Bloomsbury Guided Reading: The Magic of Stories by Chitra Soundar
Persian storytelling is permeated through the storytelling of India since the 16th century. As a child, I grew up listening to stories about the jinn, folktales of Mulla Nasiruddin amongst other Hindu stories.
I wanted to write a fun magical story for an Indian child and I decided to write about a magic lamp and the genie. As I wrote many versions of it, a few themes glimmered through.
- Be careful what you wish for. It might just come true.
- What’s best is relative – so careful before you knock someone’s taste.
- Wishing is not at all easy.
- The best present often is the time we spend together with our families than the gifts we buy for them.
While most children are familiar with a western home in stories, an Indian home might be new to them. They are are fascinated with what parathas are and ghee is in the story. Often, I discuss which spices can make you sneeze and what smells great. And of course, the obvious one that touches that inner identity – children who don’t often see themselves reflected in books. Once I was in a school in South London when a Spanish girl hugged the book to her heart and came to me and said that Manju looks like her. Her Dad agreed and bought a few more copies for her cousins too. That joy makes it so worthwhile.
While it was published as a banded reader, the story was originally written as an illustrated story that could be read aloud. I wanted to have loads of glorious illustrations (which Veronica Montoya has beautifully accomplished) and fun language elements.
The story has a mix of familiar and unfamiliar words and includes chants, a clear structure around the seven wishes and repetitive phrases like “Your wish is granted”. It also models adjectives, sensory words and superlatives.
Children’s Reactions to the story:
Before the pandemic, I had taken this book to schools – to EYFS and KS1 classrooms and these are things children love about the story:
- The magic lamp that I carry with me
- Children love that Manju got seven and not three wishes
- The making of the wish – the smiling, rubbing the lamp and uttering the words in Hindi – it’s glorious to see classes of Y1 chant with me.
- Often children comment about the cat, Cumin – they talk about their pets, what names they have chosen and why. They also mention that they enjoyed listening to the cat’s thoughts.
- Some children get exasperated with the genie for messing up the wishes. I’ve heard groans and gasps during storytelling sessions
- We sometimes do the story as a role-play. The children then get to count the wishes, make the wishes (as if they are Manju) and be a genie by repeating “Your Wish is Granted!”.
- Children realise Manju didn’t even use a single wish for herself.
Based on the storytelling of the book, I do a workshop that covers either of the following:
- From colouring sheets to oral storytelling, even though this book is for KS1 (Purple reader), it can be used in EYFS too.
- In KS1, I also run an empathy workshop based on this book. Watch this workshop video and you’re welcome to use it in your class. Children then come up with wishes for someone else – and draw those wishes. Sometimes we add to this by saying they must use superlatives or adjectives when wishing. Children have wished for their step-sisters, parents, neighbours, best friends, grandparents and even their pets. Children often try and beat the system by agreeing with a friend to swap the wishes with.
Do be careful during this workshop – I’ve had some heart-breaking wishes that were made and I had to alert the teacher to have a chat.
I really hope you enjoy using Manju’s Magic Wishes in your classrooms and share with me the responses and interactions. There is another story coming out soon about Manju and the genie! Stay tuned!
A word from our friends at Bloomsbury about the guided reading website:
Here at Bloomsbury, we’re passionate about reading and so we’re proud to publish some of the best children’s books around: from award winning fiction and stunning picture books to diverse and engaging readers for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.To help you and your class get the most out of this wealth of brilliant books, we’ve partnered with the experts at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education to create teaching notes for over seventy of our favourites, including books by Sarah Crossan, Julia Donaldson, Neil Gaiman, Patrice Lawrence, Zanib Mian, Louis Sachar and many, many more. The teaching notes are packed with brilliant ideas for activities and engaging discussion material, helping you to put high quality books at the centre of your teaching.
Find Chitra on twitter, @csoundar, Instagram, chitra.soundar and on her website www.chitrasoundar.com.