Archive for the ‘Children’s Books’ Category


Venture into Yummy Land

SIT venture

Review of Samira’s S-I-T Venture (The 3 sisters’ monthly countdown series); Smita Jee; Illustrations: Neha Gupta, Mamta Agarwal; Smita Jee Publications 2015; pp 157

Literature gives us access to a range of emotions. It puts us through a number of exciting moments we might never get to experience firsthand. Children’s literature in particular helps mould these emotions and gives foundation to a child’s dormant aspirations. Samira’s SIT Venture is a children’s book adapted with a kiddie audience in mind and it is successful in portraying the silly but seemingly important dilemmas a child is faced with. The second book in the Three Sister Monthly Countdown Series, the book features the narration of an adolescent who aspires to be a chef.

It all starts with the seasonal Stay Indoors Tournament, better known as SIT, the event that every child of Cozy Heights longs for. However, Samira and her sisters land in utter confusion with a new rule in place which has limited them to participate in just one contest. After a long running debate with herself, she decides to participate in the cooking competition. What follows is a narration of her relationship with her family and friends and her preparation for the upcoming competition.

Samira’s SIT Venture is a fairly good attempt in creating a new world for children while teaching them (quite blatantly at times) about the world and its residents. Though the conversations between the children at times might seem too grownup, it is guaranteed that it will make your child scurry in search for the meanings of these new found words. What makes the book interesting are the simple yet delicious recipes which encourages a child to try them by themselves and create great dishes.

The explanations for rainbows occurred unnecessary to me as they are best saved for the future and it tends to spoil the fantasy world of magical rainbows and pots of gold for the child. Printing mistakes have been overlooked and certain pages have been reprinted and certain others, missing. It’s good to have a hardback cover for children’s books, for obvious reasons.

This book is successful in helping kids understand the value of patience and the importance in nurturing their passions. If your child is looking for a good read to sit down to on a rainy day, this is their go-to book.


Three on a spree

Review of The Three on a Spree; Smita Jee; Illustrators: Neha Gupta and Mamta Agarwal; Smita Jee Publications 2016; pp 180

Nothing is more golden than those days spent basking in the happiness of the mid-noon sun and those days spent caring for the deep wounds of a chasing game. Nothing is more golden than those seemingly never ending days of childhood when there were spring in our feet and when our eyes never rested. In an attempt to capture the beauty of the bygone days, Smita Jee uses her favourite trio, Samira, Shreya and Sarah and paints their vacation days which are quite the same for any child.

The holidays, annual sports day, Christmas and the family vacation are waiting for the three sisters and Sammy in particular has another special event in stock; her first school trip. With Sarah in Mickey World and Shreya excited for the sports activities, the sisters have chalked out their own vacation plans. The third book in The Three Sisters Monthly Countdown Series, The Three on a Spree narrates the individual and collective lives of the three sisters. From the teeth-chattering appointments with the dentist to the sheer excitement in shopping for Christmas, the book brings back good memories for adults and helps relate the same for children.

The DIY recipes always come in handy and this helps the book get a life outside the realms of fiction. The large font makes it easy to read helping the child attain a fast pace. However, the illustrations can be more creative as it is meant for young eyes, and the imagination quotient in the writing can be upped.

The POV shifts enable the reader to adjust and get into the minds of the three sisters in addition to helping him/her realise how different people can be. What might be most interesting is Sarah’s vacation days and her deep connection with her favourite cartoon characters. Her excitement reflects the innate childish goodness of all kids. An entertaining read for children of all ages, the book qualifies to be placed in the book shelves of young readers.

– Paavana Varma

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Rating: 6.2/10 (20 votes cast)

Shreya’s Birthday Countdown


Review of Shreya’s Eighth; Smita Ganeriwala; Illustrators: Neha Gupta and Mamta Agarwal; Smita Jee Publications 2014; Rs 350; pp 71

– Shana Susan Ninan

The first book in the series, Three Sisters Monthly Countdown Series, Shreya’s Eighth deals with a month of activity in Shreya’s life just before she turns eight. Her sisters are four and thirteen and are quite a huge part of the fun festival. The eight child-friendly recipes in the book are a major highlight.

