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

Book Review: Munch, Crunch, Pirate Lunch! Written and illustrated by John Kelly

pirate lunchOne of our favourite bedtime reads is The Beastly Pirates. Ned our four year old absolutely loves reading pirate adventure stories, the sillier the better and The Beastly Pirates fit the bill perfectly.

Munch, Crunch, Pirate Lunch! is the second book in The Beastly Pirates series and is a brilliant rhyming text about how the ‘ordinary’ pirates deal with the Beastly Pirates culinary reign of terror- one where they keep eating pirate crews! Its a silly read with lots of action (perfect for little ones). The rhyme is illustrated with colourful action filled pictures which are amusing in themselves.

This book is clearly a labour of love and as an adult reading it i’m in awe of John Kelly’s imagination, ability to write and his illustrations. The idea of a one legged crocodile pirate fighting a pirate in a suit of armour is just brilliant.

The Beastly Pirates are simply brilliant, if you want a series of books that will entertain and keep your little ones engaged then these are for you. It can be tricky finding ways to engage young readers, especially boys, however these books are so engaging that they can be a great entry point to slightly longer reads.

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We cant recommend this more highly, Ned loves it.

If you’d like to find out more have a look at the Bloomsbury books website.

Book Review: A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

a child of booksSometimes a book so unusual and special comes along which literally takes your breath away. This is one of those books and its potentially a future classic. A Child of Books is completely unique book and the first time picture book stalwart Oliver Jeffers has worked collaboratively with another artist, in this case typographic artist Sam Winston.

If you like books which are visually stunning then this is a real treat, it combines snippets of all sorts of classic stories alongside the illustrations. This means that it can work on so many levels. As an adult I have spent a long time pouring over the illustrations trying to work out which stories are featured- i’m told there is everything from Dracula through to The Wind in the Willows, fourty-two classic books and lullabies. My children have enjoyed the story on different levels depending upon their age.

The story begins with a little girl sailing across a sea of words and inviting a little boy to join her on an adventure through the land of stories. The adventure they have is related to their imagination and clearly the books they read. Interestingly the books featured all relate to the particular aspect of the story, so for example extracts from Rapunzel form the rope from a castle.

This book is a real celebration of literature, art and imagination, its a precious book to anyone with an interest in literature and a great way to introduce children to the wider world of reading beyond picture books. I’ve also used it as a way of inspiring my reluctant reader to think about books and their use in art.

I cant really find the words to convey just how signifiant and brilliant this book is for all ages so i’ll leave it to the trailer:

If you’re thinking about Christmas books this is an ideal gift. If you just love books, then buy it immediately! You can find out more at the Walker Books website here.

Disclaimer: We were sent a review copy