• Film News: Dreamworks TROLLS

    Trolls
  • Childrens Book Blog Tour: Pattan’s Pumpkin by Chitra Soundar

    pattans-pumpkin-by-chita-soundar
  • Book Review: Warrior Bronze by Michelle Paver

    warrior bronze
  • Book Review: Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph

    odd dog out

Film News: Dreamworks TROLLS

TrollsBeing born in the mid 1970’s it will come as no surprise to you if I say that one of my favourite toys when I was little were Trolls. These hard little plastic dolls with sticky up hair you could backcomb were brilliant. I still have a couple of them and every so often I put them by my computer to spur me on with work.

It was very exciting to hear that Dreamworks have turned their adventures into a film staring Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, Kunal Nayyar, Gwen Stefani, Russell Brand, Ron Founts.

The film looks great, its bright and colourful and hopefully will bring a smile to everyones face. Have a look at the trailer:

The official blurb:

DreamWorks’ TROLLS is a hair-raising comedy filled with unbelievable adventure and incredible music.  Known for their crazy, colourful, and magical hair, Trolls are the happiest, most joyous creatures ever to burst into song. But their world of rainbows and cupcakes is changed forever, when their leader Poppy (Anna Kendrick,) must embark on a rescue mission that takes her far beyond the only world she’s ever known.

DreamWorks TROLLS is released in cinemas October 21 in 3D and 2D.

Childrens Book Blog Tour: Pattan’s Pumpkin by Chitra Soundar

Chitra Soundar has a shelf full of books filled with stories from many cultures, particularly India. She loves bringing stories from India to children here in the West just like she read stories from the West, when she was growing up in India. Here she tells us how she has always been drawn to folktales and legends and how they seep into her own stories.

As a child and as a teenager I was thin as a blade of grass and my head was full of stories. Whether I ate dinner or lunch, I never missed listening and reading to stories. My paternal grandmother and her sister told me stories from the epics, folklore and even from early movies they had watched in the 1940s.

When I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, there were no specific children’s books. I devoured everything with words on them including newspapers, old copies of Readers’ Digest and borrowed copies of English Readers.

So my Mum took me once a month to a lending library 10 km away from home. The bus journey itself was an adventure. The library was dimly lit but packed tight with books. I borrowed bound copies of comics filled folktales, legends and stories from Hindu epics. These comics published by Anant Pai of Amar Chitra Katha, gave me access to stories that were thousands of years old and introduced me to heroic characters, India’s history and epics. If they had not retold them, they would have been hidden in the scriptures, the epics in ancient languages and in history books.

For me, retelling was the only way to keep a story alive. This is also one of the reasons, I trained as a storyteller even though I’ve been telling oral stories since I was five. It is important to tell stories untold previously – to remember them, to preserve them and broaden the imagination of the next generation.

Pattan’s Pumpkin is one such story. Told only in the tribal villages in the remotest valleys of the Western Ghats, this story is about living in harmony with nature, protecting the land you live on and the creatures you live with.

pattans-pumpkin-by-chita-soundar

While I believe, today’s child requires diverse contemporary stories in which they can see themselves, especially if they are from minority groups; I never turn down an opportunity to retell ancient tales. We have to pass down the magical treasure box of our past, filled with stories and those stories themselves filled with wisdom.

Here are some amazing folktales and ancient stories that come from India that inspired me and turned me into a storyteller.

The Panchatantra – these are ancient tales of wisdom designed to teach statesmanship. Historians believe that these stories were inspiration to Aesop Fables. I’ve retold Panchatantra stories for Scholastic India, which are stories with illustrations that you can colour in and solve puzzles too.

readandcolourcollage

Here is Jamila Gavin’s retelling with Bee Wiley, Schools for Princes, published by Frances Lincoln.

Tales of Tenali Rama – Tenali Rama was a jester in King Raya’s court in the 16th century and all of his tales are filled with wisdom and wit.

            Raja Birbal stories – Birbal was a minister and a close confidant of Emperor Akbar, a contemporary of Raya. While the history books talk about his courage and statesmanship, the folklore are filled with stories about how Birbal survived his jealous peers and how he managed to get justice for many.

My Prince Veera series, published by Walker Books, was inspired by Tenali Rama and Raja Birbal. Those who know the stories will definitely recognize the themes.

veeraseries

And of course if you want to be inspired by the same Amar Chitra Katha comics that inspired me, you can get them online directly from them.

Find out more about stories I’ve retold and my story collections at www.chitrasoundar.com.

