Tag Archives: books and reading

Ramadan Moon – Book review

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“Ramadan, the month of fasting,
Doesn’t begin all at once.
It begins with a whisper
And a prayer
And a wish”

I love the way this picture book starts. Ramadan Moon, written by Na’ima B Robert and illustrated by Shirin Adl is a wonderful introduction to Ramadan for kids. It takes us on a journey of the waxing and waning moon, all that it brings with it…it gives us an insight into the fasting and the prayers, the thinking and humility and generosity and gratitude that this period symbolizes. In a simple, fluid and poetic style the author and illustrator help the reader experience the beauty, celebrations and excitement of the month. The book is a wonderful introduction to Ramadan for young kids. It is simple (yet not simplistic) and a wonderful snapshot into a world that some kids may not be familiar with. Mine were not…and they enjoyed reading the book and learning about something different from what they experience. What is lovely is the fact that the book reflects a child’s perspective and understanding of Ramadan.

The illustrations are gorgeous and in a style that combines various media – a style that would be fun to explore for kids! The style also reflects Persian inspiration! (And according to one of my twins, the moon has most probably been made by cutting out silver chocolate wrapping foil)

I think that since Ramadan has just started, this might be a good time to read this with kids. I am thinking of how to explore this more and better. Have shown the kids a mosque earlier but might take them to Mosque Road on of these days so they have a chance to see people praying and then will also engage in some conversations around some of the ideas if they seem inclined to it. I also think this is a wonderful book for schools to use to introduce Ramadan.

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Some books you can use with young kids in school

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I was putting this list down for a friend who asked me for suggestions for books to use in his school. Sharing the book list here as well in case anyone else finds it useful 🙂

List of recommended Picture Books for K-4

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
Ages: Pre-K through Grade 2
The book can be used with different age group as the teacher can choose to focus on
 multiple aspects – days, numbers, names of different fruits, collaborative reading,
 writing based on the book, life cycle of a butterfly and metamorphosis.
It looks at pre-math and math skills – sequencing, counting
, Literacy skills,
 Writing,
 vocabulary,
 science – life cycle
Can be connected to art activities based on Eric Carle’s style, an actual study and  exploration of metamorphosis
Can use puppets for retelling

No David – David Shannon
Ages: Pre K- grade 1
Great as a beginner book for emergent readers and perfect as a read aloud for non-readers.
Can be used to set up class rules and expectations
Can be used as a model to create your book book of “No” things
Great to elicit dialogue based on the illustrations

Swimmy – Leo Lionni
Lio Lionni has some spectacular books for kids and Swimmy is a great introduction to his writing and illustration style. 
Can be used with K-4
Introduction to the concept of working together as well as the power of One
Can be used as a study of his art techniques as well
Can be used as an exploration of marine life and an introduction to some sea creatures
Another book to talk about Marine life is Mister Sea Horse by Eric Carle

Books by Julia Donaldson 
The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale, etc.
Ages: K-3
Great for introducing the concept of rhyme
Deals with sharing, imagination, friendship, exploration, etc.
Can be used to discuss creative thinking, looking for solutions, following one’s dreams

When Sophie gets angry – Molly Bangs
Ages: K-3
A
great book to talk about anger and managing one’s temper.
Looks at temper tantrums and is an interesting way to talk about anger, conflict, resolution, etc.
Can be used to model writing
Great as a discussion tool for circle time

Something Else – Kathryn Cave
Ages: Grades 2 and up
Deals with difference and inclusion
Great to start a conversation in class about difference and acceptance
Also to focus on the individuality of each person
A good teacher training tool as well – something that can be on a reading list for teachers
Can be used for class discussions and for an exploration of difference and how to accept it

Will you Still Love Me – Jean Baptiste Baronian
Ages: PreK – 2nd grade
A heart warming story of a young polar bear who is expecting a sibling
Great for prek – 2nd grade – typically ages when siblings arrive!
Good book to initiate a conversation on siblings, insecurities and change
(My New Baby and Peter’s Chair are two other very nice books to discuss this topic)

One – By Kathryn Otoshi
Ages: PreK – grade 3/4
Great to introduce colors to younger kids
Interesting way to discuss the importance of One and how each one of us stands for
 something

Books by Sandra Boynton
Ages: PreK and K
Silly fun and lovely rhymes – Sandra Boynton books are great for introducing children 
to books.
Poetry by Shel Silverstein

Something Else

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The great thing about having found a lovely bookstore is that I now am finding (obviously so) lovely books. I came across an especially wonderful book last week called Something Else by Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell.

