Starr, the young black protagonist of The Hate U Give is just a normal teenager. But, one event changes her life completely. A white police officer shoots her unarmed best friend. Following his death, Starr struggles to come to grips with the situation.
She is torn between two realities- the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the fancy suburban school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered with this fatal shooting. Starr has been aware of these kind of radicalized killings. But, they always happened to someone else. Now, it has happened to her best friend.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.
Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.
That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?
She is drawn towards activism and wants to make her voice heard. But that’s no easy path either.
Intentions always look better on paper than in reality. The reality is, I may not make it to the courthouse in the morning.
The debut young adult novel is a timely look at some realities of our world right now- of which teenagers are very much a part of.
The beautiful relationship that Starr shares with each of her family members is also a running thread in the story. How they help her deal with the scenario in their own ways, is also a touching portrayal of family, and the role that family members play in our lives, no matter how flawed they may be.
This is a poignant story that deals with a conflict faced by a young teenager, in a social setting that young adults all over the world can identify with. Even if the incidents described in The Hate U Give happened in the USA, thematically and emotionally it is a novel that will connect with all people across cultures and social scenarios. In my opinion, it is a book that adults would love to read as well!
The Hate U Give, a National Book Award Longlist title is one book that lives up to the hype!
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
The ‘hOle books’ by Duckbill experiment slightly with the book form. As the name suggests, these books with a ‘hOle’, add a fun element to the book. There is a hole at the top right end of each book, which somehow younger children find very fascinating! Timmi and Rizu by Shals Mahajan takes on this format, and narrates a tale that many young children can relate to.
Timmi is a bold girl, and Rizu a sweet and quiet boy. He “sits on the last bench and pays attention, which is why he goes unnoticed”. But he has a problem, and a serious one at that! Three bullies lie in wait for him every day when they bully him and call him names.
Bullying is something that all kids face at some point in their school lives. Timmi réalisés that her friend is being bullied, and she wants to help him. With the good counsel of Idli-Amma and Juju the Giant, who help the two kids plan tactics against the ‘enemies’ the kids finally hit upon a plan to counter the bullies. The plan is fraught with its own challenges as well…at the end, do the children achieve their goal? Well, you’ll have to jump into the Duckbill Reading Hole for that!
In all, the book is a humorous take on how to handle bullying in school situations. Moreover, the apt illustrations by Shreya Sen accompany the text perfectly. The story is laced with humour that is quite appropriate for the young readers and will have them in splits!
‘Timmi and Rizu’ is a chapter book, and is a fun story to start-off your child on his or her independent reading journey as well.
Timmi and Rizu by Shals Mahajan
Illustrated by Shreya Sen
Published by Duckbill Books, 2017
If your child enjoys this book, do look at the following hOle books as well:
If your child adores Timmi (who doesn’t?) here is another one featuring Timmi’s exploits!
What can a little boy do if his Nani turns into his favourite cartoon character? Deepu is faced with a strange predicament. On a perfectly normal evening, he is fighting for the television remote with his grandmother in a perfectly normal way. Something happens. Then, she turns into a Ninja with Ninja superpowers! What follows is an eventful night filled with adventures. Nani takes her Ninja calling quite seriously. Welcome to Ninja Nani!
Lavanya Karthik introduces the very loveable Ninja Nani in two books, meant to be read one after the other. Ninja Nani & the Bumbling Burglars presents Nani’s fantastic transformation and Ninja Nani and the Zapped Zombie Kids builds on the adventure.
The language in both the books is extremely hilarious. There is an inherent humour in the language (for example, The Schoolbag Of Endless Sorrow as a word to describe his school bag). The situations described are also hilarious (Nani acting like Ninja, soumersauting in celings, backflipping quite efficiently and so on). Both these aspects combine to make for a comical read.
There are many illustrations throughout both the books which add to the fun of reading. In some of the key sections, the books also assume the form of a graphic novel. This is a very novel and interesting aspect.
