November 2014 Posts

Children and books on Art

Children and books on Art

Olivia, Jackson PollackI am an artist logoA stress on learning the 3R’s is insufficient. Teaching children other sensibilities too by making their environment come alive. It could be strewing pictures about, taking them for walkabouts through museums, or introduce them to books with plenty of pictures of paintings, photographs etc. This was wise advice given to me by an artist when my daughter was a newborn. I treasure it especially since I recall the happiest moments in my childhood were to pore over books about museums, photos and browse through old issues of Post, LIFE, National Geographic, etc. But it is not merely about learning of older artists and schools of art or what constitutes great art. It is about imbuing children with a love for art, aesthetics and appreciating creativity. It is about giving them the confidence of exploring with colours and not necessarily being straitjacketed into certain academic disciplines.

But try sourcing books for children, especially in the picture book category and it is nearly impossible!

Over a period of time some of the books I have come across are:

I Spy, Numbers in Art1. Lucky Micklethwait’s “I Spy” series uses well-known paintings to introduce children to colours, numbers and alphabets. ( http://www.harpercollins.com/cr-102246/lucy-micklethwait ). Even Ian Falconer’s Caldecott Honor picture book, Olivia, introduces the young readers to the art of Jackson Pollock. ( Olivia is so inspired by her museum visit she attempts to recreate a Jackson Pollack painting on the walls at home, much to her mother’s horror! )

2. Marta Altes  I am an Artist (http://www.martaltes.com/I-am-an-Artist ) picture book is about aI-am-an-artist-cover delightful young fellow who cannot stop creating. He is an artist “but I don’t think mum sees it”. There is sense of freedom with colour, allowing the child to express himself, all though the cleaning up promises to be a nightmare.

3. Sophie Benini Pietromarchi’s The Colour Book and The Book Book or even Herve Tullet’s fabulous books ( http://www.herve-tullet.com/en/boite-20/Biography.html ) also introduce children to experimentation with light, colours, different mediums …basically to let the creative juices flow. It is incredible to see how children respond.

4. Scholastic India has launched a new series called “I am An Artist” with the inaugural title Raza's BinduRaza’s Bindu. It is about the well-known painter, S. H. Raza’s signature style of painting only the bindu/dot. It is a fascinating book that is part-biography, part-explanation of the evolution of the artist with images from his paintings. The book includes flaps that can be opened and explored by the 3-6-year-olds it is meant for. There are a couple of worksheets in it too. Tina Narang, Editor, Scholastic India wrote saying, “The ‘I am An Artist’ series seeks to make art and the artist accessible to children. The series has been launched with S.H. Raza’s Bindu. The books are meant to be participative in nature, so children can explore and experiment with their own creativity in relation to that of the artist. This book includes many interesting operations like gatefolds, and envelope folds to make it a fascinating journey for the child exploring the art of the artist.” The logo for the series is the first image on this blog post. Here is an interview with the painter from 2011 that explores his fascination with the dot. ( http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report-i-am-yet-to-tire-of-bindu-artist-sh-raza-1618538 ) . In fact he will be present at the book launch on 29 Nov 2014, Delhi.

5. Previously Tulika Books had launched a series called “Looking at Art” but only two artists were featured  — Amrita Sher Gil and M. F. The Color BookHusain. ( http://www.tulikabooks.com/our-books/non-fiction/looking-at-art/my-name-is-amrita-born-to-be-an-artist ) No more were added, a great pity. Tara Books specialises in creating illustrated books for children using traditional art such as Kalamkari, Gond, and Patachitra mural art, another way of familiarising young readers to different art forms.  Now it seems another publishing house in India will be launching a series meant for children, introducing them to Indian Art/ Artists.

katie-and-the-impressionists6. A couple of other picture book writers who have created marvellous “introductions” to art for young children are Anthony Browne ( Willy’s Pictures) and James Mayhew’s series with Katie, a little girl who visits museums and steps into great paintings ( http://www.jamesmayhew.co.uk/books/katie ).