For those of you who have read my earlier reviews of kids’ picture books, you know that I absolutely love illustrations and the way picture books can handle the mst complex of topics in the simplest of ways. This is another example of just that.

A simple yet stunningly touching way of looking at difference Something Else poignantly captures the essence of tolerance (and the lack of thereof as well) with lovely illustrations and a story line that even the youngest of readers can relate to. It allows for a lot of conversation, discussion and interpretation because it avoids stating the obvious.

A story about a creature who simply does not fit in, does not belong…he tries so hard to be a part of the group, to fit in…but whatever he does, he is always ‘something else’. The another ‘something’ comes along…so different from ‘something else’ and helps Something Else come to the realization that you can be different and yet be friends. the books captures the emotions of aspirations, rejection, empathy, tolerance and happiness with such facility and the text and illustrations convey so much feeling with such little effort!

A book for a range of ages, I would strongly recommend this to teachers as well as parents,

Finally a bookstore that I instantly fell in love with!

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Ever since we moved to Bangalore I have been in search of a nice bookstore…nice does not mean fancy…it need not have a cafe in it and I really don’t mind so much if it is air conditioned or not. I like to take the boys to a bookstore, sit with them and browse through books, appreciate the literature and illustrations and then pick something we can take home with us. It was a like a ritual of sorts in Mumbai for us..we would visit Kitaab Khana in Kala Ghoda once a month and come back home super happy and with 2 or more books for our collection.

In the past four months I have not been able to do that. Crosswords near our place in Bangalore has a large section of books for kids…the toddlers/preschool section has a shelves laden with ‘activity books’ coloring books, math for kids, handwriting books and phonics. What happened to the literature part??? The sales person had not heard of Eric Carle, Julia Donaldson or Sandra Boynton..The chap at the computer in the information section candidly informed me that they don’t keep ‘those type of books’. I guess our toddlers only need handwriting and phonics?! I had similar luck with a couple of other bookshops too.

Which is why i was so delighted to find Lightroom Bookstore in Frazer town. Some one i met the other day mentioned the bookstore and it is indeed a pleasure to visit it. Went without the kids this time as I was not sure what to expect but it was absolutely wonderful. A whole room full of children’s books…Caldecott winners and all.

And the lady who run the bookstore actually understands books, can discuss literature and illustrations and was charming to talk to! It was all in all a most satisfying experience and I strongly recommend this bookstore to other children’s books lovers! (They are on FB if you would like to learn more)

Shine Moon Shine…book by David Conway

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Recently at a book fair organized by Butterfly Books in Mumbai I picked up almost 30 children’s picture books. We are getting through them a book at a time because the boys and I love to read and reread books. It is like discovering different layers with each reading…something in the illustration, a different way to look at the text. 

Anyway, we recently got to reading Shine Moon Shine and all of us instantly took a liking to the book. The story is simple yet charming…an invitation to let your imagination soar…literally! It is the story of how the moon got lonely and fell out of the sky onto the top of a building. Nobody cold get it back in the sky and finally a little boy called Ata decided to help the moon get back to its home in the sky. Every day, he tried something to make the moon feel less lonely, to make the night sky less dark for the moon.

The boys tries to catch sunbeams, to shine torches; he pokes holes in the night sky to let the light through. Finally, saddened that the moon is still lonely and that the night sky would not have a moon, Ata cries…and as his tears drop onto the snow they freeze and glisten. This gives him an idea and that night he throws his tears up into the sky so that when the moon shines they glitter and the night does not seem so dark anymore. the moon goes back and everyone is happy. (my boys most certainly are!)

The illustrations are beautiful and this is a story that can be enjoyed by kids and grown ups alike.

Last evening, Nish was coloring something and he made little dots at the bottom and along the sides of the paper. “these are Ata’s frozen tears” he explained. 

Another lovely book!

