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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Lizard's Tail

The Lizard's Tail
by Shobha Viswanath
illustrations by Christine Kastl

Audio version:
Narrated by: Vidya Balan
Music by: 3 Brothers & a Violin
Title Song by: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

Published by: Karadi Tales

The Lizard's Tail stayed in top spot in kids' most-read/most-listened list for nearly two weeks in a row when I first introduced it to them back in June, the audiobooks month. That to me spells its clear success. The audio version is what they experienced first and it helped them hear the words, picture the scenes in their minds, and empathize with the poor little lizard's predicament.

The story is very simple: A baby lizard loses his tail in an unfortunate accident at the drawer that he was scooting through, having fun. When he asks his mom, she says, well, maybe it is time for you to get a new look, which is rather confusing. The little lizard thinks this meant that he should go find a new tail. So he sets off to find a new one. He meets a host of animals, one by one, squirrel, monkey, cow, dog, cat, and elephant and asks them if they will sell their tail so he can have a new one. They all refuse in their own unique way, while highlighting the virtues and uses of their own tails. Disappointed, he goes back to his mom who laughs gently and asks him to look at his own tail. And guess what? It's not a stump anymore, it has started to grow back!

When I read the book to my kids, I couldn't help but be influenced by Vidya Balan's gentle, warm, and cheerful presentation as I tried to recreate the magic, minus the songs and sound effects. The inviting Will You Read With Me? sets the tone for this series that helps children read-along as they listen to the CD. The Lizard's Tail together with Little Vinayak has made Vidya Balan a household name, and a favorite one at that, in our household. And, until the kids got these two book as a present from their grandparents, we were blissfully unaware of the talents of Ms.Balan.

The palette-knife illustrations by Christine Kastl are gorgeous and they complement the story well. The texture and crackle-like finish with ridges made my daughter wonder at first if the art work was done with her favorite Paint-and-Cling-Wrap method, but when we read the back cover, it gave me a chance to give her some information about palette-knife painting which I now have added to my "Art-Exploration" list.

The music in the audio version is catchy and upbeat. I liked that after hearing this CD, followed by a few more of Karadi Tales' ones that we've listened to, my daughter started humming and singing the songs with pure pleasure that made me smile.

While it is true that not all books appeal to all children (and adults) alike, I am quite happy to have found a handful that appeal to both the 2½ and 5 year old at the same time: the text is comfortable enough with just a few challenging words for my five-year-old to read by herself, while the flow of the story and the parade of animals easily hold the 2½ year old's attention.

[cross-posted at Saffron Tree]

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