lulls the listener and singer, in the same stillness of the night that Mama bunny and her baby in the book share.

The adorable details in the ink-and-watercolor drawings of Long, still urges the eye to wander in search of them. Like carrot prints on the curtains, bunny doodles on the lampshade and a quilt with a patchwork of playful things. Mama bunny points out to some of nature’s wonders around her porch and bedroom ( a humming bird, a lightning bug, a shooting star, a cricket and finally the moon), before kissing goodnight to her baby.

I sometimes tend to think that this version might still leave some of us promising our child the impossible, but I resort to the fact that nothing can be more calming than nature’s precious little things. Or as Sylvia Long claims in her note to readers at the end of the book It seems much healthier to encourage children to find comfort in the natural things around them…

A Norse Lullaby

Title: A Norse Lullaby
Author: M.L.Van Vorst; Illustrator: Margot Tomes
Published by: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books


A Norse Lullaby. That was reason enough for me to bring this home from the library. The book gave me the story later. The lullaby first appeared in January 1897 in a children’s magazine. When illustrator Margot Tomes discovered it, she wanted to paint the wintry Scandinavian landscape herself to go with the lullaby.
A family awaits the arrival of the father. The father is rushing on a sled to the “warmth” that is waiting for him at home. The children are playing. A baby is trying to retire for the night. Hush Hush in your little nest, And mother’s voice is singing.

The artwork is amazing. The greys and whites of a snowed in landscape juxtaposed with the reds, browns and greens gives us that perfect feel of the far North and its culture. Details of a traditional household are aplenty. The wood in a barrel near the huge fireplace, the rocking reindeer toy, the hurricane lamps, the clothes, the small wooden crib all transport us to the home that stands amidst mounds of snow, with the wind whistling on a wintry evening.

Hush, A Thai Lullaby

Title: Hush – A Thai Lullaby
Author: Minfong Ho ; Illustrator: Holly Meade
Published by: Orchard Books


This book stole my heart. And my little boy’s. Sometimes even our sleep.

The setting is a very remote Thai village. With native flora and fauna generously encompassing the small hut, a mother goes great lengths to assure her child of the quietness she needs for a peaceful sleep.

A blue cloth hammock carries a baby. Traditional Thai basketry, prints, fabrics and architecture take us to a Thai household. The mother begins her rounds by hushing a mosquito. She moves on to the cat, the mouse by the rice barn, the leaping frog, the pig, duck, monkey, even an old water buffalo and even…even...the great big elephant! Not surprising considering what the illustrations portray. Cut paper and ink illustrations of lush forestry in warm earth tones and a bold orange-red outline makes the images come alive.

Interestingly, we notice the baby getting out of the hammock and wandering in the background, just as her mother turns her back to her. My own baby took upon himself the task of finding his counterpart’s tiny depiction in every page. It was also immensely refreshing to hear and make rather new animal sounds, “uut-uut” for the pigs , “ghap-ghap” for the ducks and “jiak-jiak” for the monkeys!

As all living creatures wind down, Mother is also falling asleep. However the closing spread shows the baby wide awake on the blue hammock! As for us, the onomatopoetic verses in question and answer format are sedating enough to go down.
While some sing it by rote, some others make it a bonding experience. But lullabies, from Scandinavia or Asia or from America, are all delightfully hypnotic. A mother’s care for her child’s sleep transcends cultures.

Pictures Courtesy: Author and Bookstore websites.
Baseball Saved Us
Baseball Saved Us
Title: Baseball Saved Us
Ages: 5+
Author: Ken Mochizuki; Illustrator: Dom Lee
Published by: Lee & Low Books


Baseball is an all American thing, the national sport and pastime. It is almost a cultural identity and its own epic is often burdened with American history in the background. Standing testimony to this is how a Japanese-American boy regains dignity and acceptance at the ballpark, post World War II. Written by Ken Mochizuki, whose parents were camp internees in Idaho during the world war, this book makes you cheer our little hero, while holding off that drop of tear that has already arrived.

The voice is that of a Japanese boy, an American citizen who is pulled out of school one day by his mother. His family is sent with many more Japanese families to live in barracks in an internment camp established in the desert, in the middle of nowhere in 40s USA. A soldier with a gun stands on a tall tower at the camp monitoring the group every second, every day. With no basic amenities and no work to do, kids and adults idle around. There is pent up anger, frustration and boredom. This is when the boy’s father takes the initiative to come up with a baseball diamond. Soon, with collective and creative efforts (and no interference from the guard) many games are being played on that field encompassed by barbed wire fences and armed watchdogs.

However, the boy’s track record at school, before camp, is not very impressive. Tarnished by experiences of name calling because of his smallish stature which was even more accentuated amidst American boys, he is diffident and shy at his game. He was Shorty back home. But now at camp, he does not feel different in the company of Japanese boys like him. With this feeling of normalcy and the motivation to impress the guard staring at his game all day, he buckles up and performs. Daily sessions then on hone his bat-ball skills.

The war is over and he is back at school. But he feels worse. The boys don’t even talk to him now. This is when America had been at war with Japan, when the U.S Government seemed to suspect the loyalty of immigrants in the country and hate was running high. The Jap’s no good, Shorty, Easy out, the boys scream at him, when it is his turn to bat at the ballpark in school. He stares at the pitcher and sees the guard on the tower in him. A dramatic finish to the game and to the book is the last page showing the American boys in the winning team lifting Shorty up with pride and joy. Baseball sure saved – helped his people survive the camp and helped him become a hero.

The illustrations are in sepia, in tones of brown and black reemphasizing the depressing mood in the desert. The author has also restricted some of the darker details to a few sprinkles, without going overboard about wartime camps. While it can be hard for some of us and our children to directly relate to those times, the issues are still part of what every “different” child experiences under varying circumstances today - it boils down to the battle to fit in and to feel accepted.

This book provoked questions about war in my six something year old. She could not fathom being uprooted and seemed very curious about ways in which normal life is disturbed when a country is at war. The story can also set the stage for sensitive and meaningful discussions about tolerance and oneness. It can also make children value the better times of today, that some of them enjoy. While critics might think that a home run might not be the answer to discrimination, it still works for a child’s understanding is my personal thinking. The deeper virtue might be courage; courage of the kind that the short Japanese boy who played America’s game amidst racist gibes had. This book inspires in more than one way.

