Archive for the ‘Children’s Book Reviews’ Category

Book Review: The Princess School Series

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Beauty Is a Beast by Jane B. Mason

-Author: Jane B.Mason and Sarah Hines Stephens


-Ages 9 – 12.

-Self readers.

-128 pages.

-Light read. Can potentially finish in three hours or less, if you haven’t fallen asleep.

-Modern day interpretation of folk and fairy tale.

-Series of books based on princesses, Briar Rose, Rapunzel, Ella, Snow White, who are classmates in The Princess School and the challenges they face.

- I read book 4 of 7, ‘Beauty is a beast’.

- The story is how Briar Rose rebels and finally comes to peace with who she really is. In the process she also realizes that even if you are gifted, you still need to work hard to excel.

- I rate the book 2/5.

- The language was simple, at a 8 year old level, while the concept was more tween. Since it was neither here nor there, the book fell flat to me.

- To be fair, I was expecting Princess Academy…. or Ella Enchanted. This was neither.

- Princess with a contemporary twist has lots of potential to play with, but the authors have chosen to play safe.

-If you are looking for a strong charismatic princess as a role model for your daughter, this is NOT it.

- Though the message is good, the way it is delivered defeats the purpose. For example, Briar Rose a.k.a Beauty is thoroughly disgusted by her nickname Beauty. She rebels, dresses up like a beast to finally figure out that she likes looking beautiful.

- The princesses attend courses that are cliched finishing school like.

- Will not read/recommend the rest in the series.



Math In Literature

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My second post for CROCUS 2012, Math In Literature, a resource guide for kindergarten – 1 grade teachers is up on Saffron Tree.

“Math and Literature, by my favorite author Marylin Burns has 22 ideas on how to extend books appropriate for kindergarten and grade 1, to inculcate mathematical thinking…more.


The Librarian Who Measured The Earth

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My first post for CROCUS 2012 @ Saffron Tree.

The Librarian Who Measured The Earth is the picture biography of Eratosthenes, a scholar who lived in 3rd century BC. He was a mathematician, geographer, music theorist ….more.




HAVE YOU SEEN THIS? Book By Arthi Anand.

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Audience of Hyd:

Have you read and enjoyed Tuesday by David Wiesner? The Red Book By Barbara Lehman? Zoom by Istvan Banyai?

If so, you will love Arthi Anand‘s book HAVE YOU SEEN THIS? Come see the things you can see only through your imagination!! EVENT CHARGE: Rs.100/child.More details in poster.

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-Author: Anita Nair

-Illustrator: Sujasha Dasgupta

-Silver Press

-Ages 10+.

-Self readers.


-Collection from through out the world.

- 31 stories. Each story not more than two pages long.

- True to the original. No sugar coating.

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I had a pile of books sitting at my bedside table. Waiting to be reviewed and gathering dust. Having two library memberships and working in a library added books to the pile and took away more of my time. So trying out these short reviews. See how it goes. The ones that I want to ooh and aaah, will go on SaffronTree.


-Author: Caroline Arnold

-Illustrator: Freya Tanz

-Silver Press

-Ages 6 – 9.

-Self readers and read aloud.

-Non fiction.


-Simple language. Good starter book for ocean/sea and the ecosystem around it.

-Text flows nicely, connecting the different elements well.





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The View From Saturday By E.L.Konigsburg

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This post is dedicated to G and V, who lent me this wonderful book for me to read. When I asked these children about the books they like, they showered me with book choices that were well outside the fantasy<->adventure loop. To diversely well read children and their parents……

Title: The View From Saturday

Author: E.L.Konigsburg

Publisher:Aladdin Paperbacks

Honors: Newbery Medal 1997

Age: 12+


There are books that are written to be read. There are books that you read and want to write about them.


Not because you would forget the book, the details and the characters. But because you want to savor the book for a little longer.

The View From Saturday clearly belongs to the second category.

The story line loosely follows Slum Dog Millionaire. Narrated by four sixth grade children are participating in the state level championship for the Academic Bowls and Mrs.Oliski, their teacher and coach. Every time there is a question, there is a flashback associated with the question, a slice of his/her life neatly laid out either by a child or Mrs.Olinsky. As you read the drama unfold, you get drawn in to the story.

Though the focal point of the story is the Academic Bowl finals, the story is much beyond the competition itself. The children are endearing, wise beyond their age without being precocious. As you read the book, you feel a certain something that you cannot name lift off from your shoulders. (That is Konigsburg talk for you and you would understand it when you read the book!)

At 160 pages, mellow language and appropriate content, the book is suitable for a 8 year old avid reader. But I would recommend it a good fit for a 12+ year old because the content and message is pithy. Like one of the characters in the book, Bella the calligraphy artist says, Konigsburg’s motto seems to be ‘LESS IS MORE’. So a 12+ year old will have the experience to appreciate the book better than a 8 year old and mind you this is a book that demands to be appreciated!

Happy reading peeps.

Cross posted at SaffronTree.


Hot Off The Press From Tara

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Title: Excuses, Excuses!
Author: Anushka Ravishankar
Illustration: Gabrielle Manglou
Age: 4 – 6

Have you ever been in a predicament where you ask your child to get ready for school, 15 minutes have gone by and you find that she is still in her jammies watching water fall from the faucet, testing gravity? In more than one instance, I bet!

Every time there is a reason why the job is not done and the way the reason is explained and how the child jumps from one point to another, suddenly remembering something that happened many weeks back……. all this is humorous when it is not your child and you are not the parent in the hot seat. That is why it is so interesting to “Meet Neel, who has the most noble intentions, all of which have a funny habit of going wrong”.

