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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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“Children live through their senses. Sensory experiences link the child’s exterior world with their interior, hidden, affective world. Since the natural environment is the principal source of sensory stimulation, freedom to explore and play with the outdoor environment through the senses in their own space and time is essential for healthy development of an interior life…. This type of self-activated, autonomous interaction is what we call free play. Individual children test themselves by interacting with their environment, activating their potential and reconstructing human culture. The content of the environment is a critical factor in this process. A rich, open environment will continuously present alternative choices for creative engagement. A rigid, bland environment will limit healthy growth and development of the individual or the group.”


Rich natural environment = sand pit or water table.
Rigid bland environment = ipad, TV.

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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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Culture Kotudhu 3

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Chula: Amma can you get me Vivel soap?

Me: Eh-What?! What soap?

Chula: Vivel amma. Remember we saw it in an advertisement in S patti’s house?

Me: Why?

Chula: So that I can become fair.

Me: You are lovely as is. Why do you need to be fair? Fairness is no indication of a healthy mind or body. It is overrated.

Chula: It is easy for you to say amma. You are fair. I am not. You won’t understand.

The way she said it and walked away, truly killed me.

At this point I have to add that that we are an ‘almost zero TV’ home. In the past one year the children would have watched less than 10 hours of TV and that too they were ad free PBS programs that we carried back from the USA.

We had a follow up conversation about how ‘fair skin’ is relative. We are all different shades of brown. All advertisements lie, if Vivel truly works, then there will not be one single dark skin person in India. This got her thinking a bit. Atleast about Vivel may not be the solution, but she still thinks that dark skin is a problem.

I would say that this started as early as her preschool where she was the minority Indian kid and was surrounded by Caucasian children. At least the head teacher would address this problem and talk to the circle about how different they all are and that is what makes them unique. But this part is sorely lacking in India. There is a craze on fair skin and it gets reiterated explicitly and subtly.

Isn’t it an irony that fair skinned people are desperately getting tanned while we are frantically bleaching ourselves?! I am sure the Unilevers and P&Gs are having afield day. I think they are the true beneficiaries of this perception they are creating.

One hour of prime time TV carries, on the average 6 fairness cream ads and 4 anti-aging cream ads. Apart from this there are four ads/hour telling women that their hair sucks, four ads/hour for men in which perfect bodied women are sprinkled liberally. That is, every 3.5 min some one trying to make you better by selling you something. Welcome to the macro culture of Des.


Some one explain this ad. Does she really say ‘I did a skin analysis and was shocked. There was anti-aging.’ Well….. if anti-aging is what they are going ga-ga about, isn’t it good news that that damn thing, what ever it is, already there even before using the product?

To all the girls out there, aging is not that scary. You need to hit 30 to understand what ‘being in control’ means.

And what in the world is this? ‘GO SLEEVELESS ON HIM’? Is this the best tag line they can come with? I am thinking even if I have to-die-for underarms, how unnatural will it be to constantly show them off? Get a reality check people.


PPS: Edited to add Preeti’s comment

“Oh and btw… in that ad, she says ” I did a skin analysis and was shocked. There were signs of aging….”

Looks like my signs of aging-> not able to hear properly. On the bright side, may be they have a cream for that!

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Culture Kotudhu 2

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The fruits of my womb are playing with a neighbor’s child. They are doing some drawing. I am in the kitchen. The idea is one of the three critiques the work of the other two and gives points. If you accumulate more points then you can use it….. I don’t know, somewhere. It is quite complicated, you see!

Chula: Pick me as the judge.

The other two: NO!

Chula:  Who ever picks me as the judge will get 1000 points. If you don’t  I will give less.

Neighbor’s child: Ok, you judge.

Meija: NO. You think we will get 1000 points only if you judge? I will judge my own drawing and give it 2000 points. We don’t need you.

Me: Dumbstruck.




Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Workshop

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was organized in our community.