The joy of reading must also be accompanied by the pleasure of poring over illustrations, familiarising with colours and immersing oneself in the experience. For children everything in the world is new. To have text matching illustrations makes the little child’s face light up. If along the way they can be introduced to art and painters too, well, why not?!

 

28 Nov 2014

Vivek Tejuja’s recommendations, 25 Books by Indian authors ( Nov 2014)

Vivek Tejuja’s recommendations, 25 Books by Indian authors ( Nov 2014)

The Other Side of Silence( Vivek Tejuja posted this list on his Facebook page on 26 Nov 2014. I am reposting it on my blog with his permission.) 

In his post, Vivek Tejuja writes “25 Books by Indian authors that Everyone should read , according to me. This is just my opinion of these books which I have loved and enjoyed over the years. I know there are way too many more which can be added here.”

1. All About H. Hatterr by G.V. Desani
2. Mother of 1084 by Mahasweta Devi
3. In Custody by Anita Desai 
4. Collected Poems by Eunice de Souza
5. In A Forest, A Deer by Ambai
6. The Book of Destruction by Anand
7. Hangwoman by K. Meera
8. All for Love by Ved Mehta
9. A Life in Words by Ismat Chughtai
10. The Music of Solitude by Krishna Sobti
11. The Other Side of Silence by Urvashi Butalia
12. Dozakhnama by Rabisankar Bal
13. Mumbai Fables by Gyan Prakash
14. Seven Sixes are Forty Three by Kiran Nagarkar
15. The Mirror of Beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi
16. Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
17. The Guide by R.K. Narayan
18. Rasidi Ticket by Amrita Pritam
19. Selected Short Stories by Kalki 
20. Raag Darbari by Shrilal Shukla
21. Randamoozham or Bhima by M.T. Vasudevan Nair
22. Divya by Yashpal
23. Suraj ka Saatwan Ghoda by Dharamveer Bharati
24. Mrityunjaya by Shivaji Sawant
25. Love and Longing in Bombay by Vikram Chandra

27 Nov 2014 

Being MortalIf we shift as we age towards appreciating everyday pleasures and relationships rather than towards achieving, having, and getting, and if we find this more fulfilling, then why do we take so long to do it? Why do we wait until we’re told? The common view was that these lessons are hard to learn. Living is a kind of skill. The calm and wisdom of old age are achieved over time.  ( p.95)

…Three Plagues of nursing home existence: boredom, loneliness, and helplessness. (p.116)

Reading award-winning writer and practicing general surgeon Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal was such a cherished reading experience. His basic premise is that the conversation with people who are severely ill, with slim chances of recovery is one of the most difficult tasks a medical practitioner has. His insights into caregiving, an analysis of the US healthcare system, assisted living and an understanding of the Indian family social structure offering support similar to hospice care abroad are sharp. For instance something that is often noticed in practice, but rarely uttered is how many daughters look after their ageing parents. Yet the mantra in society, at least in India is, a son is important to have since he will care for you in your old age. Whereas Atul Gawande points out quite rightly too, “your chances of avoiding the nursing homes are directly related to the number of children you have, and, …having at least one daughter seems to be crucial to the amount of help you will receive.” I marked the book extensively and scribbled comments since it resonated with me. Having been a caregiver for my ailing grandfather, familiar with the excruciating conversations about enemas, maintained a funeral notebook where he had detailed the arrangements and been responsible for telling my surviving grandparents that their spouse had died, Being Mortal is a godsend. Atul Gawande’s perceptive observations about caregiving, mortality, longevity, quality of life as opposed to honouring the Hippocratic oath echo conversations heard often amongst caregivers. There is much, much more to read and discover in this book. Read it. Buy it.

