By the Book: Ashok Rajagopalan’s new series for middle graders and an illustrated handbook on digital technology


Ashok Rajagopalan’s book is an imaginative read that will take you on a flight, while Shalini Satish and Raam Baranidharan’s book is informative read that you’ll want to keep close by.

Gulgul in Saregamma
Ashok Rajagopalan
Talking cub
Rs 250
Suitable for: 8+ years

Gulgul in Saregamma by Ashok Rajagopalan
(Source: Amazon.in)

When Gajapati Kulapati was released in 2010, it was to be the beginning of an enduring love story. The antics of the lovable temple elephant who catches a cold and doesn’t bother his friends became an instant hit with early readers, its alliterative refrains and colorful imagery making it a perfect book for storyteller meetings or independent reading. Much to the delight of his very young (and some old) fans, a whole series of books followed, delighting readers with a glimpse of the Ring of Gajapati’s antics. Chennai-based author and illustrator Ashok Rajagopalan’s The Adventures of Gulgul series, released towards the end of 2020, is aimed at a slightly older audience, but its intent remains essentially the same – to make a great read. A space fantasy set on the imaginary planet Green, the new series follows Gulgul, a precocious little girl who embarks on intergalactic adventures. The first three books in the series, Gulgul in Jungalu, Gulgul in See-Saw Gara and Gulgul in Parapara, have now been followed by three others – Gulgul in Up-Up-Purra, Gulgul in Papadom and Gulgul in Saregamma.

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As with Gajapati Kulapati or even Gulgul in Jungalu, there are many elephants and other fantastical creatures in the series. The heart of Gulgul in Saregamma is Nisha the Niliphant, a flying yellow elephant with pink wings that Gulgul and her classmates encounter on a school trip to Saregamma, the planet of music. Nisha trains there under the tutelage of Gaanaguru, the Great Maestro, but she would much rather be at home in Nila with Ninimama and Ninipapa and eat bamboo, bananas and jackfruit. It’s up to Gulgul to convince her to return and complete her education, but not before there’s a musical performance or two to keep everyone entertained. It’s a simple linear narrative, one of the reasons it might be larger for a slightly younger audience, but the clever puns and laugh-out-loud moments are all distinctive Rajagopalan hallmarks that will delight readers of all ages.

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The small handbook of cool technology
Shalini Satish and Raam Baranidharan
HarperCollins
Rs 399
Suitable for: 9+ years

The Little Handbook of Cool Technology by Shalini Satish and Raam Baranidharan
(Source: Amazon.in)

According to the 2019 Unicef ​​report “Growing Up in a Connected World”, one in three children under the age of 18 is an internet user, while one in three internet users is a child under the age of 18. In the years since, one of the many changes brought about by the pandemic has been the sharp increase in the number of children using the internet for educational and recreational purposes in the wake of the ongoing lockdowns and school closures. The Little Handbook of Cool Technology, the first book in the Young Techie series, not only introduces readers to the wonders of the Internet – the way it stores data and disseminates information, as it evolves from the human mind in ways and ways in which it solves problems – but also to fun trivia that are always so attractive to nerds big and small (The well-known history of the term Google, for example: a misspelling of “googol”, a mathematical term that has 10 to the power of 10 100 means; or the fact that at the time of writing the book, Antarctica was “the only continent not connected to the Internet by undersea cables” – the network connecting 33 countries on four continents of the world).

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From artificial intelligence and extended reality to the Internet of Things, the book picks up on important topics in a clear and concise manner, provides information in capsules and breaks it up visually with graphics and animations.

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But like any technology, the Web has its own dangers. Across the world, there has been a record fall in cybercrime against children in the last three two years. In India, the National Crime Records Bureau reported a 400 percent increase in cybercrime against children in 2020 compared to 2019. While various awareness programs and security measures are being implemented at the institutional level as digital exposure is only likely to increase in the coming years, An effective way to make children aware of the limitations of the internet is to break down how the internet works to show both its benefits and its limitations. While deftly narrating the workings of the internet and its wondrous ability to shrink the world into a device, the chapter on cybersecurity and the FAQ that acts as a coda are particularly insightful. There’s a nifty list of do’s and don’ts and advice on how to avoid malware and strangers that strike us as intrusive. This timely book is essential reading not only for children but also for those interested in learning more about the technology that has become routine in our lives.

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