SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Monday, January 30, 2012

Elephant Enthu

Why do I have Rupa here?
Good question.
Its just that I did a story last Saturday "Little Vinayak" of Karadi Tales at another Library I love to go to, and once again I found that Elephants are such versatile creatures. Are they actually so, or do they transform into this magical creature in the hands of authors who can make them dance to any tune?
They are so lovable, so emotional and so blessed with a be-what-I-will, that any author who casts an elephant in his/her lead role can never go wrong. 

The first story that I ever told to an audience was the tale of an elephant, the sweet Rupa, (by Mickey patel;CBT), she is quite famous and most storytellers have her tale in their story bag I think. I know I did/do, and I know that my sister-in-law, who also tells wonderful tales to little minds, had completely pocketed my daughter with this story, way back when she was a tiny thing with big starry eyes and ears full of stories from her favorite aunt. 
That Rupa was done with a cute story box I had made, complete with animal cut outs that would stand around and in the display for kids to see, a miniature stage for the story to be performed by cardboard artists! (I still have the same cutouts that I use for this story!)...and a great song to go with it.

But Little Vinayak was told without much. Just some long dupattas, that I hurriedly knotted together and a monkey puppet (a little too casual here huh?). But the story went Very well. Tiny Vinayak with his loooong trunk was one dupatta, while Tembo the big elephant was 2 dupattas long!! We did the step-step; side-side dance...and the kids were swinging!

So that's me eulogizing elephants; of course you also know they are extremely intelligent, have their own unique communication, and display behaviours as complex as humans...hmmm...maybe I was an elephant in my last birth....!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Book Lands At my Doorstep; Do you want to know Which One?!!

Ever since I got a mail asking me to review Katha’s latest contribution to the world of stories, I was doing a jig of anticipation in my own mental world as I am always ready to receive a book! 
....And the book arrived at my door step pretty fast!

This book is a collection of 29 short stories written by children from schools across the country as part of the Katha-HP Write&Read initiative.

Bring together interactive creative writing workshops, budding enthusiastic writers and a revolutionary ePrint tool, then it results in this one-of-a-kind compilation. The winning stories have been selected by Prasoon Joshi, a writer exemplar (what a tough job to do!) with introductions by Joshi, Neeraj Sharma (HP) and Geeta Dharmarajan (Katha). For anyone who is interested in writings by children for children, the tone is well set by these stalwarts.

I turned the pages in anticipation. The topics are varied, yet strains of similarity do join a few, but what stands out for me is the theme that every child has chosen. Some simple, some more complex, but each one engaging us in some way.

Many children are concerned about the environment and saving the earth (it is heart-warming to note that). Yet Rudraveer Reddy’s bleak end to the Tiger saga makes me want to beg him to rewrite this sorry picture. Reflecting on a glorious past and a present full of despair, his words “This was dangerous, treading on the memory lane when in a life and death situation can send invitation cards to all sorts of harm but….” sent goose bumps down my back. How old is this child anyway?!
Nature does bring out the little philosopher and Dhwani Yagnaraman’s reflections in “Branch of life” is commendable; I take away these words the steady crawl of old into every young cell we possess”; wondering at the complexity of her thoughts and emotions!
A rosewood tree is driven through a gamut of emotions to finally break free, a Sunflower tells its story of origin. Another wonders if humans are the actual aliens for their disregard and lack of care; and then there is a pollen grain which learns to become a plant in Pollen Academy run by Mrs.Pollenberry, (finally here I catch a glimpse of the Potter fan!)

Dreams are a favourite way for our budding writers to escape into an imaginary land where there are no rules and many fools. (How children wish for grand adventures!!) “A Dream come true” wishes her sibling away and then back again to help her with chores; all in a dream. “The Orange Experience”; takes us into the Earth’s core and back, while dreaming (or awake?) in the elevator that has stopped. “Sonia and the Dream Island”, a simple story it seems, but rhymes add a flavour to the tale, and so does the end! An “Adventure in Dreamland” helps us meet a telkhine (half dog, half man), a history/mythology buff I think!

