Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review : The Magic Raindrop

Title : The Magic Raindrop

Author : Geeta Dharmarajan

Illustrator : Bindia Thapar

Publisher : Katha

The Magic Raindrop by Geeta Dharmarajan takes the wee readers into adventurous little world of Kittu and his didi Seetu. It so happens that the raindrop which accidentally falls on Seetu's orange and green kite is no ordinary raindrop. This particular raindrop is possessed with some magical powers and soon enough Seetu watches her kite growing bigger and bigger as it soars higher and higher in the wide expanse of sky. But amazingly the kite still follows Seetu's commands obediently with Seetu holding just a make believe thread to maneuver the kite. The whole day it happily displays various tricks in front of all the village folks and cuts almost all the other kites.

But now the hues on the sky begin to change colours, pinkish sky is fast getting transformed into a grey blanket, the parrots and crows are heading home and the fruit bats are coming out flapping their wings. What would Kittu and Seetu do about the kite now? They need to bring it down but where would they keep this huge kite? Would the kite return to its original size ? Would the kite be as happy as it was when it soared freely in the sky? Would the kite want to stay big forever?

You will get answers to all these questions as you read along this interesting story. Lovely artwork by Bindia Thapar brilliantly brings the story to life. The extra information on Kites about - the origin of kites, kite festivals, beliefs and rituals of different cultures using kites, some facts around kites - is a lovely treat.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review : The Gijjigadus and the Fireflies

Title : The Gijjigadus and the Fireflies

Author : Gopini Karunakar

Illustrator : Atanu Roy

Publisher : Katha

After reading this book I had great appreciation for the lovely imagination of the author. The story begins with Gijjigudas , the golden sparrows, flying to the Kingdom of Gods with a very genuine request. Their nests are dark, they do not have light and in the absence of anything lit in their nests, their children are scared at night. They also need light, which is so easily available to so many living creatures and they support their argument by showing the Gods - the light in the homes of humans, the light emitting gems of cobras and the shining eyes of owls, all of which are adequate to ward off darkness from their respective lives. The God- Devuda and the gijjigudas brainstorm together to find the solution to this unique problem.

Are they able to find any solution? Will gijjigudas ever get any light in their dark nests? Who will help them to light their nests ?

A beautiful subtle lesson on - how friendly and symbiotic this whole nature is - so self sustaining and so selfless.

An interesting activity on helpful bugs at the end is an added bonus. It is a huge book, each page brings a treat for the eyes in the form of detailed art work by Atanu Roy. The beautiful and liberal usage of almost all sections of the colour palette make this whole book a visual treat and a delightful reading experience which you would not want to miss.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book Review : Bioscope

Title : Bioscope

Author : Mamta Nainy

Illustrator : Shanti Devi

Publisher : Katha

This is the story of a little girl Champa, also called Guddu, who is very excited to give a tour of her native place to the readers. But sadly, the sun is very bright and it is hard to step out of the house at this time. But Guddu is never short of ideas, she invites the readers to peep into her village through her drawings. Mithila, the birthplace of Sita is just a few miles away from where Guddu lives. Guddu likes to narrate the story of her life through her paintings, she has everybody and everything in those paintings.

Through her paintings, she shares her day to day activities and hobbies with us, she introduces her little animal friends who are an integral part of her life and she also talks about different places in the village and some of the festivals they celebrate in their unique style by decorating their walls or sometimes offering milk to Kaliya, the snake.

Her mother draws beautiful pictures on the walls of the house and for these paintings, she prepares the colours much in advance. Guddu and Titli didi learn to draw these paintings from her mother.

Guddu comes across as a very warm-hearted little girl who invites people to come over to her village to eat the best sweets in the world and to see the beautiful places and paintings.

This endearing little story is brought to life by the enchanting paintings of Shanti Devi who is a skilled painter in the Madhubani style of Bihar. She brilliantly captures the essence of rustic life in Mithila region through the painted myths and religious symbols. She also conducts workshops for children on the Madhubani style of paintings. A wonderful attempt by Katha to bring such folk art in prominence and to give the proficient artists the respect and fame that they so rightly deserve.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Review : Leaves

Title : Leaves

Illustrator : Enrique Lara and Luis Garcia

Publisher : Katha

Looking outside from the window, different vistas of nature await us every single day. The big and small creatures busy in their mundane routine, the beautiful hues that appear from time to time in the expanse of sky, gorgeous starry blanket stretched over us during the night time, fluttering bugs in the mighty wind and life getting transformed every single moment - all bringing the magical wonders created by the supreme creator. But one thing that mesmerizes the narrator the most is the colourful array of leaves of the trees.

