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Children’s Book Review: The Famous Smile

Kulkoochi…yup, say that again…Kulkoochi.

That’s the Bangla word for ‘rinsing one’s mouth’ with a gurgle of water. It is a ritual in the house now, considering it’s only been three months since V has learnt to kulkoochi after every meal; even after he picks onions from Daddy’s meals.

One cannot but emphasise enough the importance of oral hygiene. Like everything else in life, good habits begin early. We have a strict aversion to chocolates and we only resort to small tid-bits like Gems and Fox’s during public meltdowns. Research shows that tooth decay in milk tooth is devastating for children. If it remains untreated, pediatric dental disease can lead to malnourishment, bacterial infections, required emergency surgery and even death!

Scared? You should be…whatever the state of dental hygiene it is never too late to begin.

What better way to talk about the importance of good shining teeth than with a book?

And thanks to our friendly neighbourhood children’s library Buzzing Books, I have one!

Agar Magar

The Famous Smile is a Katha Classic, written by its founder Geeta Dharmarajan and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh. Before I move to the text and story, I must begin by talking about the wonderful imagery in the book.  Because in truth, that is truly the biggest pull of this book! Rashin Kheriyeh is a young Iranian illustrator, painter and animator with a global footprint of her work and art.

Agar Magar 1

One look at the toothy grin of Agar Magar, the crocodile and you know that The Famous Smile is a book with an unusual tale.

The book blurb reads, “After several failed attempts, Agar Magar finally makes it big. Come, take a tour of the mighty river, the deep forest and the big town, as Agar Magar goes places, flaunting his sparkling shiny teeth and his Famous Smile.”

At the outset it is the story of Agar Magar the flamboyant crocodile who has the ‘most sparkling teeth in the whole jungle’. Every day he would brush them with neem twigs and lie on the riverbank hoping someone would notice his smile and exclaim, “Oh Agar Magar! What beautiful teeth you have!”

The imagery of Geeta Dharmarajan’s words is perfect for the young mind. And here is a sample, “Every once in a while, Agar Magar would move his head just a wee bit. How the sun shone on his teeth! How they sparkled! How they twinkled! As if someone had stuck millions of big and little stars on them!”

(If you are struggling for ways to motivate your child to brush his teeth, this is the perfect line for you!)

Agar Magar sets off to show off his starry teeth. He meets little fishes, but they dart away at the first instant. And why not? “Who wants to be eaten by a huge crocodile with teeth like sharp knives?” The book is a visual treat not just because of Rashin’s illustrations, but also the way the text has been imprinted. The above line is written in a circle, making the reader turn the book and one’s head to read through the text.

Agar Magar meets more jungle animals…Zebra, Monkeys, Cobra and the yellow-toothed Tiger. But no one is interested in Agar Magar’s teeth.

In search of a true admirer, Agar Magar reaches the town full of wise people. ‘He smiled his widest, most magnificent smile’ when FLASH! Someone clicks a picture of his smile. “You have the most beautiful teeth in the whole world! I have been hunting all day for this smile!” says a voice.

Click, Click, Click…Agar Magar finds instant recognition. He becomes the face of a toothpaste advertisement. He becomes famous!

“The newspapers buzzed with Agar Magar. Now everyone wanted him in their advertisements, in films, picture books. Even on Cartoon Network!”

Imagine that!

Why The Famous Smile

  1. If oral hygiene is on your mind, this is the perfect book for your child
  2. An animal story is always a personal favourite, because children connect with it instantly
  3. Unusual illustration and text – The book is a visual treat
  4. The book offers instant gratification with a simple formula => Smiling teeth = Fame

For Ages

A book like this is open to a large age group. I read this to my 28 month old, because we are driving in the importance of brushing and clean teeth. This is also a great book for the independent reader. The text and graphics in the book will require the reader to twist and turn the book around. Fun!

In simple words => Suits 2-6 years

Mommy’s Story Telling Technique

This book is a story teller’s delight! Full of characters, with loads of action and dramatics, we had a lot of fun ‘telling’ the story. I chose actions, tones and we even brushed while telling the story.

