List making


I have spent the last couple of days doing some crazy list making on the web. You see, I got this wild idea to try and document for posterity some of the books I have read in my lifetime.
So, with the aid of my borrowing record at the public library and a newly acquired Goodreads account I began to jog my memory for the most impactful books I have read.

Why do this- you may ask. Well, firstly I have never kept a reading log and now seeing my kids being encouraged to do so at school prompted me to try the same. Secondly, I wanted to examine my reading habits and thirdly, I wanted to make a list that my kids could use as a resource for their own reading journey.

The list is still a work in progress, but as I do this I am having fun seeing some patterns emerge, namely:

  • The ‘classics’ have shaped my reading preferences a lot- Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen and the like in historical fiction have regaled me over and over.
  • I like my humor dry with a touch of snark – P.G. Wodehouse and Calvin and Hobbes style!
  • I do have a thing for completeness as in devouring an entire series or array of books offered by an author I happen to like- in childhood it was the Enid Blyton era- Famous Five, Secret Seven, Malory Towers and so on. Once I got started on comic-books such as Tintin and Amar Chitra Katha, I kept wanting more and more of the same. This was the case too with the Malcolm Gladwell phase and the Jhumpa Lahiri phase not too long ago.
  • Crime, mystery and adventure evidently intrigued me as a kid- the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes series speak on that account.
  • I sure had a lot of questions about life in the teenage years- some of which Ayn Rand answered, some Robert Pirsig, some the ‘Zen and the art of’ series- the rest I am still grappling with.
  • Design magazines and comic books made for a welcome visual relief from the heavy tomes of college and postgrad years.
  • Science fiction, fantasy, paranormal and horror are genres I have sadly never explored.
  • I like art in books- especially comic books and the genre of illustrated children’s books.I appreciate how it adds to the whole experience of enjoyment of the text.
  • And finally, the most striking observation I made- in the last decade I have somehow veered away from fiction and emphatically plunged into non-fiction.
    What’s up with that, I wonder- is it a natural progression of my proclivity towards questions about life, a shift in attitude or a reflection of increasing cynicism? I hope it is not the latter, I would prefer to believe that I now examine the realm of possibility in the poetry texts I read- a childhood love I am fondly revisiting.

That’s it for now. You can check out my ever-expanding bookshelves here, feel free to share your book recommendations!

Image courtesy of  Books  by Chris ( CC BY 2.0 )

Children’s picture books that evoke nostalgia- a few of my favorites


Given that I am in a particularly nostalgic frame of mind these days ( for instance this recent post-link ), what better way to indulge this emotion than to do a round-up of some of my favorite picture books that in their own ways evoke this wistfulness….

Here are a few gems:

The Little House (public library)
By Virginia Lee Burton

This book published in 1942 tells the story of a little house in a rural area, that was pledged to never be sold and to be preserved and passed down to the generations coming thereafter.
The years pass, seasons change, the landscape of the surrounding countryside undergoes modernization, eventually transforming into a bustling city whilst the little house retains its old-worldliness, seemingly lost amidst the towering buildings surrounding it. Forlorn it remains, until the day that it is discovered by its rightful descendant and is then restored to its former glory.

I am drawn to this book because it evokes in me memories of holidays spent in our ancestral home in a small town in India, of that home being a rooted place in my recollection of an otherwise nomadic life and of the aching loss I feel, now that the house has met its fate in the inevitable urbanization of that area.

A heartwarming story relevant to today’s changing world, and detailed illustrations make ‘The Little House’ an engaging read.

The Relatives Came (public library)
Story by Cynthia Rylant , Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

A family visit over the summer- lots of hugs passed around, big families, simple pastimes, communal eating, makeshift beds on the living room floor, kids playing with cardboard boxes……all delightfully illustrated with colored pencils.
And finally, an end to the summer and time for the relatives to return to their home. The house suddenly seems large and empty but the hearts are assuredly comforted at the thought of the following summer when the relatives would come again.

This charming book harkens back fond memories of childhood visits and of a simple time wistfully gone.

The Paperboy (public library)
Story and Paintings by Dav Pilkey

The story begins with the early morning delivery of a stack of newspapers to the house of the little paperboy; and meanders languidly around his routine of waking up, fixing himself breakfast, folding up the newspapers for delivery and setting out on his paper route. Accompanied by his lovable dog, the little paperboy bikes on, delivering the papers on a route he seems to know by heart, enjoying his solitude and contemplation. The changing hues of the morning sky and the gradual rousing of life in the neighborhood  are beautifully captured by the illustrations in acrylics.

A simple story about a time that has passed and a once ubiquitous routine that has faded away.

The Hello, Goodbye Window (public library)
By Norton Juster and Chris Raschka

A story told in the voice of a little girl who gets dropped off at Nanna and Poppy’s home when her parents are at work; and a world viewed through the lens of a child’s eye and mind and literally through a window at the front of the house. A window of hellos and goodbyes, and observations of the charming details of everyday life.
The most remarkable thing  about this book are the illustrations which seem to be drawn as if in the hand of a child, the fuzzy details and scribbles highlighting the things which seem most remarkable from the child’s point of view.

