Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book Review(s) : Little Vinayak / Monkeys On A fast (Karadi Tales)

"Children see magic because they look for it." - Christopher Moore

Childhood is indeed magical because children possess that unique ability to believe, to trust and most importantly, to accept. And that is precisely why it is the best time to indoctrinate them with values that will hold them in good stead throughout their life.

While there can be many ways of imparting life lessons to kids, I personally prefer doing it via the medium of books. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I have been surrounded by books right from my childhood days. I remember spending hours poring through those magical colorful volumes that transport one from the mundane real world to the realm of unparalleled possibilities. And I still love doing it. Even though I am mother to a four year old who keeps me on my toes most of the time.

These days I have been busy trying to initiate my kid to the wonderful world of children's books. And hence I was delighted when I was approached by the team at Karadi Tales for reviewing their volumes. They sent me two of their books for a review and I had a wonderful time going through them with my son.

Little Vinayak ( Shobha Viswanath/ Shilpa Ranade )

This is a beautifully illustrated volume about a baby elephant who is struggling to managing his extra long trunk. The story revolves around his everyday struggles, the equation with his family and the relationship he shares with his best friend who happens to be a monkey.

The problem is resolved when the baby elephant meets an adult who helps him to adapt to the situation. The plot touches upon the importance of a mentor in one's life. And it concludes with a beautiful message 'The trick is to manage the problem, and not let the problem manage you'.

The language is kept simple so that most kids can relate to it.  But at the same time, it is peppered with a dozen words that would add to their vocabulary.

At Rs 395/- per copy (hardcopy), it may seem a little steeply priced but one has the option of opting for the much reasonably priced audio book.

Overall, it is a wonderful book !! ( rating - 4.5/5 )

Monkeys On A Fast ( Kaushik Viswanath / Shilpa Ranade )

The funnier one among the two, this ebook has turned out to be a favorite with my kid. It is a nicely woven story about a band of monkey headed by a chief named Chakku. They are faced with a peculiar problem that most people can relate to. These are a bunch of obese monkeys who resolve to go on a diet as instructed by the chief.

But do they manage to succeed ? Alas, the chief's grand intentions are brought to naught by a wily monkey who outwits him. And it is quite interesting to notice that he manages to do it in a very clever way, one step at a time.

The illustrations are neat and quite colorful too. The language is kept simple and easy to grasp.

Available in hardcover, paperback and audio to suit all budgets.

Amazing book !! ( Rating 5/5 )

I would like to add that the publishers have made it a point of including interesting trivia about animals in all the books. Don't you think it is a simple yet ingenious way of adding value to a book!!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Book Review : The Story Of A Suicide (by Sriram Ayer)

I love it when a book leaves me with a hangover ! If you haven't experienced that kind of a feeling ever, I have to say that you have not been reading the right kind of books. For books have the power to take one on an emotional roller coaster and change the way we perceive life in general. Good books are capable of providing an high that can last for days or even months.

'The Story Of a Suicide' could have been just another book based on the lives of a bunch of college students. But for the powerful narration that holds one spellbound till the very last. It deals with real and perceived issues faced by youngsters in a society that has undergone a tectonic shift on the moral front. Sriram Ayer has touched upon a plethora of topics like child sexual abuse, homosexuality, sexual liberation, voyeurism and egotism by painting his four characters in various shades of grey. This is a story that begins with an attempted suicide and ends with a real one which brings to fore the fact that youngsters view suicide as a quick escape to their myriad problems. Problems that have been aggravated by their self centered behavior and addiction to social media.

One of my favorite chapters in this book is the battle of wits between Caesar and Draupadi. Camouflaged beautifully as a stage act, it portrays the character of Charu and the battles raging within her. When Draupadi mouths the words "Why is being chaste, the cornerstone of a woman's character? And why does that rule never apply to a man?", it may as well be Charu speaking her mind. And this assumption gets vindicated when she puts up an explosive post on Facebook berating men and their sexually laced motives behind every achievement.

After reading the book, I could only conclude that if this generation gives up it's 'Me, mine and myself' approach, things would be much simpler. A cool headed and rational approach like Alex or atleast the presence of a person like him is what they need. After all, everyone can do with a person who does not judge them. Doesn't matter if it is a friend, family member or even a stranger.

