Feeling Bookish Series: Of Caterpillars, Choo-Choo trains and Crazy People

Written By

Ushasi Sen Basu

Feeling Bookish Series: Of Caterpillars, Choo-Choo trains and Crazy People Loading

I heard one should start reading to your child in the womb itself. I did no such thing because reading to your belly seems a little insane (like singing to your knee). Also, I was too busy stuffing my face and reading adult ‘feel-good’ fiction at the time. I finally gave my baby touch-and-feel books when she was about 4 months old. That put us about 10 months behind schedule, but I think we’re catching up.

 Here’s a list of all the books that have been a big hit with both of us (with a few exceptions). Trust me, it’s important for the parent to like the book too, since it’s him/her who’ll have to read it aloud 7 times a day without wanting to shot-put it out the window.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: Fascinating for children because of the pictures of food, and the caterpillar crawling through each of them. Not so much for the grown-ups.

The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, and The Highway Rat: These are by the same author-illustrator team, and lots of fun.

Where the Wild Things Are: Beautiful illustrations.

Harold and his Purple Crayon: A very neat idea.

Potty: To gently nudge your stubborn little people towards using the potty.

Goodnight Moon: Fascinating book. For some reason, it gives one the feeling of being high.

The Little Engine That Could: Snore-fest for the adult, but kids seem to love it.

First Book of Dogs – Isabel Thomas: The joy that this brought my canine-loving daughter cannot be described. (Or it can, but not within 500 words.) She just sat and memorized, with the help of her adult, all the dog names in the book. She is now probably the only 3 and a half-year old child in the vicinity who can identify a beagle or a Siberian husky on sight. (Yes these are foreign dogs, I urge Indian dog experts to write a similar one on types of indigenous dogs — I would buy that as eagerly.)

My Very First Critter Counting 123 (Parragon books): Simply wonderful artwork. The kiddies learn all about insects and numbers. NOT for arachnophobes, or their little arachnophobes-in-training.

The Little Red Caboose: A story about a train, but less hideously dull than ‘The Little Engine that could’, which, as I’ve mentioned above, adults wish had never been written.

All of Dr Seuss: So far we’ve read ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ several hundred times. ‘Horton Hears a Who’ is also on the bookshelf waiting for its little reader to grow up a little bit more and understand the philosophy behind “A person is a person no matter how small.”

Bengali books like ‘Tuntunir Golpo’, ‘Abol Tabol’, ‘Cchobite Ramayan’,and ‘Hashikhushi’  are favourites with all Bengali khokas and khukis out there, though not as easily available online.

Then there are the books I wish I’d not got for my child:

Love You Forever: Completely creepy. It’s about a mother who CRAWLS into her son’s room when he’s asleep, at different stages of his life. I’ve never figured out why she crawls, except that she’s insane. At one point, she’s driving across town with a ladder strapped to her car so she can climb in at his window and crawl into his room when he’s a grown-up man. If you thought YOU had an intrusive mother-in-law, you should read this to feel better about your life.

Unfortunately, my daughter loves this book. So after having nightmares for a few weeks, I hid it.

Traditional fairy tales cannot be avoided. I have to admit, reading them to her makes me a little uncomfortable because of all the wrong messages. The princesses languish helplessly in towers/in a coma/in the evil stepmother’s house until some damn prince comes and kisses her without her permission and “saves” her. Completely opposite to what we ladies are trying to teach our children, am I right?

And then there is the gratuitous violence and death: Hungry wolves trying to eat children (in some versions succeeding), sinister and sometimes cannibalistic witches, psychotic stepmothers, parents abandoning their children in the woods, princes being pushed out of towers — falling into thorn bushes and going blind. Gruesome, very gruesome.

But there’s no escaping these books, and the tot has several versions of the same stories. I read them to her – albeit reluctantly. Only the prince doesn’t go blind, he breaks his leg; people don’t die they fall asleep. Only until she reads them herself!

These are only a drop in the ocean of young children’s literature out there. Could readers write in to ushasi@siyawoman.com to help create a more comprehensive list?

Happy Reading!

Watch this space for next week’s book list: ‘Literature for the Troubled Soul’.




Ushasi Sen Basu, 37, lives in Bangalore and is the erstwhile Editor-in-Chief of SiyaWoman.com. She published her debut contemporary literary fiction novel, 'Kathputli’ in early 2017, in both Kindle and paperback formats. Ushasi has been a professional writer and editor for over a decade. She also has an unpopular blog called The Crib that pokes fun at everything, including herself. Ushasi (aka Shashi, "U" and 'You-Over-There') loves literature and music, and dances like nobody’s watching. She is the mother of a five-year-old girl, who is the joy of her life and grudging guinea pig for many of her parenting experiments.

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