In the first book Deepu and Nani take on a gang of robbers who are all set to rob a bank. In this book, both Deepu and Nani have just discovered the fact that Nani has Ninja powers. Both are coming to terms with it, and the adventure story forms a part of the entire story.
However, the second book, Ninja Nani and the Zapped Zombie Kids has a very confident Nani take on a huge challenge. She is the Mystery Hero of the town using her great powers quite responsibly for helping the residents of the town. Only Deepu knows her secret, and both of them work in tandem. This time round though, the challenge is bigger and tougher. Mrs.Godbole’s tuition class has something strange going on. Deepu’s friends who are a part of the class are acting like sleep-deprived zombies. Worse, Deepu may just join them! It’s all up to Nani to save the day. A lot more fighting and lots of excitement in store!
While the book is a fun adventure story on the surface, at a deeper level it also shows the beautiful grandson and grandmother relationship in the context of modern times.
Ninja Nani & the Bumbling Burglars
Ninja Nani and the Zapped Zombie Kids
Both books by Lavanya Karthik
Published by Duckbill Books, 2017
Oh…the turmoils of a 10-year old! A lot goes on in the minds of children and they have their own set of serious challenges to overcome. Manya Learns to Roar explores this. Manya, a lovable young girl badly wants to be Shere Khan in her school play. The Jungle Book is her favourite film. Moreover, she knows all the lines by heart. The only issue? She stammers.
She may want to act, but not everyone has faith in her ability. Her classmate Rajat openly makes fun of her stammer. Even her English teacher thinks it’s risky to let her get on stage and her principal seems to agree. To make things worse, her stammer worsens due to the anxiety. The book follows Manya’s journey through this very tough and sensitive situation.
The story is quite delightful and is told in simple engaging language. It is easy to read and quite accessible for most kids. Children have their own set of challenges and this book will be highly inspirational thanks to its powerful message. It will not only inspire readers but also sensitize them to the thoughts and feelings of other children who may face a problem or a disability.
The pictorial code language between Manya and her friend Ankita adds an interesting element. The dialogues are also laced with humour which makes the book a very light read.
It is a story that comes straight from the heart. The author, Shruthi Rao, has also grappled with issues related to stammering and the book boldly targets the stereotypes associated with it. The beautiful illustrations by Priya Kuriyan make the reading experience all the more enticing!
Manya Learns to Roar was a winner in the Children First writing competition, organised by Parag, an initiative of Tata Trusts, and Duckbill Books.
Manya Learns to Roar by Shruthi Rao
Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan
Age group: 6 years onward
Published by Duckbill Books
Shah Jahan and the Ruby Robber by Natasha Sharma is a part of the History Mystery series published by Duckbill. Young Indian readers often see history as a fact-based subject learned in school. They see it as a chronology of events. However, the History Mystery series responsibly juggles storytelling and history.
The book starts off with emperor Shah Jahan waiting to try out his new jewelled throne that has taken seven long years to make. It is a grand throne that displays all the jewels and precious stones that speak of the glory of the Mughal empire. But, wait! The jewel of the throne… that is to say, the star and the pinnacle of the multifarious jewels, the great Timur Ruby is missing! What’s worse, there is a squishy squashy plum in its place!
Moments after the emperor discovers this great mistake there ensues a lot of confusion. A hilarious sequence of events follow. Shah Jahan places his daughter Jahanara in charge of finding out who the thief was. Of course, his brood of seven, including the famed Aurangzeb who is shown as quite the angry young man here, must take up the challenge collectively.
The entire play of events takes place as the plans for the construction of the Taj Mahal are going on. This context itself adds an element of fascination to the story. The simple and surprising twist in the end shows the ingenuity of the author. It proves that if one looks carefully, history has great stories to tell!
There is a lot of subtle humour in the language, which makes it funny to read and is sure to elicit some heartfelt smiles and giggles! Consider the following line:
For before him stood the greatest, the grandest, the most glorious throne in the whole world -his brand new Jewelled Throne. There it stood, awaiting Shah Jahan’s bottom for the very first time.