Website: www.chitrasoundar.com

Twitter: @csoundar

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChitraSoundarAuthor

Pattan’s Pumpkin by Chitra Soundar is available now

About Chitra Soundar

Chitra Soundar lives in a flat full of giraffes, pigs and a dog. No wonder her flat smells. Her neighbours think she’s bonkers because all her animals are imaginary and the smell is from her spices from India. Amidst all the imaginary chores of cleaning giraffe-poo and filling the bathtub with mud for the pigs, Chitra manages to write some stories too.

Her latest titles include Pattan’s Pumpkin (illustrated by Frané Lessac, published by Otter-Barry Books) and A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice (illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy, published by Walker Books)

Book Review: Warrior Bronze by Michelle Paver

warrior bronzeI cannot speak more highly of Michelle Paver’s books for the KS2 9+ age group and above. I’ve personally read the entire Wolf Brother series (The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness) and have really loved them. This year I was fortunate enough to actually meet Michelle Paver at the Chiltern Open Air Museum where the staff have created a brilliant schools literacy workshop based upon the book. She was an engaging speaker and clearly researches her themes very carefully to make sure that they are historically accurate.

Warrior Bronze is the fifth novel and conclusion of her Bronze Age series. In the story Hylas and Pirra return to Akea for their final confrontation with the Crows, their arch enemies.

This is an engaging read, as are all of her books. Its an exciting and dramatic read and the setting really feels like the Bronze Age. These books have all the elements of great adventure story and in many ways remind me of the Rosemary Sutcliff, Roger Lancelyn Green and Enid Blyton books I read when I was a child. They seem to combine the best elements of these classic books with themes of friendship and adventure, history and mystery.

If I was to recommend a series of books to this age group Michelle Paver’s books would be my first suggestion. They are absolutely brilliant and I know that many of my Young Archaeologists Club members love them.

If you’d like to find out more have a look here.

Book Review: Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph

odd dog out‘So blaze a trail. Be who you are.’

This is award winning author and illustrator Rob Biddulph’s third book and it is simply brilliant. This is the story of a little sausage dog who is different to all the rest. All she wants to do is to fit in and so she goes on a journey to somewhere where she does fit in. The journey proves to be one of discovery when although she fits in she meets a dog who doesn’t and she realises that its actually a good thing to be the odd one out.

This is a beautifully illustrated story which is a joy to read and really struck a chord here as one of our children is a bit of an individual. All children know an odd dog or they are the odd dog and so this is a great read to help them to understand thats its actually quite a good thing to dance to your own tune and there is nothing wrong with being an individual.

If you’re looking for a bright, colourful, engaging read which will help your children to deal with an every day issue or have a child that just likes dogs then this is a great addition to your bookshelf. We enjoyed reading it and I love the line i’ve included above, it could be a great little phrase to copy out and remind yourself and your children of everyday!

If you’d like to find out more have a look here.

Disclaimer: we were sent a review copy

Toy Review: Teksta Voice Recognition Puppy

tekstaI’m currently on my quest to try to find new and exciting Christmas gifts for my little gang. They had seen the new generation Teksta Puppy advertised on TV and thought it looked brilliant and it was something that they were really keen to have. As soon as we were offered the chance to actually review it I jumped at the chance. On reflection this might not have been the best idea as i’m now short on my potential Christmas gift list, however its useful for readers and my kids have had the best Bank Holiday weekend playing with their new puppy!

The Teksta Puppy retails at £59.99 and is aimed at 7+ age group. It now has voice recognition, multi-coloured LED eyes and realistic ear movements. There are 10 voice recognition commands programmed in and state of the art artificial intelligence means he barks, whimpers and so on.

We’ve been having lots of fun with the Teksta puppy and one of the best features is oddly that he requires a fair amount of training (as does his owners). Myself and Fifi have found this great fun as she really wants her own dog and this is a great introduction to dog ownership. Have a look at our efforts:

We have found the voice recognition a bit hit and miss but in theory there are 10 commands ranging from making the puppy bark through to making him do a flip. Fifi likes the song and dance feature which has two different songs. She also likes making it walk towards her.

There is also a free app to go with the Teksta Puppy and that lets you do all the actions straight from the app. Its easy to use and is another way of controlling the puppy.

This is a brilliant toy for this age group as it is great fun and actually teaches them a lot about elementary programming, patience and training animals. Fifi has genuinely gained a lot from it and it continues to be a popular toy in our household. In terms of value for money the price of Teksta has really come down, I remember them being quite pricey a few years ago, however at £59.99 this represents excellent value for money for a quality toy.

Teksta Puppy has a friend: a Toucan, it looks like this bird will be on our Christmas list this year!

If you’d like more information or to buy it have a look here.