Neel starts the week with a plan. Monday through Sunday he has jobs for every day. He is willing to take up more responsibilities, but is horrified that he has run out of days! As he goes through each day, Neel comes up with excuses why the job is not done. There is an elephant with spanking white socks stuffed in its ear, a very (Alice in) wonderland kind of clock, hypnotizing dogs and many more in the mix.

If you think my narration makes Neel’s story interesting, you must read how Anushka Ravishankar has presented it in verse. Funny and a true account from a child’s POV!

Gabrielle Manglou’s collage style of illustrations complements Neel’s whacky stories well. The illustrations will appeal to children because of its openness.



Title: The Great Race
Author: Nathan Kumar Scott
Illustration: Jagdish Chitara
Age: 4 – 6

This book the third of Nathan Kumar Scott’s Kanchil stories. In this story Kanchil loses a running race to Plean. Pelan the snail, of all animals! Pelan definitely had a plan up his sleeve when he openly challenges Kanchil. You have to read and find out how this Indonesian trickster tale unfolds.

Jagdish Chaitara’s folk paintings are vibrant and enticed me. Take a peek behind the scenes to get an idea of what goes on while illustrations get picked for a book.

I can imagine myself framing this piece or working with children on similar lines.

Disclaimer: PDFs of the books were emailed to me as complimentary review copies. The review represents my true opinion and is not influenced by the ‘complementary’ factor. As an avid reader and a passionate book lover, I feel that every book I recommend needs to be of certain quality and I genuinely feel that the books reviewed above are a good read.

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Anna Nootrandu Noolagam

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That is Anna Centenary Library for the non-Tamil.

(Pic source: Wikipedia)

I wasn’t going to leave Chennai without visiting this library. So on a rainy day, I booked a cab and landed in Koturpuram with the children in tow. Totally sigh worthy place. Beautifully conceptualized and constructed and can give any US library a tough competition. Note ‘CAN’ is the keyword here.

Management and administration needs a lot of fine tuning. As a visitor one gets contradicting information regarding what to carry inside, what to leave in the car. We were asked to leave our purses and carry just our cellphones in to the building, very surprising considering that majority of the population arrives in bus or by walk! After we crossed the lobby we found ourselves in front of the coffee shop without our purse. When asked the security told me, ‘Madam you must have put some rupee notes in your pant pocket’. For which my response was, ‘What if I am not wearing pants or pants without pockets?’ and I instantly regretted it! Thankfully the lady replied, ‘Most of them who come here wear pants’ instead of, ‘Inside your bra, like women did in good old days’.

The children’s section was the only section I visited. If I had more time I would have checked out the manuscripts section also. The library is not yet set up for checking out books. They have OPAC set up only through intranet, which means the catalog can only be accessed from the within the library.

I searched the catalog through the computer and was delighted to find many of my favorites showing up. The initial purchase was 70,000 books, I was told. No one knew if they will be buying more books and who is in charge of it. But the classification and arrangement was very confusing for me. They follow Dewey Decimal Classification for shelving, but when it comes to the end user, DDC must be transparent, IMO. Also the number of staff are simply not enough to check inventory and shelve the books for the number of visitors. End result chaos, fiction picture books and non-fiction chapter books shelved next to each other, tables heaped with books, one whole section of the library piled with books pulled out by children and cordoned off to be shelved later(which was after the winter break and school reopen I was told by the staff!).

Hopefully we don’t grow complacent that we have South India’s largest library and neglect the upkeep, if the library stays as a library, that is!

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Answer This For Me Will You?

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The Firework-Maker’s Daughter is the first Pullman book we read at home. As endearing as we found this book to be, I am fully aware that Pullman’s writing can be dark. So I always check out the reviews. While doing so, I stumbled across Publisher’s Weekly’s editorial review of Pullman’s The White Mercedes at Amazon.

Cut+Paste of the review here

The menacing darkness that lurked at the edges of Pullman’s trilogy of Victorian-era thrillers ( The Ruby in the Smoke et al.) comes to the fore in this contemporary tale of shattered innocence and betrayed love set in Oxford, England. From the first line–”Chris Marshall met the girl he was going to kill on a warm night in early June”–the sense of imminent evil and inexorable doom builds unrelentingly to the novel’s violent, gutwrenching climax. Naive and well-intentioned, 17-year-old Chris has love, not murder, on his mind when he meets and later beds Jenny (described in lyric and intimate detail), who has run away from her abusive father. Indeed, it is precisely Chris’s trusting nature and sense of justice that cause the youth to be duped by a vengeful felon into causing Jenny’s death–and only then because she is mistaken for someone else. Here is a modern-day Shakespearean tragedy, with star-crossed lovers separated by fate, a terrifyingly philosophical villain and assorted innocents, cads and buffoons. Its evocative narrative and throat-tightening suspense make this novel a compelling read; however, the graphic sex, moral ambiguity and somber ending make it most suitable for mature YA readers. Ages 12-up.

I was doing perfectly fine, mentally valuating the appropriateness of this book(NOT for Chula, for some other purpose). But the last two lines left me gaping. Since when does graphic sex and 12 year old go together?

Which brings me to the questions,

Do you agree or disagree with me?
Do you think I am over reacting. A 12 year old can handle this content?
What were you reading when you were 12?
Would you let your 12 year old read this?

Thanks and have a good one folks.

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