The genre of historical fiction for children is a relatively undeveloped one when it comes to Indian literature for young readers. However, with Shah Jahan and the Ruby Robber, Natasha Sharma once again merges history and fiction to tell an appealing tale.
Shah Jahan and the Ruby Robber
Author: Natasha Sharma
illustrated by Lavanya Naidu
Published by Duckbill Books and Publications Pvt Ltd.
October 2nd will soon be upon us. We will celebrate the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Some of us will take the opportunity to narrate stories about Gandhi to our children. For the current generation of young children, the implications and impact of the struggle for independence is something they have not known in their collective consciousness. But, they do know about the far-reaching impact of the teachings of Gandhi. Hence, this would be the perfect occasion to introduce My Gandhi Scrapbook. The book is apt for all school going children, including older ones.
Sandhya Rao, the compiler of this unique scrapbook, is an avid scrapbook enthusiast. A Scrapbook is personal and it is a canvas to explore and
express your inherent creativity without being bound by any rules. My Gandhi Scrapbook does just that, making the father of the nation become a part of your child’s life in a more participative way.
From the very beginning itself, she introduces this premise:
My Gandhi Scrapbook is a very thin book almost mirroring the look of a typical scrapbook. It is a book in which the author invites the children to become active participants. There is information about Mahatma Gandhi, but there are many empty spaces calling on the child to fill with his own thoughts, feelings and reflections on what Gandhiji means to him or her. The child can draw, write, stick and colour into the book without any restriction.
The book thankfully abandons a chronological account of Gandhi’s life. Instead, each page highlights some interesting aspect of his personality, or his life and influence. The pages are filled with many images and graphics: photographs, stamps, notes and what not. Quotes from his books and excerpts from letters are gently interwoven. You’ll find interesting and less known nuggets of information as well.
In between all this are little activities for kids. They have a chance to try out drawing Gandhi’s silhouette, stick their own pictures of him, scribble their observations, and of course, write down their own nuggets of information about Gandhi. This is one of those rare books which gives authorship to children. They are actively involved in making the book.
The last few pages of My Gandhi Scrapbook are blank. And that’s the way it should be. They are for the reader to add what he or she wants to about Gandhi. At the end of it all, this is not a book they read. It is a path of making Gandhi truly their own!
My Gandhi Scrapbook by Sandhya Rao
There are some timeless principles that have a deep influence on all areas of our lives. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to instill these golden principles into the very DNA of your child? The 7 Habits of Happy Kids does just that.
Written by Sean Covey (son of Stephen Covey, the bestselling author of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and illustrated by Stacy Curtis, the book is a beautifully written and accessible version of seven habits that will go a long way in ensuring everlasting happiness for your child.
Sean Covey also wrote the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens”, based on the principles outlined in his father’s book. He realised that youngsters who read the book immediately got all the principles, and obviously it made a big difference to their lives. This is why he was motivated to introduce these ‘universal laws’ for younger children.
When my son’s aunt gifted him this book, he read it by himself first, but then started excitedly talking to me about the characters. He asked me, “Which character do you like best?”…so, well of course, I had to read the book myself as well!
Here is what appealed to me…
Stephen Covey, the bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1988, discusses the relevance of these timeless principles for little children as well. He says:
“When children are immersed in timeless, universal principles-such as responsibility, service and honesty- both at home and at school, their tremendous worth and potential is affirmed and reinforced. They develop confidence, integrity, and the courage to do the right thing. They build character. And they get in touch with their real DNA. On the other hand, if children are not taught true principles and don’t see them modelled, they will grow up with comparison based identities. In other words, they get their self-worth, or lack of it thereof, from how well they stack-up compared to others. As a result, peer pressure becomes their DNA (a cultural-versus-real DNA if you wish) and they lose self-confidence, integrity and courage. They become more concerned with their image and with themselves and are thus robbed of their real identity”
The 7 Habits of Happy Kids is a book you must read with your child. But, let it be a self-help manual you refer to from time to time. Make it a part of your life, and a part of your conversation and interaction with your child…and then see the difference!