Picture Courtesy: Lee & Low Books.
Jazzmatazz!
The multitude of books that carried the glossy sticker “Jazz collection” in the children’s section at the local library piqued my interest. I thought it might be interesting to read a couple of picture books about this musical form to my children. As we read them, we absorbed a distinct flavor, me more consciously than them. And soon I realized that this flavor was unfailingly delivered in every picture book that we later devoured.

Jazz Baby
Title: Jazz Baby
Ages: 0-2
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford; Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Published by: Lee and Low Books Inc.


It starts out with an assembly of ethnically diverse children ready to make music and dance. Some of them swing and sway, jiggle and wiggle, bounce and boogie while the rest are working the instruments. The verses are small and catchy. They mention the trumpet, drum, piano and bass – the simplest introductory presentation of the most important components of Jazz music. The last spread shows a tired group plopped on the floor with droopy heads and stretched out legs. The author writes - When I wrote this swinging nursery rhyme, I set out to write a jazz pat-a-cake. And I hear the diaper and toddler find the rhythm infectious. Yes! Just saying Jazz baby Jazz baby is energizing for all ages!

Bring On That Beat
Title: Bring On That Beat
Ages: 0-8
Author & Illustrator: Rachel Isadora
Published by: G.P.Putnam’s Sons


Sparing in words can be very powerful. That is exactly what this book is - a visual celebration of Jazz and Harlem in the 1930s. Rachel Isadora is a Caldecott winner and the work that brought her the award has already been reviewed here.

Isadora’s black and white oil paintings hold digitally rendered streaks and shapes in vibrant colors, a bold visual statement, strong enough to see Jazz as a force that transformed music and people. It is Harlem drenched in music. Three men playing Jazz under a streetlamp draw a crowd. Children and adults pause, stay and dance. Things heat up. Every roof top is soon humming and grooving and the town is Jazz-ing! Each spread carries a rhyme, probably kept simple to not distract the reader from the tempo the visuals are building. Duke Ellington, a Jazz icon is also included in the drawings, as a tribute. The book closes with the verse –

When you rap and you rhyme,
Remember that time –
When cats played the beat,
It was jazz on the street.


On the side are three present day youngster boys seated on the stoop in the Harlem neighborhood.

Cool Bopper's Choppers
Title: Cool Bopper’s Choppers
Ages: 4-8
Author: Linda Oatman High; Illustrator: John O’Brien
Published by: Boyds Mills Press


Logic aborted, this is hilarious! And you’ll see how.

Cool Bopper plays Jazz on his sax in a night club. He easily gets people swinging with his groovy music. But one day, during his act, his dentures fly out of his mouth and land on a bee-hive like wig of a dancing lady, from where it drops into the toilet bowl, gets flushed away and ends up deep under the ocean. Cool Bopper loses his magical music, groans and moans. Fired by his boss, he goes to the seashore where he hears his own tunes coming out of the waves. He finds his choppers and gets back his upbeat music!

Free flowing ink and watercolor illustrations also seem to sway and groove, aptly supporting the crazy incidents in a musician’s life. The highlight is the jazziness the verses carry to neatly lay out the details of the story of a jazz player that began like this - Cool Bopper was a bebopper in the Snazzy Catz Jazz Club.

A-BOP-BOP-BE-BOP, A-BOP-BOP-BOP!

Willie Jerome
Title: Willie Jerome
Ages: 5-8
Author: Alice Faye Duncan; Illustrator: Tyrone Geter
Published by: Macmillan Books for young readers


It is summer in the city. Willie Jerome plays hot bebop style jazz with his trumpet, on the rooftop all day long. And his sister Judy bops to his music all day long too. But everyone else calls it noise! The shop keeper, the other brother, the neighbor and even their mother! Willie Jerome, I just wish I knew another somebody who loves and understands your sizzlin’ hot jazz the way I do, Judy screams out to her brother who never gives up and continues to blow his horn on the rooftop. When Mama tries to put an end to the “noise” that evening, Judy begs her to stay calm and listen. Does Mama agree?

Perseverance to succeed amidst resistance, is the beautiful message. Pastel acrylics paint the picture of a hot day in an urban African-American neighborhood. The language that is typical to the people, lends authenticity to the story of Willie Jerome.

All these books imparted a very convincing musical attitude and at the same time transmitted a distinctive cultural vibe. The combination is intriguing and at the end, very satisfying.

Pictures Courtesy Publisher / Author / Book store websites. Thanks!
TO SCHOOL, TO A NEW SCHOOL, BACK TO SCHOOL OR JUST ANOTHER DAY AT SCHOOL
We certainly can't prepare ourselves or the little ones enough, to let go and step out. Back to school or in the thick of it, we can always turn to books, picture books, for substantial help.

OWL BABIES by Martin Waddell gives the much needed reassurance to toddlers and preschoolers. Mother owl is away. The babies wonder and worry. Mama swoops in asking What's all the fuss ? You knew I'd come back. The images of the petrified owlets later found flapping in joy is a sheer delight - thanks to Patrick Benson and his wonderful touches with crosshatching to rope in texture and depth. Read the more detailed review here: http://www.saffrontree.org/2006/12/soother.html. Published by Candlewick.


THE KISSING HAND is similar in its intent to reassure. But incorporates a little ritual to get through the first few days of school. Or even moments of sadness on an ordinary day. Now, whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek and think Mommy loves you says Mrs. Raccoon after embedding a kiss on Chester Raccoon's hand. Audrey Penn's story oozes warmth, especially when Chester makes sure mom has a kissing hand too while he is away. Ruth.E.Harper and Nancy M. Leak have successfully evoked the same fuzzy feeling of warmth with their illustrations in muted tones set mostly in night time. Just the right book to calm the anxieties while saying adieu to the very young during camp, school, day care or sleepover. Published by Child & Family Press


They probably don't need books with gentle promises. They love school! They can't wait to go to school! But that's only because they think school is always fun. Not anymore. Not always. Sometimes things could go wrong, very wrong. Stuff like when people with big hair sit in front of you or when the tattoo you got as a prize comes off in the bath water. We get the picture but we unfortunately can't do much for their childish predicaments. This is where IT'S A BAD DAY comes in handy. Every little school going kid can relate to it and that's the simple beauty of it. Of course its a bad day when the biggest bubble pops without anyone seeing it! A catalog of simple and honest mishaps from May Ellen Friday, that ends with reassurance - But hey, I'm okay. And tomorrow is another day. The typeface of the text is as if handwritten by the little reader. And the exaggerated illustrations of multi ethnic kids in these "situations" will make any child guffaw with a stamp of approval! Published by Rising Moon.


