I love getting mail. I'm not kidding when I say one of the highlights of my day is checking the mail, even when it's Tuesday and I know it will only be the grocery store circulars. It's already been established that I love books (by the mere fact that I have a blog . . . about books . . . ). So when Zoe announced her international book swap over on Playing by the Book, I knew we would take part. Books in the mail? Sign me up!
Kidding aside, I knew it would be fun to take part in a book exchange and perhaps learn a little about another family's favorite books, or even--in the event that we were matched with an international family--their culture. When I was younger, beginning around the fifth grade, I had a penpal. We were actually matched up through an ad in the back of a book. A lot of times those youthful "virtual" (I guess that's what you'd call it now) friendships fizzle out but my penpal and I stayed in touch for many years, until sometime in high school when, sadly, we lost contact with each other (on the off chance that Kathlynn is reading this--drop me an email!). One of the things I most enjoyed about having a penpal was the anticipation that something might be waiting for me every time I opened the mail box. And so it was with the book exchange: every day I opened my mailbox I thought, This could be the day.
I was matched with Artnavy, who blogs at About Time Now and is a contributor to Saffron Tree. Although I had specified when I signed up that I was open to a book exchange with anybody, I was thrilled that we were matched with a family in a different country. Artnavy and her family live in India. We decided to send her and her children a copy of The Monster Who Ate Darkness (the subject of my first post on this blog, and an all-time favorite in this house). My kids were upset about this until I told them we were sending them their own copy, not the one that belongs to us, and that we would also be receiving a new book in the mail.
Artnavy sent us Little Vinayak, by Shobha Viswanath and illustrated by Shilpa Ranade. As a special bonus, the book contained a wonderful CD audiobook read by Vidya Balan and with music by 3 Brothers & A Violin. Little Vinayak is the story of a small elephant who is frustrated because he constantly trips over his trunk. His friends and other jungle inhabitants try to help him fix his problem until a wise old elephant, Tembo, teaches him how to walk and swing his trunk so it doesn't get in his way. It's a book that is about learning to be comfortable in your own skin, a message I think we all (yes, even adults!) need to be reminded of once in awhile.
My kids liked the humorous story of Little Vinayak and especially loved the bright illustrations. Entirely on their own, they got into a discussion about which medium the illustrator had used--one boy thought crayons, the other thought oil pastels. My younger son was still talking about Little Vinayak the next day and asked if he could take it to share with his kindergarten class at school.
Little Vinayak reminded me of a few other books we enjoy here. It would make a good companion for Giraffes Can't Dance and The Saggy Baggy Elephant -- both of which also feature animals who come to accept and appreciate their unique physical characteristics.
In addition to Little Vinayak, Artnavy also sent us a copy of The Hare and the Tortoise (Again!) and a small illustrated book on how to make roti, a traditional Indian flat bread. I have not made the roti yet, as it calls for wheat, but I have been looking at gluten-free roti recipes and look forward to trying it the next time we have a meal that calls for flat bread.
Thank you again, Artnavy, for the books! And a big thanks to Zoe for coordinating this book swap. Be sure to check out her excellent blog, Playing by the Book, for more of her excellent ideas and reviews!