Chula has been wanting more independence. She calmly stated that she would like to walk to and back from the bus stand/park by herself and would also take responsibility for her younger sister. ‘Amma, I am ready amma’, she said! Apart from standing in the balcony with my binoculars (ahem…., yes I do that), I thought that I need to do few more things to equip them. Starting point of which was organizing the CSA workshop for my children and for the other children in my community.

I don’t know if it is the SMJ effect, ppl were flocking to sign up. Alas, no two families have the same schedule! So many emails later, we were able to agree on a time that was convenient for at least 1/3 rd of the parents who were interested.

Viji Ganesh conducted the session for about 15 chidlren in the 6 – 10 year old age range.

Some interesting snippets from the workshop:

* VG: Can you think of some body parts, when touched by other people, make you feel uncomfortable?

Chula: (Loudly) Yes. My underarms.

(Okay, Viji, we might need a few more sessions for this one.)

* VG: When some one is giving you an uncomfortable touch, what do you do?

Child 1: Kill him?

Child 2: Hit him between the legs and run away.

Child 1: If we are next to the swimming pool, and if he does not know swimming, push him in to the water.

Child 1: Shoot him with a gun.

Child 1: If he likes chocolate, poison his chocolate and kill him.

Child 1: Touch his pressure point and he will collapse.

To me, all the killing and out of the world ideas aside, it was interesting to note that all children used HIM in association with the abuser! Viji quickly caught on to it and said, ‘adult’, can be a woman or a man, sometimes even a older child.

Viji is good. She conducts these workshops in schools as well as in communities. If you are in Hyd get in touch with her organize a session in your community or your child’s school.


Save Our Girl Children

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Our society believes that girl children are a liability. They have always been targeted. New born girl children have been killed and abandoned for decades. Ultrasound technology has only made this worse. Girls children are being aborted as early as 20 weeks, while still in the mother’s womb. Which is less humane, no body can tell.

Many of us feel strongly for this and due to many reasons, we have been arm chair activists. Now is a chance to be an arm chair activist AND make a difference.

Arti Home For Girls is an orphanage for abandoned girls children based out of Kadappa, Andhra Pradesh. Its founder Sandhya, has been working with abandoned girls children and women forced to abort their unborn girl children for the past 20 years. She has contributed in many levels and has made a difference in the lives of more than 1000 girl children.

Arti Home is participating in the IMPACT CONTEST. Winning this contest will give many unborn children a chance of survival, women a possibility to stand up for their girl children, educational and vocational training for the abandoned girls.

Please vote and chow your support.

What to do:

- Click on the link

- Right top corner will have a link to log in to FB.Give appropriate permissions for FB, if asked.


Thanks a bunch, you have made a difference in a child’s life.

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  • Same Day Last Year

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  • Skype Session With Sandhya Rao

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    My main motto behind the BUTTERFLIES book club for children 6 yrs – 9yrs of age is to expose them to many genres. Children often graduate from Amar Chitra Katha to Harry Potter steering clear of the other wonderful genres available for that age group. Humor, drama, biography, history all are cast aside in this hurry.

    To make the club more interesting to this age group, I told the children that we are going to make a book. There will be a theme, some illustrations and some creative writing. When talking about the theme, we pulled some books from my suggested reading book list, read the blurb and placed every story in to a category or theme. ( Do I need to say that humor and adventure were popular and children immediately agreed that they are more likely to try those books?! )

    To give them the basics of book making, how to take a theme and make it in to a book and to give the children a peek of what goes on in publishing houses, we had Sandhya Rao of Tulika publishers talk to the children through Skype.

    From the time I put the idea across, Tulika and Sandhya were  enthusiastic and this enthusiasm truly translated in the quality of presentation they put together for our children.

    Sandhya took our club members through the process of book making using various Tulika books to visually clue them in. She recounted her personal experience, writing her first book for her friend Radhika and how Tulika publishers came to be.