She or He has singled out a friend in class and even seriously labeled her or him "best friend". The two do everything together and create memories for that slice of life on or off campus. There is not a conversation at home without bringing in the counterpart's name. Simply put, this book is about best friends. The layer of interest is that Monifa is African American, and her friend is Mei Jing, whose grandmother had immigrated from China. Their individual cultures dictate their experiences. Narrated in the first person by Monifa, the account is casual, true and very school-centric. Sprinkled with instances of cultural exchange during play dates, at school, and at home, Anna McQuinn's MY FRIEND MEI JING is a great pick to celebrate multicultural friendships, a wholesome experience during the growing up years. Illustrations are by Ben Frey and photographs inside are by Irving Cheung. Published by Annick Press.


There is that naughty side now. Something up their sleeves all the time. No place better than classroom to showcase the antics. Giggles galore. Everything seems funny, rather hilarious. And just when your child begins to appreciate humor of the tongue-in-cheek sort, its good to grab MISS NELSON IS MISSING. It can well be used as a quick refresher as the lazy summer comes to an end and when school is around the corner. May even lighten things up when he comes home with trouble from school. The children of Room 207 make it very difficult for Miss.Nelson. She disappears. They now have Miss. Viola Swamp who is intolerant to their noise and nuisance. She is portrayed mean and dressed like a witch. The children, now appreciative of Miss.Nelson, yearn for her to come back. She does reappear. But where is Miss Voila Swamp now? Did I mention they even hire a detective? Read it to solve the mystery! With simple text, amusing visuals and quirky humor, it is amazing how it eventually manages to be didactic as well. Miss Nelson is missing is authored by Harry Allard and illustrated by James Marshall. A classic and a joy to read for slightly older elementary school kids, check out the audio versions of the book and the sequel too. Published by Sandpiper.

Most definitely a journey - from fear and anxiety through reassurance and warmth, to when they get comfortable (a little too comfortable in fact), books of all sorts find their way and become part of the experience. With good books, let the journey continue...

Pictures courtesy Amazon.com.
Where is the Green Sheep?


Title: WHERE IS THE GREEN SHEEP?
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator : Judy Horacek
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Age Group: Pre-K to Gr 1 (as per Amazon)
Picture Courtesy: Amazon.com

I always find hand-picking books for babies and toddlers very interesting, and challenging. While its bulls eye most times for the older age groups with the knowledge of their acquired likes and dislikes, it could be more of a gamble with the unknown, for the fries. The eye scans for something more than instructional concept books, for a gush of creativity that makes us hopeful of reining in the wandering little mind. Texture or bold colors, sounds or pop-ups, pulling tabs and pushing buttons often come to the rescue.

None of the above physical or mechanical attractions in this book. And yet it can hold the child in rapt attention. What is it that does the trick? Repetition - a binding word that puts the child in the comfort zone and belts him up for the ride. The "hiding" game intact. The confluence works like magic! All said, it is still a concept book.

This is how Mom Fox, a Saffron Tree favorite, starts the fun and word play in this book -

Here is the blue Sheep.
And here is the red sheep.
Here is the bath sheep.
And here is the bed sheep.
But where is the green sheep?


Clever, I tend to think. Clear ink-and-watercolor illustrations keep things simple for the young. Appropriately placed, pictures of different sheep - scared sheep, far sheep, moon sheep and the like support the text further along. Not to forget the adorable portrayals of the sun sheep on the beach or the train sheep peeping out the window. The use of opposites, colors and patterns add value, and rhyme sustains the momentum. Blank white pages periodically appear questioning But where is the green sheep? and the excitement mounts to find our missing friend. The finale is when the anticipation builds in the couple of pages leading up to the "eureka" moment on the last spread! And that's when, I'd surmise, the exceedingly satisfying moment for the reader and the listener would also arrive.

There is an elaborate writing on Mem Fox's website on how she collaborated with Judy Horaceck on the book and how the book evolved - http://www.memfox.net/green-sheep-secrets.html. The photograph included at the bottom says it all!
Here is Judy Horacek's website, http://horacek.com.au/, where her banner includes our colorful sheep friends as well. Amongst other things the back cover of the book also lists the accolades that it has received.

I'd hate for my 20 month old toddler to grow up to discover "Where is the green sheep?" not featured on Saffron Tree! Because that's how much he loves this book...we love this book!
Meera Sriram
The Other Side

Title: The Other Side
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: E.B.Lewis
Publisher: G.P.Putnam's Sons, NY
Picture Courtesy - Amazon.com

"There is no school on Monday, no mail on Monday. And do you know why?", began the teacher. I was at my daughter's kinder room when it was my turn to help out, and I overheard the teacher beginning to read a book on Martin Luther King. I could not take my eyes off of the little ones' faces, curious to know how they would absorb it all. They listened with intent. Silence ensued. And then they dispersed. I felt cheated when I could not comprehend what went through their minds. That afternoon I walked back home wondering how I could talk to my daughter on what Martin Luther stood for and how I could present the historical significance that surrounds him. The customary discomfort that preceded talks (with her) on "unhappy" truths, was again telling me that I was soon going to be guilty of adulterating the innocent mind. Even though, in most cases, the terminating message was good.

So, when I was at the library this weekend, I nonchalantly scanned the shelves for something besides King's biography, and something that did not scream strong language or characters. The Other Side turned out to be the kind of book that would be an ally in my mission. In fact, it won me over to find a spot on Saffron Tree to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. today!

