Books to pack in your child’s suitcase this summer vacation

BOOK REVIEW: The Beebop series

Published by: Harper Kids (A Harper Collins imprint)

Ages: 4-7

Price: Rs 75 each

So things happen when you write your first children’s book. Other children’s books start appearing magically in your mail. So when the Beebop series (a Harper Kids imprint) of four charming little story books accompanied with four equally charming activity books showed up, I handed them all over to him, declaring it as his first official review.

The books are about Beebop, the friendly Bee, who takes four friends, Sarah, Jay, Zoya and Zubin on many exciting adventures.

The Beebop series And although I am no book reviewer and I am at that stage in life where I find it tiring to have an opinion on everything, I do have a point of view on what kids should be doing in their holidays and I think reading should form a major chunk of it. Or doing nothing. Or allowing the fertility of boredom.

And now that Re has started to read, it is such a joy to watch him staring letters into words and words into sentences. His first pick was Zoya and the Bee, and it’s a lovely little story of a little girl who chases a bee and “a lot of useful things happen while she is chasing the bee,” as Re put it.

It’s about the magic of friendship, he declared, since he is still heady from Rainbow Rocks. And family, he added.

Although I am not a great one for “activity books”, I would particularly recommend this set  (each book is priced at Rs 75) to carry along on your summer vacation, because the stories are simple in plot and their telling, and the books are a perfect, compact size to slide into your suitcase. Each of the set of activities accompanying every book – including little puzzles, drawing and coloring projects, word scrambles, spot the differences and other brain teasers – has been very thoughtfully put together, and makes you look at the story in a new light, enhancing the reading experience.


Book review: Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter(Abridged and Adapted version for young readers)

Reviewed by: POYANI MEHTA

Pollyanna is an ever readable Classic Book and the first part of one of the numerous books written by Eleanor H Porter.
Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up was by far the most famous and well loved of her books .
Pollyanna is the story of an orphan young girl of 11 years who is taken in by her stern and dutiful strict Aunt Polly. Pollyanna is ever happy inspite of all the difficulties and challenges she has had to face in life.
Though she is a naughty and mischievous young girl Pollyanna with her endearing qualities and optimistic attitude slowly and surely she wins over her Aunt and all the people of the town that she has befriended on her everyday travails in town.
‘The Glad Game’ specially created by her father for her  and then used by Pollyanna forms the main gist/crux of the story. To be happy/glad about all things in life however small they may be and finding happiness from it.
I loved the story and my daughter also liked it a lot especially ‘The Glad Game’ and Pollyanna’s helping nature.

The Game could work in our everyday life too if we could learn to appreciate the small gifts /lessons bestowed to us.

Who can read?
Pollyanna can be read by kids aged 8 + and adults too who love reading classic books.since the book is in abridged and unabridged versions all can avail of it.
Where can you get it?
It would be available in all leading book stores in India and around the world be it in illustrated form or just novel.
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Yes, I write on parenting and I dig it

It all started with a tweet on my timeline:

“14 years of being a parent today without ever writing on parenting. Surely this counts as a small personal triumph.”

The reason I found this tweet intriguing was because the said tweeter had, till just over a year ago, written extensively on parenting on a rather popular news website. Yes, right from top ten tips for travelling with children to Baby Bores to teaching kids how to fail, or perils of calling your daughter pretty, men who don’t do diapers, co-sleeping, family rituals, the whole hog.

Why, then, was she denying it? Was it something she was not proud of?

She further qualified the tweet by saying:

“I don’t mean to sound snobbish. Just find writing about it dull. Writing is my escape.”

Yes, I know. In an ideal world, everyone would be writing about books. Which brings me to the larger point. Why is writing on parenting considered a lowly form of journalism as compared to say, writing on food or home décor or travel, which are equally mundane?

Is it because parenting writers by default, end up talking a lot about themselves, their children, and are therefore, narcissistic?

Is it dull because there’s no room for voyeurism as opposed to a single-in the-city column that talks about sex, lies and more sex?

Is it because ever since parenting and pregnancy have been in vogue, a lot of ‘not real journalists’ are writing about it, and to add to the peeve of the ‘real journalists’, are doing a great job, thereby taking a share of the writing pie?

Is it because parenting as a subject allows you to be naked about your emotions, a nudity that is a tad discomfiting?

Is it because parenting is perceived as mundane, as opposed to say elections or politics or Sachin Tendulkar or the judiciary?

It is because the personal essay doesn’t hold a place of merit in highly upheld genres of writing?

Or is it the notion that almost anyone can write about parenting (just like anyone can be a parent); it does not establish domain expertise or in-depth subject knowledge, nothing to make you believe that the writer is qualified to write it. As opposed to say, having gone to culinary school or film school?

So on one hand, we have become a nation of over-sharing and sentimentality and on the other, there’s an increased vilification of people who write on parenting. My fellow parenting writer Natasha felt there was a special sub-genre of hatred reserved for those who write loving, celebratory stuff. Women who make motherhood a part of their identity top it all.  It’s as though if you must write on parenting, write about angst and resentment of all that’s wrong with modern day parents and children.