Atul Gawande Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books, New Delhi, 2014. Hb. pp. 282. Rs. 599 

12 Nov 2014 

Literati: Happy readers ( 2 Nov 2014)

Literati: Happy readers ( 2 Nov 2014)

Jaya Bhattacharji RoseMy monthly column in the Hindu Literary Review was published online on 1 November 2014 and in print on 2 November 2014. Here is the url  http://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/literati-happy-readers/article6555142.ece . I am also c&p the text below. 

A recent article, “The Percy Jackson problem”, argued that Rick Riordan’s rewriting of Greek myths for a contemporary audience is unacceptable since it lures young readers away from the “classics”. The journalist also did not subscribe to the view that kids should be allowed to read whatever they are reading as long as they are reading! Apparently the huge crowds of youngsters (outnumbering the adults) filling synagogues, theatres, and basketball stadiums to attend the interactions with Riordan, a former middle-school English and history teacher — who is currently on a tour to promote the last book in the Olympians series, The Blood of Olympus — was insufficient evidence that children were happy reading. A publishing colleague sent me a furious response to the article saying that it was mean spirited and unfair given that Riordan has touched thousands of kids’ lives in a positive way and reached many reluctant readers.

New generations of readers are crucial for the survival of publishing. While delivering his acceptance speech at the PEN/Pinter Prize 2014, Salman Rushdie said, “I always believed that the book is completed by the reader that out of the intimacy of strangers created by the act of reading emerges the book as it exists for that reader; and that out of that private act of union comes love, the love of literature, of reading, of that particular book …”

The powerful impact an author can have on a reader, even in a large group, was demonstrated at a literary evening that I curated at the Embassy of Ireland. To commemorate the centenary of World War I, three Indian authors were invited to a panel discussion on “Conflict and Literature”, moderated by the ambassador H.E. Feilim McLaughlin. The authors spoke powerfully of their engagement with conflict and how it has influenced their writing. The audience sat in pin-drop silence. Some wept. Most had lumps in their throat. The topics or narrated experiences touched a raw nerve in many, especially those with direct links with Partition, the 1984 riots and communal conflicts.

Of late there has been a growing debate on how the Internet is cutting into the time of readers. It is estimated that, by 2018, 3.9 billion people will be online; many on smartphones. It is not surprising to discover that Adobe has been collecting data about its customers’ reading pattern. Last week, Nielsen announced that it was expanding its ratings to include all kinds of digital content. The writer-reader relationship is evolving rapidly with the growth of technology. People are operating these devices not just to communicate with each other but also to read articles and books online. Consequently word-of-mouth recommendations will only grow. The relatively new ReadMyStori.com “is a platform that helps authors get readers to read, appreciate and popularise their work”. Authors say that at least 40 per cent of downloads are converted into book sales.

As Tim Parks points out in an NYRB article (June 10, 2014), “The conditions in which we read today are not those of 50 or even 30 years ago, and the big question is how contemporary fiction will adapt to these changes, because in the end adapt it will. No art form exists independently of the conditions in which it is enjoyed.”

An excellent example of such a response to the changing reading environment is Samanvay: IHC Indian Languages’ Festival (November 6-11, 2014), comprising 90 speakers and performers in 20 languages and dialects. The theme is “Translations Transnations” with focus on Indian languages that have a transnational presence like Bangla, Bhojpuri, Chhattisgarhi, English, Hindi, Konkani, Malayalam, Punjabi and Sanskrit.

The effect of storytelling sessions and stress on reading books other than textbooks is also evident in the crowds of happy children that attend Bookaroo: Festival of Children’s Literature (IGNCA, New Delhi, November 29-30, 2014). The youngsters can be seen mobbing authors and illustrators, seeking autographs, asking a zillion questions, offering authors manuscripts to read, listening in rapt attention to the writers, participating in workshops and buying piles of book at the temporary bookstore.

This year, 83 speakers such as Jamila Gavin, Natasha Sharma, The Storywallahs, Vivek Menon, Rui Sousa and Prayag Shukla will participate.

These children are accessing e-books and books in print, but it does not matter as long as they are reading!

2 November 2014