The opening spread, in stunning yet soft water colors, takes us to a flowery patch amidst lush greenery and scattered houses. A lengthy fence catches the eye in the middle of the rural scene. Just as we warm up to the narrative of a little African-American girl, Clover, we get involved in the incident that occurred one summer, when she noticed a white girl on the other side of the fence, staring at her. The fence is a repeating detail in the illustrations on most pages. Annie, is the lonely girl across the fence yearning to be included in the outdoor games Clover and her little group play all day. Clover also finds herself admiringly looking at Annie's free-spiritedness. And then one day, things change. Clover and Annie exchange smiles and names. Annie invites Clover to join her on the fence. The girls exploit the technicality that their mothers' never opposed their sitting on the fence. A fence like this was made for sitting on, we hear Annie say. By the end of that summer a friendship is born. It is not long before Annie is seen playing together with the rest of Clover's gang. And the book ends with this -

"Someday somebody's going to come along and knock this old fence down", Annie said. And I nodded.

"Yeah," I said. "Someday".


Yes, the fence is the metaphor. But the literal meaning sufficed. There was no need to mention civil rights or segregation. A warm setting, with girls her own age or older brought the much needed comfort, and kindled curiosity in my 5 yr old. I embraced the subtlety and capitalized on the situation. I mentioned King. She stared at the portrayals of Annie and the girls carelessly sitting on the fence and told me a few things. I think she will understand his context now.

The book reminded me that children have the power to make a change. Innocence is probably the secret. The story in The Other Side, I thought, brought Matin Luther King's dream closer to reality.

Jacqueline Woodson's another book "Coming On Home Soon" has been reviewed earlier, read it here - http://www.saffrontree.org/2007/05/coming-on-home-soon-by-jacqueline.html
Monsoon Afternoon

Title: Monsoon Afternoon
Author: Kashmira Sheth
Illustrator: Yoshiko Jaeggi
Publisher: Peachtree
Age Group: 4-8 years


Soft watercolors all over, stroked elegantly to reveal pleasing sights of peacocks, cows, and paper boats. A city drenched in monsoon. And that is not the only picture this book paints, there are images that bear the warmth of a special relationship.

This book helps kids get acquainted with an Indian setting and partake in the experiences that stem from the smell of moist terrain typical of monsoons in India. The story also unravels a treasured bond between a boy and his grandfather. The little boy is looking around for familial playmates, just as the first drops of rain hit the earth. His efforts in vain, we see grandpa appear from behind with a tempting offer to sail paper boats. A monsoon afternoon well savored - swinging from aerial shoots, witnessing a peacock's glorious spread, and hopping on to dadaji.

Our little friend, now comfortably settled on his old man's shoulders, turns inquisitive. Did monsoon come when you were little? he asks. Will monsoon come when I become a dadaji? Our eyes drift to the corner in sepia where dadaji as a little boy is swinging from a banyan tree. I closed the book with a good read of the author's notes on her monsoons in India, what the rains meant to her and what they brought with them - the mango season, time for indoor games, and the season for sicknesses too. A great way to talk to children about ways of life when seasons change in a land different from their own. Rains always excite children, and in this book they can find joy in knowing how other kids spend their rainy afternoons in faraway places.


Rechenka's Eggs
TITLE: Rechenka's Eggs
AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: Patricia POLACCO
PUBLIHSER: Philomel Books
AGE GROUP: 4-8 years.

While Patricia Polacco needs no introduction to those of you who have been enjoying her stories, rest of you book lovers deserve to experience the warmth that her books generously ooze out. And that is why I chose Rechenka's Eggs.

From my Russian background my stories are kind of ethnic, primitive, Eastern European — that's one type of voice I write in, says Patricia. Set in Moskva in pre-revolutionary Russia, that is exactly the voice we hear in this book.

Babushka (Russian for grandmother) is a kind hearted old woman who spends the cold and dark winter days painting eggshells in her country home. She has a reputation for her beautifully designed eggs and she plans on taking them to a contest for the Spring Festival in the city. On a snowy day that winter, even as she is greeting a herd of caribous outside of her home, an injured goose separates from its flock and falls on her lap. The good Samaritan Babushka is, heals the goose and gives it a cozy corner in her own home. Babushka lovingly names her Rechenka and the bird lays an egg for her every morning. Thus a friendship is born.

However, an accident that ends the serenity and goodness that we have gotten used to so far, also leads to a chain of magical events. A clumsy Rechenka overturns paint jars and even breaks Babushka's gorgeous eggs. Babushka is upset. But the next morning, her usual breakfast egg from the goose is not an ordinary one, but an exquisitely painted one! A dozen more follow. "A miracle",thrilled, Babushka whispers. It is soon spring, time for the festival. Also, the time for Rechenka to move on and migrate with her clan. Time for adieu. Babushka leaves for the city with her (Rechenka's) eggs. The eggs win her accolades. Back home, curled up loney with her book in bed, Babushka hears something. Following it, she finds a glorious egg left in the basket Rechenka rested. But this one moves....jumps..rolls...and there lies Rechenka's special gift!!!

The reader swallows a lump in the throat. A sigh. Beautiful does not describe it. And I am not saying it just for the story but for all those pictures that whisked us off to old Moscow. The Moskva women in ethnic attire, the onion-domed architecture, the eggshells - a dozen of them with intricate folkloric art, even the wrinkles and folds of skin on Babushka's face and limbs, all do their bit in binding us to the story.

There is also this balance in the elements of reality and imagination - while the backdrop of wintry Moscow, the festival and the contest, the caribous and a warm-hearted Babushka ground the story, the painted eggs from the bird and the element of surprise impart a fairy-tale like magical quality that children will love. With her eye-catching illustrations, richness in flavor, lucid writing and a touching storyline, Patricia Polacco is truly a wonderful writer and artist. You need to read the book, to experience the joy!

Mrs.McCool And The Giant Cuhullin - An Irish Tale

TITLE: Mrs.McCool and the Giant Cuhullin
AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: Jessica Souhami
PUBLISHER: Henry Holt and Company
AGES: Good for "Read Aloud" and "Read it Yourself".

