“Whoa!” exclaimed Alby at the magnificent structure before him.
Dr. Dodo, however, looked unfazed. “Jeez, boys. It’s just grocery shopping. Not Disney World!”
“Remember, this is not just a market. It’s a Smartket. Don’t even try getting what you don’t need…” added Dr. Dodo, bidding them farewell.
The Smartket was a huge pyramid-shaped building.This was Alby’s and Arby’s first time shopping there, and they were amazed.
“Hey, Dr. Dodo hasn’t given us a check list! You know what that means?” asked Alby, with mischief in his eyes. “I’m going to buy hundred bars of chocolate!” The two wasted no time and ran into the building.
“Hello. I am Nutrina, your shopping guide. You are now on floor 1,” said a robotic voice at the entrance.
“Huh? All I see are tanks of water,” said a confused Arby, looking around the extremely vast room.
“That’s because water is the most important part of your diet,” said Nutrina.
Water makes up more than half of your body weight. No blood, no oxygen! Complete system failure. Body loses water as pee, poop and sweat.
Arby and Alby asked Nutrina to set aside a tank of water for Brainwave Lab and took the elevator to the next level.
Level 2 was made entirely of glass. Sunlight streamed through and shone on the plants and trees that grew all around the room.
“Look! Fruits and vegetables all around!” shouted Arby.
Bananas – potassium and full of fibre. Sprouts – vitamins and minerals, no fat.
“Imagine all the yummy fresh salads we can make,” said Alby as they climbed to the next level, along with trolleys full of fruits and veggies.
This floor was about the same size and was populated by heaps of grain, loaves of bread and pastas.
Carbs are made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Processed carbs not healthy.
Armed with packets of bread, pastas and rice, the two moved on to level 4.
As soon as the elevator door opened, they were greeted by a whiff of a fishy smell.
“This floor is packed with protein,” said Nutrina, pointing to the rows of fish, meat and pulses.
This floor was much smaller than the ones below it. Alby and Arby realised they were nearing the top of the Smartket pyramid.
Proteins – good for muscle and bone. Extra protein damages liver.
The boys quickly took all they needed and rushed out of the refrigerated floor.
The last level was a tiny room. And it was filled with cakes and pastries, and chips and burgers. Arby noticed a sign in front of them -
These foods can be addictive.
Increase chances of heart disease.
Make you overweight.
As long as you eat enough from our lower levels,
A little bit of Level 5 won’t give you any trouble.
“Do you still want hundred bars of chocolate, Alby?”
“No way!” he replied. “I’ll settle for five.”
By Saumya K, Class 7, New Delhi
I am always mesmerized by dinosaurs, their grand size, and the fact that they actually existed on Earth. How I wish to travel to the past just to see them!
For now, I make do with pouring over my collection of books on dinos. On one of these dino-obsessed days, I realised it was almost midnight when I finally put the book down.
“THUMP!” came a thunderous noise.
Wondering if I was going crazy, I stood up and looked around.
“THUMP!” It was louder this time.
“Who’s there? “ I called out. No one responded.
I gathered all my courage and rushed to my parents’ room. My heart sunk when I realised they were missing.
I ducked down as a strange looking bird flew over my head. Wait a minute… I knew… I had seen this creature before.
It was a Pterosaur!
Before I could comprehend what was happening,
I saw a huge dinosaur moving towards me.
He was coming closer.
Then something totally unexpected happened. The huge dinosaur began talking to the pterosaur, and in English! Even more bizarre was the fact that his voice resembled my mom’s voice.
I was perplexed. Was my mother inside the dinosaur?
Or had she converted into one?
“Mom…” I called out, tentatively.
“Get up!” the dinosaur screamed back. It was then that I opened my eyes and saw my mom standing over me.
It was all a dream. How disappointing! But wait, where did that huge paw engraved on my wall come from?
“What’s happening!” I wondered.
“Huh?” grumbled Arby and Alby, rubbing their eyes sleepily.
“It’s the day the Sun shines directly on the equator, making the day and night exactly 12 hours long each. This happens twice a year, once on March 20th and then again in autumn on September 22nd,” Bhoo explained.
“So what, Bhoo?” queried Alby, grumpily.
“Boys, we’re going to Mexico! It’s a tradition I’ve followed for the last five hundred years.”
Minutes later, in Brainwave lab, they strapped themselves in the time machine, tinkered with the controls and tumbled through the time tunnel.
The three Smartys found themselves at the foot of the majestic El Castillo, a step pyramid twenty four meters high, with a temple on the top, in the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza.
Arby began exploring. “Four sides, 91 steps on each side. This makes 364 steps,” he murmured, jotting in his notebook.
“And the temple on the top makes it 365,” added a deep voice.
“One step for each day of the year!” deduced Arby, as he turned around looking for the source of the voice.
An elderly Mayan man stood proudly behind them. “Welcome, my friends! I am Ah Kinchil. It is wonderful to see you again, Bhoo. You did not forget the day!”
“Thank you for having us. This time I brought my little friends to watch the miracle of Kukulkan,” said Bhoo introducing the younger Smartys.
“I welcome you all to see the magnificent descent of Kukulkan, our serpent God,” said Ah Kinchil with pride in his eyes. “But first, a grand feast awaits you.”
Ah Kinchil was a Mayan high priest. Bhoo had met him during one of her earlier visits while unsuccessfully attempting to prevent the fall of the Mayan kingdom. The Mayans had persisted on expanding their kingdom, which forced them to deforest the lands. The fall of the great Mayan civilization soon followed.
