Home

HomeWritten, illustrated and designed by Nina Sabnani
Tulika, 2010.

Ages: 4-8

Home, Nina Sabnani’s new and ingeniously designed interactive book, is shaped like a house with a peaked roof. As a blurb on the back cover explains, the book’s design was inspired by the Kaavad, a portable wooden shrine made of many hinged panels and used by traditional storytellers in India to tell local myths and folktales. As is the case with the Kaavad, the idea behind Home is to “reinforce inter-connections within [one’s] community and to establish [one’s] own space in it.”

Home appeals strongly to both the eye and the imagination. Structurally, it’s designed to open and close, somewhat like a real house. Over a center panel, two tri-fold accordion panels unfold to the right and to the left as one “enters” the house. There is a second set of panels on the back side of the “house.” Each panel opens to reveal a few words and Sabnani’s bright renditions of an assortment of people and animals and the many different places and ways in which they live.

Readers can push open a cut-out window in the center panel of the book as they explore “the world” beyond them and ponder their own place in it (the window reveals either one or another of the panels, depending on the panels’ placement). Another great thing about this Home is that no keys are required to enter. Readers can come into it any way they please: through the front door, back door, the window… But regardless of how they enter, they’re likely to be staying a while, for, fold after fold after fold, they will be inspired to talk about their own ideas of family and home, and to put the book’s various panels and images together into stories of their own.

As interactive books go, this one takes the trophy for offering the right combination of learning and fun while stimulating thought and imagination. Highly recommended.

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In grandma’s voice: the joys of e-books

E-books and children’s book-based apps for mobile devices are no doubt popular these days and have been reaching many millions of children worldwide. While reading the reprint of a recent article on Pratham Books‘ website about the release of the iPad in India, I discovered that the following Pratham and Tulika books (since our current focus is India) are available as e-book apps:

By Pratham Books – free download:

Annual Haircut Day (English) – A cumulative tale about a man with very long hair who can’t seem to find anyone to cut it.

Chand Ka Tohfa – An attempt to creatively use technology to combine regional language exposure and entertainment.

By Tulika –

Ekki Dokki (English/Hindi)- A story based on an endearing Marathi folktale about two sisters—one who has only one strand of hair on her head, and one who has two—and what happens to them when they meet an old woman who lives alone in the middle of the forest.

The Runnaway Peppercorn (Tamil/English or Hindi/English) – Amminikutty Amma picks out the last peppercorn from her spice box to make some tasty onion chutney. But little Kurumolagu (the peppercorn) has no intention of being ground and eaten just yet. With a desperate Amminikutty Amma hot on his heels, he hops, jumps, skids, brakes, revs and races his way away.

In addition to making possible to switch between two languages on any page, these apps also allow voice-over recording, so that children can listen to the story, for instance, in grandma’s voice. If I ever needed to be convinced of the positive side of e-book apps, I’m now completely sold on the idea! I can’t wait to record my mom’s voice reading some books in Portuguese to my daughter! I think that adding grandma’s voice to our bedtime routine will help bridge the great distance between the US and Brazil.

Some of the new apps coming out these days include interactive elements and moving illustrations, resulting in something that’s more animated than an e-book and more interactive than a cartoon. And why not pull all stops to bring children and reading together? There seems to be room and reason (and rhyme too!) for all approaches. Many publishers and digital media developers have fully embraced the opportunity to reach out to more readers.

Speaking of new technologies, Marjorie got a taste of a very interesting one while we were in Bologna this year…

City of Stories

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Rukmini Banerji, illustrated by Bindia Thapar,
City of Stories
Read India/Pratham Books, 2008.

Ages: 4-8

In Rukmini Banerji’s City of Stories, a girl living in “one of the biggest, busiest cities in the world” can’t seem to find anyone to tell her a story. Everyone she asks is busy doing house work, reading the newspaper, playing games, running errands…

Things change, however, when Didi, a girl who seems “older than the children and younger than the teacher” shows up at school and, to the little girl’s surprise, says: “I can tell you story. What kind of story would you like?”. Didi’s gift as a storyteller has the younger one entranced. Soon the other children in the school join them and become absorbed by the vivid details of the many stories Didi tells  them, again and again– animal stories, tales of adventure and mystery, stories about lost treasures and what to do when you are scared…

Soon, children from neighboring schools come. Children who had left school come. Even adults gather around Didi. They all listen eagerly, and learn how to spin their own tales. Their contagious enthusiasm spreads throughout the city and pretty soon begins to disturb the pace of life for its inhabitants. People, young and old, can’t stop listening and telling stories. As stories weave their way into their lives, they start forgoing their responsibilities–and to disastrous consequences: the postmen stop delivering the mail; bus drivers stop driving their buses; restaurants stop making food…

Accused of “flooding the city with an ocean of stories” that brings it to a halt, Didi and the little girl she first met are summoned to the Mayor’s mansion to set things straight. The outcome of their meeting, proposed by Didi, a simple one: “Let there be one story in the morning and one story in the evening.” Life in the big city, now known as the City of Stories, resumes its normal course, except that everyone’s lives have been enriched by stories and transformed forever.

Bindia Thapar’s exquisite watercolor and line-drawing illustrations showing the faces of enraptured, colorfully dressed children and images of the hub-hub of city life, brim with energy and details.

City of Stories is a reminder about the universal power of storytelling. It makes for a pitch-perfect read aloud – in the morning or at night.

Nabeel’s New Pants

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Retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, illustrated by Prioti Roy,
Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale
Marshall Cavendish Children, 2010.

Ages: 4–8

In this lovely cumulative tale, after a very busy day selling shoes at his shop, a shoemaker named Nabeel goes out shopping for gifts for his family. They will be celebrating Eid the next day, the holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and he wants to give each one of them something new to wear for the festivities.