All these things fill the heart of the narrator with medley of feelings, emotions and some desires which mirror the scenes that he/she watches from the window of his/her room.

A tiny book with each page resplendent with generous spray of colours all around. The written text is just the minimal but in the presence of such lovely riot of colours nothing seems to be amiss. Pick this book up and you will realize how much we miss in our day to day lives by taking the magic of nature for granted and by not being aware of its wonders around us.

Enrique Lara Robayo and Luis Fernando Garcia Guayara are the Columbia illustrators who are the winners of the Encouragement Prize in the 12th Norma Concurs for Picture Book illustrations.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review : TransGanization

Title : TransGanization

Author : Rohit Arora

Publisher : Times Group Books

ISBN : 978-93-80942-35-3

Blurb says : Rohit Arora presents his thoughts on how organizations face growth trajectory problems operationally. The content also gives explanation on the strategic approach to moulding organizational dynamics when the organization is moving from the free energy of entrepreneur set-up to a more structured way of working.

Rohit begins presenting his case by illustrating the point through some statistics on why and how organizations fail when efforts to change are attempted despite huge monetary investments backing those efforts. So how should organizations go about the inevitable change process in order to make it a successful transition? The first and foremost step towards this goal is to identify the three most crucial elements of change - the "What, When and How", of the change.

The author very neatly draws parallels between a life cycle of a human vs that of a growing organization. The company which is newly formed is primarily under the influence of entrepreneur's ideas and thoughts, which moves on to second level when promoters and management take over and lead it to next stage, professionals step into the equation at this stage and funds are pumped into the company to let it grow at an accelerated pace and then the final stage comes when the company assumes the role of a leader in its core area and diversifies into new sectors. Through this book, the author addresses the stage when an organization is all geared up to enter phase 2 and the problems associated with the same.

There are many significant aspects which have been discussed as we go along the book - the finances required at this stage, the significance of standardized documented processes, importance of creativity of thoughts and conversion of thoughts into tangible actions, and the courage supported by perseverance to step into unknown territories

In this whole process what does a 'change leader' do in order to make this whole process a smooth transition and a pleasurable experience for all.

A very well written, precise guide on some of the very significant elements of change and how best to tackle


Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review : Charliezz...

Title : Charliezz…

Author : Trupthi Guttal and Zeeshan Farooqui

Publisher : Frog Books

ISBN : 978-93-81576-55-7

The story begins in an engineering firm where its two employees - Zahir Pathan and Khushi Patil, who happen to be the main characters of the story too, are immersed in their day to day struggles to keep themselves afloat in spite of the high pressures and demands of their respective jobs. The corporate scene is brought to life through the conversation among the colleagues as well as between CEO (who is addressed as 'Blast Furnace') and the employees. The friendly banter between the colleagues works well in creating a believable picture of the work place.

It so happens that Zahir reminisces about his college days when he was one among a group of five friends and gives a sneak peek to Khushi into his carefree days of college life. He narrates some hilarious incidents and the antics they got engaged in during that time.

The accidental meeting with one of Zahir's old friends opens the gates to those memories which Zahir had not shared yet and one particular gate led to the memories of his first true love for a certain girl Rashmi. But this love story had a sad ending. What was the reason - was it the difference of religions which forced them to part ways? Was it the treachery of one of them ? And where does Khushi come in this whole scene, does she have anything to do with this love story ? These are some interesting questions which get answered as you read along the story.

A typical cross -religion love story but with a small twist in the end which perks up the interest of the readers but sadly it makes just 50-60 pages out of total of 190 odd pages.

Almost till 3/4th of the book, it felt like the story was going nowhere because Zahir was simply narrating his old memories to the friends in the office, which were bordering on the side of repetitive and a little drab. However, the story picks up remarkably after that and concludes beautifully.

The book is written primarily in conversational format (though it is not a play), which disrupts the flow of the story. Quoting a few short instances in this format is fine but having written almost complete story in this fashion makes it a cumbersome exercise for the readers to follow.

