Robi Dobi

By Madhur Jaffrey, Illustrated by Amanda Hall
Age:7+
Fantasy, Adventure

It starts off with Kabbi Wahabbi (the mouse) running around frantically for help. It’s understandable considering he is drenched in smelly orange paint so much so that he is unrecognizable! And who did it? The wicked Slimey Kimey. Robi Dobi, the genial elephant, promises to help him. And that’s how an exciting adventure gets kicked off! An escapade in which a horde of engaging characters join the caravan, like Kamla-saurus (The Great Painter) and Maya Wishkaya (of The Dancing Butterflies). There is also an edge-of-the-seat segment when the entire team joins General Aman and his Great Parrot Army to rescue Princess Tara from The Wicked Purple Panthers. The journey continues steadily with two more brave rescues enroute, and that of course includes the downfall of Slimey Kimey!

Junonia

By Kevin Henkes
Age:8+
Realistic Fiction

It is a tradition for Alice to vacation in winter and celebrate her birthday with other regulars, in a seaside cottage in Florida. But on her 10th birthday things are a little different. Some of her “extended family” is missing. Instead, 6 year old Mallory enters the scene, and makes everything less perfect for Alice. But Mallory’s own story has a tinge of sadness. Henkes authentically brings out Alice’s struggle, swinging from girlhood to adoloscence – a trip into the internal psyche trying to balance genuine conflicting emotions. Wrapped tightly around all of this is Alice’s passion for shells and the hunt for the rare junonia shell she covets. Kevin Henke’s writing – choice of words, similies, simplicity, and style of language. The beach backdrop filled with sky, sea gulls, sun, pelicans, dolphins, cottages, sand and shells!

Picture:HarperCollins

Island of the blue dolphins

By Scott O’dell

Age:10+
Based on a true story
Newbery Medal in 1961


Riveting. Powerful. Moving. Classic. Timeless.

Twelve year old Karana who jumps off a ship to rescue her little brother, only to find him dead on the shore. While the ship and her clan sail away for safer shores, Karana is left stranded on the desolate island for several years. Her survival saga is shrouded in hope, loneliness, courage, perseverance and strength, to stay alive and live beyond!
Scott O’dell is a master – a three time Newbery award winner and the recipient of the highest global honor, the Hans Christian Anderson Author Award. Need I say more?
Picture: Author Website

Paddle-to-the-sea

By Holling.C.Holling
Age:7+
Geo-fiction
Caldcott Honor in 1942

 I am grateful to destiny for leading us to this book. I am duly presenting it here. As my 7 year old promptly adds Paddle-to-the-sea to her list of favorites, I see us both recommending and reading this book several times in the future, and not many books are thatcompelling.


The book was published in 1941. It was a Caldecott Honor Winner. The movie version was an Oscar nominee as well. Holling.C.Holling is generous with natural details in the story and fluent in writing it with a geographic pitch.

A young native American boy carves a wooden man-figure on a canoe and names him Paddle-to-the-sea. After addressing the mechanical needs, he etches the words Please put me back in water – I am Paddle to the sea, along the underbelly of his “toy”. He sets him on a mound of snow in the wild, in Nipigon country in Canada. He hopes and waits for Paddle to start his travel when the ice thaws in spring and the stream takes him along. It is an innocent escapade born out of the boy’s longing for nautical travel and adventure.

Thus begins Paddle’s aquatic journey. The destination is the ocean, Atlantic Ocean. The small river where he sets off eventually leads him to the Great Lakes – the five lakes – Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. Transiting through the St.Lawrence river to Newfoundland, he journeys to the ocean. Each chapter celebrates an encounter, a gamble, a risk. Sometimes it is a slow struggle. Sometimes it is a quick squirm out. Most times Paddle is just plain lucky. Interspersed are passages of serenity, nothing but the quietness of the still water or the murmur of a brook.

It is not an easy ride for Paddle. He rides a log into a saw mill and escapes by the skin of his teeth. He gets trapped in a marsh. He weathers wind and rain and storms to keep sailing. Sometimes he is washed ashore and later tossed back into the lakes. He even finds himself netted. Passing many pairs of human hands, the message underneath constantly evolves. Paddle also spends a winter with a coastguard. Then there is the wrong detour and the forest fire… he even nosedives in the Niagara Falls. Rivers, lakes, streams, creeks, beaches and bays – Paddle meets every body of water on his trip.

What makes this book wondrous is that every textual page on the left carries informative black-and-white diagrams. Sometimes with little hand written notes and markings. This helps a lot with mastering the topographical details of the lakes and the region, and with visualizing the details of Paddle’s intricate risks – be it a saw mill, a canal lock, a lake freighter or a buoy. All these also fuel a sense of proximity to the chaos that we often see on a dock or by the pier. Like these aren’t enough to get ourselves entangled with Paddle and his nail biting water adventures, the pictures on the right burst with color, in striking images of the sky, lakes, wilderness, woods, boats, birds and Paddle himself.

A chapter runs a page, making it a great transitional book for younger readers. It is an engaging resource for learning about the Great Lakes and thus makes wonderful classroom material. The visual support we get through maps, trail markings, one-liner-facts and detailed drawings with named parts is invaluable. It is great literature, in print for generations to learn and enjoy. Offer it to a child who is ready for this kind of a package. More of Holling’s geo-historic fiction that tell the story of a journey while celebrating nature are SeabirdMinn of the MississippiPagoo and Tree in the trail.

But was all the drama that Paddle survived worth it at the end? Does Paddle finally make it into the Atlantic ? Does the Indian boy know it? Where is he now? Does he get to see Paddle again? Where is Paddle now?

And in the same vein, has my review done justice to the book? I doubt it. But I feel good, the kind of feeling-good that comes from sharing. And sometimes from discovering something magnificent and glorious. Like the waters of the deep oceans and the dark seas….

