‘Venkat and Friends’ is a delightful book for children and parents
This contains the homily itself, in fact extraordinarily ordinary daily episodes in the life of Venkat and his band of friends. It is by grasping the extraordinary miracles that lie hidden in the ordinary incidents of an inquisitive child’s mind and their surroundings that the author has produced this very readable book.
Take for example the first incident.
A mother is proud to have received a green award for her architectural innovations and brings home the trophy. Our hero Venkat, like any excited hyper-energetic child, performs internal stunts and the trophy is shattered.
The reactions and responses that follow seem natural. The way subsequent events unfold isn’t preachy or awkward. There is anger, embarrassment, guilt, grief and ultimately forgiveness and realization of mistakes.
Again, the important aspect to remember is that at no point does the narrator become preachy.
In fact, this book is also a good guide for parents and grandparents. The era of corporal punishment is over. Sometimes many think that was good and that’s the way to raise children. Bad.
The fact that most parents today are reluctant to use corporal punishment is an improvement in our sense of morality. But the problem is that the pendulum swings to the other end and parents end up satisfying their children’s indulgences. Personally, I’ve seen parents take secret pride in their son being a bully or their daughter being a snob.
This book shows a positive and creative alternative to painful punishment and fanciful indulgence.
The book also discusses some adults’ and most children’s fascination with stray animals, especially kittens, and explains the issues and responsibilities of fostering them.
It also deals with sibling rivalry and how generational wisdom can heal and make relationships healthier; even though a child may be faced with what he sees as a problem that no adult understands.
A common thread that runs through the book is that many of the problems that children of this generation face are also problems that adults would have faced in their own time and in their own way. By seeking out positive, healthy memories associated with these issues, we can truly empathize with our own children.
While in rare cases a parent may miss such memories, surely they can always reach out to this book.
Each “adventure” of Venkat and his friends at its end has fact sheets and hands-on activities. Thus, children become familiar with green architecture. They do crossword puzzles which include finding the different ‘state animals’ of India. An information sheet introduces children to the different performing arts in various states, thereby familiarizing them with the diversity of India and also emphasizing the natural unity in diversity.
Children are encouraged to write their own stories and space is provided in the book. There is even a do-it-yourself laddu recipe.
Thus, the book is both a storybook, an activity book and even a potential journal. It is smartly designed to stimulate children’s creativity in a practical way.
The book is intended for children, but it is also certainly a guide for parents.
This book will instill in the child a desire to have parents like the Nanna and Amma of Venkat – who talk to children and understand their problems and correct them gently but firmly, with family values and wisdom. Truly, this cute little book is a book for all families.
Be sure to give it to your children and then make sure to make it clear to the child that this is their own family as well.
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