Bagheera, Baloo and the Board Book Creation


I was fascinated with India from early childhood, mainly because of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book stories that my dad used to read to me every night before bed. Translated to Russian, the stories of little Mowgli preserved exotic Indian atmosphere – the jungles, monsoons, dangerous tigers and mischievous bander-logi (monkeys). Naturally when my daughter Shannon was born, I wanted to continue our family tradition and read these amazing stories to her. At 11 months, Shannon is still mostly attracted to “Touch & Feel” board books, with colourful large images, so I went on a hunt for appropriate adaptation of Kipling’s classic for early readers. When I could not find a version that would appeal, I had no choice but to make my first attempt of creating a board book from scratch.
Equipped with cardboaIMG_20160814_081313_1471267150147rd paper, scissors, glue, and printouts of jungle landscapes I found online, I locked myself for several hours in the evening to create the book that I was hoping to use as a “canvas” for my future storytelling. I wanted to make the book free of actual written words, just with images and pop-ups so that I could introduce my girl to all characters step-by-step and perhaps tell different stories every time. I only included the names of the main characters with the first letters in big shiny paper, “alphabet-style” (e.g. big B for Bagheera, big K for Kaa the python, S for Sher- khan). As these stories involved lots of action, climbing and chases, I thought it will be a good opportunity to introduce new spatial words to Shannon, which are proven to drive kids’ early conceptual dimensional thinking. I ornamented the margins of the book with prepositions that would help me describe the story, a cheat sheet for myself to weave into my stories.

IMG_20160814_135517_1471267255367It took me well into the night to finish the 8-page book and half way down the process I was already anticipating how I would introduce it to Shannon the next morning. She seemed to enjoy it, but perhaps not as much as I was expecting (a reality check J). She played with it for 5-7 min, liked the Mowgli figure made with glossy paper (she tore it, reviewed carefully and even tasted it J ). However, I did not get a chance to tell many stories. Perhaps it is a bit early for my 11-month old. The big shiny letters in the book caught her attention for some time, but the real proof of whether she likes it will come if she selects the book again from her bookshelf. I am hoping that day will come soon as my husband and Shannon’s papa, the wildlife photographer, has already promised to take both of us to the actual Mowgli forest in Kahna, where Kipling was inspired to create his original stories.

– Katerina Folkman, mother of 11 month old girl 

Ganesha Kahan Hai? – The Hunt for Ganesha

IMG_20160727_140313.jpgGanesha kahan hai
? (where is Ganesha?) – when I first used this Hindi phrase while trying to get my 19 month old interested in reading through pictures (illustrations on the cover of Ganesha comic books) little did I know that this will become his favourite phrase to speak for months together.


Putting his fingers in the holes of fruits in the Hungry Caterpillar did not excite him as much as hunting for his two Ganesha comic books day after day, night after night repeating the phrase Ganesha kahan hai. While the inherent connection between early grade reading and language development is obvious to all, how language can trigger interest in reading became apparent to me only in this instance.


In the Ganesha books however, it was the character of Shiva that caught his eye as the moon on his head is an object he sees and admires in the sky almost every other night. To make the reading experience more fun, I started encouraging him to hunt for and point out Shiva, found in various scenes at almost every other page of the book in different profiles and sizes. Yeh bhi Shiva (this is Shiva), woh bhi Shiva (that is Shiva), two two Shiva he would very excitedly point out to different versions of the character on the same page as we would browse from page 1 to 39.

IMG_20160727_210933While the game was a visual delight, I was not too happy with the gender bias. Going by the same logic of visual recognition I started pointing at Parvati standing next to Shiva with flowers on her head bun. It appeared that he never paid attention as he was too much in love with Shiva, until one fine day when he suddenly pointed to her and said her name. And then a new hunting game began – for Parvati along with Shiva – which deep inside I felt much happier playing along.

The excitement lasted only for a week and there was a need to discover some new object of devotion as the love for the book was still alive. This time around though it was not any character, but the moustache of Ravana that caught his eye and mine. Does papa have a moustache? Does Sohum bhaiya have a moustache?  No. Does Amay have a moustache? Yes, but only when he eats his yogurt. The last one in the series was Narad Muni because of the unique placement of the flower in his ear but by now the hunting game was not fun anymore.

Ganesha, ShivIMG_20160727_093352.jpga, Parvati, Ravana, Narad Muni – although playing the Ganesha game day in and day out was not easy, my son had learnt some interesting Hindi words. With the exception of a tattered book, the experience felt totally worthwhile in the end as the help at home also played along.