Picture: Paperbackswap

Sarah, plain and tall

By Patricia Maclahan
Age:7+
Realistic Fiction
Newbery Medal in 1986

Sarah, plain and tall, comes to join the family in the Prairies, in response to Jacob’s ad for a wife, for a mother to his two motherless children Anna and Caleb. However Sarah misses her own home back in Maine – the smell of the ocean, the gulls, and the mist over the cliffs. The children fall in love with Sarah but are soon overcome by fear of being abandoned once again. At one point, it seems like Sarah might never come back. However Sarah comes back and reassures them how much she’ll miss them (even more than Maine!) if she left. Narrated in the voice of Anna, this is a story of love and hope in small children,  it is gentle and heartwarming.
Skylark, Caleb’s Story, More perfect than the moon, Grandfather’s dance, all belong to a series following this book. Patricial Maclahan has several wonderful novels to her credit.

Picture: Wikipedia

Charlotte’s web

By E.B White, Illustrated by Garth Williams
Age: 8+
Fiction
Newbery Honor in 1953

The realization that he is going to be slaughtered for a meal one day, leaves Wilbur, the naive and fun loving little pig, in a stupor. While the other gabby animal neighbors are supportive, Charlotte an affectionate and wise spider, goes to great lengths to protect friend Wilbur. She promises to save him. And she keeps it up by making him an overnight celebrity. Wilbur soon becomes the pride of the Zuckermans’ and the talk of the town. But Charlotte’s passes on doing what she does best – weaving magic words that keep Wilbur alive! A heartwarming tale about friendship and commitment.

Picture:HarperCollins

Mood swings – Books on Wind and its moods for every age!

Title: Gilberto and the Wind
Author & Illustrator: Mary Hall Ets
Publisher: Puffin Books
Age group: Preschool or 4-8 yrs

Little Gilberto runs outside with a balloon hearing the wind call him you-ou-ou. But Wind snatches his balloon away and leaves it on top of a tree. Just like he takes away the clothes from the line or the umbrellas in the rain. Or sometimes Wind is so moody that he wouldn’t even help his kite go up high! But then we also read of all the good times, of how Gilberto and Wind play together with paper sailboats, bubbles and pinwheels. The book ends with a picture of Gilberto flat, with face to ground saying,
Oh Wind! Where are you?
Sh-sh-sh-sh
, answers the Wind, and he stirs one dry leaf to show where he is.

A small boy, a list of fun things, and the friendly breeze thrown in – what more to lift the spirits in a child? Sketches using just three colors, the illustrations more than “capture” the invisible friend for us. Personifying wind with all its temperaments opens up a relationship even for us . Winner of several awards, Mary Hall Ets enables this very gently, playfully and beautifully.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.librarything.com


Title: The Wind Garden
Author: Angela McAllister
Illustrator: Claire Fletcher
Publisher: Lothrop Lee & Shepard
Age group: 5-8 yrs

The finesse that is evident in the narration probably comes from authoring many dozens of books for Angela McAllister. And Claire Fletcher’s sweeping illustrations of oil paintings in soothing colors (of the invigorated wind, windy places and windblown things) mesh perfectly well!

Ellie pots a few seeds on a city rooftop for old Grandpa who misses walking in the park. But the wind stifles the sprouts. She even tries the strongly stemmed sunflowers. But again the wind ruins it all, crushing Ellie’s desire for a rooftop garden. This leaves an upset Ellie wondering why the wind would do such a thing. But the night she spends at Grandpa’s, something magical happens – she is airlifted and deposited on a lush mountaintop. There she sees a big tree festooned with everything that the wind has carried away for itself, like balloons, lost laundry, Ellie’s lost kite, hats and hankies! Back to reality, Ellie knows what to do. She sets up a wind garden for Grandpa. The two string together windmills, flags and bells. And when the wind blows, it glitters, chimes, shines, rustles, swings and shimmers, enough to make Grandpa very happy!

I love the story for the ending, of how Ellie eventually figured out something that embraces than rebels. It also demonstrates how children can solve in creative ways. Besides, it reminds me to be more accepting of the nature of nature (and to not whine when my pickled lemons don’t get sun-dried on a cloudy afternoon!)

Picture Courtesy: http://www.abebooks.com

Title: Make Things Fly: poems about the wind
Edited by : Dorothy M. Kennedy
Illustrator: Sasha Meret
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Age Group: 9-12 years

We surge and soar with the wind blowing in every mood in every poem. From rocking a cradle to lifting people off the ground! Snatching things away and rattling doors. There is also a poem for every kind of wind – a tornado, the May wind, the autumn wind and wind on the hill.

The poems are all simple and sized right. There is a pleasing variety that encompasses the different ways in which wind manifests and affects. Sasha Meret’s line drawings in sepia carry the apt quality of imagination and dynamism.

There is also a good mix of poets – American poets like John Ciardi, Margaret Hillert, William Stafford – poets of African-American descent like Countee Cullen, Sundaria Morninghouse, and of Asian descent like Kazue Mizumura. Personally, some brought nostalgia like Christina Rossetti, A.A.Milne and R.L.Stevenson, while some others were new discoveries. Overall, this anthology of 27 poems, suitable for both adult and children, turned out great for read-aloud and was definitely a delight! Here is a sample (an excerpt), and one that we enjoyed –

From “Conversation with a Kite” by Bobbi Katz
Where are you going my beautiful kite,
flying so high in the sky?
I’m going to visit the lost balloons
that made little children cry.
When I hold your string, oh my magical kite,
why do I feel the wind in my hand?
The wind is a taste of the sky, my young friend,
that I give to a child of the land.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.amazon.com