Category Archives: Children’s Books

The Words Hurt: Helping Children Cope With Verbal Abuse by Chris Loftis, Illustrations by Catharine Gallagher

the-words-hurt-by-chris-loftis Title: The Words Hurt: Helping Children Cope with Verbal Abuse
Author: Chris Loftis
Illustrated By: Catharine Gallagher
Publisher: New Horizon Press
ISBN: 978-0882821320
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 45
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

This was the fourth book which I read as a part of the “Story Cure” reading project and was moved by it, nonetheless. It was a book suggested by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin as a part of their book “The Story Cure” regarding abuse of children. This one deals with verbal abuse and how to control it and thereby understand your child’s needs in a more evolved manner.

The book’s plot (for lack of a better word) is simple – it is centered on a child and the verbal abuse he receives from his father who is going through a tough time. This is a primer for parents on how to understand your children and not vent your frustration at them.

I think there need to be more of such books to help parents learn how to behave with children. Abuse, more so verbal is often ignored. In fact, in India it is even encouraged in most families – the adage – spare the rod, spoil the child is so regressive that it needs to be banned in my opinion. But I am happy that there are such books out there that make an attempt to bridge the gap between kids and parents and more so for parents to realize their actions.

I know I am sounding preachy but there is no other way to do this. I think verbal abuse is so sensitive an issue that it needs to be looked at more often than just ignored. The Words Hurt by Chris Loftis is a simple and beautiful example of what needs to be done with some lovely illustrations by Catharine Gallagher. Do pick it up.

The Midnight Gang by David Walliams

the-midnight-gang-by-david-walliams Title: The Middnight Gang
Author: David Walliams
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
ISBN: 978-0008164621
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 496
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I’ve always identified David Walliams with the show “Little Britain” and the tongue-in-cheek and absolutely obnoxious humour mostly and nothing else. Till of course I got to know that he wrote books for children a couple of years ago and I must say that he is quite a good writer. His latest book “The Midnight Gang” released last year in November and this is the one I shall be talking about obviously.

“The Midnight Gang” ideally may not even be for me (given the target audience and all that) but I thoroughly enjoyed it, just like his other works and cannot wait for the next one to be released. Lord Funt Hospital in London is the setting of this novel and it only gets exciting. It is a children’s hospital but not the ideal place for children to stay at. And yet, the kids who come here manage to have midnight adventures which are quite unusual and thrilling. Tom is the latest entrant and he is going to embark on an adventure of a lifetime, once he meets the other kids of the ward.

The ideas and the writing are splendid. I mean I would even go this far and say that Walliams needs to be placed close to Dahl when it comes to storytelling where children are concerned. He takes a simple idea and turns it around magnificently – thereby just giving the reader so much to look forward to with every turn of the chapter.

The characters are the usual – you might even find them in every other kid’s book, however the illustrations are superlative – done specifically by Tony Ross for this book. “The Midnight Gang” is all sorts of heartwarming as well – when you least expect it. The humour will make even a grown man laugh out loud (as it did in my case). Read it if you’re in the mood to read something light.

The Three Questions: Written and Illustrated by Jon J. Muth

the-three-questions-by-jon-j-muth Title: The Three Questions
Written and Illustrated by Jon J. Muth
Adapted from a story by Leo Tolstoy
Publisher: Scholastic Books
ISBN: 978-0439199964
Genre: Picture Book, Short Story
Pages: 32
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

This was the next book in the Story Cure challenge. The Three Questions is mentioned as a book for grown-ups in the book and rightly so. For anyone who has ever questioned life and its workings, this picture book is definitely for you.

“The Three Questions” is a book written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth and based on the same story by Leo Tolstoy. At the heart of the story, there is a boy named Nikolai who just wants answers to three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? He sets out to seek the answers from Leo, the Turtle, after having received no assistance from Sonya the Heron, Gogol the Monkey and Pushkin the Dog.

The answers of course are but obvious but I cannot reveal them in this review. Also, notice how the names of the creatures and Nikolai himself are modeled either after literary characters or historic ones. I loved that while reading this picture book. And yes, rightly so it is a book for grown-ups because it is only we who are constantly seeking answers and never learn to stay still.

P.S: I’ve also read the short story by Tolstoy but hands down I prefer this version by Muth.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

a-child-of-books-by-oliver-jeffers Title: A Child of Books
Authors: Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406358315
Genre: Children’s Books, Picture Books
Pages: 40
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Books will always remain the most inexpensive way to get access to other worlds. They always have been and always will be. I was very lucky that my parents introduced me to books when I was only five years old. I haven’t looked back since. Books and I have a relationship that will never die or fade. I am glad that I am sure of this.

a-child-of-books-image-1

So when I saw ‘A Child of Books’ slated for release, I knew I had to get my hands on it and read it – not just once but again and again and again. It is not a children’s book – it looks and reads like one but I don’t think it is a children’s book. If anything, it is for adults who have forgotten what it’s like to be a child. I am also biased to Oliver Jeffers’ books – to me, he cannot come out with a bad book. That is something which isn’t possible.

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This book is simple – it is a picture book – with words and sentences that are so profound that it will make you sit back and contemplate about whether your child is reading enough or not. It is a love letter to reading and how it does really save us. A girl is besotted by books and reading and helps a tiny boy to take the proverbial plunge to this world of words and emotions.

a-child-of-books-image-3

The book is about their journey – through magical lands, fairies and castles and places where anything can happen and those places are only found in books. I think this is the most fitting tribute to books, literature and the books that are so quirkily placed within this book. ‘A Child of Books’ should be read by anyone and everyone who loves books and reading. It is that essential.

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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

the-boy-in-the-striped-pyjamas-by-john-boyne Title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Author: John Boyne
Publisher: Vintage, Penguin Random House
ISBN: 978-0099572862
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

This was the second book I read as a part of ‘The Story Cure’ reading project. Also, it is holocaust literature, so it comes with the territory of tears, anger, and loneliness. There is nothing you can do about it when you start reading it. To top that, there is a movie based on this book, which I don’t think I will ever watch.

“The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” is a book that will not leave you – perhaps because you already know how it will end, but also because of the writing. Boyne is simple, direct and quite powerful at his craft. The book is by no means a difficult read – it is just the emotions that need to be dealt with after that is tough.

Bruno, a nine-year old boy lives with his parents and older sister Gretel in Berlin. The year is 1942. One fine day as he comes back from school, he is told that they are moving to a place called Out-With (Auschwitz or so he pronounces or understands it throughout the book). His father has received a promotion. He doesn’t have any friends in the new place. But it is the Fury’s order who father works under (the Führer – of course we all know it is Hitler. Again Bruno cannot pronounce it so he calls him Fury throughout the book) and they have to go to Out-With.

There is a tall fence there that separates him from some strange place – all wearing the same clothes – all dressed in striped Pyjamas. This is where Bruno meets Shmuel – a skinny, gray looking boy and their worlds will never be the same.

Boyne’s characterization skills are superb. The characters – including the parents, Lieutenant Kotler and the servants are gripping. Their sub-plots convey so much throughout the book and yet it doesn’t stop being a young adult book. It continues to maintain its innocence and has so much to say. The writing is funny also at times, mostly it is heartbreaking though. I don’t think I can bear to watch this movie. The reason it was a part of “The Story Cure” is as it answers the question “What it’s all about?” – it will cure you of it – all the angst (some of it) and perfect for teenagers to know what happened and how did the Holocaust play out for most. I almost didn’t want to read the book – but I am glad I did. Read it, but do keep the box of tissues handy.