Cozy Heights, where the family lives, is a mini town and would be an ideal place for any child to grow up in. The foodie fun starts with a kitty party Shreya’s grandma is organizing. Easy recipes and cooking classes follow.

Shreya is a grand planner – she wants everything picture perfect for her eighth birthday. From the décor and colours to the food and fellowship. And this is something that all children love. Follow her as she goes on a month-long spree of plans and tick-offs.

As a Children’s Book, it would have been better and more reader-friendly if there were more lively conversations and dialogues than large chunks of narrative text. The big font size and wide gutters are good the young eyes. The birthday itself – games, gifts and surprises – make for a good and memorable read. The illustrations are interestingly detailed.

The author Smita Ganeriwala is a working mom, Chartered Accountant, writer, sportsperson and a musician. As an ardent foodie herself, she’s combined that passion with writing to weave beautiful stories for children.

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Rating: 6.3/10 (12 votes cast)

World of Witches


– Shana Susan Ninan

Review of The Witches by Roald Dahl, Illustrated by Quentin Blake; Puffin Books 2013; pp 208

This fantastical tale of real witches is as much for children as it is for adults. So, how does one identify a real witch if she doesn’t ride around on broomsticks, nor wear black cloaks and hats, and disguise themselves as ordinary ladies? Well, the grandmother in the story tells her grandson, ‘boy’, that witches have claws instead of finger nails (so they wear gloves all the time), bald heads (which means they wear wigs), large nose holes, square feet (so they often take off their shoes to relax their toes), and blue spit. And not just that, real witches hate kids.

Most of the story revolves around the witches’ annual general meeting at a hotel in Bournemouth, Norway. The boy finds himself in a room with more than 200 witches! Their plan to turn kids into mice using the Delayed Action Mouse-Maker in chocolate bars in candy shops across England sends shivers down his spine. Poor Bruno is turned into a mouse. And the boy, too!

The twist with the boy being left as a mouse is quite catchy, as it ends with the promise of more adventure! The boy-mouse and his grandmother return with the thought to rid the world of witches.

A delightful read, I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading this out loud to my now four-year-old son, a few years later. And the illustrations are just perfect!


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Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Fighting defanged snakes


Review of The House of a Hundred Stories; Mariam Karim-Ahlawat and illustrations by Ajantha Guhathakurta; Life Positive Books 2016; Rs 195; pp 135

– Shana Susan Ninan

With a very pleasing cover and blurb, a tight plot, and hoards of animals and birds, Mariam Karim-Ahlawat’s The House of A Hundred Stories is my four-year-old son’s current favourite book. Well, it was a review copy for me, but it ended up that my son, who loves animal stories, found it more endearing. Which is a good sign, I think, because kids of all ages will just love this book.

I was reminded of The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi-Hwang, which was narrated from the PoV of Sprout the hen. But this one by Ahlawat has several storytellers. The mongoose, the owl, the rabbit, and others are all narrators, lending different voices and tones as and when the situation calls for. Told mainly from the perspective of Noël Noyla the mongoose, this children’s fable is quite an allegorical one. Once the mongoose leaves the snake charmer’s hold, he comes across several situations in his journey. From fighting defanged snakes for the sake of pleasing humans to understanding his Self, there’s a lot to learn from. There are different languages for each species of animals, much like the segregated human society we live in, ourselves. Philosophical thoughts on identity, freedom, overprotected lives, community, independence, crimes, responsibility and the like are discussed through the animals’ lives here.

In a colonial bungalow close to the Taj Mahal… that’s where this house is. The people living in it barely get a mention, whereas the animals are well-rounded characters, almost always human-like in behaviour. The animals, their kids, and grand kids, all make for a lovely menagerie, much like what the author herself raised as a child.

