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So we got four Karadi’s Chitra books as Mieja’s fourth birthday gift. Karadi claims that their Chitra english hardcover books are ‘exclusive picturebooks in English, written by India’s finest children’s writers and illustrated by many talented international artists’. I must say that they live up to their claim.

Mieja loved this book. Ever since I read the title and the blurb, I was intrigued too. It was one of those rare days, we were all early to school and I decided to read the book to the girls. Shobha Viswanath starts the story with the earth losing all its shapes. Can you imagine a world with out triangles, straight lines, squares or circles?

An adult mind races with images of buildings, architecture, art etc that are possible because of shapes. But a pre-operational child’s mind to which shape is a very 2-d, strictly theoretical concept, knows not of any of the complications. Now a good story teller makes the audience relate and this exactly what Shobha Vishwanath does.

Subsequent pages show in illustration and text what a shapeless earth would look like. The eggs are not oval but are already scrambled, oranges are not semi-spheres, but look squeezed, the kite looks windswept and the stick looks beaten. These are little, day to day things that make the children think about the importance of shapes in every day life. I can clearly see that the two little audience are hooked in. Their eyes are wide and their mouth slightly open, not a peep out of them.

At this point in comes the hero – Little Dot, which is literally a dot, which some how holds on to its shape. The rest of the story is how Little Dot saves the world from the shapeless confusion.

The story does not go in to detail how the shapes were lost. I was half expecting an onslaught of questions about the how part. But there were none. The author quickly gets in to the practical difficulties of living in a shapeless world and the children were engrossed.

Christine Kastl’s brilliant acrylic pallette knife illustrations in bright colors bring fleeting images of Eric Carle to my mind.

Definitely a book Karadi can be proud of.

Lizard’s Tail is the story of a little lizard that lost its tail in an accident and how the little one learns that its tail is regenerative. My children have heard this as a bed time story and were quite excited to see and experience the story through the vivid illustrations of Christine Kastl.

The story some how managed to bring a flood of childhood memories to my mind. One of the common misconception in a ‘firangi mind’ used to be that India is a land of snakes and tigers. However growing up in India, I didn’t see a snake in the wild till I hit 19 years of age. The only exciting reptile I grew up with was the household lizard. Considering that I am such a thigh shaking coward when it comes to the reptiles, I must be happy that this was the case. Certain memories from childhood stay etched in one’s mind and one of mine is witnessing a lizard’s tail getting severed after it fell from the ceiling to the floor. I remember being clearly freaked out by the body-less tail twitching on the floor. And who will forget the famous ‘Kowli sollum palan’ (the predictions based on the direction from which kowli, the stripy variant of common household lizard, makes its calling sound) and ‘kowli dhosham’(the ill-effects that awaits you assuming the darn lizard falls on you) in your friendly house hold panchangam(almanac). The whole thing is extra special fun if your poor old grand mother believes in such things and if your father does not :)

This is our very first Anushka Ravishankar book and I regret for having waited so long to lay my hands on one of her books. Like in citi card ads: Silly verse – check, funny story – check, nonsense names – check, non-preachy and fun just for the sake of having fun – check, engaging – check, perfect for story telling – check, vibrant illustrations – check, simple enough to read and follow – check, the experience – priceless.  The older child is found pouring over the book when ever she gets a chance.

This is an adaptation of a famous Japanese folk tale by Anushka Ravishankar. The emphasis is that every one and every action has an ultimate purpose. Anushka’s adaptation is very true to the original version. Water color and ink illustrations by Christine Kastl add true Japanese flavor to the story.

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