Book Reviews

Clown, Quentin Blake. Pattu Rating: 4.7

I've been wanting to review this for a while now. Finally got around to doing it.

For me, it was love at first sight. For Pattu, the scribbly lines ceased to impress initially but it grew on her and when the story unfolded it had her completely hooked. I've become a huge fan of QB's illustrations after just a few books (including the Roald Dahl ones) and am hunting for the rest.

The clown along with some of his friends (all of them toys) are abandoned and have nowhere to go. The clown is not willing to give up and goes looking for a home for himself and his friends. A series of adventures where he meets different kinds of people in different situations. Adults who don't think much of him, who don't find him worthy enough, a child who wants him but whose mom doesn't let her keep him, a burly guy who is rude and so on. Finally he lands up in a house where he instantly turns around a situation by being resourceful and winning the smile of an infant. At last how he goes on from there to rescue his friends from the garbage bin and how all of them eventually find a home makes the rest of the story.

The illustrations are so expressive and make the story powerful and compelling. Words would have probably diluted the effect of the illustrative style. I loved this also because it allows the reader to interpret and imagine the story from their own perspective. For instance, when the burly man throws the clown up in the sky, my version of the story, had I been telling Pattu, would have been something like, 'the clown got scared when the man threw him up in the air'. However, without this influence, Pattu's version was, 'the man threw the clown up in the air and the clown was super exited to go so high up in the air'. Also, in Pattu's version, the clown was seldom sad...he enjoyed his adventures just as much as he enjoyed finding the home at the end. Am I happy that I didn't narrate the story to Pattu - I like her version better.

So, what's your version?

Tiki Tiki Tembo
Arlene Mosel, illustrated by Blair Lent

Pattu Rating: 4.9

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

... is out latest addiction.

I stumbled on to this really humorous Chinese story at an old book store. This reveals through an amusing story why the Chinese have very short names.

Apparently this was not the tradition long ago in China. The first born sons always had  very long names and the rest had short names. Thus the first born son of this great family gets this name, Tiki Tiki Tembo no-sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo, which means, 'The most wonderful thing on this whole wide world'. And his brother is called Chang.  
The story is about how the brothers play near the well despite their mother's warning and first Chang falls into the well and Tiki Tiki Tembo tells his mom and then finds an old man with a ladder and gets him to rescue his brother. They pump the water out of the boy and in no time he is fine as ever before. After some months of abandoning play near the well, it beckons them once again and this time Tiki Tiki Tembo falls into the well.
Now, Chang has to tell his mother and according to tradition, he should address his older brother respectfully by his full name! So goes Chang to his mother saying, 'Honourable Mother, Tiki Tiki Tembo no-sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo has fallen into the well'. His mother can't hear and he has to repeat it couple of times and he gasps and stutters somehow manages. The episode repeats with the old man with the ladder and by the time they get to Tiki Tiki Tembo no-sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo, there's lot of water to pump out and he takes longer to recover.

So, now we know why the Chinese have short names :)

Pattu finds this really amusing and made me read this continuously for a good 45 mins and I am as out of breath as Chang in the story. So we've been going Tiki Tiki Tembo no-sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo - ing...all day long...

SLAM by Adam Stower. Pattu Rating 5

We read this book We viewed this picture story book - Pattu's first and boy, did we have fun!

The book tells a story of consequences through just the illustrations and some sounds (through onomatopoetic expressions). It all starts when this boy goes out with his walkman on, oblivious to the complete mess that results from SLAM-ming the door! The ball that is caught on the roof falls on a resting cat which springs in fright, causing further fright and a row of disasters. All this while the boy walks on with just the music in his ears, completely insulated from his surroundings.

We discovered a variety of sounds... sound of a soft fall, hard fall, bounce, bump, clash, splash, screech, scrunnnch, huff puff...oh so many more...

Another very insteresting aspect is that there are multiple threads of consequences that come together in the final mess and there are lots of little details that you'll discover (like a little jet that crashes into a little girl's kite, a cat that goes after a fish and so on) in the second, third, and subsequent readings. Pattu pointed to a couple of them that I hadn't noticed myself! So you can even weave many stories by just shifting your perspective. Last night was riot with Pattu laughing till her jaws ached and me acting the disaster till all my joints and my throat ached - but it was all worth it to see Pattu laugh like that :)

Now, I have to hide this book before my joints give in! I'm looking to buy a copy (the one I have is from the library).

There's one more like this by Quentin Blake... will review shortly.