The joy of folktales is something that we recently discovered at our home. Stepping aside from classics and contemporary humor , we seem to embrace folktales, quite effortlessly. The book that I have with me is an Irish folklore, bearing a tale very similar to the ones that were orally passed on to me while I was growing up.

The central characters in this tale are legendary giants Cuhullin and Finn McCool. Mrs. Oona McCool is the one with the brains and quite intuitively, also the one to save her husband oftentimes from Cuhullin. Now, Cuhullin has a magic finger that makes him strong and Finn has a magic thumb that bestows upon him, the power to foresee things. Finn uses his magic thumb and announces (in jitters of course) the impending arrival of Cuhullin. Mrs.McCool to the rescue! A simple story you think, buckle up for a good dose of slapstick humor! Children will be laughing boisterously as they see fun illustrations and hear goofy dialogues.

Mrs.McCool is quick witted. She drops Finn with a bonnet in a cradle and welcomes Cuhullin for tea. She makes unreasonable, rather unrealistic (not that there is realism to worry here) requests that demand extreme brawn from Cuhullin. And this she does, so nonchalantly that Cuhullin is led to believe that the tasks are all a routine in the McCool household. Just look at the front cover - there is Cuhullin trying to lift the house so Oona can broom off the dust underneath! Here is also a sample of silliness to taste - "Goodness!" exclaimed Cuhullin. "Look at the size of him! Look at the moustache! If this is the baby, what must Finn be like?" , as Cuhullin mistakes Finn for a real baby. He also ends up sticking his finger in the "baby's" mouth, only to have his magic finger bitten off! Petrified, the shrinking Cuhullin runs amok, leaving a cheery couple dancing!

"It was nothing, dear Finn," said Oona."Big is Big. But brains are better!" . Probably the profound truth that this story intended to convey to little children and just as the message drives home, you are still not really far from the jocund moments. The magic of folktales it is. Loony and wacky, oh yeah! But did you also realize the feminist undercurrent, the portrayal of the woman endowed with brainpower, the one to thwart a giant - amazing to think of it when there is still so much gripe in contemporary children's literature about the roles women or girls are given! Quick paced with bright collage like illustrations, this book is wonderful to be read aloud to children!

There is never enough said about folktales. Flavorful, informative and historic, with so much room for imagination. These hand me downs from wonderful storytellers, sometimes didactic and sometimes just for laughs. Timeless.

My Gandhi Scrapbook


I saw Google incorporate the face of Gandhi into their logo first thing this morning. I was reminded of this book. Her aunt had given it to her on her birthday. I pulled it out of my saved-for-later stash and turned to look at the back cover. For all ages it said. I flipped through to make a quick judgment of the content before I presented it to her. I smiled and beckoned my little one.



My Gandhi Scrapbook, compiled by Sandhya Rao at Tulika Publishers, India.



A very warm and casually written introductory note from Sandhya talked in simple terms about scrap booking and went on to encourage children to add to the collection in the book. We flipped and we saw Gandhi everywhere! I can’t help but verbalize a scrapbook here, now that I actually saw one, a well-made one. Photographs and images of currency and postal stamps bearing his visage were splattered all over. Tags, comments and labels floated near them with little details. She took her finger here..there. Mine followed hers. She then took the book closer to read finely printed letters on a vintage photo. Colorful art, monochromatic photographs and handwritten patches carried tidbits of his life, style and work.



Beyond the images of currency, were a bunch of thematically assembled photographs. All were sightings of places (streets, squares roads, parks) from around the world, carrying placards with his name. We turned the page, and saw more caricature. On this page, was a tip to create a quick Gandhi doodle. She giggled. But then came a spread of vintage black and white photographs of Mohandas, in his boyhood and adolescence (and of the bald old man we all love). Another couple of pages showed how omnipresent he is, even today. This was conveyed through images of magazine covers, child art and hoardings. Beside these were little bubbles loaded with bite-sized facts about the Mahatma. The neat bonus was a few sheets left blank for the child to collect more such wonderful scrap!



You get the idea now, I suppose. And so did my 5 year old. I watched her hold on to the book and gaze at the photographs even as I walked away thinking that every kid reading this book is sure to find him cool just as she did!
Digestibility. We all look for this attribute when it comes to presenting history, religion or mythology to our children. And this book takes good care of this.



Live simply that others may simply live – M.K.Gandhi. I pull this out from a yellow blob in this book, as we celebrate a hero’s birthday today!

Meera Sriram
Best Friends, for EARTH DAY

Its EARTH DAY today everyone! As always it calls for a celebration here at Saffron tree! And what better way to do it than through a good book? That is why I have here with me BEST FRIENDS, written by Nina Sabnani; a neat blingual production from Tulika Publishers, India. No contemplation preceded the choice of this book. And it cannot be more befitting for today - the celebration of a little girl's friendship with a tree.

We are introduced to little Tamanna playing in the garden. We see her talking and sharing stories from her school and home to the big tall beautiful Kuchi. The sounds of nature had led her to believe, when she was a baby, that the tree actually spoke. Shhhuunnn! Muuuunnnn! was the language her companion spoke, she thought, and thus a friendship was born. However, her chatty friendship becomes a subject of ridicule and mockery amongst her human friends and that prods her to rethink her relationship. Pragmatism wins and her delusion ends.

Years roll by and we see her reading a book to her daughter. Shhhuunnn! Muuuunnnn! Something beckons her. Running out into the garden she sees a man with an axe. Stop! Don't touch Kuchi! screams the woman, our Tamanna. The closing image is that of a little girl in a swing suspended from one of Kuchi's branches. The friendship is passed on.

I turn the book and read "Based on a real friendship between Nina Sabnani's niece and a tree....". Deeply touched.

The author is also the illustrator. The text is oddly simple and the reasoning for this would be its ability to support multiple Indian languages. But the profound thoughts that the simple text can transmit impresses me. Trees, like water, symbolize our giving earth in its (her) full glory. Irrespective of whether we choose to talk about deforestation or recycling or about simply closing the pipe while brushing, amongst us and to our kids, the importance of our environment, the generosity of nature and the beauty of our home, the earth stands. Happy Earth Day!
Meera Sriram
AMADI'S SNOWMAN


Publisher: Tilbury House, Publishers, Maine, USA
Author: Katia Novet Saint-Lot
Illustrator: Dimitrea Tokunbo

What is a snowman doing on the front cover of a book bearing what I think looks like an African boy in a village setting? Little did I know that it was curiosity of this nature that was the basis for the transformation in young Amadi's life, the central character in the book Amadi's Snowman.

