Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Recommendations: 5 Books for Toddlers

This post was first published on Parentous.

I love reading books. Naturally, if there is one habit that I would like to pass on to my son, it has to be love of reading. So, I exposed my son to books quite early. To a newborn you can read just about anything. They just need to be exposed to the sound of words. So, I would usually read my own books aloud in the initial months. Gradually, I introduced cloth books and board books. Initially, books are also playthings for little ones, so be prepared to see the books getting abused [loved, in their way]. Now at 28 months, I cannot say my son is a reader yet but we enjoy reading books before his afternoon naptime and going to bed at night. Since now it is part of his bedtime routine, he himself gets the books he wants to read. He would usually have a pick of few favourites at one time, and it is interesting to listen to his observations while reading those books.

Here is a list of 5 books which are the current favourites: 

This beautiful picture book follows a bunch of kids [8 of them] who are starting school – their first day, their second day, the first week and how they get used to the school. The kids are shown doing all sorts of exciting activities like playing with blocks, puzzles, colours, play dough or learning new things like reading, writing, saying prayers, etc; thus creating a fun and positive image of school. This book does not dwell into negative feelings like missing home or first day anxieties, and focuses more on making school a fun experience. A few things may not be relevant in our context like involvement of kids’ parents in different kinds of activities but those things can be ignored.

Read more about this book in this review.

This is an attractive bilingual picture book from Tulika Publishers. All kids are fascinated by animals, and more so with their babies. This brightly illustrated book has bare-minimum text on each page [2-3 words on most of them] and educates about the action words like pounce, roll, drink, climb, roll, eat, sleep etc. “This book follows the playful adventures of three curious lion cubs while their mother is away. Minimal text and lively illustrations with an edge of drama skillfully introduce young readers to the fact that those we see as predators can be under threat themselves.” [Quoted from the book]    
Read more about this book here.

I am always on the lookout for Indian literature for kids. I found this collection of Indian Rhymes by Karadi Tales, and I knew I had to get it. I got Book 1 more than a year ago and it is still a favourite. I am getting the second Part soon. Book 1 has an interesting line up of rhymes very relevant for Indian kids. The most favourite rhyme from this book is called “Just like you’. It tells you about different people from different places in India, speaking different languages, and yet they are like us. Check out its video here. It is quite a catchy song. There are songs [or rhymes] about mangoes, crows, festivals celebrated in India, cricket, sari, flowers, Indian flag, etc. Essentially, the book attempts to capture the essence of India. My son makes me read all the rhymes in this book over and over again.

This book also comes with an audio CD which contains rhymes in the voice of Usha Uthup.
Read more about the book here.

I am convinced that playing with kitchen utensils and dough should be part of developmental milestones. I am certain every kid goes through that phase. Since my 2 year old loves playing with the regular dough on daily basis, when I chanced upon this book, I thought this was apt for reading to him. To add to the fun, we sometimes also keep some dough handy to make the things that the little boy, Neeraj, in the book makes.
This book is about Neeraj. He gets a little dough from his mother, and his imagination lets loose. He turns it into a snake, a mouse and a cat. This book is about how a child’s mind is full of imagination and creativity. The illustrations are extremely endearing.
Read more about the book here.

This book was a hit with our toddler from the first day. It is a lift-the-flap book. The text is minimum and prompts the child to lift the flap on each page, which reveals an animal inside. It is exciting for the child to lift the flap one-by-one and discover the animal.
Learn more about the book from author’s website.

You may also want to read: 5 Fiction Titles for Toddlers.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Book Review: Meena Kumari by Vinod Mehta

Title: Meena Kumari - The Classic Biography
Author: Vinod Mehta
Publisher: HarperCollins India
Pages: 248 
Price: Rs 350
Genre: Non Fiction / Biography / Films
Rating: 8/10
Format: Paperback

I read about this book somewhere and then chanced upon a chapter in The Greatest Show on Earth. Life of a movie star is intriguing and there is a dearth of such biographies about any Indian film star. I don’t know why I wanted to read about Meena Kumari. I haven’t even seen too many of her films, and it was from my mother. I first came to know that Meena Kumari was known as the tragedy queen. In fact, people of her generation had started using the term ‘Meena Kumari’ as a word for ‘sad’ [in the way, the term ‘Devdas’ is still used]. So, when people would say “don’t be a Meena Kumari”! They would mean ‘sad and melodramatic’. Whether she was one of the best actors of all times is highly debatable, but certainly her life was intriguing.

This book was written in 1972, immediately after her demise [republished in 2013]. The author confesses “I found that it was impossible to collect even one ‘undisputed’ fact about this woman. Everything connected with her life had atleast four versions" [quoted]. He never met the actor. He admits that facts and opinions were piling up and weighing him down, and without being over-ambitious, what he sought to achieve was to offer a few glimpses of who Meena Kumari really was; for who can really claim to know a person completely.

The book begins with everyone’s reaction on Meena Kumari’s death. The chapter is interestingly titled “Lies” to connote how all the reactions by film industry as well as media were superficial. The various chapters in this book tell us about the circumstances she was born into, her family, her early life, her romance with Kamal Amrohi, her journey as an actress [which started at the tender age of seven] as well as her turbulent personal life, her various relationships, her addiction to alcohol, her self-inflicted depression, the most important movie of her life - Pakeezah, Meena Kumari – the actress, Meena Kumari – the woman, and her death [few weeks after Pakeezah’s release]. Even with her disturbed personal life and poor health, she worked relentlessly and did very well professionally.

“Despite unreliable lovers, despite unreliable alcohol, despite unreliable dinner, despite unreliable friends, she had Bahu Begum, Manjhli Didi, Noor Jehan, Abhilasha in various stages of completion. All of which goes to prove that India’s No. 1 tragedienne did not live by bread alone.” [Quoted]

Her alcoholism is legendary. But surprisingly, she drank seriously only for three years. What started as a small peg to cure her insomnia later became addiction. This continued till she died of cirrhosis of the liver.

“The question is how could she stop drinking. She had as she saw it, no emotional support; her family life was not exactly ideal; and the possibilities for the future looked extremely grim. In these circumstances she needed a crutch, and for people the world over in her state the bottle has been the most potent, if disastrous, crutch.” [Quoted]

Meena Kumari as a person was known to be generous, attentive and empathetic. The author believes that most of her pain and depression was self-inflicted because she felt she was let down by her relationships. She did not get love, and fell into the trap of her screen image. Perhaps she always missed a part of her life she never lived – a normal childhood. Isn’t it widely known the world over, the fate of most of the child actors?

“The great tragedienne Meena Kumari became the great tragedienne not only in front of the camera but behind it. And this is the real sorrow, she aided the latter.” [Quoted]

I liked the book. May be I haven’t read any outstanding biography to compare it with, but generally speaking, I liked reading about the many aspects of Meena Kumari’s life. There aren’t too many biographies or autobiographies of Indian film stars, and if you like this genre, I certainly recommend it. It is always interesting to know interesting people. 

Read an excerpt from the book here.

Review Book courtesy: HarperCollins India 
Image source: Flipkart