Sergio and the Hurricane
Pattu Rating: 4.6
Image Coutesy:
Sergio lives in Puerto Rico with his mom and dad. On one of his usual jaunts to the beach, he observes some dfferences in the sea and learns that a hurricane coming. Is Sergio worried? No! On the contrary, he is excited since he's never seen one! However, the others around him seem worried and get busy preparing for the hurricane. They protect the glass doors with cardboards and tapes so that it doesn't shatter, they rush to the supermarket to stock up food, candles, matches, batteries, etc. The book details little precautions like cutting off the coconuts from the palms around the house so that they don't damage the glass windows and so on. And finally the hurricane arrives and is Sergio excited? He is frightened.
After 3 days, the hurricane crosses, leaving a damaged city behind. Blocked drains and water pipes, broken trees and buildings, flooding and leaving a lot of people homeless. While saying all these, the book does not really become depressing. Things turn out just fine and people take it in their stride and get back to business.

What I liked about the book is the details about the hurricanes and the preparations around it. Even while explaining the aftermath of the hurricane, the book does not really become depressing. Things turn out just fine and people take it in their stride and get back to business.

All Images Courtesy:
Pattu Rating: 4.5
Ming Lo moves the mountain is an interesting Chinese tale that we read last weekend. Ming Lo and his wife live at the foothills of this huge mountain. By the time we say, 'Wow!', they tell us how unpleasant it is, because small break away stones fall on their house leaving holes on the roof through which water drips during rain and  hardly a ray of light passes through their window since the mountain blocks the sun. SIGH. So, one day Ming Lo's wife sends her husband to the wise man in the village (every Chinese village seems to have a wise man who just sits and smokes a pipe) to find a solution. So, obediently he goes. The wise man hears him out and draws long on his pipe and smoke swirls around his head. Then he tells Ming Lo to take a huge tree and push it against the mountain. He goes back home and executes the plan, but the mountain doesn't budge. Ming Lo goes back, the wise man draws longer from his pipe and the cloud of smoke is thicker around his head. Then he gives another idea - take a spoon and some utensils and beat throughout the night. The mountain will get scared and run away. Well, few more such ideas are executed and while we are thinking, 'If this is the wise man, then save the poor village', the wise old man knocks you over with his final idea which actually works for Ming Lo and his wife! Yes, the mountain finally relents and moves!!  You realise then that it was the wise man's way of telling Ming Lo and his wife it is such a folly to expect the mountain to move. There are some people who just don't get the message and they deserve a solution like this...

Pattu Rating: 4.2
 How Far Will I Fly by Sachi Oyama is another beautiful tale from Japan. Quiet, profound and yet very very simple in its style. It tackles big questions through conversations of a small boy with his grandmother. He starts will, 'How tall will I be?' and moves on to ask many more such questions. The grandmother answers in a single sentence that leave you thinking for many more minutes and hours later. I particularly like, 'How big will my arms be?' and 'How far will my friends be? and of course, the question in the title.
This book reflects the Japanese culture and leaves you thinking about many many more questions....The illustrations - soft pastels, pleasant, highlight the quiet depth of the messages. Go get the book, I'm not giving away anymore.
Pattu understood this in her own way - how deep? I don't know. But this is something that I'll treasure and read out to her at different stages. I'm sure she'll get more out of this every time. And so will I, I hope.

Pattu Rating: 4.8
 Something Good was Bizarre Fun! Tyya goes shopping with her dad. While dad throws in spinach, milk, eggs, bananas and the likes into the trolley, Tyya decides to looks for something good instead of all the boring things that is in the trolley. So, she picks up her own trolley and loads it with 300 candies. All excited about her find, she shows off to her dad who promptly tells her that candies are 'sugary junk'. The disheartened Tyya puts them back and looks for something else that is good... this goes on and finally her dad has to tell her to be stand quietly in a corner while he  completes shopping. Tyya following her dad's instruction to the T finds herself being poked, knocked and finally put on the shelf with even a price tag on her! And finally, how both Tyya and her dad buy something good from the store makes this cute little story.
Pattu obviously related to this so well. Did this make our shopping trips and the bring down demand for candies and chocolates? NO! :D

Story: Ferida Wolff,  Harriet May Savitz
Illustrations: Elena Odriozola
Image Courtesy: Flipkart
Pattu Rating: 4.5

Babba Zarra has a heart that is huge enough to love everyone in her village. No wonder the children of the village visit her every evening for a story. Babba Zarra has a special blanket that she spreads out for her little visitors, to keep them warm and cozy. One day she notices a hole in Nikolai's shoes and decides to make him a socks. But getting someone to dleiver wool to their snow covered village seems to be next to impossible. Babba Zarra always believed that every question has an answer. As she mulls over the problem, an idea dawns on her. She just has to unravel a bit of wool from her story blanket! The story thus unfolds with Nikolai finding a pair of socks at his doorstep, the postman receiving a scarf, the school teacher getting a pair of mittens and the children suddenly find that the story blanket has shrunk. They cuddle up closer each day. By the time everyone in the village get their surprises, the story blanket has disappeared altogether. How the villagers find the source of their little presents and how they repay Babba Zarra for her kindness makes the rest of the story. I couldn't help feeling that Babba Zarra's kindness is what kept the villagers warm more than all the wollens that she knit for them.
What I liked about the story was that it didn't fuss too much over Babba Zarra's kindness, else it might have probably been a bit too cloying. The illustrations are beautiful in soft pastels and simple lines.