What would a traffic light mean to a girl begging for alms? Interpreted in a wonderfully imaginative way by Anupriya Aggarwal; The Changing Lights” is a story that shows empathy through and through. I wonder why the story ended abruptly; a word limit perhaps. It surely needs completion. Then there is the American Tourister as a protagonist…that’s a first! A delightfully narrated tale of Politics, black money and retribution! Another first (for me) as a toothbrush and his friends gallivant into other worlds!
School time adventures in a chemistry lab, a football fan in a ghost story; a Queen who banishes laughter; cats that are adored, dogs that are lost and found; Very Nice Dragons that run flower shops and a sci-fi story that lauds books, (quite a spectrum of ideas). I am unable to do justice to every story that is in there, but these are the themes that captured me.

The book itself is a visual and aesthetic treat. Every story is presented in a unique style, which makes for delightful imagery. I flip back and forth appreciating the perfection achieved. Every artist has read the story and painted their picture so vividly that the words and images complement each other; making me wonder if they worked together on it. Water colours give way to cartoons, bright, vibrant and bold turns to light shades and pastel.
The font is easy to read and its uniformity gives a sense of balance to the entire text. The layout and colour schemes are superlative; and including the names of all the budding writers at the end is thrilling to note.

Every writer yearns to be published and holding this gorgeous book in my hand I wish I was a child again, and it was my story in there. Never the less as I started reading the book I trembled with excitement as it is not just about reading stories written by children, but it is the joy of diving headlong into the deepest oceans of thoughts and emotions of young minds.

That is definitely satisfied here; but I did feel that some stories were too abrupt and needed completion, while some other stories needed more thought. But befitting this book, is a sequel, similar in content and form giving opportunity to many other budding writers yet untapped.
“A book worth having on your bookshelf”; I second that and give great credit to the artistry accompanying the stories which makes this book a great collectible.

Write and Read; By us For us stories; By children for children.

Published by Katha in collaboration with Hewlett Packard India and Prasoon Joshi. New Delhi, 2011; 133 pp.

Check out their website:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Plan the Fun?...hmmm

While planning any group activity it is important to remember the following:

It is necessary to think of your theme for the workshop. But it is not mandatory. I say this because from a child’s point of view, all he/she wants is something to do, to explore, to create and to take home! So even if you don’t have a theme for your 3/4/5 days together that’s ok. In all probability, it will be the parent who will ask you for theme!! Well…precisely for that curiosity, let’s have a theme.

Coming to particulars, the very first 5 day workshop I did was purely Story based, so to satisfy my need for a theme, I took on Around the World Stories, and did 5 stories from Africa, India, a Greek Myth, and Tibet 
Moving on, I did a 5 day workshop on Creative learning, yet again only I knew the theme! It started with making toys from Junk, followed by a day of Art, a day of Math (! Yes, loads of learning there), a day of Science and of course the last day reserved for a story!

Then there is Theatre, Creative Drama and Story workshop. Elements of Theatre (games and exploring the self), Creative Drama (making and using Props), and of course the story time/listening itself is thrown in all days to culminate the workshop.

So a theme by itself is a broad spectrum to work on. My pointers to help you select a theme are:
  •      Your own interests and passions!
  •      Skill sets that you possess, art/ craft/ science knowledge/ teaching interest
  •     Age of the group
  •      Time of the year (Winter/ Summer/ Dussehra Vacations): each of these provide an opportunity for planning the activities

 The next agenda for me is to talk about age groups. When you have access to a place like a library, then definitely you will have children from all age groups wanting to participate, so try as you might confining the age group, it is a bit of a task. Every interested parent will have a child who is too small for what you are planning. So what I do is within an activity I try to have a bit catering to the little ones, and also to every other age group. The little ones like to do (move, run around and take part in body think!). While the little older ones like to make and create with their fingers, and the biggest like to listen and think. So it helps to keep all the learner needs in mind. But I can assure you that children are very keen encouragers of anything that is fun. So just go ahead and make it a time where there can be full self-expression and there your programme is a success.