Concepts Shared

  1. It’s good to brush and have the brightest teeth
  2. Some people may not appreciate your skills (like the other animals didn’t)
  3. But you will find people who will appreciate your talents (like the photographer)
  4. Your skills will find you fame and renown. And which kid doesn’t want to be on Cartoon Network?

About the Publisher

Katha, a non-profit organisation working with and in story and storytelling since 1988, is one of India’s top publishing houses. Katha also introduces an array of writings from the many oral and written traditions of India to children, ages 0-17. Classy productions, child-friendly layouts and superb illustrations go in tandem with excellent writing.

I find Katha books extremely imaginative. A lot of their books are recommended by CBSE and I am particularly inspired by their determination to make stories an intrinsic part of children’s lives, especially that those of the underprivileged. We have an array of titles in our own baby library and so has Buzzing Books.  Buzzing Books is also an authorised seller of Katha titles. So you know where to go to buy some awesome books.

About On-board the Mommyship & Buzzing Books

I am delighted to collaborate with Dr Neha Gupta at Buzzing Books. With our common love for Children’s Literature, reading, storytelling and pro-parenting we have decided to come together.

We are happy to announce the first of our BUZZING BEES Workshop for Mothers & Babies on 7th an 8th Feb. Head over to our events page on Facebook for more information. Or write to me at rituparnaghosh (at) outlook (dot) com.

Don’t forget to check my story telling page – GOLPO for updates on upcoming events.

logoBuzzing Books a.k.a BB is an online book rental service, especially designed for children from toddlers to teens to enrich their reading experience. To cut it short, it is a CHILDREN’S LIBRARY, first of its kind in NOIDA! BB services all of Noida and several parts of Delhi. Got questions? This will help you.

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Book Review: The Little Giraffe

There is a certain magic in stories. For one, it can transport you to magical places in an instant! And wouldn’t it be lovely to share this joy with your child?

As a book lover, trying to raise a little reader, I try to pick books that take us (yes, ‘us’ because reading to us is a journey that V and I have taken on) to different places. For a two and half year old who hasn’t seen much of the world it is a wonderful promising adventure to hear and read about places that I hope he will see in his lifetime. Add to that the magic of folk lore. As a story lover, I have grown up on a staple of Indian mythology and folk tales. And who hasn’t? However, as a story teller I find it equally exhilarating to discover stories from different parts of the world.

This week we travelled all the way to Africa to find a story. We picked an Usborne First Reading Book from our friendly neighbourhood children’s library Buzzing Books.

TLG

The Little Giraffe is an endearing folk-tale from Africa, retelling the remarkable story of how the world’s first ‘little’ giraffe became tall! The Little Giraffe and his best friend Rhino are very, very hungry. What happens next changes their lives forever. The story is that of a little Giraffe, who happens to be the world’s Giraffe! He is a little Giraffe and does not have a long neck and long legs. Together with his best friend Rhino he goes around the dry, parched and of the forest looking for food. But the harsh sun makes it difficult for anything to grow. The two friends remain hungry and sad.

One day the two friends decide to go the wise old man in the village and seek his help. The wise old man asks them to visit him the next day and promises to brew up a magic drink for him. The next day, however, only the Giraffe lands up at the old man’s door. The old man gives the bowl of magic drink to the Giraffe. As he finishes drinking it, the little Giraffe begins to grow. His neck grows longer and his legs grow taller. And very soon, he resembles the Giraffe we all know of!  The old man tells him that now the Giraffe can reach up to the leaves up high in the trees. Now he won’t have to go hungry any more!

When the Rhino meets the Giraffe he asks him what happened! The Giraffe tells him about the magic drink and that there is none of it left! The Rhino is left eating the dry grass. He is furious with the wise old man, his friend the ‘not-so-little’ Giraffe and even with himself!

And that’s the reason why he is still very angry today!