A few typos that have crept in the book should have been done away with.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review : Silent Voices by Rohit Shetty

Title : Silent Voices

Author : Rohit Shetty

Publisher : Frog Books

ISBN : 978-93-81115-24-4

The Blurb of the book says:

"How does it feel when you want to say something, express your feelings, but are unable to put them into words? Each one of us needs to express our emotions. While some people can do so with ease, voicing what they feel without any qualms, there are so many others who are hesitant, who cannot express their emotions vocally. For them, one form of expression is poetry. The poet prefers using this medium to express himself. Here is a collection of the unsaid feelings and thoughts of a person penned down in the form of poetry. Silent Voices will bring tears to your eyes, smiles on your face and gladness in you heart. Verses that will make you relate to these emotions and give you an outlet for emotional fulfilment... "

Rohit Shetty expresses himself through some beautiful verses on varied emotions that each human is uniquely blessed with. I would say, he has done it pretty neatly and some of the poems are able to stir some chords deep inside the heart, however, there are a few which just pass on without creating even a tiny ripple on the heart's pond.

Poems address emotions covering a wide spectrum from - love and happiness to despair and sorrow of lost love or of unreciprocated sentiments, from love at first sight to the whole journey of love. A few of the poems which really drew me into his thoughts are the ones dedicated to - stirring longing of a caged spirit, hope and positivity, magic key of love which can open hardest of locks and can surmount even the most difficult hurdles, virtues of smiling face and what miracles this simple gesture can bring in and many such other verses.

Overall an interesting potpourri of assorted feelings, thoughts and emotions.

For a poet who has been writing since the age of 12 years, this is a great milestone and the readers must not skip the 'Acknowledgements' part at the end where he has summarised his journey of being a poet so far. It is encouraging to see how undying determination backed with consistent efforts lead an individual to success.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review : The Manga Guide To The Universe

Title : The Manga Guide To The Universe

Author : Kenji Ishikawa

Publisher : Ohmsha and No Starch Press

ISBN : 978-1-59327-267-8

Manga is the Japanese word for 'comics' and this format has been used for imparting information about various science concepts to the students. Ohmsha Press is instrumental in coming up with some really fascinating books under this series. The same task has been taken over by No Starch Press in USA to create similar kind of impact in English too. 'The Manga Guide to The Universe' is an entertaining and an informative guide on how far we have come in deciphering the mysteries of our universe. It provides an easily readable and understandable introduction to astronomy.

The five chapters take the readers through the step-by-step unraveling of the enigmatic mysteries of the universe. It begins with 'Is Earth The Center of The Universe?' where different earlier beliefs are discussed and how eventually it was established that Earth is one of the planets rotating around the Sun in our Solar System. The subsequent chapters are - 'From the Solar System to The Milky Way', 'The Universe Was Born With A Big Bang', 'What Is It Like At The Edge Of The Universe' and 'Our Expanding Universe'. Interesting and intriguing topics are dealt with in these chapters ranging from - the origin of the universe, its shape and size, extent of the universe to possibility of life in outer space. The information is packed in tandem with an interesting Manga which children will enjoy reading. So there is a perfect balance of fun part and the interesting knowledge enhancing part in this book.

The manga part brings to life the scenes from Kouki High School whose Drama Club is working towards putting up a show for the school's art festival. If they are not able to accomplish this task, the only option left with the school would be do close down the Drama Club so the senior Yamane, junior Kanna and new American exchange student Gloria take upon themselves to enact the adaptation of an ancient Japanese tale - 'The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter'. Through this story they try to present an outer space romance of a princess from the moon. To starighten out the sci-fi elements of their play they take the help of Kanna's older brother Kente and his professors. This leads them to understanding many interesting concepts of Universe and space. The professors lessons are presented in the form of comic which are followed by sections of scientific facts with relevant diagrams and pictures to elaborate upon the understanding of the characters of the comic part.

There are Manga Guides on many other topics like electricity, physics, calculus and statistics.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Literary Sojourn Recommends...

Perfectly befitting the mood of festivity in the air, Spark decided to celebrate the "Festivals" in its own unique way in the Nov issue. They focused on the F of the word Festivals by celebrating 5 Fs - Food, Fun, Fiction, Friendship and Fashion and the editorial team approached me to list and review 10 must read Fiction novels.

I am glad to be a part of this wonderful gesture of Spark and my compliments to the whole team of the Spark for this fabulous idea.

Wondering what to read, check my picks here...

Book Review : Hathi Chiti's Tales of India Collection

Title : In The Indian Night Sky

Author : Reshma Sapre

Illustrator : Jayme Robinson

All the heavenly bodies in our night sky are preparing to go to a grand feast organized by Thunder and Lightening. Sun, Wind and the Moon - the children of North Star are super excited too but the mother decides to stay back and light the way of her children back. But she sends each of them with only one request that each should bring for her something special from the grand feast.