Ahlawat has written many children’s books and novels, as well as plays and musicals. Currently based in New Delhi, she has been a university lecturer teaching French language and literature, and a columnist. My favourite character from this book is Idiot Frog. Don’t be fooled by his name, no. One of his lines go, “To act boldly in a situation that actually frightens you shows true courage.” He’s full of quips and tales, amassed experience from a life well-lived, meeting all kinds of beings.

In the end, friendship and love are just what we need.





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Rating: 9.0/10 (5 votes cast)

Autism: Know It, Know Them

Review of Autism: A Handbook of Diagnosis and Treatment of ASD; Sumita Bose; V&S Publishers 2015; Rs 395; pp 158

– Shana Susan Ninan

That Autistic kids in India aren’t welcome in most mainstream schools is a given. It’s a proven fact. But how does one “handle” an autistic child/ teen? In my teaching years, I’ve come across autistic children and their parents, and most received complaint is that people around aren’t accommodative. That given a choice and resources, they’d leave this country and live abroad with their differently abled child. Is it because of lack of awareness regarding this disorder? Are the various communities in society reluctant to accept such children?

The author, Sumita Bose handholds us readers into this life by introducing us to a personal anecdote of how she came to do Child Psychology and ASD related courses in the US. Autism isn’t the end of the road for a child or its family. It is but a different life – one that needs patient care and love. She gives us profiles of doctors and early medical practitioners who’ve pioneered in this field, and how India officially accepted the widespread existence of this disorder, in 1991.

There’s a lot of pressure from schools and extended family, and the general public, on these kids and their parents. An empathetic way of dealing will go a long way here. This is a good guide for parents, teachers, friends and public who come into contact with autistic persons. Bose gives a narrative-like feeling when she deals with issues from conception/ birth to education to adulthood. The details of schools and institutions meant for autistic kids is useful, although I personally feel that there are lot many more NGO’s and individual agencies that help, especially in Kerala.

Another thing I found missing is how an autistic child’s family and friends deal with the sexuality and orientation of autistic children. They are major components of a children. More so since autistic children aren’t able to express themselves as well as others. A page or two about the sexual needs, routines and characteristics of autistic children would have made it a little more wholesome.

Bose has been a teacher for more than two decades, and authored Science, Mathematics and puzzle books for children. She’d a member of Autism Society of America and designated Autism Ambassador in Melbourne, Florida.

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Rating: 9.8/10 (8 votes cast)

Lawyer at 13!

Review of Theodore Boone: The Activist; John Grisham; Puffin Books 2013; pp 304

– Shana Susan Ninan

I fell for his robust plots and forceful prose from the time I laid hands on The Client. John Grisham doesn’t disappoint in his YA collection either. Theodore Boone: The Activist, the fourth in the series, features the 13-year-old only son of a lawyer couple. With both parents vocal in their own ways, and having the luxury of an office to himself in a backroom of Boone & Boone, Theodore knows the law better than all his peers put together. And when the authorities of the American city of Strattenburg decide to “take” people’s lands in the name of eminent domain for a bypass that’d run around the city, he decides to join a group of environment activists.

The turning point is when he visits a friend’s farm, spots encroaching surveyors and gets involved in a fight that leaves his dog and faithful companion, Judge in a fatal state. Having hung around courts and law offices all his life, he’s familiar with the legal arm of the city. He uses it to his advantage, even winning over a family debate with his dad.

This book has all the legal drama of any other Grisham one – court scenes, standoff between parties, legal tiffs, and of course, the bad guys who break the law! Well, for animal lovers like me, the pages where Judge is hanging on to dear life in a Vet’s clinic can be a tad tear-jerking.


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Rating: 9.8/10 (6 votes cast)

A True Friend

Review of The Elephant Bird; Arefa Tehsin; Illustration by Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja; Pratham Books 2014; pp 20; Rs 40

– Shana Susan Ninan

A level 3 book from Pratham Books, a Bangalore-based organisation that strives to make sure that there’s a book in each child’s hand. Authored by Arefa Tehsin, honorary Wildlife Warden of Udaipur, and illustrated by Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja, this book  is meant for three-year-olds and upwards. But the fact that my one-and-a-half-year-old son was mesmerised by the colourful and vibrant illustrations is fact enough that all kids will enjoy this feast.

