How Ella Grew an Electric Guitar

  • January 29, 2012 5:44 pm


This is a fun book to introduce kids to business. Eleven-year-old Ella, who has formed a band with three of her friends, desperately wants an electric guitar. In the process of trying to come up with the money to buy it, she learns about interest, the stock market, running a small business, marketing, and business loans. These concepts are introduced in a low-key way as part of the story.

My husband read this to our 9-year-old son, and they both enjoyed the story. My husband is an entrepreneur, and he felt the financial concepts in this book were sound.

One of the authors, Orly Sade, is a professor of finance, and the other, Ellen Neuborne, is a writer. They’ve done a great job of teaching financial concepts within the context of a compelling story.

I’ve included this book on my girls list.

Gift that Gives All Year: New Moon Girls

  • December 18, 2011 12:02 pm

If you’re looking for a great gift for the girl in your life, consider a membership to New Moon Girls, a moderated online community and ad-free magazine (6 issues per year). The magazine and online community, for girls ages 8-14, are both designed to build self-esteem and positive body image.

Every issue of the print magazine, which is run by an editorial board made up of girls, emphasizes inner beauty over outer beauty, and contains advice from girls to girls. A recent issue featured a profile of artist Frida Kahlo, an article on animals that use camouflage, and real-life examples of girls taking action to create a better world.

Sita’s Ramayana

  • November 12, 2011 9:31 am


This graphic novel is an interesting retelling of the Hindu epic The Ramayana from the point of view of Sita, the queen of Ayodhya. The words are written by Samhita Arni, who as a child wrote an absorbing retelling of another Hindu epic: The Mahabharata: A Child’s View. The colorful, dramatic, appealing pictures are by Moyna Chitrakar, a folk artist who lives in West Bengal, India.

Sita is not known for being particularly active or assertive. In fact, her obedience and devotion to her husband Rama are legendary. Yet by focusing on Sita’s point of view, this retelling has something to say about a woman’s perspective on war and justice.

The story begins at the end, with the queen Sita entering the forest and begging the forest to shelter her. The forest wants to know why she was banished from Ayodhya, and she tells her story.

This retelling emphasizes Sita’s compassion for other women, including those who are considered enemies by the men. She believes that Lakshmana’s rash decision to cut off the demoness Surpanaka’s nose is the cause of her (Sita’s) abduction and the war in Lanka. “Violence breeds violence, and an unjust act only begets greater injustice,” Sita says.

When she is Ravana’s prisoner in Lanka, Sita becomes close to one of her demoness guards: Trijatha, who, unlike the other guards, feels compassion for Sita. It is Trijatha who tells Sita the story of the war between Rama and Ravana.

As much as Sita is overjoyed that Rama won the war, she still feels compassion for Mandodari, Ravana’s widow, as well as for all the other “enemy” women. “They would be queens no more, and their people had met death on the battlefield–for what? For one man’s unlawful desire. . . . It was such a high price to pay.”

The story also features a few other powerful females, including an apsara (divine female) who warns Hanuman about a sorcerer, and the goddess Chandi Devi.

In the end, of course, even Sita’s devotion to Rama cannot help her against the rumors that surround her because of her sojourn with Ravana. Sita finally makes a decision to leave Rama and return to her mother, the Earth.

I have included this book on my girls’ list.

Sparking Revolution: Engaging Youth through Literature

  • September 17, 2011 1:13 pm

If you’re in the New York City area, I invite you to attend the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective literary festival on September 23-24 at Revolution Books. I will be speaking on a panel entitled “Sparking Revolution: Engaging Youth through Literature.”

Please follow this link for more information:

Riparia’s River, by Michael Caduto

  • August 12, 2011 8:51 am

Four children (two girls and two boys) discover that their favorite swimming hole is smelly and overgrown with slimy green stuff. They walk upriver to find the source of the problem, and they encounter a mysterious woman who calls herself “Riparia.”

Riparia shows them that the water has become polluted due to herbicides applied on a farm nearby. In addition, cow manure and fertilizer are causing too much algae to grow in the water. The children want to help solve the problem. They know the farmer’s daughter, Amy, and decide to talk to her.

Riparia cautions them that it might not work to tell other people what to do. The children decide to invite Amy to go swimming with them, so she can see the problem for herself. At that moment, Riparia disappears.

The children, with Amy’s help, talk to Amy’s father. However, her father says he does not have the time or the money to deal with the problem. He invites them to figure out a solution themselves. Riparia’s words give them an idea. The children, with Amy’s father’s help, move the farm fence farther away from the river, to create a buffer zone. They also enlisted the help of others to plant wildflowers, trees, and shrubs in the buffer zone.

Two years later, their buffer zone has  turned into a beautiful habitat for animals, and the swimming hole is clean again.

This picture book for elementary-age kids combines an environmental message with an example of youth leadership and initiative. The illustrations by Olga Pastuchiv are beautiful, and at the end is a list of animals that can be found in the pictures throughout the book. The author, Michael Caduto, is an ecologist and storyteller.

I highly recommend this charming and educational book. I have included it on both my girls list and my boys list, as well as on the blog post Earth Day Books.