Amadi is a native of the Igbo tribe of Nigeria in Africa. The story is set in a hamlet in Nigeria, boasting marketplaces and friendly faces amidst which Amadi is raised by his hardworking mother.

What we come to understand after the introductory pages is Amadi's impregnable resistance to learn to read. He strongly believes that the ability to read is unneeded for an Igbo boy whose stereotyped ambition is to grow up to be a business man. Wandering at the marketplace, Amadi chances upon his friend Chima furtively buried in a book. It is now that Amadi's eyes fall upon an image of a boy bundled up in clothes next to a strange animal with a nose that looked like a carrot. Everywhere around, the ground and trees sparkled, blinding white. To some of us the image of a boy and a snowman could seem effortlessly digestible but to an Igbo man in Africa whose land is drenched in sun all through the year, this can sure seem hard to gulp. His ignorance is dispelled by Chima, who now seems to be the all-knowing idol to Amadi. But Chima soon takes off abandoning the book and poor Amadi who stands there with a whole lot of questions queued up in his head. This incident sows the seeds for Amadi's genuine enthusiasm to read, to learn, and to discover.

Amadi's quest does not end here. He begins to realize the existence of a lot more beyond his small world, like the snow and snowman. But they are all going to be out of reach if he did not know to read. The climax is when Amadi finds the same book in his house, gifted to him by Mrs. Chikodili, his tutor whom he is seen avoiding all through. You can tell Mrs.Chikodili I'll learn how to read are Amadi's final words in the book.

The depiction of the life of a rural African boy can itself be intriguing to urban children. The rustic scenes painted in warm earth tones come as a bonus, thanks to Dimitrea Tokunbo. The book is also overly apt for Saffron Tree for more than one reason - not only is it truly multicultural as in being a story about a tribal boy in Africa and created by a well-traveled author who now lives in India, but it is also one that spoons children the motivation to learn to read.

The initial resistance to read that Amadi exudes is probably a feeling that all young children might be able to relate to and the fact that the story can eventually inspire them to read is the most wonderful and powerful thing about this book! Nothing says this like when my 4 year old worriedly and hurriedly ensured "Ma, I know to read, right? I will know to read much better on my own, right?" as I slowly closed the book.Thumbs up to Katia Novet for this neat package! Literacy is a heavy subject and to translate it to young children is a daunting task. But looks like Katia Novet has effortlessly and wonderfully accomplished this endeavour.
Meera Sriram
Today is International Day of Non-violence...


MARCHING TO FREEDOM
Author: Subhadra Sen Gupta
Illustrator: Tapas Guha
Publisher: Pratham Books, India


Age Group: 11-14 years

For today's children Gandhi is just a face on our currency note or a picture in a dull history book. But what he stood for is something that I feel all children should value —tolerance and non-violence. - Subhadra Sen Gupta

Ample reason to write a book on Mahatma Gandhi for children. And today seems adequate enough to review this book from Pratham Books.

The setting is the Sabarmati Ashram in the western state of Gujarat in India, which Gandhi and his followers called home during the Freedom Struggle in India. Dhani is a 9 year old boy being raised in the ashram by his Gandhian parents. Dhani also seems to be responsible for taking care of Binni, the goat, who is his incessant companion and whose milk seems to be a part of Gandhi's morning diet.

Dhani is portrayed as a cheery little boy skipping around the ashram premises, inquisitive, eager to know, and quizzical. Dhani senses a plan brewing in the ashram and the tale kicks off with his attempts to find out more about it. Persistent as he is, Dhani learns from his mother of a march near the sea and learns a lot more from Bindha, also a resident working in the garden. Bindha neatly lays out the details and discloses Gandhi's idea of walking across Gujarat with his men, to a coastal place called Dandi to make salt.

It is but natural for Dhani to innocently clarify "Why will they make salt? You can buy it in every shop! Walking for a month! Why don't they take a bus or train to Dandi instead?" Questions that children might echo.This is when Binda explains the salt tax and the restraint to make sea salt imposed by the British, and the purpose of the march as a form of non-violent protest.

Impressed by Gandhi's ideas and motivated by the unfairness of the issue, Dhani is eager to participate, eager enough to follow Gandhi during his morning walk the next day to get his permission to join him. The simple yet well-chosen explanation that Gandhi adopts in order to convince Dhani to happily stay home completes the fiction.

The two pages of simple facts on the Dandi March of 1930 that flagged off the Non Cooperation Movement in India probably makes the book appropriate for the 11-14 years age group as the book claims. The book itself was written to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the event.

I talk a lot to children in schools and I found that though they like historical fiction, they dislike history!, shares the author who bears a reputation for creating historical fiction. Her resume includes a list of well-known publishers, and same is the case with the illustrator Tapas Guha. The sugar coated presentation of a piece of Indian history that teaches non-violence undoubtedly deserves our appreciation. This book also seems to be a part of a series called "Once upon an India".


I seem to be stumbling upon books on Mahatma Gandhi lately, and I think this post will be a befitting place to add pointers to them for it may help parents around the world to introduce to children the ideas of non-violence and tolerance. And needless to say, a great leader such as Mahatma Gandhi.

A man called Bapu also from Pratham Books
Picture Gandhi - Tulika Publishers

AND My Gandhi Scrapbook - Tulika Publishers, both available here

MINJI'S SALON

AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: Eun-hee Choung
AGE GRP: 3-5 yrs
SPANISH language edition also available

“An ode to the power of children's imaginations (and their parents' patience), Minji's Salon reminds readers that creativity and play are worldwide phenomena.”
is what the publisher Kane Miller rightly claims.

Yet another book on pretend-playing and dress-up that I got my hands on, but the overdose doesn’t seem to tire my 4 year old girl!

A simple story line. Mother visits the local salon for a vivid red color and a fancy haircut. Daughter creates a make-believe salon at home assuming the role of the stylist. The guinea pig is her dog companion at home. Smell chaos already? Wait until you see what Minji is up to.

