Tag Archives: #childrensbook

Book cover of "V For Vaccine'

V For Vaccine: South Asians Educate Early

One of the hottest ‘V’ words that has the entire world talking about them these days is vaccines. Either someone has recently taken them, is taking them, or is about to take them! Lately, young children have been observing adults around them—their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles—taking the all-important Covid-19 jab. Moreover, now in several countries, with vaccine trials for children underway, the book is a useful manual to help them understand what’s going on. 

Artist - Isha Nagar
Artist – Isha Nagar

V For Vaccine: A One-Shot Introduction to Vaccines! (HarperCollins, 2021) is a ready reckoner to tell children everything they need to know about vaccines. Through easy-to-understand language and colorful, quirky illustrations by Isha Nagar, the book explains the preventive nature of vaccines—how they teach one’s body to recognize and fight certain germs such as chicken pox or measles—and what makes them different from other medicines.

Originally from Lucknow, Nagar was born into a family of artists and writers. In 2010, she graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi with a Graphic Design specialization. While working in the publishing industry, she discovered her love for illustrations and ventured into creating quirky, handmade illustrations. Based on the daily activities of Indians, it paved way for her own brand Tathya, which produced lifestyle products and designs. She has also illustrated for the Mini series by Nandini Nayar.

Much of the inputs for the book’s content come from Dr. Gagandeep Kang, a Professor of Microbiology at the Wellcome Trust Research Laboratory, Division of Gastrointestinal Sciences at the Christian Medical College, Vellore. Having worked on the development and use of vaccines for rotaviruses, cholera, and typhoid, she is the first woman working in India to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.  

“Vaccines are a clever way of teaching your body how to fight off germs that haven’t tried to attack you yet, so that the first time these germs try to make you feel sick, your immune system is already prepared!” In this way, the prose highlights the importance of vaccines by reminding us how so many diseases in the past have been eradicated through herd immunity. 

In simplified form, the book also introduces kids to concepts such as antigens as well as antibodies—“a protein shaped like a Y”—one of the most important elements of the immune system. The book also details the process of testing a vaccine in labs on humans and animals once it is created, and describes what the actual process of taking a vaccine entails: whether it hurts, how the body reacts to it and builds immunity, booster doses, and annual flu shots. 

A page from the book 'V for Vaccine'.
A page from the book ‘V for Vaccine’.

The book also lists other ways to stay healthy, including eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, getting exercise and staying active, following basic hygiene like washing hands before meals, sneezing or coughing into a tissue, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing (particularly for Covid-19). Along the way, the book also offers some fun facts and trivia about the history of vaccines, informing that an English scientist, Edward Jenner, invented the first vaccine around 1796, using material from cowpox to give people immunity against smallpox. 

In all, this short and timely book is perfect to educate young ones about vaccines, and even includes a pull-out vaccine card at the end!


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. 


 

Nose In Books, Feet In Socks: On Dr. Seuss

Growing up in the misty mountain valleys of South India, I relished every moment spent with my nose in books and my feet in socks.  Nestled in the range of Nilgiri hills, in a place too small to merit a dot on the map, is a place I was lucky enough to call home when I was growing up. The rainy climes and lack of digital entertainment options meant that we read as many books as we could, and used our imagination to come up with innovative games and entertainment options.

Enid Blyton lifted all of us children into clouds above The Magic Faraway Tree or whisked us away on the Wishing Chair. Tinkle comics & Champak took us for a spin (I am trying to remember some of the characters without the aid of the Internet – a cheap thrill in the current times – Kalia the crow, Chamataka the fox, Doob-Doob the crocodile, Tantri the Mantri, Suppandi, Naseeruddin Hodja, Vikram & Betaal and of course, that vague huntsman who should be the mascot for gun control laws, Shikari Shambu).  

As we grew older though, we moved away from Children’s comics and fantasy books. As more serious fare gradually replaced this wonderful array, I never expected to revisit that wondrous feeling of picking up a children’s book where you know not what magical world opens up to you, and when. But that is exactly what happened when I had children here, and we journeyed into these marvelous worlds together. I had never read the Thomas Train series or the Curious George series or the Berenstain Bear series or any of the books by Dr. Seuss as a child and I got to experience all of this with them for the first time. Oh! The simple pleasures of reading a book like any of these for the first time are gift enough, but to be blessed to be able to read it for the first time as an adult is surreal. It was like growing up all over again. To that, I am eternally grateful.