While they were relishing the Mayan feast, Ah Kinchil gave them more food for thought. “This year is special. When Kulkulkan descends from the heavens, we will please him with human sacrifice and pray for the rains that will end the drought. Like us, gods need nourishment too, you see?”
Bhoo nodded and looked across at the shocked gaping faces of Alby and Arby.
When they were finally alone, Alby erupted. “Human sacrifice? Bhoo, where have you brought us?”
“Let’s leave now,” Arby protested.
“The Mayans are great people, in touch with the powers of nature. The time that we come from can learn a lot from them. Sadly, they are also very superstitious,” Bhoo explained.
“More importantly, they are my good friends. So let’s just calm down and be civilised guests while we are here. Ok?”
Just then, Ah Kinchil entered the room and gave them the sign to rise. Arby checked his watch; it was few minutes past three noon.
They walked to the northern face of the El Castillo and watched the serpent’s slow descent from the top of the pyramid to the base, where the serpent god Kukulcan’s head had been carved out. The crowd cheered.
“The serpent god is crawling down from the temple!” marvelled Ah Kinchil, evidently having a mystical moment.
It was quite an experience, but the Smartys knew it was no serpent. As they watched, it was clear that the Sun casted a series of triangular shadows on the giant steps of the pyramid, as it set.
Just before the ceremony of human sacrifice began, Bhoo dragged them back to the time machine. It was something they couldn’t stomach.
When they were back at the lab, Bhoo tried to put them at ease. “Good way to spend the equinox, wasn’t it?”
“What’s the big deal about these days anyway?” questioned a thoughtful Alby.
Bhoo explained: “Like the summer and winter solstices, equinoxes mark the change of the seasons, which in turn helps in planning for crops and harvests.”
“I see,” said Arby, “So El Castillo is just a cleverly constructed calendar!”
“Yes, but that’s not what Ah Kinchil would say,” said Bhoo with a knowing smile.
‘Around the World in 80 puzzles’ is a fun book that takes us around the globe through 80 simple yet interesting puzzles. Starting off with a fun title, beautiful full-page illustrations and small tidbits about the destination, each puzzle introduces us to different countries around the world and their cultures. The book is sure to keep you engaged and build your curiosity.
It is written by Pooja Lulla, an author who has written many books for children. The illustrator is Archana Sreenivasan.
The artwork was one of the major highlights for me, since it’s colourful, beautifully composed and elaborate, with fine details which describe the destination. Another great thing about the book is that not only does it tell us about famous monuments or structures, but also about interesting cultures, animals, birds, sports, food, clothing, etc.
Here are some puzzles that stood out for me: a mission on finding the location of the Mona Lisa painting through scattered notepaper scraps in The Mona Lisa, finding hidden country names from the picturesque Amazon rainforest in Big and Rainy, spotting the differences between two photographs of Santa Claus’s headquarters in Meet Santa Here, and a quick and short memory game called The Golden Pagoda, and many, many more!Image: Pooja Prabhakaran
All of them are visual treats and keep you hooked, going from one puzzle to the other while travelling around the world.
The intricate drawings also make the fun of solving the puzzles come alive. In two puzzles, called A Fishy Place and An Unusual Flag, I had to scan throughout the page and pay attention to all the details hidden in the artwork to find the hidden clues.
The puzzles vary from scrambled letters and crosswords to basic math riddles and logical brainteasers and short board games. The different types ensure you won’t get bored, and stay inquisitive and challenged. It was because of these features that the last puzzle The Vampire’s Home was my personal favourite. It involves storytelling through photographs. It had a short tale about a fun and frolic gang of grannies and a dazed Count Dracula!Image: Pooja Prabhakaran
In all, the book provides an interactive and immersive experience that will give you the feeling of being a part of an adventure around the world, to learn and to discover. All it takes is to get the book, sit in a comfy chair and keep a pencil ready.
Ceres is the largest of the many asteroids floating between Mars and Jupiter. On March 6, it will have a visitor from Earth.
The NASA Dawn spacecraft will arrive at the asteroid after a journey of eight years. It is simply a small laboratory that scientists launched in 2007. They are interested in Ceres because they think it formed before Earth did, more than 4.6 billion years ago, when the Solar System was itself very young.
Think of it like you’re studying ancient history. In your investigations, you find a book that was printed at that time. By reading the contents of the book, you can understand more about what that time must have been like and how people used to live then. In the same way, for astronomers, the ancient book is Ceres itself. By studying its properties and features, astronomers will gain get a better idea of what the young Solar System was like.
Right now, the Dawn space probe is about 40,000 km away from the asteroid. It has been taking many pictures and sending them back to scientists on Earth.
The scientists, in turn, have been confronted with a strange puzzle.
According to some of the latest pictures taken by Dawn, Ceres has a few bright spots on its surface that nobody has any idea about. Chris Russell, the principal investigator of the mission and an astronomer at the University of California at Los Angeles, said, “We expected to be surprised; we did not expect to be this puzzled.”
In the meantime, Dawn gets closer to its destination. On March 6, it will gently enter into orbit around Ceres – which is 950 km wide – and continue its studies in greater detail. Earlier, in 2011, it had studied another asteroid called Vesta, the second largest in the asteroid belt, for 14 months. And like Ceres, Vesta is also believed to have been formed in the early days of the Solar System.
This like having two ancient books instead of just one for astronomers, and with them, they hope to read deeper into the dawn of the Solar System.