Something really neat in the book is the juxtaposition of equivalent scenes, the city salon on one side and Minji’s home base on the other. This presentation makes it easy for the child to get a grasp of the hilarious on goings in parallel. While the rendezvous of the mom with her stylist progresses on the left, Minji’s date with her canine friend evolves on the right. Similar drill, dialogues and drama. An ice-cream concoction for color, crayons for holding the fuzz, generous use of water colors – all to simulate the hairdresser’s paraphernalia and perform the shear act on her own specimen. Can you imagine the predicament of the dog? Visuals just enough to make the little reader giggle or guffaw.

Another observation would be the fact that mom’s proceedings happen in a confined rectangular window while Minji’s play has no defined boundaries (on the pages), clearly portraying how a child’s imagination has no bounds, whatsoever! And this is the central idea of the book.

Mom is back, pretty and perky. Her initial shock softens into surprise and then a sweet tolerance takes over even as she stands there encompassed in total mess. A feeling that mothers all around the world can comfortably relate to.

“ My goodness! Are you the owner of the salon?”
“Yes Madam. Would you like to make an appointment?”

We see no end to Minji’s frolic. However the book comes to an end with a picture of Minji staring at a mannequin through the glass window of a city store, not to forget the bright red oversized stilettos she has gotten herself into!

Eun-hee Choung lives in South Korea, academically qualified in art and illustration. And I can safely conclude that she has done adequate justice to the above fact in Minji’s salon where visuals dominate text.
Meera Sriram
MY FRIEND JAMAL

STORY & PHOTOGRAPHY: ANNA MCQUINN
ARTWORK: BEN FREY
AGE GRP: 4-7 YRS.

The book is a boy’s narration of his culturally diverse yet completely uncomplicated friendship with another boy his age. In other words it is a celebration of an unadulterated friendship that oversteps borders, religion and culture.

Our little narrator, Joseph, introduces to us readers, his friend Jamal of Somali origin, however, born in the same hospital as him, the same month! After sharing with us the staples of their friendship built on activities and interests that are typical to boys their age, Joseph lets us into more unexpected specifics. This includes Jamal being a Muslim, Jamal’s dietary restrictions (both cultural and health-related) and an analysis of Jamal’s household - how pasta is served with banana toppings and how his family dines on the floor, more like a picnic! In fact, something that, in my opinion, felt very real and down-to-earth were these lines –

Sometimes I go to Jamal’s house.
It smells different from ours because his mom cooks with special spices.

Isn’t it true that something as simple and different as this can actually be acknowledged and reasoned out by the innocent mind? And books that carry such thoughts, I believe, can provoke and aid open healthy discussions of complex issues of the real world with a growing child.

Marching on, the pages are filled with fun and precious details of their likes and dislikes, commonalities and differences, - about superhero games, basketball teams and automobile preferences, all sure to score a three-pointer with any male child! Joseph then narrates more about the prayer routine he witnesses at Jamal’s, the Koran in Arabic that his friend talks about and the war and fighting in Somalia from which the family fled. What catches the reader’s attention is the non-judgmental and intrigued tone with which the small boy speaks. In fact, everything that revolves around Jamal with whom Joseph shares his life is probably diametrically in contrast to his own settled Christian life and yet he nonchalantly accepts Jamal and his family.

This book can be an ideal pick for discussing cross-cultural friendships with children. The details though raw are real and gentle. The author Anna McQuinn was raised in Ireland and now lives in England adding titles like Lola at the library and Wanda’s washing machine to her credit. The illustrations are a combination of photography and art – bold, colorful and explicit, just as the front cover indicates.

A wonderful work that showcases how children adjust and adapt to strikingly contrasting cultural canvases while holding on to their own individualistic identities, something that nature and puerility seem to take care of.
Meera Sriram
MY CAT COPIES ME


MY CAT COPIES ME
Author and Illustrator: Yoon-duck Kwon
Age group: 4-8 years

This is one of those books in which the illustrations carry more weight than the text itself. The package might seem simple, superficially, but shrouded underneath are deeper messages that are crucial for growing children. Another significant attraction would be the fact that it can be a wonderful treat for cat lovers and cat loving or pet loving children! Let me move on and embark on the task of peeling off the layers of the charming tale, from my own perspective and based on some research that I did.

The book opens up with an introductory note about the cat and the relationship the girl bears with the animal. In the girl's opinion, her cat is mostly independent except, when ignored, when she actually tries to imitate her!. The skin-deep impression is that of a girl declaring how her shy cat ends up copying her a lot. Snapshots of the cat and the girl entertaining themselves in merriment are what follow. We see the girl and her pet hiding behind newspapers, furniture and clothes, chasing flies and watching bugs.

But going beyond and reading between the lines leads us into some dry humor, the subtle fact that the cat is actually doing what cats very typically do! This leaves us with the feeling that a lonely girl is actually seeking consolation in the company of her cat.

Midway, the tables turn - "But from now on... ... I will copy my cat!"

"Like my cat, I'll look outside.
I'll watch the darkness, and I won't be afraid."

In the ensuing pages are illustrations of the girl and her feline friend climbing high (as seen on the cover page, which all makes sense now) stretching their bodies in unison, fearlessly stepping "out" and making new friends. The positivity in the chosen actions are undeniable and sets the stage for the transition in the girl's persona.

And now is when the message begins to crystallize - an introverted girl has actually turned to her cat friend to face her fears and face the world. The closing image is that of the girl playing with her new friends, other neighborhood children, along with her cat! Not beating around the bush, a timid child will probably be able to relate to the girl and more importantly learn to lean on something and break free.