One morning, the old body was off to a slow start, and I was yawning sleepily in the car. The elementary school-going son looked at me, shook his head with pity and said, “I know what will wake you up! Let’s listen to Horton Hatches The Egg” and we did. The son & I were soon cracking up with loud laughter in the car – sleep had flown, and the nonsensical plot had truly woken me up surer than caffeine could. It is a marvelous book and takes one through the hilarious plot of an elephant hatching an egg. 

I don’t think the little fellow knew about Dr Seuss’s quote on nonsense waking up the brain cells, but it worked like a charm:

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”

Today, some of Dr. Seuss’s books are being pulled back to have a more inclusive perspective. We know the world changes, but the underlying sentiment he sought to share with the world is one of inclusivity, as he knew first-hand what it was to be ostracized. He knew what it meant to not feel welcomed, and most of his books encouraged us to open our minds and embrace the world. 

March 4, 2021 Article in the NYT.

The current news about the books makes for a great conversation starter on racism with children – for some of his books such as Sneetches examine racism, and how we are more alike than different in spite of our physical differences. I remember being shocked to learn Enid Blyton’s books came under similar criticism. When I was a child reading these books, all they did was transport me to a magical place. I was a brown-skinned girl growing up in South India, but that did not stop me from imagining the 90-ft Eucalyptus tree at the end of our street poked its topmost branches into the revolving worlds in the clouds. But when I re-read them now, I see the point: I must confess that this has led to many interesting discussions with the children.

As the world evolves, and we continue to grow as individuals, it also gives us an opportunity to look for places in the writing that were reflective of the times. For instance, what we identify as unacceptable today was considered acceptable 20-30 years ago. This, in my mind, is a hugely positive aspect of human-beings. Isn’t being able to stop, evaluate ourselves and become better versions of ourselves one of the greatest accomplishments of being human? 

I read Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel, by Judith & Neil Morgan, a biography of the beloved author, Dr. Seuss

Ted Geisel was born on March 2, 1904, in a well-off family. His father, after running the successful family business for several years, later worked for the public parks system with access to a zoo. He puts many of his influences down to the natural loafing around in the countryside with access to animals as a child. His mother had a knack for reading things in verse to him in a way that stuck in his brain. Over his brilliant career, he would combine both these influences in a charming manner to enable an entire generation to love reading.

Ted was a school-going child in Springtown, Massachusetts, when the First World War started. The Geisels were first-generation German Americans and though they were citizens at the time of war, the world around them did not treat them kindly. It is disheartening to read that young Ted Geisel was persecuted for his lineage. This boy went on to write books that are loved and adored by children of all races, religions, nationalities, and backgrounds. His books only ask for an open mind whether it was imagining an elephant gingerly climbing up a tree to hatch an egg or eating green eggs and ham. 

His college sweetheart, and later, wife, Helen Palmer, was the first person to suggest to Ted that he may be better off drawing and writing than pursuing an academic career at Cambridge. He says this was around the time he realized that writing and drawing were like the Yin and Yang to his work. 

Excerpt from the book:

One day she watched Ted undertake to illustrate Milton’s Paradise Lost; he drew the angel Uriel sliding down a sunbeam, oiling the beam as he went from a can that resembled a tuba.

“You’re crazy to be a professor. What you really want to do is draw.” she blurted out. She glanced at a cow he had drawn and said, “That is a beautiful cow!”

Praise from the one you love is truly lovely, and it set him on the course of his career.

I am truly grateful for Dr. Seuss’s books. He and so many authors gave me the gift of finding wonder and magic in an immigrant’s journey.  Read Across America Week was started during Dr. Seuss’s birthday week, and continues to enthrall children. In my son’s school, this year was the multicultural reading week. He told me about some excellent books they read in school this week:  Under the Hijab, The Roots of Rap, My Papi has a Motorcycle, etc, and I am looking forward to reading these myself.


Saumya Balasubramanian writes regularly at nourishncherish.wordpress.com. Some of her articles have been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Hindu, and India Currents. She lives with her family in the Bay Area where she lilts along savoring the ability to find humor in everyday life and finding joy in the little things.