Why The Little Giraffe

The Little Giraffe as a story works for me and here are my reasons:

1) To a young reader, it works beautifully because it has animals he is familiar with

2) It is a story that answers questions like, “Why does the Giraffe have a long neck?”

3) It is a story about friendship

4) It is a story about food and nutrition

5) It is a story about thoughtful behaviour

For Ages

There are many lessons from this simple story, and depending on your child’s age you can introduce them at the appropriate age. This book is therefore suitable for ages 1- 6.

Mommy’s Story Telling Technique

As a story teller, I try to pick stories that I can dramatise or show. The Little Giraffe worked beautifully thanks to wooden animal blocks that we have in our home. I used the wooden Rhino and Giraffe and puppets in my story telling and shared the story with my son.

The Little Giraffe

And even though he is a child who love his juices, I particularly spoke to him about the magical juice that the Giraffe drank. I told him if he keeps drinking the magical juices we give him he would grow up to be tall and healthy like the Giraffe.

Concepts Shared

The novelty of reading a book adds to the magic of story telling. When I read The Little Giraffe for the first time, I realised that it is a lovely book to teach three very important things.

1) Importance of Food – It is important for a child to understand the importance of food. It is also important for a child to understand the significance of hunger. As parents, we hope, pray and try our best to never have a hungry child. But it is also important to teach a growing child to identify the signs of hunger. From being fussy and picky eaters, to forgetting food in the middle of play, we mothers have a lot to deal with anyway! So when there is a story that talks about how it is to not have food and stay hungry, it becomes an important read!

2) Friendship – How do you teach a child to be a good friend? Difficult isn’t it? But maybe through this story of friendship you can share a thing or two. By telling him / her that the Giraffe should have shared the magic drink with his best friend Rhino! After all, they were in it together.  Or by talking about how the Giraffe could use his long neck to tear leaves from the trees and share them with his friend Rhino? Fantastic, isn’t it? Or how about the Rhino forgiving his friend Giraffe for drinking the magic drink alone?

3)  Actions & Reactions – Anger is a very natural emotion. And children experience it more than we imagine them to. Anger is a negative emotion and therefore it is important for us to teach them how to manage it. To begin with, this story teaches a child that the Rhino forgot about the old wise man. He found dry grass on the way and he chose to eat it instead. The Giraffe kept the meeting and that is why he went ahead had the large share of the magic drink. The mistake was clearly the Rhino’s! As Giraffe’s best friend he should be happy for him,instead of being angry. Being angry at the wise old man is also of no use, because he clearly asked for the Rhino. He let the Giraffe drink the whole lot of the magic drink! It is also of now use to be angry at oneself, because not just does it push away friends and loved ones, it also makes one bitter.

About the Publisher

I particularly like the Usborn collection of books. There is one for all kinds of readers and there a definite thought that has gone behind the making of these books. The Usborn Reading Program has thoughtfully researched and adapted books for its varied readers. The illustrations are bright and friendly, enough to tickle the little reader. The language, presentation and intent is to equip a reader with necessary reading skills. Some of the books also come with puzzles at the end of the book that help a child refresh his memory with regard to images, words and sentences that he has just read.

About On-board the Mommyship & Buzzing Books

I am delighted to collaborate with Dr Neha Gupta at Buzzing Books. With our common love for Children’s Literature, reading, storytelling and pro-parenting we have decided to come together.

We are happy to announce the first of our BUZZING BEES Workshop for Mothers & Babies on 7th an 8th Feb. Head over to our events page on Facebook for more information. Or write to me at rituparnaghosh (at) outlook (dot) com.

Don’t forget to check my story telling page – GOLPO for updates on upcoming events.

logo

Buzzing Books a.k.a BB is an online book rental service, especially designed for children from toddlers to teens to enrich their reading experience. To cut it short, it is a CHILDREN’S LIBRARY, first of its kind in NOIDA! BB services all of Noida and several parts of Delhi. Got questions? This will help you.

on-board the mommyship WP