The grey outlining to vibrant images adds interest. Another subtlety is the intentional dark background on the few pages when the girl actually sheds her fears and opens up. The backdrop is a Korean household and neighborhood, imparting the Asian feel to the book. A background check on the author revealed the artistic credentials she bears in brushwork painting, Asian landscape painting and Buddhist paintings. A rather mild drawback in my opinion would be the lack of stronger, firmer or more substantial text to convey the very significant and wonderful message the book carries. While the simplicity of the surface reading is to be appreciated the lack of depth in the text to corroborate the illustrations and hence the message can be a tad unsatisfying. However, the demystifying process seems very satisfying!
Meera Sriram
For the Lunar New Year - New Clothes for New Year's Day

NEW CLOTHES FOR NEW YEAR'S DAY
By Hyun - Joo Bae
Age: 4-8 years

This book is a celebration of the Korean culture and heritage, more specifically of the Korean Lunar New Year. I could say that or I could just say - it is a book about a little girl playing dress-up, Korean dress-up. Take it as you wish, but its a cheery book that every little girl will savor!

In her plain white underclothes stands the little girl looking out the window on a cold winter morning. But its the first cold winter morning of a New Year! And what brings the most joy to her little world is her new crimson silk skirt and her chance to bask in it. The narrator demonstrates how carefully and delicately she adorns herself. She puts on her skirt, her embroidered socks, her rainbow jacket, her delicate headgear and a long list of fine accessories. But the subtle yet strong nuances are what make it so wonderful - the pause to admire at every stage, the crusade to tie the perfect bow, the minor adjustments to make it look just right. More embellishments - new, textured, intricate, dazzling. Down to the finest detail, a charm for luck! Just as fresh snow makes a landing, the girl is all ready, so utterly perfect to set out to wish good luck to her near and dear.

With a straightforward and very simple way to introduce Korean traditions to children, the book is laden with the inherent serenity that the far east emanates. Elegant, warm and colorful sketches seem to do justice to the girl's ulterior desire. The last two pages of the book are dedicated for factual content - a write up on traditional Korean (Lunar) New Year celebrations and the significance of new clothes for New Year's. Alongside is a diagram of the ensemble, head to toe.

A sleepless night on the eve of a chance to wear a new attire is not uncommon in a child's world. This book neatly lays it out, drenched in an Asian flavor, while exhuming warmth and cheer. Don't chide me for your little boy's nonchalance for the book but it sure is a guaranteed delight for any girl, anywhere on the map!
Meera Sriram
Mom, The School Flooded

Author: Ken Rivard
Art: Joe Weissmann
Ages: 4-7 years

This is yet another whimsical creation from Annick Press (also the publisher of Stephanie's ponytail reviewed earlier). The central idea in this anecdote is something most parents and school goers would instantly connect to - a tall tale from a playful little school boy, when put in a tight corner by his mother. The title of the book and the colorful front and back covers bearing a flood scene with wreckage indicating a school setting kindles the reader's curiosity.

Gus is our hero, rather our soaking wet hero! Back from school and now under investigation by his speculative mother, finds the need to whip up a convincing explanation for his drenched attire. An adept narrator (or so he thinks!), sets the stage for an aquatic drama at school - "We were doing science and all this WATER came in from the hall........". He doesn't stop with that. And here is where the reader straps herself (or himself) to take a ride with Gus and his fanciful story, just like his all-knowing mom did! Unhampered and with utmost confidence he proceeds to lay out the incident sprinkling it with intricate details to account for realism. The vice-principal on the phone floating with his fish bowl, the gym and schoolyard looking like an ocean, the arrival of the fire truck and to top it all "Didn't you see us on TV, mom?" he quips! He also comes up with an interesting climax with the caretaker's plunger-wonder fixing it all and the flood vanishing in a flash! All his mom does is sigh and say - "Oh Gus! You do tell such stories!" The book is left charmingly open-ended with Mike, Gus' older brother walking in with torn pants and a pet alligator tucked behind!

Believable? No. This is where the beautiful innocence of the child blinds the sane mind. In fact, it could ironically arouse pleasant wonder and admiration for the naughty one. I am sure there was always that time when a highly improbable excuse still melted your heart. The idea is also for kids to enjoy when someone else is presenting a story without boundaries. It never ceases to amaze them either. And there is a good chance they will realize how goofy their own stories can sometimes sound! The illustrations are comic, and in pastel watercolors - colorful and cheery. Consistency with details deserves special mention - the paraphernalia from the science class diligently floating to other areas of the institution.

A fun package for you, for the little trickster or the goody one in your house!
Meera Sriram
Diwali: A Festival of Lights and Fun


Diwali: Kushiyon Ka Tyohaar
Diwali: A Festival of Lights and Fun

Written by Manisha Kumar & Monica Kumar
Illustrated by Sona & Jacob

This bilingual book on Diwali is from Meera Masi, a Bay Area based cross-cultural publishing house with a mission to pass on the heritage of India to immigrant children, through books and other products on Indian languages and culture.

A warm introduction on the essence of Diwali on the opening page sets the stage for the ensuing colors and rhymes that bring to life Diwali for our children.

"We all love Diwali, it's so much fun.
The festival of lights has now begun."

Simple verses like the above alternating with brightly hued pictures, both, of a family celebration is what this book is about. All the fundamentals of the festival are laid out. The act of wearing new clothes, cleaning and decorating our houses, greeting families and friends, making rangoli, offering puja, lighting diyas , bursting crackers and of course eating mithai are all poetized alongside appropriate illustrations. Yes, I have retained the hindi diction as sprinkled in the English text in the book.

Each pair of sentences comprising the sweet little rhyme appears in the Hindi language followed by its transliteration in English and then the translation itself in the English language. No doubt a tool for teaching children an Indian language.

As with the belief of people at Meera Masi, I too believe that the prelude to imparting the deeper meanings and concepts of festivals to young children is simply kindling their curiosity to learn about them. This can be effortlessly and successfully achieved by creating a playful and amusing environment for it - what better way to do it than to add a tune and dance with color!!! In fact, my 3.5 year old daughter will stand testimony to this!

The book comes with a read along audio CD, readings of the book in Hindi and English. There is a glossary included on the last page for few of the Hindi words used in the book. The intention for including the CD and the transliteration is to help children learn the pronunciations the right way and this especially comes in handy for parents who are not comfortable with the language themselves. The book can be purchased at www.meeramasi.com.

"With everyone we had a blast.
We know the Diwali cheer will last!"

is the concluding lyric in this book that will make children realize that Diwali is indeed a festival of lights!



WISH YOU ALL A VERY COLORFUL DEEPAVALI!

Meera Sriram