The Mask: Art Therapy Can Ease Anxiety About COVID

In a perspective published in the journal Science, a group of scientists reiterates that masks are not only helpful but necessary to combat the spread of the virus from people without symptoms.

The top reasons why Masks will continue to play a critical role are:

  1. No vaccine is 100% effective.
  2. Vaccines do not provide immediate protection.
  3. Covid vaccines may not prevent one from spreading the virus.
  4. Kids are last in the line to get a vaccine as the clinical trials are still in process.

Because a vaccine is out, that does not mean that people should stop social distancing or wearing a mask. It is still very important to wear a mask and social distance. While doing this, you not only protect yourself but also the people around you, including those with compromised immune systems, senior citizens, friends, family.

Coloring has the ability to relax the fear center of your brain, the amygdala.

“Art therapy is being prescribed a lot more to support the mental health of young kids, especially those with social and emotional deficiencies,” Phaire

It induces the same state as meditating by reducing the thoughts of a restless mind. In these difficult times, this is a small initiative to help people around the world cope with COVID-19. 

  • Creating an hour of activity.
  • Spreading and educating the importance of Masks to younger kids.
  • Teaching the basics of Masks.

I have authored the coloring book  “The mask” to educate young children about the importance of a mask, especially during this time. It gives children something to do other than watch tv. During this time, there are not a lot of things that people can do and it is much harder for the younger children. My hope with this is to give them an activity or something fun to do while educating them. You can download the book here. It is also available on amazon 

With the intention to educate the younger generation, I  have reached out to a dozen non-profit organizations, and with their help, I am in the process of distributing 500 “The Mask” coloring books to kids in shelters in the San Francisco Bay area and Seattle. The primary intention being:

  •  To raise awareness about masks and the importance of wearing it
  •  More importantly to support the mental health of young kids using art. 

Thanks to the No Birthday Left Behind and Lavanya Reddy, Washington Helping Hands for helping in this great cause.

As per NY times, for a teenager living in California, the stats for getting the vaccine are:

  • Based on your risk profile, we believe the teenager is in line behind 185.6 million people across the United States.
  • When it comes to California, teenagers are behind 20.7 million others who are at higher risk in your state.

Masks are our saviors, so the quest to educate kids on masks and their importance is critical, as they are last in line to get the vaccine once one become available. Please continue to wear the masks and educate about the importance of Masks. 

Stay Safe! 


Pranav Medida is a freshman at BISV in San Jose. His love of reading, which started at a young age, soon grew into a love of writing. He loves educating kids by authoring books and distributing them to the needy. ‘The Mask’ is his third book to raise awareness. 

Mooch Ado About Nothing

During the ongoing pandemic, several people have been ditching their usual shaving, threading, and waxing routines, donning their natural, back-to-basics avatar. With one barely stepping out of one’s homes, “lockdown looks” have become all the rage—and moustaches, beards, and other facial hair have become quite the norm among both young and old. It is interesting that during such a time, there is a new children’s book that simply explains this very timely and relevant concept of body positivity.

Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand and Nabi H. Ali is a delightful little new picture book about a young Indian American girl’s journey to accept her body hair and celebrate her heritage. Shelly Anand is an Atlanta-based human and civil rights attorney who fights for immigrants and workers from marginalized communities. Nabi K Ali is a Tamil-American digital illustrator who enjoys creating works about various cultures and people.

Young Laxmi is a young girl, whose peers in school, Zoe and Noah, get her to notice her facial hair one day while they are playing farm animals at recess. During the game, they ask her to personify a cat, as she has tiny hairs— like whiskers—on her upper lip. All of sudden, Laxmi becomes conscious and all too aware of her “mooch”. In no time, she begins to notice hair all over her body—her arms, knuckles, legs, and between her eyebrows. When she reaches home, she tells her mother about it.

It is then that her mother tells her about several powerful girls and women from history, all of whom sported moustaches—“from Mughal empresses and stately ranis to village girls and city girls.” She tells her about the benefits of having hair all over one’s body—as it protects and keeps us warm. Her parents even tell her about the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who had hair between her eyebrows. 

The next day in school, Laxmi tells Zoe that she wants to play jungle animals. This time, she volunteers to impersonate a tiger (“with my long silky mooch!”). She also shows Zoe the tiny blond hairs on her lip and asks her to pretend to be a lion. They draw an artificial moustache for their friend Noah who doesn’t have one yet. And soon, the entire class is queuing up to get “world-class mooches” drawn for themselves! 