I think it is often assumed that now that you are writing about ‘softer’ stuff, you don’t necessarily have to write for a living, which means your credibility as a beat expert is somewhat diminished.

Or is it considered unworthy because it is feminine?

Surprisingly, the only Indian male voice on parenting that comes to my mind is Soumya Bhattacharya’s column Dad’s the word (now a book) , which I hugely enjoyed and looked forward to. This was six years ago. Since then, I haven’t read too many Indian men on parenting in mainstream media, although there are a few voices on the blogosphere. Although men writing about parenting is still considered cool (as long as they are also writing on other things of course)

I guess I did it all wrong. From someone who wrote on popular culture, the movies, gender, food, city, dating, travel, lifestyle, and some, I became the person who wrote a “mommy blog” and a column on parenting. I sealed it by writing a book on pregnancy and fully intend to follow it up with one on parenting.

When you write about books or travel or sport there’s an underlying implication that you enjoy it. But then, we don’t have the luxury of enjoying parenting, because what kind of loser enjoys the most dreary job in the whole world? Whose greatest side effect is that it allows the softer, feminine you to overtake the rational, masculine you. That it allows you to see the whole in broken bits and smile at frivolities.

A friend I met recently wanted to know if I was writing a book soon. I told him I just wrote one on pregnancy. “I mean a real book,” he said. Another friend accused me of using facts as crutches. He genuinely wants me to move from the first person narrative, as he believes I can do more. But I am not done yet, I told him.

It is like they are hoping you will soon be rid of this ‘writing on parenting’ bug and move on to writing other ‘real’ stuff. They look at you as if you have taken the easy way out, over-extending the shelf life of your maternal instincts. They thought I would use my new turf in a movie magazine to obliterate the reams of writing on motherhood that I had done. Some wait for a sizzling piece of fiction. Or a crime thriller. Or something. Anything other than soppy sentimentality.

We are all hit by a bus when we turn parents and we are all learning as we go. For some of us, writing is believing. Writing also helps dilute, embellish, smoothen, art-direct, edit, and make muffins sound better than the rocks they turn out to be sometimes. A lot of mothers and quite a few fathers live-tweet their children and some of them do it with great perspective. Although there is a thin line between honesty and calibrated honesty.

As we spend weeks, months and years with our kids, we start realizing that we need a new vocabulary. Some of us, who have always written, begin articulating our thoughts on parenting or motherhood, which sometimes results in things more cerebral than “Look, my daughter is into 12-word sentences!”

I never felt writing about parenting decimated the larger writer in me, but I can say for sure that it makes me look at every other genre of writing in a new way. And that cannot be a bad thing.

But every time women make observations about the sense of purpose and fulfillment they experience from being mothers, feminists somehow reach for the panic button. But then my question is, isn’t feminism about choice really?  Why are we judged when we put ourselves out? When we neutralize rationality, when we feel the need to write about what we think and how we feel? Why is it more sanctimonious to write a distant, third person piece about gender issues but not okay to write about following the moon or chasing butterflies or watching the lilies bloom or baking banana and chocolate chip muffins ?

Tell me a story

It’s story time. We are reading Lucky Duck. Correction. Re is helping me construct the story of Lucky Duck through his questions. I never realised that this is harder that the actual reading of the story which doesn’t take much more than a clearing of the throat, faking a deep interest (don’t tell me you don’t fake it) and some degree of voice modulation and animatedness, which above all, should be consistent. Which is quite hard, considering that by page four, one is normally, well, tired!

So here is how our reading of Lucky Duck, a story of a boy Lenny who loses and finds his duck, all of 22 pages, by Jonathan Shipton and Suzanne Diederen goes:

Mamma, what’s this baby’s name?

His name is Lenny.

And what’s his doggie’s name?

His name is Zack (made up on the spot)

And what’s his mamma’s name?

Her name is Zoey. 

And why is the baby nangu (naked)?

Because they are all on the beach and making sandcastles, so he can wear only his trunks, otherwise he will get all dirty.

Oh, but the poor ducky’s feathers will get all dirty!

It’s ok, she can dust it off. 

Oh, ok…

Where’s the baby’s dadda?

He has gone to office.

And where is that crab goving? 

(I just notice a crab on the page)

The crab is goving to find food. 

What is the crab goving to eat?

Well, it will find some worms in the sand (by now, I am not sure what crabs really eat)

And what is the baby’s mamma dooving?

She is trying to spread a towel on the beach so that they can all sit on it.

That’s not a towel mamma, it’s a blanket. 

Ok then. 

We are still on page one. Some day, we will get to page 22.

How a sheep turned into a cow

Re and I are doing our Lift-the-flap routine as we do every morning. He quizzes me by lifting each flap in one such book and asking me what it is.

Re: Mamma, dis dis.. (points to a sheep)

Me: Sheep sheep

Re (annoyed): No mamma, dis dis. Mamma, say!!!

Me: Sheep sheep, Re. It’s a sheep!

Re (now convinced his mother is a moron): Mamma!!!! Sayyyy! Cow cow!

And thus a sheep turns into a cow. Or a rhinoceros into a hippo. Or a hippo into a pig.