A lovable account of a day in the life of a little girl.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (public library)
By Simms Taback

An overcoat that is refashioned and recycled into many forms, adopting many new lives, put to a great many uses, ending up as something far removed from its original entity. I love the twist/ moral at the end, which exhibits the crux of all creativity.
Beautiful artwork done using watercolor, Gouache, pencil, ink and collage injects vividness into a universal story.
This book reminds me of my childhood when every old thing in the house found a new use and hardly anything was thrown away. The sheet music to a song at the end – ‘I had a little overcoat’ (Hob Ich Mir a Mantl) is a wonderful bonus.

These were a select few of my family’s favorites- books that I have enjoyed reading myself as much as reading them to my kids. What are some of your fond memories/ nostalgic books?
Please share..

*Image courtesy of  I ❤ 2 read
for the love of reading….. 
by Kate Ter Haar ( CC BY 2.0 )

Books + Nature + Children = Wondrous


Today I want to write about some select nature-themed children’s picture books that I have added to the home library over the years. I treasure these books because they celebrate,in their unique voices, the communion of a child with nature. They remind us ever so gently of our coexistence with other living beings around us. They coax us to be aware of and feel a oneness with the natural world. I appreciate being made mindful, through these books, of the permanence of change in life.

Here are a few gems from some masterful authors and illustrators:

Owl Moon‘ by Jane Yolen , illustrated by John Schoenherr

Tells the story of a winter night owling excursion undertaken by a young girl and her father. The search entails the need for quiet anticipation and little conversation, thus the book speaks in the internal voice of the little girl. The lyrical verses describing the sounds in nature, the building excitement, the omnipresent uncertainty of spotting the owl, the quiet solitude of the woods and the beauty of the snow in a moonlit night are simply magical. The text is nicely complimented by pictures in gentle watercolors creating the perfect backdrop of a night out in the woods. The book deservedly won the Caldecott Medal in 1988.
I love this book for its stillness and quietude and the little girl’s understanding of the need to play by nature’s rules.

Time of Wonder‘ by Robert McCloskey

This is a truly wondrous description of a family’s summer days on a Maine island: bright sunshine, fog-filled and rainy days, the humdrum of coastal life, the tide coming in and going out, sea creatures and child explorers, the busy preparations to ride out a hurricane, the destruction in its aftermath, and finally the inevitable end to a glorious summer. The illustrations in watercolor have an old world charm and evoke memories of the fun-filled and carefree days of childhood. This book won Robert McCloskey his second Caldecott medal in 1958, the first being for ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ which is another one of my all-time favorite children’s books.

Blueberries for Sal‘ by Robert McCloskey

Yet another treasure by this beloved author, it is a charming story about picking blueberries at a hillside on a summer day in Maine. On one side of the hill are little Sal and her mother and on the other side are a little bear and his mama; how the pairs get mixed up and what ensues next is endearing. The line drawings are done in a deep dark blue color, aptly reminiscent of blueberries and feature detailed sketches of the humans and bears. The scene in the kitchen is a masterful etching of blissful domesticity. ‘Blueberries for Sal’ got the Caldecott Honor in 1949.

Red Sings from Treetops: a year in colors‘ by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

A stately young person and their lovable little dog talk about colors in the changing seasons. I love the captivating details in the illustrations- the little hats, the recurring wheels, the floating windows and musical notes, the lush vivid colors, the patterns on the clothes, the notations; I find something new and delightful each time I go through this book ! Each verse of poetry is quirkily illustrated- this book is a delightfully whimsical union of text and pictures. ‘Red Sings from Treetops’ got the Caldecott Honor in 2010.

A Child’s Calendar‘ -Poems by John Updike and illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman

A poetic and picturesque calendar detailing each month of a year in the life of a young family. The aspect of this book that I love the most is how the little kid in the family notices everything about life in the changing seasons around him- you see him peering in through the windows of his house, looking up at bare trees, observing bees buzzing over flowers, watching birds gathering around the hanging feeders and so much more. The poems and the wonderful illustrations paint an idyllic portrait of the everyday life around us. ‘A Child’s Calendar’ got the Caldecott Honor in the year 2000.

The Snowy Day‘ by Ezra Jack Keats

Narrates a day in the life of a little boy who wakes up one winter morning to find a snow-covered landscape outside his bedroom window. The innocence and charm of the story are reflected in little details like a darling orange-red snowsuit, wispy snowflakes and a snowball tucked into a pocket for safekeeping. The author has used varied illustration techniques such as collages, stamps, inking with a toothbrush and the final effect is quite striking.
Peter,the central character,is featured in six other books by the author- a pioneer in celebrating diversity in children’s books. ‘The Snowy Day’ won the Caldecott Medal in 1963 and is a beloved classic today.

These are just a select few of the books that have enthralled my family over the years. What are some of the books that you and your family love? Please share.

*Image courtesy of  Florin Gorgan  CC BY-SA 2.0