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Conversations Born from Stories

In Books on 2 June 2017 at 1:56 pm

You, Me, and a Story
Suresh Ediga
46 pages

The wheels on the bus go round and round!  goes a popular children’s ditty.  But what if the wheels stop turning?  What if people stop breathing?  Such are the questions that Suresh Ediga explored with his children when talking with them about such issues as the disaster in Bhopal, in which a pesticide factory exploded, leaking tons of toxic fumes, killing thousands instantly and poisoning the ground and water for decades.  This makes the first story in his collection, You, Me & a Story.  

The family that reads together! From left, Sireesha, Suresh, Surina, Suhash each holding a copy of You, Me & a Story.

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Nine picture books (and the winner is .. .)

In Books on 6 December 2015 at 8:00 pm

On the heels of one picture book spree I intrepidly went into the library for another.  I had not set out to do so when I left home.  One thing led to another … it happened like this:  Late in the afternoon, I stepped out to take in the atmosphere of townsfolk streaming out of downtown after the Christmas parade, while hundreds more stayed at Shamrock Park for the sing-along and tree lighting.  Normally among pedestrians, persons of color are the majority even though we make up only 10% of the population of Bel Air.  But on a few days like today and the fourth of July, we can take to the sidewalks and experience the sense of being a visible minority in our charming little town.  Nothing dramatic, all very subtle and on the whole pleasant.  (But still.)

I reached Shamrock Park and saw the tip of the bonfire flicker against the setting sun over the swarm of heads.   Only a few seconds after the countdown reached zero, followed by a coaxing, “hello!” the lights came on around the tree at the Town Hall.

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Picture Book Spree

In Books on 5 December 2015 at 8:00 pm

As I was roaming the picture book aisles of our public library I thought, “I haven’t read any new picture books in years!” and saw all the tempting offerings on display.   I scooped up some and prepared to lose myself in faraway lands and rousing times.  As I walked with my arms full of these treasures, the children’s librarian came over to say hello.  Now the children’s librarian, Jacob, is actually my best friend from high school’s son.  So we do chat when we are in the library.  I must say though that recently a number of librarians have been recommending books to me.   In fact, one of those books was about a man who owned and ran a book store but never took interest in children’s books until suddenly one day a child fell into his lap.  More on that later.

El Deafo is an autobiographical story of child who became her own superhero, all while being deaf.

El Deafo is an autobiographical story of child who became her own superhero, all while being deaf.

Jacob approached me with a twinkle in his eye, a twinkle I know very well will be followed by an enthusiastic recommendation, and he did not disappoint.  “I told Khiyali about a book, and I think you would like it too,” he began.  Read the rest of this entry »

Learning to read Indian languages

In Books, How on 14 March 2015 at 3:00 am

How can our children learn to read in Indian languages?  Where do we find children’s literature in our native languages?

Many Ask Amma readers who are well-versed in several languages would like their children to grow up with them as well.  As some of us know, being children of multilingual parents, if we live in predominantly monolingual environments there is a risk of losing touch with our multilingual and cultural heritage and with the wit and wisdom expressed in particular languages.  If we speak these languages every day then our children grow up understanding them but what about reading and writing?

Prasanna Rakshasadu (The Peaceful Rakshasa).   Fun topic and font make a difference for beginning readers.

Prasanna Rakshasadu (The Peaceful Rakshasa). Fun topic and font make a difference for beginning readers.

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Early chapter books?

In Books on 26 November 2014 at 8:00 pm

magic tree houseMy daughter loves The Magic Tree House books and has finished more than half of them.   She will probably finish the rest by the end of the year and we will have to find more books for her.  What do you think about the Boxcar Children?

– Mama of a 6 year-old in Dallas

There are number of mystery series designed to satisfy the growing appetite of the newly fluent reader – The Boxcar Children, Secret Seven, Famous Five, Five Find-Outers, Three Investigators, Encyclopedia Brown and many more.  Some people worry that the stories are repetitive or overly simplistic.  Others rejoin, “well as long as they are reading …”  I beg to differ.  Even if a child is a beginning or struggling reader, I don’t think we need to settle for literature of low quality just because it is easy to read.  Such material may even put readers off.  This is one reason teachers like Gertrude Chandler Warner, author of the Boxcar Children, sought to write interesting stories for young readers, in contrast to what was provided in school textbooks. Read the rest of this entry »

Children’s Books by Indian Authors

In Books on 7 April 2014 at 5:33 am
Theatrical adaptation of Suniti Namjoshi's Aditi Adventures by Jagriti.