Thus, through an incident of teasing and body shaming, Laxmi actually manages to overcome her fears and inhibitions, turning it into a positive outcome for herself. Moreover, she teaches her classmates an important lesson to embrace one’s bodies and rejoice in its so-called imperfections. As a result of this “mooch revolution”, her classmates who had natural mooches begin to flaunt them proudly to everyone else.


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul’ and ‘Bombay Memory Box’.

Indian Audio Books For the Global Child

In a virtual world, parents are striving to strike a balance between the need for a personal connection and the prerequisite to learn. While school learning comes with its own set of rules, extracurricular learning is an area where parents can get creative and let their own imagination and that of the child guide them in creating new and exciting means to learn.

There is no better way to learn than through stories. Many schools of education would agree with this thought. Especially Indian parents would agree because oral storytelling is such a big part of our culture. Remember your Nani’s soft hands stroking your hair, while she told you native folklore? And where are those stories now? They are in the collective memories of all who might have heard them. Author Sue Monk Kidd said, “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” So, as parents, it is our moral obligation to pass these stories on. And as Indians with a rich and complex culture to share, stories can be the creative building blocks to share this treasure of information.

In a search to limit screen time and yet not disclude the benefits of technology, I hunted for the best audio stories on the internet that share the riches of Indian culture. They are reminiscent of the soft voice of our childhoods: reading or narrating a story, very personal and very human. 

Here’s my list:

Ancient Indian Wisdom

BaalGatha

Baalgatha literally means Children’s stories. This podcast brings to you hundreds of stories with morals, ranging from Panchatantra, Jataka, and Hitopadesha stories to many more. These are stories that are not only entertaining but definitely have an educational value. 

Baalgatha is available in English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu, and Kannada languages. The stories are short and can hold the attention of younger kids. A perfect start to texts like Panchtantra and to introduction to Indian languages.

Audible India: The Jungle Book

Audible India has several children’s stories including Panchtantra, Akbar Birbal and many classical Indian tales. I was elated to find the Jungle Book on Audible India, this production is the Winner of the 2016 Audie Award for Best Audio Drama and the 2016 Audie Award for Excellence in Production. Magically narrated and completely transportive, while this production is more suitable for older kids, it will be a delight for parents as well. 

New Original Audio stories

Little Stories for Tiny People

Rhea Pechter’s podcast is an internet phenomenon. Little Stories for Tiny People is downloaded over 130,000 times per month and has been featured in School Library Journal, Mashable, Time Out New York, Common Sense Media, and Parents.com. While her stories are for older children, they are innovative, fun and full of animal adventure that is set in America. Divided by themes like bedtime, family, life changes, this podcast is into its ninth season! Based on the response Rhea recently published her book Little Fox Can’t Wait to Dream.

Lori 

Lori is a five-story collection by first time writer Ratna Goradia. What stands out about these stories is their simple originality, and their ability to transport listeners into the innocent times back in India. Set in India, these stories revolve around the theme of friendship and follow Hari and Shyam, two friends and their newly found friend: an adorable dog named Pintu, about their school lives. Softly read, and easily grasped even by toddlers, these stories will give kids a glimpse into the life of growing up in India. Parents will enjoy them for nostalgia’s sake! Also featured on India based Chimes Radio, we hope Lori will offer more installments. 

Classical and Original Stories

Story Weaver by Pratham Books

Story Weaver is by far the most diverse and exciting platform for children’s stories. It is a great resource for animated picture books and audio stories based on subjects, ages, genres, and lengths. Like me, you might get lost in stories from African folklore or stories about empathy and honesty, classical stories and original stories. Under their Indian stories, you will find stories of ancient wisdom and new and original stories. This is a treasure house with hundreds of stories for all ages.


Preeti Hay is a freelance writer whose writings have appeared in publications including The Times of India, Khabar Magazine, India Currents, Yoga International, and anthologies of fiction and poetry.

Mother-Son Duo Deliver a Message of Gratitude

After their first children’s book on diversity, We Are One which was published in 2017, San Francisco Bay area-based mother-son duo Pinky Mukhi and Param Patel are back with their new book on diversity and gratitude I Am Grateful. Pinky, who works as an I.T. professional, loves working with children, teaching them Gujarati, and engaging them with stories, arts, and crafts related to festivals celebrated by different cultures. Her curious nine-year-old son, Param, is interested in arts, computer games, music, reading, and sports.

