Thursday, June 07, 2007

[Book] Sore Losers!

South Orange River (S.O.R) Middle School has a glorious athletic reputation. Every student is expected to be a part of some team. But disaster strikes when a bunch of academic overachievers (aka geeks) manage to escape sixth grade without as much as setting foot inside a locker room. School authorities lower the boom and mandate the creation of a special soccer team for the delinquents, coached by the history teacher, who is as much at sea with the sport as the team itself. The season, although peppered by loss after spectacular loss, nevertheless does bring unexpected redemption in the end.

In S.O.R. Losers, a light and good-humored satire, Avi talks about the importance our society attaches on athletic achievements. As one of the ill-fated eleven ponders, "How come sports is so important?"

Avi has been on my "authors to read" list for the longest of times. So, it was with mixed feelings that I started reading my first book by him. First impressions usually being the last impressions, I terribly wanted to not be disappointed. But, I really had nothing to worry about. Avi is just as good as advertised.

Rating: **** (out of 5)
Age: 12+

Friday, May 11, 2007

[Event] FirstWorksKids, 2007

FirstWorksKids is back on June 16. The just-cannot-miss event will be featuring 2007 Grammy Winner Dan Zanes and Friends with two performances at 1 & 4 pm at the RISD Auditorium, among a host of other awesome events. Best of all, the whole deal is absolutely free (donations are recommended).

For all the information, visit the FirstWorksKids website.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

[Event] Free Access to Museums during May

Do you have a Bank of America or MBNA credit or debit card? Well, that is your ticket to free museum access across Southern New England during the month of May. Some of the museums, which do not have free public access at any other time of the year, are,

For the complete listing, click here.

And, if you want to locate museums to do allow free public access on certain occasions, check out the "Kidding Around" calendar.

Monday, October 16, 2006

[Event] Life Is Good® Pumpkin Festival

On October 21st, tens of thousands will gather at the nation's oldest public park, the Boston Common, to break a world record (28,952 jack 'o lanterns!) and support a fantastic cause.

While pumpkins pour into the Common throughout the day and the creative carving continues, participants will enjoy good old-fashioned food and family-friendly activities like face-painting, scarecrow stuffing, magic shows, treasure hunts, a pumpkin maze, the Gargantuan Gourds Guessing Game, and four great live bands. Special guest Mayor Thomas M. Menino will be on hand for the costume parade at 3 p.m.

Proceeds to benefit Camp Sunshine.

More info can be obtained at Life Is Good®

As always, check out the "Kidding Around" calendar for more free events in and around Southern New England.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

[Book] Art smart in the local library

Did you ever wonder the right way to introduce your little angel to the greatest of masters of all times, Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, to name a select few. Or, the right time. Well, how about right here and right now.

A couple of months ago, I was browsing the aisles of one of my favorite places, the local public library, with one of my favorite persons, my four-year old daughter, when we struck the mother lode. We were playing our usual game of her running to a shelf and picking out a book at random, and me reading it to her. A few books later, just when I was about to call it a day, she excitedly ran over to me with a book, the cover of which was as brilliantly hued as the midday sun. The title of the book read Camille and the Sunflowers: a story about Vincent van Gogh by Laurence Anholt.

In this true story, the great painter is described through the eyes of a young boy, Camille, whom he befriends while living for a short while in Camille's village. Although a sad tale, where van Gogh is subjected to taunts and ridicule by the villagers for being different (a constantly recurring theme the world over) and Camille's lack of understanding for this animalistic behavior, at the end the message that comes through is one of tolerance, empathy, compassion. And along the way the reader is exposed to the haunting beauty of some of van Gogh's masterpieces.

A quick search through the library databases and we now had four more Laurence Anholt books about great masters at our fingertips. Leonardo and the Flying Boy, The Magical Garden of Claude Monet, Degas and the Little Dancer, and Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail. Plus, a host of other extremely interesting books.

Our literary pursuits were very well rewarded last weekend, when at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, both my daughters were excitedly running among the exhibits trying to locate a Monet or a Degas, which, I'm happy to inform, they did. Art, any one?

Monday, October 02, 2006

[Book] Five go capering ...

into my daughter's heart!

