Category Archives: children’s books

Reading with Apu

I’m so kicked and impressed – My lovely baby is all mesmerized hearing me read my ‘Wizard of Oz’ book to him. Well what I’m so impressed about is that this is the texty unabridged version – with a few black and white illustrations and lots of text – something I got from a pen pal when I was maybe 10 or 11… And yet he could keep listening for hours if only I would keep reading…
To quote the opening lines of Alice (in Wonderland) – ‘Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book’ though Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’
I had to explain the concept of ‘book chapters’ to him – since I want to read only a few chapters every day, and he can’t understand why the book doesn’t end!

Here he is looking at the drawings in the book while I get dinner ready. (Break between two chapters)

One of the sections we like best is:
‘So the Wicked Witch took the Golden Cap from her cupboard and placed it upon her head. Then she stood upon her left foot and said slowly, “Ep-pe, pep-pe, kak-ke!”
Next she stood upon her right foot and said, “Hil-lo, hol-lo, hel-lo!”
After this she stood upon both feet and cried in a loud voice… “Ziz-zy, zuz-zy, zik!”

(We demonstrated this chant with actions a couple of times to ourselves before Apu went to sleep)

So well, he isn’t always so grown up and all… He misinterprets things all the time – but his logic makes sense too!
Another favorite bed time read is ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’
And there’s one page that reads – ‘Weeks passed, and the little rabbit grew very old and shabby. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit anymore, except to the Boy.’
At this point, Apu always shouts out – “Yes! He looked like a bear!”
Here’s the picture that corresponds to that page :-)


Learning the Caterpillar way…

The book we are currently reading is ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle.
I love everything about this book – the beautiful illustrations, the humor, the learning concepts, the simplicity… This book represents the type of Graphic Design I think of as ‘cool’ design.
Apu loves it too – We have read it at least twice every day over the last couple of days.

The art work is distinctive – I read somewhere that the author creates the effect using paint and tissue paper and layering them in a collage. What makes the art special is that it is not too abstract for children to appreciate.

The number of learning concepts this simple book covers is amazing:
– Numbers / Counting
– Lifecycle of a caterpillar
– Days of the week
– Fruits and other food stuff
– Pitfalls of greed / Healthy eating

The humor and light writing style is the icing on the cake… (The book describes the junk food binge the caterpillar has on Saturday – resulting in a terrible stomach ache!)

I can see us using this books for a couple of years more and in many different ways… As Apu gets older, the simple text is perfect for learning to read. I also look forward to trying out the painting style with Apu.
Here’s a site I found about different ways in which readers used the Eric Carle books –

Definitely one of our favorites – To be treasured and archived on our bookshelf even after we outgrow it.
Highly recommended.

BTW – We have another book called ‘Brahma’s Butterfly’ – Which is also about the lifecycle of a caterpillar. I was very happy when Apu connected the two stories – Asking for that book to be read to him, after we finished reading ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’

Nora Antilli

Browsing through books in search of a birthday gift for a 6 year old girl, I was really kicked to come across a book of paper dolls.
I had to buy that for her – that book reminded me of the fun I had as a child playing with my ‘Nora Antilli’ dolls… Actually, they were twin dolls called ‘Nora’ and ‘Tilly’ – But I didn’t realize that until much later!

Back home, I Googled for ‘Nora and Tilly paper dolls’ – Not really expecting to see any relevant results. After all, I had got the Nora and Tilly dolls from some old magazine that my grandma collected – unlikely to be up on the web.
Imagine my delight when I found not just results – the results displayed dresses I vividly remember playing with:

The search results also told me that the dolls were from 1956 ‘Woman and Home’ magazines. I almost wished that I had not chopped them up – But only ‘almost’ – The fun I got playing with those dolls was worth wrecking the magazine – I guess!