    Highlights of the conversation, (NOT quoted verbatim)

    Why must the text be musical?(Sandhya was talking about how the book is broken down in to a story board with what goes in to each page, placement, the text and the importance of the text being musical)

    The text needs to have a nice rhythm to it. This is very important. When some one reads the book out loud, the audience can enjoy what they hear if the text is musical. Musical text is very catchy. Many of us have heard ‘Why this kolaveri?’ song and liked it? Its because it is catchy.

    What is more important in picture books? Pictures or text?

    For picture books, both are important. We need to break the story in to parts, decide how the the story is going to be presented. Then we need to decide how the pictures are going to look. In picture books the text and the picture go hand in hand. It is like the picture is going to tell half the story and the picture the rest.

    Which is more difficult to make? Picture books or chapter books?

    Both are not easy to make. Chapter books, also has pictures, but these pictures are not printed on the pages. As and when one reads a chapter book, the picture forms in the reader’s head. Such must be the style of writing and the plot. The author must use description and capture details so that the text makes up for the absence of visual clues. Many a times, I have read a book and have dreamt in detail about the characters and the situations in the book.

    Do you do anything special while translating a book in to another language?

    We do a lot of translation at Tulika. When there is a book that is widely loved, we like to take it to other languages. More than the process of translation being difficult, it is important to pick the right person to translate. This person, must not just convert the text from one language to another, but must be able to convey the mood and the context behind the text.

    Apart from translating a book and taking it to different languages, we also do books in two languages. These are our bilingual books. One language is English and the other language is the mother tongue, the language spoken at home. This way one language helps the reader understand and read the other language.

    How to become a writer? Any tips?

    Maintain a journal.
    When an idea comes to you immediately write it down.
    Don’t worry if it connects to the other things that you have written down.
    Just keep taking notes of the things that inspire you, make you laugh, makes you feel.
    Then sit down and read what you have written.
    May be there is a story in it already!
    Daily before going to bed, try writing in detail about something that happened in your life.

    Does Tulika have plans to release more books on science?

    Yes, Tulika is in the process of coming out with books that incorporate science concepts. The book will be released very soon.


    Thanks Sandhya, for a wonderful and informative session for our book club members at TreasureHouse.

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    Candid Conversations With Meija

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    Hermit crab
    I was telling her how hermit crabs do not have a shell of their own, but pick an empty shell to live in.
    Meija: Where does the hermit crab come from?
    Me: From an egg.
    Meija: Where does the egg come from?
    Me: From another hermit crab.
    Meija: Amma, (with hand action) I understand that this hermit crab came from that egg, that egg came from thaaatt hermit crab and so on. But that very first hermit crab in the world, where did that come from? Which was first the crab or the egg?
    Me: Theriyaleye-ma.

    Meta Physics
    Morning rush. The situation was getting explosive between Chula and I. She is sitting in front of her breakfast plate and I have given her the 20th ultimatum, but nothing is working.
    Me: Chula, if I were you, I would take this more seriously and at least ask for help. I don’t know what you are planning to do.
    Meija: Amma, if you were her, you would do the same thing that she is doing. She is doing this because these are the things Chula does. That is what makes her, her. So if you are her, you will do her things and not your things.
    Me: ::Fainting::

    Mommy school
    I am giving the child a bath.
    Meija: Amma, you are putting soap so softly.
    Me: Yes.
    Meija: Yesterday when you put tiger balm for my back and chest, you put it so fast-fast-ly.
    Me: Yes.
    Meija: How do you know that soap has to be put softly and slowly and tiger balm fast fast?
    Me: (Mockingly) Um, they teach all this in mommy school.
    Meija: Mommy school? Can I go?
    Me: Nope. One must have finished college, then go to another college, get a job, get married and only then they take you in to mommy school.
    Meija: Do they teach you to make jokes like you do in mommy school?
    Me: Yes.
    Meija: Do they teach how to laugh like you do in mommy school?
    Me: Yes.
    Meija: Do they teach how to give hugs and love like you do in mommy school?
    Me: Yes.
    Meija: Hmmm, looks like you knew nothing before you went to mommy school.

    Me: ??!!

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