Wednesday, December 14, 2016

These Books We Love

My son began pulling out books from the bookshelf just about when he started crawling, and there has been no looking back since.  The lowest two shelves of our bookshelf are filled with his books; he reads them as well as many of ours which fill the other shelves (now he can stand on his toes and pull them out!).

If you need to buy books for children between two and four years of age (though I think we started reading earlier), here are some of our favourites apart from the old classics (which I also mention below) -

Old favourites are- Michael Bond ('Paddington', stories about a bear from darkest Peru, who my son loves to emulate!), A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard (Winnie-the-Pooh) - we began with all of Pooh's songs (The more it snows/Tiddley Pom/ The more it goes/ Tiddley Pom/ The more it goes/ Tiddley Pom/ On snowing..).  Margaret Rey and H. A. Rey (Curious George ("This is Nayan.  He lived in Bangalore.  He was a good little monkey and always very curious...").  Dr. Seuss (The Cat In The Hat is truly a classic that no child or parent perhaps gets tired of.  For younger readers, I recommend Fox in Socks and for the in between ages, Green Eggs And Ham).  

My friend Nora introduced us to two authors that Nayan likes enormously- Richard Scarry (What Do People Do All Day) - "Hello tanker, are you lost?  No Nayan, I'm just filling some petrol in the underground tank of the petrol pump."  Lauren Child (the Charlie and Lola series)- "I completely love winter - can I go skiing, Mummy?" or "Can I have some orange twiglets from Jupiter (carrots)?"

If there is any one publisher I can mention (based on the number of books we buy from each publisher), it would be Walker Books, but of course, there are many, many others in the market.

Apart from this list, here are some less known books that you may like to explore; I am pasting two pictures from each book (the cover and one inside page).

1) The Tiger Skin Rug - one of our utmost favourites.  Written and illustrated by an award winning British author, it is reminiscent of old Indian folk tales that were written in the sixties and seventies, and has wonderful illustrations to match.

2) Cloud Tea Monkeys - written and published in England, set in the tea plantations of East India at a time when Queens and Royal Tea Tasters abounded.  Magically illustrated..

 3) Library Lion - Set in days when libraries were wondrous places (in India, most aren't any more), this is a lovely way to remind children that sometimes there is a good reason to break rules.

4) 10 Minutes till Bedtime - A book without words, from a fun author and illustrator about a subject all children (and parents) can relate to!  (Another of Peggy Rathmann's books, Goodnight Gorilla, again without words, is a terrific way to introduce babies to books).

5) The Rainbow Bear - A lyrical story about a bear who chases rainbows, with lots of Native American wisdom thrown in (beauty can sometimes be dangerous) and wondrous pictures.  I'm amazed my son likes it so much at this age, but he does.

6) Cheer Up Your Teddy Bear, EMILY BROWN!  Whacky and wonderfully flowing, my son loves to chant out aloud from this book - "Pooooor me, Poooor me, poor little sad little wet little me!  I'm a lonely only bear and I'm feeling very blue..."  After reading this, he also wants to visit the Outback in Australia...

 7) The Snowman - A timeless classic, but one that's oft forgotten.  Raymond Briggs apparently wanted to convey the essence of life and death through this picture-based story.  My son accepts death and the melting away of magical moments in a matter of fact way while reading this book and re-lives the excitement of flying with the snowman at night just before he drops off to sleep ("I can fly...?")

Tones of Autumn

Yesterday we went to see Carpet Stories, Danny Mehra's beautiful exhibition of rare tribal carpets (and ended up buying yet another of them!).  These carpets have a way of transporting one to faintly familiar yet unknown and unencountered worlds. A reminder of the vast sky above and the bountiful and sometimes harsh land around us. Of perhaps a simpler life, more rooted to the natural world.

We selected a carpet that had a beautiful combination of unusual, soft colours, that reminded me of autumn.  Blue skies, pink hued leaves, browns and mustardy yellows.  Not the freshness of spring, not the heat of summer and not the bareness of winter.  Just a soft, mellowing season of change.

After that we went across the road for dinner.  Ate slow cooked lamb with tiny carrots and baby potatoes and hand made ravioli with light creamy pesto.  The band next door was playing 'Autumn Leaves' and the gentle notes drifted in (fortunately it was instrumental; no one can sing it quite like Edith Piaf).  All in all, it was a very satisfying, very autumnal day, at the beginning of winter!

Friday, December 2, 2016

"Hallo!" Said The Dandelion

The nursery (the plant kind) is one of our favourite haunts.  To me it seems the perfect playground and a splendid way to teach children about life around us.

Today, a cloudy kind of day, was perfect for walking around, talking to the plants and animals we happened to meet on the way.

"Hallo!" said the Dandelion, and "Hallo!" said Nayan, "Are you lost?"

"No, I'm just standing here, looking at the sky," said the Dandelion.  "Have you seen the sky, Nayan?"

"Yes, it's beautiful, full of big trees!"

"Look - there are the wheelbarrows," said Nayan, pointing excitedly.

"And there are the mountains of mud," said Mummy.  "Be careful, the gardeners have worked hard to make them."

"Let's go to the lily pond," said Nayan.

"We'll go through the poinsettias," said Mummy.  "I think they are growing them for Christmas."

"Look at the lily pond!" said Nayan.  "Those leaves are upside down."

"Yes, the leaves are upside down, " said Mummy.  "They need to look up at the sun so they can make their food."

"You can eat chlorophyll?" asked Nayan.

"Yes, in spinach and methi and lettuce," said Mummy.

"And grape leaves?"


"I want to eat grape leaves!" declared Nayan.

"Let's put the lily leaves right side up," said Mummy.  And so we did.

"I want to touch big water," said Nayan after this was done.

"Let's go to the fish pond," suggested Mummy.

"What should we do next?" wondered Mummy.

"Let's see the ferns!" said Nayan.

"And the orchids!  And the pink flowers!" said Mummy.

And so we walked along, sniffing and looking and carefully touching the plants along the way.

"Let's sit on the stony bench for two minutes," said Nayan.

And so we rested on a weathered plank of granite hidden away in a shaded nook.

"Hallo Crocodile," said Nayan.  "You can come up here but it's a bit prickly."

"And a bit thorny," agreed Mummy.

"No thank you, Nayan," said Crocodile.  "I think I'll rest in the musty, dusty, muddy, damp moss."

"I want to eat green drops but they are toxic!" said Nayan suddenly, looking at some berries.

"That's right!" exclaimed Mummy.  "How about some yellow pineapple when we get home?"

"How about some brown chiku when we get home?" asked Nayan.

And so, in pleasant anticipation, we sauntered back home.

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