So then I did another search for the current day Woman and Home magazine. It’s amazing (and telling) to see the change in topics covered by women’s magazines through the years…

Book Memories

I love reading. I can’t imagine a world without books. (Horrors!)
At any given point of time, I have about four books waiting to be read on my bedside table – My online library (yes! they door deliver), my office library, my dear friend and inexhaustible book source Ayesha…

Occasionally the luxury of surfing and getting the books I want at the click of a button – And sometimes I go on a book binge – To Crosswords if it is with my husband… or to Blossoms if I am on my own…

The result of the buying (vs. borrowing) is a (several paces faster than) slow and definitely steady build up of books that now line most walls and shelves of our study.

I can trace my first books back to the time I was 4 years old and living in Mysore with my grandparents… There was one bookshop in town – Going into town was a big deal those days – the planning, the dressing up for the ‘town visit’, the list of canned stuff and other goodies to be bought from the big store in town, and the anticipation of the book store stop… I don’t remember the name of the shop, but I do remember it was just next to the big ‘Bata’ shoe shop – I still have all the books I was bought – And now read them to my son.

Little Mistress Magpie - Book cover

Little Mistress Magpie - An inside page

Although the same authors and characters are available at stores today, the reprints are just not the same. Besides the illustrative style and the paper and print quality, there is something invaluable and beautiful about the old books – the discolored paper, the smell, the name, date and other details neatly written on the first page, the memories that go with each book…

Doctor Powderpill - Book cover

When I was a child, I also got a lot of books that were my mom’s when she was young – I eagerly scratched my name below her’s on the first page – to make the book mine. I did not really feel a sense of pride at that young age – to be getting a book that my mom once owned and enjoyed as a girl – but now I definitely do – especially when I give the same book to my son and write his name third on the list – below my mom’s and mine.
These books are even more special, as I never see them any more in the stores – Some of the same ‘type’ of book may surface occasionally in Blossoms – but for the most part, these books are not accessible any more to this generation of children.

Another beautiful book memory I have is receiving two beautifully illustrated hard bound books from an aunt – The compiled works of Hans Christian Anderson and The Grimm’s Brothers. The water color illustrations in these books brought the stories alive for me – I cried when I was read ‘The Little Mermaid’… Laughed at the silly pictures in the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’… Was enchanted and drawn into the saga of the ‘Snow Queen’

Kids growing up in Bangalore and Mysore of the early 80’s also had access to beautiful Russian and other ‘iron curtain country’ books… Today, some of my son’s favorite stories are from these books. Although he is too small to read and many of these books have no pictures and a lot of text, they have captivated him.

The love for reading is one of the most precious gifts a parent can give to a child. If it hadn’t been for my early and easy access to these wonderful books, I may not have really got pulled into and discovered the wonderful and alternate reality of the written word…

Here are some books that I loved as a child, and am now reading to my son:

  • Doctor Powderpill – Published in 1978.. A beautifully illustrated story written poetically.. (‘In the scorching Kalahari, Up on Mount Fernando-Po, Where the grumpy Hippo-Po, Roams the mighty Limpopo…
  • Hans Christian Anderson (Fairy Tales)
  • Grimms Brothers (Fairy Tales)
  • Happy Days – A collection of short stories awritten around the main character – A little Russian boy Vanya. 
  • Jolly Family – The title page says ‘Soviet literature for young people’ – and the book contains several captivating stories like ‘Kolya Sinitsin’s Diary’, ‘Mishka’s Porridge’ and ‘The Pistol’ (My three year old’s current favorite)
  • Little Mistress Magpie – A beautiful pop -up book about a magpie family who ‘earn’ their share of mistress magpie’s porridge…
  • Floppy – Another poetic book about a naughty pup… (‘All are out so do not knock. On the door there hangs a lock. With the family away, Floppy’s all alone today.’)

These books or books like these may be available at second hand book stores like Blossom or the small book store outside the Airlines hotel… Kids Kouch in Indiranagar sometimes has book sales of second hand books – I think you can subscribe to their e-mail news letter.
I am always on the look out for beautiful old kids books – So it would be lovely if you add your personal favorite sources to this post…