A simple tale told through bright and colorful illustrations by Devika Oza, the book is a journey into the daily lives of children and what they feel grateful for. The story trails a day in the life of a child, examining all the things he has around him to be grateful for—his parents, grandparents, school, lessons, teachers, art, music, playtime, bath time, books, stars, trees, and flowers—in other words, the little things that we often take for granted.

The book was conceptualized when Param was six years old and is based on a conversation with him about what he feels thankful for. When Param was eight, he along with his mother, added further to the story by imagining what children in different nations may appreciate. They then decided to include in the story some of the countries Param had visited and the continents he had studied about.

For this reason, the book is sprinkled with some charming illustrations of various well-known landmarks in different countries–such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Stonehenge in the UK, the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, the Bamboo Forest in China, the Cappadocia in Turkey, Mount Fuji in Japan, and the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in the Netherlands. 

The book ends with these powerful lines, accompanied by pictures of children belonging to different cultures, with their palms folded in prayer:

“I am grateful for love.

I am grateful for friends.

I am grateful for Mother Nature.

I am grateful for sunshine and moonlight.

I am grateful for food.

I am grateful for home.

I am grateful for learning and stories.

I am grateful for toys.

I am grateful. I have everything I need!”

After a month of Thanksgiving and Diwali, the book which is sure to resonate with children between the ages of four and nine, serves as a much-needed reminder of optimism and gratitude, especially during these challenging Covid times. 


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul’ and ‘Bombay Memory Box’. You can access all her published work under different categories in various publications here: www.nehakirpal.wordpress.com

Captain Ramarao’s Adventures

There is no pleasure higher than playing with one’s grandchildren. When they play and laugh heartily, one’s heart skips with joy. The whole house comes alive, and the spirits of everyone present soar sky-high.

Unfortunately, children also fight amongst themselves. And fight they do, with the same passion they show while playing. It takes a few minutes for elders to sort out the dispute and settle the matter. The children repeatedly say sorry, forget about it, and resume playing. Unlike elders, they don’t hold grudges and settle scores later. All that is needed while dealing with such children is a little patience and gentle persuasion.

My six grandchildren, all bundles of joy, meet almost every weekend to come and play with me. While playing, they often get into arguments and scuffles but agree to my system of administering justice and settle their disputes.

Children love riddles and brain teasers. The expression on their faces when they successfully solve a mystery is just beyond words. I have been giving questions to them and rewarding them a buck each when they provide the right answer. This made no dent in my wallet but gave immense pleasure to the kids.

I used to tell my grandchildren several stories of my life at sea and adventures, some real and some made up, and found them listening with rapt attention. Notably, stories of monsters used to keep them spellbound.

Finally, stories of treasure and treasure hunt have been popular with children since time immemorial. Combining all these with my fertile imagination, I spun yarn, and the result is the book. Captain Riddle’s Treasure.

Riddles, popular with the kids, form the centerpiece of this novel. I took popular concepts and turned them on their heads. The ship is unique; the port side is a sailing ship of yore, and the starboard is a modern ship a cross between a warship and a freighter. The captain has some quirks and mannerisms. The kids outwit a sea monster, Godzilla, and the spaceship with their riddles. The sword fight between the girl and the pirate, an army of leprechauns, a rainbow at midnight, a knight astride a lion, a fight between the knight and the Night Fairy, the kids taking rides on a lion, putting their hand in its mouth, lion chasing the monkey in the superstructure of the ship, the computers and gizmos confusing the knight and a boy getting stuck in the timeline- all new concepts will tickle the interest of kids as well as adults.

The second book Race for Crown Jewels deals with mysterious creatures and educates children about Mars, Esperanto, expressions such as white elephant, pink panther, and has a story full of action. The fight with the flying pigs, the way Emily gets the better of a Gurkha soldier in a sword fight is a few of the many highlights of the book.

If you have kids looking for mystery and fun, this is a great way to help them spend time during the pandemic!


G.V. Ramarao served for the best part of his life in the Indian Navy as an officer and later switched to the mercantile marine. He has published many humorous short stories and a range of articles in various magazines and newspapers in India.