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One by Kathryn Otoshi

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I have to thank my kids’ classmate most profusely for the return presents they got at his birthday party…a whole stack of books. And not just any books but some really well picked out ones. We got a lot of them sooner and for some reason, this one remained on the shelf for the past couple of months. I pulled it out yesterday and went over it a couple of times before reading it out to the twins.

 

One is a really simple and yet very complex books. Using simple language and gorgeous yet extremely simple illustrations Otoshi gets multiple points across to the reader. A little bit like an onion (a la Shrek), there are layers you can peel off and appreciate. The first read can be an easy one…the book seems to be about colors and numbers and standing up for oneself. A second read helped me appreciate the play with words and the use of numbers…everyone counts as in matters.  

The end flaps introduce the picture book really well. I quote “Blue is a quiet color. Red is a hot head. Red likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Green, Purple and Orange don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one takes a stand, things get out of hand. Until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up and count!” 

What appears to be a numbers/colors book is in fact a lot more…it teaches us to count for something, to stand up for what we believe in. 

She sums it up beautifully on the last page “Sometimes it just takes One.” 

And the other aspect I really enjoyed was the connecting of colors to temperature … so blue is cool and red is hot. Which really made sense to my kids…we have been reading a book called “When Sophie gets angry” by Molly Bang and that is another book where the illustrator has in fact used the colors red and blue very beautifully to add to the metatext. And, this is something I pointed out to them and we discussed when we were reading. We came up with hot things that made them think of red…flames, fire, embers, coal, the sun…and then of cool things with blue…water, the swimming pool. 

One also helped me introduce them to a new English phrase…When someone is angry they see RED (my boys currently seem to see red pretty easily ..so i think they got it and were amused).

stick puppets

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Yesterday we used ice-cream sticks to make puppets for the Gruffalo book. Basically i used paper plates and drew characters from the story onto the plates (used them since i had a few lying around and they were nice and stiff). So, I drew a mouse, a fox, an owl, a snake ..and of course, the gruffalo. Then i cut out the characters and gave the twins crayons and let them color them as they chose (not very true to the book because Sid insisted on having a blue gruffalo). Then they used glue to stick the ice cream sticks on the back and we were all set to enact the book. It started off well…Nish decided to be the mouse and Sid wanted to be the other animals…But then they got carried away and soon the fox was chasing the mouse all over the apartment while baby Amu made off with the gruffalo firmly held in one hand then the snake in his mouth. 

Will come back to it again tomorrow i guess and see if we can actually enact the story. Also, it might be fun to make something similar using magnetic strips instead of the ice -cream stick. They can use it on my cookie tray or on their easel which is also magnetic. Will try to take some pics tomorrow.

Julia Donaldson Fever

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We…the boys and me..have been bitten by the Julia Donaldson bug. We already had The Gruffalo and Cave Baby by Julia Donaldson and more recently courtesy a present and a trip to the bookstore, we acquired Room on the Broom, The Smartest Giant iN Town, Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose and Hippo Has a Hat. All of them are delightful in their own way.

Room on the Broom and the Smartest giant book are by an illustrator that the kids are already familiar with – Axel Scheffler who has illustrated Cave Baby and Gruffalo. Both these books are simply wonderful. What I find interesting in terms of the story is the manner in which A Giant and a Witch have been portrayed in very non-conventional terms…typically attributed fairly scary and negative qualities, they have been treated very differently in Donaldson’s stories and both the witch and the giant are friendly, approachable, social creatures! The rhymes are lovely and help the kids pitch in and finish the sentences that i start to read. 

Room on the broom is a beautiful narrative of a witch and a cat on a broom who are helped by different creatures who one by one join them on their broom…and of course, the broom breaks! There is humor too with a dragon who would like to have “witch and chips ” and the illustrations say so much! The end pages are great as a start to a conversation about the book…they have an image of flying leaves and a hat…which leads into the story creatively! 

The Smartest Giant in Town also has a really nice story line as well as themes of empathy, generosity and sharing which run through the text. George, the scruffiest giant in town longs to be smart and so he goes out and buys a bunch of new clothes…a smart shirt, trousers, a tie, socks, shoes and a belt. He leaves behind his scruffy old clothes and sets out only to meet other animals who seem to be in need. George generously gives away everything he has bought and once again the narrative has lovely rhyme as well as great illustrations that add to the story. The illustrator has put in other fairy tale characters like the princess and the frog into the illustrations and so there is a lot of conversation around the text that one can engage in with kids. 

Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose and Hippo has a Hat are great for simple rhymes and have stunning illustrations that allow for some prediction during the reading.

We are totally enjoying our Julia Donaldon phase and we plan to get a few more soon!!! 

Catch That Crocodile! A stunning book!

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I found a super book at the Vakil’s Book Store at Prabhadevi a few days ago. It’s called Catch That Crocodile by Anushka Ravishankar and illustrated by Pulak Biswas.  

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The twins generally love crocodiles (in stories and songs…we have had little success sighting them in the zoo). The book has bold and witty illustrations and the text almost works like illustrations too (will get to that shortly). The story is simple..a crocodile that has wandered into a village and is freaking everyone out…nothing and nobody seem to be able to counter or catch it. Each character that tries provides much entertainment to the reader…be it Probin the Policeman, Dr. Dutta or Bhayanak Singh the wrestler (the twins’ FAVORITE character in the story). The illustrations are lovely…they employ just 3 colors – black, white and green…and only the main characters have the green…all the others are just black and white. The text adds to the illustrations in addition to providing the story line. For example, “Falguni the fruitseller sells fresh fruits. Banana!, Guava!, Mango! she hoots. 

So the text grows bigger in font as her voice gets louder. I pointed this out to the boys as we read and they seemed to get it. They were yelling Banana, Guava! Mango! getting louder with each fruit. 

Or you have the next page where she says: Come and buy a fresh papayaaaaaaaaaaa!! The text is in a curved lime like the lilt of her voice might be.

There are many more of these along the story.

 

ImageAlso, this book is a fine example of the illustrations saying a lot more than what the words are…So the illustrations actively contribute to the telling of the story and a lot would be lost in the discussion without them. The book has a really nice message too and emphasizes how man and animals can coexist and one has to think of the animal too (the croc has a fairly scared looking expression in places…and it takes one little girl to come forward an acknowledge that he is scared and needs help getting back to wherever he came from – the river). 

 

My boys have been having a blast with the book. They are actually enjoying the clever positioning of text and the use of different font sizes …they have been retelling the story and enacting bits from it (with props that they keep coming up with) Sid was a very realistic Falguni the fruit seller as he strode into the room with his plastic fruit basket on his head. And Nish found his toy syringe to play at being Dr. Dutta. Amu was the obliging crocodile till Dr. Dutta’s pokes got a bit too real so he trotted off and i was made to lie down on the floor instead. And they both wanted to be Bhayanak Singh…so they stripped down to their undies for an authentic wrestler look! This is the first time they are actually enacting parts of a story with so much thought and it is great fun to watch. I like that they are thinking about props too as they do this. 

The book has been an absolute delight and i would suggest getting your hands on it if you haven’t already got it!  It is published by Tara Books, India. 

Where the Wild Things are

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This is one of my FAVORITE books! Awesome illustrations and super super imaginative and creative. I was only introduced to Sendak as an adult and I read Where The Wild Things are when I was in grad school but I fell in love with the book and especially the stunningly brilliant use of illustrations and space on the pages of the book. Right from the dust jacket and the end pages to the performance between the text and imagery..this book has managed to capture everything a picture can be! 

I used this book differently with the boys…largely because of how much i had thought about it, the number of times i had read it and the fact that I had used it in a classroom with first graders. So, we started out by looking at the dust jacket (and i told them it was called a dust jacket and why). I read out the title and asked the boys to predict what the book was about. We had several guesses: forest! monsters! boat?! Then we looked at the end pages and i told the boys that they gave us some more hints about the story..this time, they said the end pages made them think of trees and forests.  

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They enjoyed the story – especially the 3 pages where the wild rumpus is in progress and the pictures completely take over the pages in a double page spread that bleeds into the very edges of the paper.
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Here we decide what the wild things and Max are doing and we have background music too! 

I did not get into discussing whether this was real or a dream…too early for that i feel and I plan to revisit the book again in a few years and maybe again later! 

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But we are enjoying the read and it is one of the current favorites along with Cat in the Hat and In the Night Kitchen! Oh..and will post another post about one more lovely book called You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum