Thursday, June 30, 2011

He Said, She Said..

We are starting a new series, "He said, She said". By we, I mean, She (that would be me, mommy) and my 6 year old son He.  We both love to read and as school is out, both of us have a lot more time on our hands than usual. In this series, we will be collaborating on reviews of children's books and movies. The books featured here range from picture, board books to chapter books at the early reader level (7-8 year old). The review will be from two voices - those of the young reader and the parent.  We would love to hear your comments and suggestions. I have typed the responses He has provided but have not edited them (for the most part) for grammar or sentence construction.
Let the reading begin!!!

Rating system

*****: Excellent
****  : Good
***    : Ok
**      : Nah
*        : Yuck!

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor, Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.

He said : I think it is very fictional. Story is well-written but it is silly, also funny. Like, you cannot go into a restaurant fancily without everyone looking at you! They will not give you any food!!
The illustrations go very well. When they write the story on each page, they draw pictures with it. Small kids can just look at the pictures and even if they do not read, they can tell the story.

She said :  A well-illustrated book with a lot of attention to detail (eg: glitter on the front cover as everything is "fancy"). Where an opinionated adult might see the forced princess culture shining through in little Nancy trying hard to be fancy (ultimately in vain), for a child, it is a girl engaging in silly, pretend play and is quite funny. The narrative is fast and the author uses popular culture indications of fancy (like French words and British mannerisms) to appeal to the minds of young readers. The story has a mild suspense building up to a major event which underlines the moral of the story (which I will not elaborate on!). The illustrations demand most of the attention in the book and call for a lot of pauses before turning the pages.
All in all, a fun read, for boys and girls, alike!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I will miss you, Kuki!

Kuki Deshpande is no more. That sounds wrong. Kuki has always been there. For the last 14 years, this crazy white ball of fur has been a memeber of our family, an important one, at that. My mother and I brought him home, wrapped in a red and white blanket, in a wicker basket. I remember the excitement he had caused in our household and the first night, when he slept in our bedroom and whimpered all night. But it didnt take long for him to realize we loved him so much that we would put up with anything he dished out. And boy, did he!. He was not at all a "useful" dog. He barked all the time, but not necessarily at the right time! He didn't fetch or play ball or do any other tricks that children teach their dogs. He owned us more than we owned him. He was the third child of our family. He was a part of wedding ceremonies and birthday parties. He always made it in to the letters I wrote home when I moved to the US. The newborn babies were introduced to him as were the newly weds. When planning trips, Kuki's whereabouts were decided before we booked hotel rooms. He moved with my parents through various towns till they found their home in Pune. My father lived in a different town for the first few years of Kuki's life and I remember he didn't take to Baba all that well, initially. But that changed when we all started living together again. Oh boy! from then on, he was my father's extremely spoilt brat. My father gave him unbridled love without the restraint of discipline and Kuki relished it. Though my mother did not approve of Kuki's food habits and complained about having to clean up after him, she loved him like she did either one of her human children (maybe slightly more). Everybody who knew us knew Kuki, his crazy way of chasing his own tail when he got mad and how he growled when anyone sat near my father. With his passing, another vestige of my childhood has been erased. My brother and I don't have a baby doggie anymore. And from now on, my parents don't have to leave the ceiling fan and light on, when they step out of the house for a trip to the market.
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Wednesday, June 1, 2011


The human species prides itself on its imagination. As far as we know (mostly because we do not communicate with them), no other species has the ability to imagine like we do. We have credited most of our significant achievements on being able to imagine things that would have seemed impossible.

Merriam-Websters defines imagination as the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.The truth however is that imagination is wholly influenced by what we know of our reality, of what experiences in our lives have informed us about the world we live in, about what is and is not possible. When we imagine, we have a reference beacon very much in the reality. That is why we imagine aliens with a humanoid appearance; with a head and a torso-like structure ending in appendages. When we imagine heaven, it is the most beautiful manifestation of nature we can recreate from what we have seen or heard or read. If you close your eyes right now and imagine the place you most want to be, chances are it will bear striking resemblance to a picture you have seen on TV, on the Internet or in a magazine somewhere. We consume so much information, solicited and otherwise, that it is practically impossible to think of something which does not have a basis in our reality. Our art forms, even though they might involve tremendous imagination on the part of their creators, also reflect a familiar consciousness.

I recently watched the movie, Close encounters of the Third Kind. Even allowing for the 30 years that have passed since this movie was made, what struck me most about it was how we all were (and still are) restricted by our imagination. Extraterrestrial life exists? Sure and it looks almost like us, has attributes like us like music and touch and yes, just like a human facing a strange situation or a stranger, the first reaction is to fight. Whether it is in the design of the next generation vehicles (which will still have wheels and have contact with the ground) or a superbly made movie like Up, we are very much restricted by our imagination.

When a child is young, two or three years old, it begins to comprehend the world around itself. It does not have enough data about the world to imagine events based on "real" facts. That is why a 3 year old can have tea parties with 5 dolls and 2 horses while engaging in pleasant conversation with all of them about the flying dragons. This does not seem impossible to the child's mind. That is real imagination. As the child grows older, we encourage the child to use her imagination in her studies, to think creatively and "out of the box". But when she does that, she is reminded that though it is very creative, the answers to the questions have to be arrived at, using a conventional and hence, effective method that has been favored over the years. In essence, the imagination of that child gets systematically culled as she grows into an adult in our society. By then, the exposure of that child to the "ways of the world" has happened in its entirety and try as any teacher might, that child can only think so much out of the box. There is no escaping the box from then on.

Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” How many of us can separate knowledge from imagination? Aren't we all the prisoners of our knowledge-tinged imagination?