Pattu struggled a little to understand 'snow' and how people in the village felt 'cold' etc. I don't blame her - we live in Chennai :)
She slept over it the first day and took one more day for it to sink in. Then the questions started, 'what is snow like?' 'like ice?' 'hands will freeze?' 'what will happen if there's a hole in the shoe?' 'Did Nikolai cry?' 'you need thick blankie?' 'Babbu Zarra is a good lady' 'She helped everyone?' and so on. Unlike lot of other books that left her excited, animated, made her jump and scream and all that, this one left her deep in thoughts - positively, I gather.

The Zlooksh By Dominique Demers            Pattu Rating: 4.4                                                                        Zachary looks like any other normal boy but for his wild wild imagination. He believes himself to be the captain of a rocket ship and when he tires of such responsibility, he retires to his tree house which is in the tallest branch of the tallest tree. Sometimes when he is bored, he dives down to the ocean floor to meet his marine friends.

So, when Mrs Davey, his classteacher askes the class to draw their favourite animal, Zachary gets busy. So busy that he misses lunch, play and all the other activities for the day. He is surrounded by papers and his friends can't contain their curiosity. Mrs. Davy offers to help, but then Zachary's favourite animal is the Zlooksh and Mrs Davey is certain that there's no such animal on planet earth! However, Mrs Davey sure is in for a surprise....

Pattu and Buc (another figment of her imagination), I'm sure would be more than happy in the company of Zachary and Zlooksh. No wonder Zachary struck a chord with Pattu.... and I must say that the Zlooksh looks so adorable!

The Little Engine That Could - The Big Chase: Pattu Rating: 4 Stars
The blue engine that has a never say die attitude goes all out to rescue its best friend the toy clown who accidentally goes on the wrong train... a nice story of trust and friendship.

The Smartest Giant in Town - Pattu Rating: 4.7 Stars
George is a very cute and adorable giant. But he is scruffy. He decides to shake off this image and get smart only to donate all his smart outfits one by one to the animals that need help. There are some rhymes interspersed in the story and I made up a tune. Pattu has been humming that the last few days and I haven't stopped grinning :D

Angelina and the Butterfly - Pattu Rating: 4 Stars
Being trapped is an awful feeling - that's what Angelina figures out when she falls into a pit. And that makes her set her favourite pet, Arthur the butterfly, free despite feeling miserable about not having him around...

Mrs Armitage: Queen of the Road Pattu Rating: 4.3 Stars
The madcap Mrs Armitage's adventures on the road and how her car comes apart with nothing left but the wheels and the steering! There are some nice sound effects every time she bumpps and screeches and klunks and krrrruuunncches..... we added some more sound effects to it and Pattu found it hilarious!

Mallipoo, Where are you? - Pattu Rating: 4 Stars
Paytu Pig goes for a stroll with her friends Amma elephant and Hutoxy the horse leaving Anna and Akka elephants to babysit her piglets. Anna and Akka get busy playing thinking that the piglets are fast asleep but to their horror, they find the piglets gone. They find all of them somehow but Mallipoosundari, the tiniest piglet is still missing....

Image Courtesy: McGraw Hill

Pattu enjoyed reading a GIANT book - which was half as tall as Pattu
Hatty and Tatty and the bumping boats
Pattu Rating: 4.3
Two best friends Hatty and Tatty decide to get married and the story is about how they miss each other while on the way to the other's house. Finally the bump into each other mid way ... a simple and yet a cute one

Image Courtesy: Amazon

We also read the really beautiful book called,
My Love For You
Pattu Rating: 4.0

It goes, "My love for you is as big as 1 big bear, as tall as 2 giraffes, as deep as 3 blue whales..." and so on...till 10
I guess it was a bit too early for Pattu, so I had to explain to her a bit. I asked her how much she loves me and she started by saying, "Very very very very..." and then ended up saying, "..lot of very very much amma" :D

Image Courtesy: Amazon
Then we read, rather I read (while Pattu wanted to flip through some books on her own) another nice book called 

Grace and Family
The story is about Grace who lives with her mom and grannny in UK. She thinks that her family is short of perfect without a dad because all the families in stories she has read has a dad and mom, a brother and sister and a cat and a dog. Just then, she receives an invitation from her dad who now has another family in Africa. She decides to go accompanied by her granny and finds both joy and sadness during her stay. By the time she is back, she is all set to rewrite the myth of a happy family to include families like hers as well. Good thing about the book is that it doesn't ask for sympathy.

Image Courtesy: Amazon

and finally a well known tale of 
Chicken Little
Pattu Rating: 4.5

And in Pattu's words, "I loved this picnic amma... we will come here everyday!"

The Bullfrog and the Cow: Where the cow inadvertently kills a few bullfrogs while at the pond to drink some water. Mama bullfrog is so angry and wants to take the beast head on. But she has to puff herself up to match the beast in size...  

High in the Sky: Korean folktale. The mother selling Deok (rice cake... reminded me of Idly) and walking through forests and the tiger are all so familiar even in the Indian context. Pattu was upset about the mother being eaten by the tiger :(

Where is Gola's Home: Gola the yak goes house hunting with the help of his friend Muri the eagle. We get to see different habitats and how it suits the creatures that live there.

The Tiny Seed: What a lovely story to convey that certain perceived weaknesses could actually be your strength! Eric Carle's illustrations are wonderful as usual!

Pavo and Cavo: Cute little story of Cavo Pristatus and Pavo Cristatus that says, 'you could pretend to be anything but only for so long... your true colours would show some day'.

The never ending story: Addictive... Pattu just loves the last bit...
Its only a Story: The ant makes spicy curry for its friend the peacock but falls into the hot gravy and dies. Saddened by this, the peacock spreads the grief through the river, mango tree, elephant, crow, the Rani and all the way to the Raja.... and in a reversal of all the mishaps, the ant climbs out of the pot and says, "I'll never make spicy curry again"

The First Well (A folk tale retold. Published by Book Box): 
Pattu Rating: 4.2

A samurai warrior goes in search of water when rains fail his kingdom. He brings back a huge icicle from the cold mountain cave following the advice of an old lady. By the time he gets back to his kingdom, there's only a small lump left of the icicle and people think it is a water seed. They dig a pit to plant the seed and the moment the seed is dropped, it disappears and then begins the frantic search for the elusive seed. They dig deeper to find the seed and what do they find eventually?

Who wants Arthur? - Amanda Graham, Illustration: Donna Gynell. 
Pattu Rating: 4.5

A very endearing story. Arthur is an ordinary dog in a pet shop eagerly awaiting his turn to find his home. Luck favours the Rabbit the first day and Arthur thinks he could find a home if he is as cute as a rabbit. So he practices that night to hop like a rabbit and eats carrots too. The next day his rabbit tricks fail as the customer prefers a snake and so every night he practices to be something else, all in the hope to find his home. Does he finally find his home? And how?
I like this one because it goes to prove that people would eventually like you for what you are and not what you pretend to be.

Norbu's New Shoes - Chewang Dorji Bhutia. 
Pattu Rating: 4.7

First thing - Norbu looks so cute! Pattu immediately connected with him.
Norbu gets a gift from his dad - a pair of bright yellow shoes, and he is thrilled! The happiness doesn't last long though as he loses it eventually. This book introduces a different culture - Bhuddism, Monastery, etc. What I liked: Norbu doesn't get his shoes back but something else cheers him up and he goes on leaving the shoes behind (and probably learning a lesson).

Greedy Miss Miao - Amar Chitra Katha. 
Pattu Rating: 4.5

Cat steals milk, chased by old lady manages to escape only to find itself in a jungle. Jungle animals take the cat to be the wise one who will protect the jungle and its creatures. Cat is well fed and looked after and leads a royal life, all the while plotting to eat the mouse one day. Well, nothing too good lasts too long ...

Best Friends - Nina Sabnani 
Pattu Rating: 4.2

Lovely story about a little girl's relationship with a tree. This is just the kind of story that young children should grow up reading. It is rather disheartening to see adults chopping off trees to accommodate illegal extensions of their apartments. Hopefully, stories like these would help our children develop healthier sentiments towards our green friends.

The Magic School Bus Gets Eaten - The Magic School Bus Series. 
Pattu Rating: 5

I wasn't planning to read this for Pattu yet but something about the book seemed to have caught her fancy and she insisted on reading this. I didn't think she would understand food chain but I was surprised that she did. This is one of those books that she wanted me to read a hundred times. Once she gets hooked like this, she wouldn't be receptive to starting a new book. The only strategy is to hide the book and say that it got lost. I knew taht she understood food chain when she asked me, 'Amma, I eat carrot...who will eat me?'

The Rooster and the Sun - Meren Imchen. 
Pattu Rating: 5

Another sticky book that I had to hide from Pattu! Why does the Mighty Sun scramble out of bed at the rooster's call? Find out!

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