Ironically, for a book that is based on sexuality, this one does not resort to sex to sell a few more copies. Not that it needs to .

This book is available online and can be read HERE.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tell Me a Magical Story

"Mama ! Mammaaa !! See what Uncle has got !", screamed my kid as he raced ahead of the courier guy who was carrying a slim parcel. As is the case with kids, he could not contain his excitement till he opened ( or rather brutalized ) the parcel to reveal it's contents. And in this case, he was even more intrigued when he saw the flattened toothpaste boxes. "Where is the toothpaste ? Who has taken it ?", I was bombarded with a million questions within the span of a few nanoseconds. To a four-year-old's rather fertile imagination, it was yet another 'whodunit' and he was getting restless to crack the case.

However, the last thing I wanted was cracks on my skull from incessant head-banging ( if it took longer than a split second to figure out the reason then you obviously do not belong to the tribe of despairing mothers ) . I told him that there were stories inside the cartons and we need to cut them open to reveal a world of magical sea creatures . He immediately took to the theme 'Coral Reef' which featured a quartet of sea creatures whom he felt the obvious need to christen . Hence were born 'Tio' the sea turtle, 'Hero' the sea horse, 'Stripes', the lion fish and 'Big Mouth' the barracuda.

The Coral reef with multicolored corals and light emitting fish ( inspired by 'Life of Pi' which he has watched half a dozen times) became their neighborhood complete with a school and a play area. Taking a cue from the trio of his real life friends, Tio, Hero and Stripes become buddies while Big Mouth becomes a feared bully whose stories they have been hearing for their mothers.

So here goes the story -

'One day Tio, Hero and Stripes started for their school. Weaving their way through the beautiful coral reef, the three friends wondered aloud about what might lay on the other side of the reef. Their respective mothers had warned them not to stray from the beaten path. The reef was a hunting ground for Big Mouth, the much feared barracuda.

"Hey look there !!", Tio caught sight of a beautiful fish that glowed with a blue and red light. While they had all seen fish that glowed in the dark depths of the ocean, this one stood out. "Let's follow it . There may be more of them.", added Stripes, the most curious among the three. "Maybe we will find some delicious shrimps too", piped Hero who was an incorrigible glutton. Tio and Stripes laughed at their greedy friend. They continued to swim after the fish who ducked in and out of various corals as it led them far from their home.

Suddenly they came to a stop. This part of the reef looked very different from theirs. It was significantly darker and even the fish around them looked bigger and more fearsome. The three friends started getting scared. "Let's go back", spoke Hero who was almost on the verge of tears. He had forgotten all about eating. "Yes, lets turn back before we lose our way", spoke Tio who was the sensible one. They turned back only to find their way blocked by a huge fish with a really big mouth.

"I am Big Mouth", thundered the fish who looked terrifying. The three friends were really scared by now. They had dismissed their mother's warning as a mere tale meant to scare the children from venturing too far. But now they knew that Big Mouth did really exist and he was right in front of them.

Tio was scared too but he did not lose courage. He signaled to Stripes before moving right in front of the big fish. "You fatso ! Let's see if you can catch me first ", he dared Big Mouth before swimming away from him. The barracuda's mouth started watering at the sight of the juicy turtle and he sped after him. The turtle led him on a chase before he found the way blocked by a huge rock.

The barracuda gave a sinister smile as it approached the now trapped turtle. "I am going to swallow you alive", he bared his sinister teeth. Tio's heart started beating fast as he said a quick prayer. Big Mouth was really close to him and he was immobilized with fear.

Just then the barracuda felt a sharp stinging sensation near the tail. Pain gripped his body and he started thrashing around. Stripes had been initially scared to take Tio's hint but knew that their safety depended on it. He had tailed the barracuda as it chased it's prey. And when the latter's attention was completely focused on the turtle, he had moved in from behind and dug his poison laden fins into the big fish.

This was their chance to escape. The barracuda was in no position to chase them and they lost no time in swimming back to the safety of their own home. As always, it was Tio who led the pack . '

This post is written for Colgate and inspired by the characters of 'Coral Reef', which is one of the four magical story themes printed on the special edition packs .