Do her children remember this small request of their mother in all the merriment of the party? Are they responsible enough to take care of themselves? What does mother have to say to their behaviour and what verdict does she announce after having seen them behaving (ir)responsibly? Finding answers to these questions makes it an interesting read.

All the pages are filled up with beautiful night sky pictures and the teasing text scattered here and there blends nicely with the illustrations.

Title : The Unfortunate Tale of Kachuva the Tortoise

Author : Reshma Sapre

Illustrator : Jayme Robinson

The old Chukwa Sulcata narrates this story to the children of the old tortoise village in the foothills of Himalayas. Like all little tortoises, we all have grown listening to the story of that unfortunate kachuva who fell down while he was flying with his two duck friends holding a stick in his mouth. But not many of us know what happened after that, how it changed the lives of the following generations of tortoises and what life lesson we all learnt from that incident. This story brings to us precisely that and the cute little extension of the age old classic makes it an engaging read.

Title : Patnaxi Crezy Long Journey Home

Author : Reshma Sapre

Illustrator : Jayme Robinson

Patnaxi is the story of a single grain of rice written in interesting prose. The little grain who is not ready to take things lying down, who dares to change his destiny and who displays exemplary courage in putting all efforts to make that change happen. Patnaxi does not want to leave his homeland for the new strange world. But unfortunately he finds himself stuck to the shoe of the sailor. Is there any chance of his survival and can a small grain of rice fight against huge hurdles on his path ? The situation does look very hopeless but then the indefatigable grit and determination do manage to surmount all impediments.

Title : The Traveller The Tiger and The Very Clever Jackal

Author : Reshma Sapre

Illustrated : Jessica Lian

An interesting tale of a traveller who is itching to embark on a new adventure. Soon after commencing his journey, he finds himself in front of a caged tiger who pleads him for his freedom. But once the tiger is set free, the famished man-eater tiger is ready to feast on the traveller himself. Now the traveller has to pay the price for being so sympathetic to the tiger who was caged and desperate just a few moments back. Is this foolishness or generosity of the traveller? Should he be punished for setting the tiger free? The story makes the young readers think a little about the silent companions, helpers and providers who make things available to us humans and what do we do in return? We cut the trees, we torture birds and animals after having taken their services, perhaps punishing them for their generosity and foolishness of serving us. A thought provoking story and very well narrated.

Overall a great way to introduce some interesting concepts, issues and life lessons through the folktales. All four books are quite unique in their style, illustrations and presentations.

Hathi and Chiti are Hindi Indian names for elephant and ant respectively and there are many folktales based on their friendship and kinship. The new brand of children's books by the name 'Hathi and Chiti' brings the age old classics in new avatars for the children once again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Book Review : Revolution 2020

Title : Revolution 2020

Author : Chetan Bhagat

Publisher : Rupa

Revolution 2020 is a story of two boys(Raghav and Gopal) and a girl(Aarti), of love and hatred, of treachery and vengeance, of richness and poverty, of success and failure, of ambition and corruption, and of inner drive to bring revolution and succumbing to the lure of lucre. Three individuals whose lives begin from the same primary school in a small town of Varanasi, experience various life's vicissitudes and handle them in their own unique ways attempting to find success and love.

The story wraps many issues in its folds - the corruption in education, mad rush for the coveted seats in esteemed engineering and medical colleges, the extent to which people are ready to endure to ensure a safe future through the lofty degrees and the pressure of performing and proving oneself which many times gets out of hands. But the story is basically a love triangle and the previously mentioned issues become the tributaries of the love saga between three friends.

Ambition part of the story is dealt well bringing a slice of life in alluring Kota city and the students vying to join the training institutes like swarming bees. However, the love story becomes a little drab. The way the heroine showers attention on one boy and ignores the other till half of the story and repeats the same with the boys switching positions, becomes annoyingly repetitive.

This is the fifth novel that Chetan Bhagat has come out with. The very beginning reminded me of his another book - 3 Mistakes of My Life - both take the readers on the past journey as the protagonist reminisces from a hospital bed. After having read all the writing endeavours of Bhagat, I maintain that he is one of the authors who do not offer any new idea or unconventional thinking through their books, however what became the selling point of his books (especially the first - Five Point Someone and the fourth - 2 States) was the witty and engaging narration. Unfortunately, the author falters big time in Revolution 2020. The story lacks substance and the presentation part also falls short of what is expected from Chetan Bhagat. Overall, it fails to create much impact.

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