When I was asked to create a booklist to be shared for Independence Day, I started thinking of what independence means to me. For me, being independent means, speaking with my own voice (loving who I am), choosing my own direction, being a part of a diverse world and contributing in my own distinct way.
The books that I am sharing with you today, all deal with these different facets of independence.
It is Good to be Me
1. A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni
Age: 2-6 years
Poor chameleon has to change color wherever he goes, and feels that he has no color of his own. Later he meets a much wiser chameleon and understands that he remains the same in essentials, even though his outer surface keeps on changing colors. He finds inner peace.
2. Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Scott Magoon
Age: 2-6 years
“Everyone else has it so much better than me!”
We all sing this song when we feel incomplete and insecure and envious of someone else.
Spoon has always been happy, but he feels that being a spoon isn’t exciting enough. But then, Mama Spoon reassures Spoon of how special he is.
3. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Age: 2- 6 years
Mr. Tiger is a very prim and proper ‘gentleman’ tiger who wants to have more fun. He wants to loosen up. And he does so; by going wild.
In a way Mr. Tiger reminds me of my son, who wants to run and yell and be a little wild. But then, we remind him that, it is not how he should be behaving. And sometimes, we as adults too, struggle with the same two desires: to go wild or to be organized and proper. The key is as always, finding the right balance.
Here is a video of Peter Brown, discussing his creative process and artistic influences.
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Age: 16 and above. ( I read it for the first time when I was 30.)
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
– Jane Eyre
A classic with a heroine who is spirited and independent. She is in search of a life that is richer and free of the traditions of a Victorian society.
Cornelius by Leo Lionni
The Mixed up Chameleon by Eric Carle
Chamelon’s Colors by Chisato Tashiro
1. Why are you afraid to hold my hand? by Sheila Dhar
Age: 4 – 12 years. I would recommend it for older children as well.
As a differently abled child’s silent dialogue with society, the book offers a sensitive and sensible way of helping children understand disability, and the strengths of those who are differently abled.
2. Sorry, Best Friend from Tulika Books
Age: 8 years and above.
This is a collection of short stories focusing on getting children to recognize and enjoy diversity.
3. My Nose, Your Nose by Melanie Walsh
Age: 4 years and above
This book has very lively illustrations of their body parts – eyes, hair, skin, nose. Children can point out what is unique about them and also see that all of them have so many things on common too! It is all about appreciating diversity.
4. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrted by Oliver Jeffers
Age: 4 – 10 years
The crayons have quit! And put in their complaints and demands in the form of letters to Duncan. Duncan has the arduous task of appeasing all the crayons and getting them back to doing what they do best.
This book is about Speaking Up! If you are mistreated or are unhappy – speak up and try to change the situation. If no one knows how you really feel, how can the situation change? It is about having self-respect and confidence in trying to change the situation.
We Shall Overcome
1. Matilda by Roald Dahl and illustrations by Quentin Blake
Age: 8-12 years
Matilda is a precocious little girl, who has taught herself to read and write and even do math. Her parents are self-centered, and treat her badly. At school, trouble comes in the form of Miss Trunchbull, the school headmistress. But Matilda never gives up and ends the tyranny in her own way and finds love and peace in the end.
2. The Dark by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen
Age: 4 years and above
This is a story of a kid who is afraid of the dark. And then one day someone unexpected, pays a visit to the little kid’s room and helps him understand that you cannot have light without the dark.
3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Age: 12 and above
This is a book about the March family, and not just the women of the family as the title suggests. Independent women who are educated, have a purpose, and even though all of them get married (and to men of their choice), marriage is not mentioned as the ultimate goal of their lives. There is a heroine who writes and is very proud of the fact that she is making money out of it, as well. Growing up, Jo held a special place in my heart, she was tomboyish, loved to read, loved to write and was practical. I highly recommend this book for all kids. The language might seem dated, but I am sure the message will get across.
4. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Age: 12 years and above.
This is one of my absolute favorites, and I try to push it in, in any of the book lists I make.
Mma. Ramotswe is a native of Botswana, a woman of ‘traditional build’, who sets up the country’s only detective agency with the money from the sale of the cattle left to her by her father. She is progressive, a ‘modern lady’, with progressive ideas about women’s need for financial independence, etc. Her cases are simple and her solutions logical, and an outcome of her humor, wisdom and love.