Prioti Roy’s (What Shall We Make?) bright pen and ink illustrations show Nabeel selecting aburqa for his wife, a dupatta (wraparound scarf) for his mother, some bangles for his daughter. Upon noticing his patched pants, Hamza, the shopkeeper, suggests Nabeel treats himself to a new pair. The only pair available is four fingers too long, and Hamza can’t shorten them because he must close the shop to get ready for Eid. Nabeel buys the pants anyway, convinced that having them shortened won’t be a problem.

At home Nabeel hands out, one by one, the gifts he’s bought. He is thanked and, in turn, is asked if he’s picked something new for himself to wear. He tells each of them, separately, about the pair of pants and how they need to be shortened by four fingers. “Could you shorten them for me?” he asks one after another. And one after another they gently say no. There’s much to do to prepare for Eid: the biryani, sheerkorma and samosas need to be cooked, the baby needs to be tended to… There just isn’t enough time.

In true cumulative-story fashion, Nabeel’s interaction with each family member represents a link in the chain of events narrated. Little ones will be excited to find out what’s next and anxious to learn how Nabeel’s quest to have his pants shortened finally ends.

Underlying this delightful story, which makes for a perfect read-aloud, is a reminder of the real significance of Eid: it isn’t about what you wear, after all.

A glossary of Arabic words is included.

Home

BookCover

Nina Sabnani,
Home
Tulika, 2010.

Ages: 4–8

Home, Nina Sabnani’s new and ingeniously designed interactive book, is shaped like a house with a peaked roof. As a blurb on the back cover explains, the book’s design was inspired by theKaavad, a portable wooden shrine made of many hinged panels and used by traditional storytellers in India to tell local myths and folktales. As is the case with the Kaavad, the idea behind Home is to “reinforce inter-connections within [one’s] community and to establish [one’s] own space in it.”

Home appeals strongly to both the eye and the imagination. Structurally, it’s designed to open and close, somewhat like a real house. Over a center panel, two tri-fold accordion panels unfold to the right and to the left as one “enters” the house. There is a second set of panels on the back side of the “house.”  Each panel opens to reveal a few words and Sabnani’s bright renditions of an assortment of people and animals and the many different places and ways in which they live.

Readers can push open a cut-out window in the center panel of the book as they explore “the world” beyond them and ponder their own place in it (the window reveals either one or another of the panels, depending on the panels’ placement). Another great thing about this Home is that no keys are required to enter. Readers can come into it any way they please: through the front door, back door, the window… But regardless of how they enter, they’re likely to be staying a while, for, fold after fold after fold, they will be inspired to talk about their own ideas of family and home, and to put the book’s various panels and images together into stories of their own.

As interactive books go, this one takes the trophy for offering the right combination of learning and fun while stimulating thought and imagination. Highly recommended.

 

Behind the Mask: A Halloween story by Yangsook Choi

For the past few weeks I’ve been hearing children everywhere asking each other the inevitable question: “What are you going to be for Halloween?” Their answers are as varied as the children themselves, and show much creativity and imagination. My daughter’s best friend, for instance, will be an atomic fireball candy.

Every time I hear the question, though, I think of Yangsook Choi’s picture book,Behind the Mask.

Kimin, a young Korean American boy, decides to dress as his grandfather for Halloween after looking through some old boxes of family memorabilia and remembering how grandpa’s masks used to scare him when he was younger. His friends think that dressing “as an old man” is not very scary, but what they don’t know is that Kimin’s grandfather recently passed away, and that he used to be a Korean mask dancer.

This is a lovely intergenerational story that mixes aspects of Korean culture with American Halloween customs. Children will be excited by the illustrations of a masked Kimin dancing on the streets with his friends, and to find out the secret that the old mask holds.

In this 2009 interview, the author tells us what inspired her to write Behind the Mask— and how leaving home [Korea], helped her find her way home.

Autorickshaw Blues and Other Colours

AutorickshawBluesAndOtherColoursWritten by Sadhana Ramchander, illustrated by Ragini Siruguri with help from Taposhi Ghoshal,
Katha, 2008.

Ages: 3-6

Autorickshaw Blues and other Colours is a result of a collaboration between Sadhana Ramchander and her ten-year-old daughter, Ragini Siruguri.

Ramchander renders her daughter’s experiences and feelings through poems that provide insight into the mind of a young child discovering and interpreting the world around her. The book opens and closes with poems about riding the autorickshaw to school (a three-wheeled open-sided vehicle used as public transportation). The first poem tells us how much longer the autorickshaw takes to get there than a ride in mother’s car. The final one, titled “I don’t want to go in the autorickshaw!” details the transformation, in the course of several weeks, of her daughter’s experience of riding the rickshaw to school. The young girl goes from complaining about how crowded it is and how hard the seats are, to making commuting friends and finally refusing a ride in her friend’s family car in favor of the autorickshaw.

Less culturally specific topics are also explored. “My sister’s ice cream”, for instance, describes how little sister eats her ice cream cone (“She holds the cone in her left hand/Her eyes gleaming under the red hair band”). “Toothpastes: Red, Green or Blue”, is an ode to toothpaste and its many colors and flavors (“Some have stripes, green on white/To make my teeth sparkling bright “). There are also poems about sneezing, swallowing a seed and worrying that it will grow inside you, being afraid of the dark… All in all, there’s much fun to be had in the pages of this slim and accessible book.

Siruguri’s candid drawings of happy, dark-haired children (including one of her little sister biting the bottom of her ice cream cone), and of the crowded autorickshaw on its way to school add much to this fun-filled teamwork. Kudos to mother and daughter for bringing this creative project to life with so much gusto.