Enid Blyton, where art thou! Growing up in India, Enid Blyton was goddess amongst us 8-12 year olds. We could never ever get enough of her. And with seven-hundred plus books to her credit, we really could never ever get enough of her. I wistfully remember hours and hours of summer vacations spent devouring series after magical series of frolics and adventures and mysteries. Many of my role-models during my formative years were Blyton protagonists. Julian (Famous-Five), Barney (Barney series), Philip and Jack (Adventure series), and of course, the inimitable Frederick Algernon Trotteville, aka, Fatty (Mystery series). I would spend many a holiday attempting getting out of locked doors and writing messages in secret ink, not to mention disguising myself with a variety of nasty rags lying around the house. I don't recollect any of that ever working, but that didn't stop me from trying. And, my favorite bedtime wish was for a mystery to hit the neighborhood streets, so that I could at long last emulate my hero, the absolutely fantastic Fatty.

Fast forward - a whole bunch of years. Now, I have an eight-year old of my own, who actually enjoys reading books as much as myself. And, I do enjoy the books that she has been reading (having read every single one of them, of course). Mary Pope Osborne and the lovely Magic Tree House books, Roald Dahl and his marvellous creations, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Johanna Hurwitz, and many many others. But, no Enid Blyton. I searched high and I searched low. Neighborhood libraries, libraries in the county, libraries around the state, libraries out of the state. Nada, zilch, naught - or something very close to it. I would find books from the middle of a series, which (I'm not embarassed to admit) I lapped up eagerly. But, I really wanted her to start reading at the very beginning, where the characters are introduced, story lines are formed, and the magic wand spins its web to pull you into a world that can only be experienced - never explained.

So, now drastic measures had to be invoked. Matters had to be taken into our own little hands. Magic, it seemed, did require a little nudge here and a little shove there. Time was relentlessly attempting to dislodge the beautiful innocence from our daughter's heart and we needed help to postpone the inevitable. And, then occured the event that I had been overtly yearning for, for many a year. Mars and Saturn had finally aligned in the constellation Sagittarius. A family vacation completed the needful and six weeks later, we are the proud possessors of 53 books written by the best children's author of all-time. These include the entire Famous Five series, the entire Mystery series, and the entire Adventure series.

I'm in seventh heaven, and so is my daughter!

Monday, September 25, 2006

[Book] Holes

Last week, my daughter's fourth-grade reading class was assigned the very highly acclaimed and just as highly decorated Louis Sachar novel, Holes. Naturally, that meant that I was all set for my late-night reading. And at the end of four very productive hours, I have to conclude that all the acclaim garnered by this book is absolutely not enough.

When Stanley Yelnats is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was just another in a "series of unfortunate events" to strike the Yelnats family. Dogged by misfortune for generations due to a family curse inflicted upon his great-great-grandfather by a one-legged gypsy, Stanley, matter-of-factly, attributes his being shipped off to a juvenile correction facility - for a crime not committed - on the curse. Little does he know that the forces of the great unknown were just about to align the stars in his favor, and provide him with means to redeem not just himself, but the entire Yelnats clan. But first, he has to discover the true meaning of friendship and loyalty and trust, and the sacrifices one has to make realize them.

A word of advice. Extreme attention must be paid to seemingly insignificant details. What seems like fluff might actually be a very important cog in the grand scheme of this epic. As the story travels back and forth in time and place, plots and sub-plots, it is imperative to read every single word, line, paragraph, page, chapter of this book rather carefully.

On a side-note, before I read the book, I was a little concerned with its choice as reading material for a young fourth-grade class. And, after reading the book, I did question the appropriateness of exposing my innocent cherub to the travails of detention camps, the mindless violence that surround them, racism as it existed a century or so ago in this great country, love stories that warm the cockles of ones heart. But, the author did do a wonderful job of tempering his outpourings. And, as I now realize, my daughter is certainly much more mature and capable than I give her credit for. Has to be the 21st century!

Holes is definitely must-read for every ten-plus year old AND his or her care-givers. In fact, this book is what I would call a perfect candidate for one of those parent-child book clubs.

Rating: * * * * * * (out of 5) - no mistake here
Age: 10+