Take Home:

 I believe that every day of the workshop children must take home something tangible, and preferably something that they have made on that day. Don’t leave it to be carried on the last day. I say this because I know children love to visit and revisit things that they make, so keeping stuff for the last day is just telling them they cannot own what they make. I have atleast 2 kids in a workshop, asking me if they can take home what they make, and if it’s theirs for keeps. I feel sad whenever they do that (maybe I should not, and I am just exaggerating the interpretations in my mind), but I also tell them that they can add and delete and make changes as well to whatever they have created, as it is theirs now. Invariably kids will change some part or aspect of what they created, and show it to me the next day, or atleast tell me what they have un made! (Oh Yes the child in me always feels a little upset as it makes me feel as if what I taught them may not be “good enough”, but really really, that’s just the child in me thinking). There is no greater satisfaction than to realise that the seed of an idea you put in the child’s mind has transformed into another idea!


 Now this is the part that requires careful planning, and I am nowhere near getting it right. I can overkill with the amount of material I buy, so my budgeting always goes for a wonk. But I tell myself that nothing is wasted, I can use all spares for another session. So sit down, and work out what you are going to do on day1, and what is the take home. Then make a list and buy them. Add 2 extra, to cater for last minute entries. I use very simple paper, beads, craft material, and try as much as possible to source material lying around the house; blouse bits (for cloth), pencils for stick puppets, wool, beads
It is important to make the props/ art items/ craft items/ puppets/ take home sample for display, invariable children can’t wait to see the end product, so it helps to show them what they are aiming for at the beginning of the activity. In fact something important I learnt was that children love to create on their own, so given the materials and some on-going guidance, they prefer to cut and paste on their own. So I usually give a free hand with scissors and glue, and land up having kids cutting up paper arbitrarily, smearing glue all over their hands...and finally making something that may not look like mine! But that's ok...really.


Keep it reasonable, looking at low cost material being used and the time that the child will be engaged are 2 factors for consideration. Have per day charges, and a discount for participation on all days, that ensures children can come in for 1 / 2 days as well. If they are on vacation and could miss a day, it should not deter them from joining on the days they are available.

I guess the basic ingredient for any such activity planning is Interest, Doggedness, and loads of fun googling/searching and self discovery

Put your energy to it then it will be done!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Loads of Fun and Learning!

My first post for NewYear. Happy 2012 to you all!
May it grow and help us in its Growing and Learning!!
I believe the greatest death of a soul is when it stops learning and wanting to learn! The greatest gift we can give ourselves is the joy of discovery, starting from the self and going beyond! Do you agree with me ?!

Well I finished 2011 with a flourish...

3 Days of puppet making, stories, games and Edutainment in December!

Some like to listen
Some like to do
Some like to watch
Some like to glue!
Some like the chaos
Some are calm in that too!
Some wander away
Some are deeply involved
But when children are interested, there is no other better space!!

It was great fun and learning for me too, to plan a 3 day winter workshop at Brainvilla Library.

Last October; in the Dussehra Workshop, I had planned a 5 day workshop with elements of science, stories, art, craft and junk art, as it is important to keep children's interest going, and provide them a varied spectrum of activities, catering to different age groups as well.

In December, for the Winter workshop I decided I wanted it to be purely a self exploratory, listening and doing kind of workshop. So there were games for critical thinking and group think, stories( this time I took the current favorite author Julia Donaldson's stories: Monkey's Puzzle and the The Smartest Giant in town.), we made 3 puppets (they came out so well!!), and I even finished off with children taking turns behind a screen, learning how to present their puppets!  

All in all a super time.

Watch out for the next post as this year I plan to share my thoughts on workshop planning and execution with you all...
catch you later

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