Theatrical adaptation of Suniti Namjoshi’s Aditi Adventures by Jagriti.

Picking up from my earlier Books for Baby by Indian Authors, as my daughter has grown she has introduced me to many more wonderful books for children by Indian Authors.   Unfortunately not all of them are in print so we’ve had to grab them whenever we could and are still searching for some of the items in the series that we have started.

Subhadra Sengupta's Historical Fiction

Subhadra Sengupta’s Historical Fiction

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Mid-twentieth Century Picture Books I Can’t Stop Reading

In Books on 12 January 2014 at 11:21 am

Every time I clean the bookshelves, there are some children’s books I can never give away.  I read them again and again.   Some of them were written fifty to seventy five years ago, and are as relevant today.  To name a few from my own childhood …

A timeless feminist fable is The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes (1939) by DuBose Heyward.   Yes, the same author, along with Dorothy Heyward, who brought us Porgy and Bess.

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Diaper-Free Reading List

In Books on 3 April 2013 at 8:25 am

When he wets or defecates, she may laugh, and as she is seldom alone, so do her companions, and she holds the infant away from her as quickly as she can until he finishes.  It is a sort of game to see how fast she can hold him away, but the laughter is louder when she gets the worst of it.  Water sinks into the dirt floor in moments and excrement is cleared away immediately with leaves.

Jean Liedloff, The Continuum Concept, p. 55

Though I was surrounded, as a young mother, by people who, like the indigenous people Liedloff described, did not use diapers, I got key support for going diaper-free from online sources.  Why rely on internet help to get back to nature? Read the rest of this entry »

Do your kids forget what they read?

In Books, Yes / No on 23 August 2012 at 3:49 am

I was wondering whether this problem is with my own kids or is it more generic. We keep forgetting what we learned few months back, especially in science. We did periodic table quite thoroughly maybe 8 months back, now we can only remember a few things. Of course if we quickly brush the topic we will probably recollect them. My kids say there is so much to remember in science, how are they supposed to remember?  Is this something to be concerned about or am I being just paranoid?

– mother of two from Bangalore

Just to get it out of the way, let us start with the counter-question, Do you forget what you read? If not, do share your techniques. Who among us would not like to improve our memory?

When you ask whether you are paranoid, I guess you are wondering whether your children’s rate of forgetting is average or above? Perhaps you would be interested in this article: Knowledge Taught in School: What is Remembered?  The author quotes Harry Bahrick, who found that “much of the information acquired in classrooms is lost soon after final examinations are taken.”  I doubt this comes as a surprise to anyone. While school teaching methods have undergone various changes in the decades since Professor Bahrick did his study, to the extent that classtime is devoted to exam-prep, this conclusion would probably still hold. Read the rest of this entry »

Art of Fermentation

In Books, Recipes on 18 August 2012 at 1:55 pm
The art of fermentation : an in-depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world
As any toddler will tell you, fermented food, when made at home, gives rise to fundamental questions, like who made the first yogurt?  It also brings us in touch with our neighbours, like when we need to borrow a spoon of yogurt because somehow we forgot to make our next bowl of yougurt before finishing our last one.  It also takes us down to the microbial level, and keep our forces of friendly bacteria strong.Can anyone offer a plan for peace?  It seems that among its many other roles, Sandor Katz’ “The Art of Fermentation” may be that as well as inspiration to make new discoveries in the kitchen and on our taste buds, and reconnect with the “hand taste” that goes into food made with love.  And, because fermented food begs to be shared, it may carry us away from the grid of the cash economy.

Michael Pollan says that “Katz would have us renegotiate the terms of our relationship with the microcosmos, and The Art of Fermentation is an eloquent and practical manifesto showing us exactly how to do that…”
An idea whose time has come!   I am typing with this book in my lap, struggling between the urge to share the good news about this book with you and the urge to read more and actually try out some of these fermentations myself, just to see what happens!
Title: The art of fermentation : an in-depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world
Author:  Katz, Sandor Ellix, 1962-
Publisher, Date:  White River Junction, Vt. : Chelsea Green Pub., c2012.
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