Category Archives: Scholastic Books

Zen Series by Jon J Muth

For those who have still not experienced the Zen Series by Jon J Muth, I guess this is the best time to. Also, might I add, that you are very lucky to have not encountered them yet, because they are wondrous and heartwarming at the same time and you are in for a treat.

zen-ghosts

The books are not really children’s books according to me – their lessons are meant for all and these are things that perhaps we already know of, but do not take the time to ponder or act on. May be that is the biggest problem of our age – just sitting and wondering and doing nothing about things.

zen-shorts

Jon J Muth’s series starts with Zen Shorts, where Michael, Karl and Addy discover a giant panda in their backyard and then the Panda starts telling them stories – Zen stories. His name is Stillwater (kinda obvious). The book is wonderful.

zen-socks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The watercolour illustrations and the stories go so good together that it feels like you are in a dreamland or something. Zen Shorts was followed by Zen Ties, Ghosts and the latest one was Zen Socks.

zen-ties

The series of these books is something else. I think it rings so true is because it is inspired from life – it is what we go through and live every single day, may be that’s why I was able to connect with them the way I did. The writing is simple and more characters get added as you move along the books – there are so many lessons in these books but they do not sound preachy even once. It is all about living and finding it out for yourself. These 4 books, Zen Shorts, Zen Ties, Zen Ghosts and Zen Socks will leave with with a big smile on your face and maybe even some wisdom.

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.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

circus-mirandus-by-cassie-beasley Title: Circus Mirandus
Author: Cassie Beasley
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1910002575
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 306
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The book “Circus Mirandus” has a very interesting premise. A boy who is all of ten or eleven I think – Micah Tuttle. He lives with his grandfather Ephraim. He has spent all his life till now – ten years that is, hearing tales of a magical circus. Grandpa Ephraim is now very ill. What he does is, he tells Micah that all tales about Circus Mirandus were actually true and the circus does exist. He also lets Micah know that the Light bender or the Man who bends light gave him a wish which he wishes to use now. Micah has a purpose and plans to make things happen one way or the other.

Thus begins the tale of Micah and his friend Jenny Mendoza and how they battle to get Micah’s grandfather his wish come true. At the same time there is Micah’s great Aunt Gertrudis who thinks magic is all bollocks and nothing good ever came out of it. She is one character you will not like very much. I know I didn’t.

Over all, the premise is a good one that makes you turn the pages. At some points you think the book is long and could have been cut short but maybe it is worth it as the story progresses. I am almost sold on reading only children’s fiction because it is at least feel good and doesn’t get me all wondering about the big issues of life and living. The parts of the circus are interestingly written, so much so that you just imagine you’re there or want to be there.

“Circus Mirandus” is one of those heartwarming books that make you want to believe in magic and everything nice. The book is simply magical and the illustrations are stunning. Please read this book to believe in things that you did as a child.

The Bad Guys – Episode 2 – Mission Unpluckable by Aaron Blabey

the-bad-guys-episode-2-mission-unpluckable Title: The Bad Guys – Episode 2 – Mission Unpluckable
Author: Aaron Blabey
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1407170572
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The bad guys who want to do good desperately and change their image are back. Of course the second book isn’t as great as the first book; but nonetheless hilarious and your child will finish it in ten minutes or so.

“The Bad Guys – Episode 2 – Mission Unpluckable” by Aaron Blabey is about the wolf, shark, piranha and snake wanting to save ten thousand chickens that are kept under heavy-duty lock and key. I love the pace of this children’s book. Of course it is a picture book for kids, but I think as an adult I loved it more – only because it is the perfect de-stress technique.

Aaron Blabey’s creations are hilarious, the puns are just perfect and so are some of the new characters that have been introduced in this one (I loved them and hope so do you). I honestly believe that if a so-called children’s book can also be enjoyed by adults, then that says a lot about the author and the creation at hand. I would highly recommend “The Bad Guys” series to everyone. It is a must read, which is not very well-known but I am sure will soon become immensely popular.

George by Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino Title: George
Author: Alex Gino
Publisher: Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0545812542
Genre: Teens, Young Adult
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

When the publisher gave me a copy of “George” by Alex Gino to read, I knew it very then that I would love it to bits and I did. “George” is a story that could be taking place around us and we would not even know of it. I think a lot has been written about the L and G of the LGBT community, but not enough on the transgender and transsexual bit (there is also a difference between the two by the way), so “George” came as a refreshing surprise when I picked it up.

George is a boy and she knows she is a girl. She can feel it deep down and all she wants is to be a girl and do the things that girls do. She hates it when people refer to her as a boy and try and expect her to do all the things that boys do. All she wants is to be Charlotte in the school play Charlotte’s web and she cannot because people see her as a boy. Even her teach won’t understand her dilemma. Neither will her brother Scott and Mom. But she has her best friend Kelly who believes in her and will do anything so she can play Charlotte.

In the midst of bullies, her situation and the need to be who she is, “George” finally comes into her own at the end of the book. How? Well that is for you to read and find out.

I absolutely loved this book. I have never read anything like this – about a transgender teen and I think it is so needed in our times more than ever. People need to be made aware and know what is going on before they judge severely or jump to any conclusions.

The tone of the book is emotional and sometimes funny but mostly it will leave you with a warm tingling feeling in your heart which is the idea anyway. Initially you might have a problem shifting between genders in your head, but when it is clear, you will breeze through that. The writing is quick and simple and easily readable and relatable at that – when it comes to coming of age.

I also would strongly urge all parents to read this book, because it would probably help them know their child better and respect differences in them, if any. I also think that it is time someone in India wrote about this – from a child, a teenager and an adult’s perspective. It is so needed given how ignorant we are when it comes to this sphere of the gender. It is more so about gender politics than actually being empathetic to their needs.

There were times when I felt the book was being rushed but I guess that’s how the author combo (yeah Alex and Gino are two people) wanted it that way. All said and done, I immensely enjoyed the journey of a ten-year old about being who he always knew he was – a girl. I was hooting for “George” till the very end and hoping that this is just the beginning for her.

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