Munia’s limp forbids her from making any real companions. And the Elephant Bird is her only true friend. When one of the horses in the village disappears, the headmen and elders are quick to point fingers at the giant animal. Munia knows that the elephant bird is a harmless herbivore, and has definitely not eaten the horse! She voices her protest at the village council, gets shooed away and even her parents are mad at her. But knowing that the village folk plan to search for the elephant bird and harm it the next morning, Munia goes out at night to find the truth about the missing horse. Values such as friendship, honesty and caring are stamped in the foreground of this story.

This children’s picture book is inspired by the real Elephant Bird, one that became extinct in Madagascar, its home.

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Rating: 9.1/10 (7 votes cast)

Eerie Stories!

Review of Boarding School Buddies – Bizarre Escapades; Wyn la Bouchardiére, Foreword By Ruskin Bond; CinnamonTeal 2012; pp 54

–  Shana Susan Ninan

Just over 50 pages, Wyn La Bouchardiére’s book Boarding School Buddies – Bizarre Escapades is a great one for young readers. I love bizarre stories, and as a person who has scoured cemeteries and graveyards, enjoyed narrating and listening to ‘ghost stories’ in school and college, I found this book something to identify with. Wyn has neatly outlined the stories with a pencil sketch illustration at the beginning of each, thereby giving us a glimpse of the story’s plot.

Ponnu, Eddy, Sam and Abu are four boarding school buddies – their school is in the Nilgiris – and share the same hometown, too. The stories are spread across both the locations, with spooky characters all along. But they aren’t spooky enough to scare a teen reader out of her wits. The secure presence of an elder or a parent, especially towards the end of a story, is quite reassuring and comforting.

Themes such as the haunted pond, the gravedigger, the black magic neighbour and the terrifying tree all make for interesting reading. The cover page in sombre maroon, black and dusty colours of a Christian cemetery is definitely a scoring point. This is one book I’m sure I’d read to my son when he’s older; but that’s years away!

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Rating: 6.7/10 (6 votes cast)

Friends and Family To Care!

About the Book

Little Spider’s First Web is about a little spider who overcomes subtle challenges of growing up, like spinning its first web. With the enthusiastic support of his parents and faithful friends like bees, birds, crickets, etc., little spider is able to spin his first web. The story reflects the importance, support and love given by a family. The story emphasises the importance of the family. A cheerful story presented with bright colorful illustrations and easy to read text, which attracts readers and compel them to read the book.

About the Author

Ms. Mudit Mohini, the author of Little Spider’s First Web is the Director of Vishv Books, a Delhi-based printing house and associate company of Delhi Press. She has been a prominent personality as media keep covering her as an expert and as a business tycoon in the book publishing industry. She was also nominated for ‘ET Now Woman of the Year 2011.’ A Mass Communication graduate, she started her career as a media planner and then moved into book publishing and printing.  Just as a sparrow builds her nest bit by bit, she worked hard day and night to get things right for her and her new offspring – Vishv Books. Right from a fresh idea of a story that gets converted into a saleable one with repeated brainstorming, to the designing, illustrations and choosing apt kind of pictures for the book, everything is solely done by her.

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Rating: 9.8/10 (4 votes cast)

An eye-opener for kids, the comic way!

About the book

It is a sweet story about a little girl Maira who learned a valuable lesson that ‘You don’t need some special powers to be a super girl or super boy. A happy face, good nature and helpfulness makes you a super girl/ super boy’. It is beautifully illustrated and presented making sure each kid would enjoy this reading journey. The story teaches children to be more giving and tolerant. Instead of being very preachy, the story acts as an eye opener for all little kids.

About the Author

Author Rungeen Singh is an independent writer and editing professional. She has a Masters in English Honours and an LLB. Thirty-eight of the author’s books for children have been published, and 42 books are under printing right now. She has published more than 700 short stories, articles and poems for children and for grown-ups. She is associated with various publishing houses, newspapers and magazines.

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Rating: 8.3/10 (6 votes cast)