The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey
Indian publishers have come up with a great variety of bilingual books to introduce regional languages to children from an early age. However, for those who live abroad, the story is different. There is either a paucity of such books, or they are not accessible for parents and caretakers who may not be fluent in reading the local script. Geneticist Pridhee Kapoor sensed a lacuna in the market when she was looking out for books in Indian languages for her kids, while living abroad. Hence, she decided to write and publish such books herself. Three books later, the Founder and CEO of T4Tales is all geared up about the world of opportunities that this venture has opened up.
Excerpts from a conversation…
Das din, is an interactive lift the flap and pull tab Hindi board book for 0-6 year olds.
Gol Mol Bol is an old Hindi nursery rhymes book with downloadable music by Ramya Shankar for 0-6 year olds.
Bolo Kya? Is a lift the flap Hindi board book for 0-2 year olds.
All three books at the moment are in Hindi.
The objective has always been to spark an interest in children to learn Hindi in a fun way. But if you have a cheat sheet in English, it stops you from achieving that objective. A child or a parent will always take the easy way out and just read the book in English. The Hindi teachers I have met here complain of the same challenge with the current set of books at their disposal.
When we started writing the content, we were considering doing the books in only the actual script. When we showed our prototypes to some parents, most of them got back saying “Oh wow! I struggled to read the Hindi script. It has been too long” or “Oh I didn’t study Hindi when I was in school but I would like my child to learn Hindi”. Based on that feedback, my father, who has been in education for the last 30 years, suggested that we add the English transliteration, to help the parents and also older kids (who are confident with phonics) to read Hindi. It gives the child a sense of pride being able to read a Hindi book. Especially so for an older child who is trying to get comfortable with speaking and reading Hindi.
I also believe that there several other Indian book publishers that do a wonderful job with Hindi (and English translation) books.
Yes, the books by T4Tales are specifically for introducing the Indian language to infants and really young children.
I have heard back from parents of older children who didn’t think their kids would enjoy the book saying that their children have shared the books with teachers in class about how they good they felt to be able to read the book. I had a mom share with me that her 6-year-old daughter enjoyed the book so much that her daughter practiced her script writing by copying the words from the book on her own without the mom having to ask. That for me was a nice surprise since we were always targeting really young children.
I once attended a talk in Singapore about the history of pop ups and other interactive features in books. Popups had started coming up in the 1770s and were not made to keep children quiet or to teach them. These books were made to give children pleasure and help them understand the spatial orientation and movement being described in the books. Today’s children learn that easily from watching movement of characters on screens (especially in animation). They don’t need the books to help them understand. I was very intrigued by this. So I thought ‘What if we did it the other way round? What if you used interactive features to take kids away from screens?’
And that became my goal – to make board books with interactive elements that are so much fun, that kids don’t need to, or want to look at the screen to understand and learn something! Although financially the costs become higher, but if I can manage to pull one child away from the screen to learn Hindi, my job is done.
Based on the objective of T4Tales to expose little ones to Indian languages in a fun way through board books, we plan to do more board books with fun interactive elements. We hope to able to publish in other languages as well. We have always been asked if we would consider Tamil or Marathi or Gujarati. We hope to publish in those categories in the near future.
Staying in Singapore, when I shared the books with a school library that offered Hindi as a subject, to my surprise, the librarian got back to me saying that she had noticed that not only the Indian children but also children that did not speak Hindi were picking up our books. For me that was a great feedback in terms of illustrations. Pictures don’t speak a language yet can convey meaning. If the illustrations are able to connect with a child that can’t speak Hindi, the book in my mind has completed its objective of engaging that child to pick up a book and not a screen. To me that was the biggest benefit of a well-illustrated and good quality book.
Parents have got back saying that they are excited to read a Hindi book that won’t fall apart at the mercy of the little one’s hands!
At the moment most of the retail and distribution for T4Tales is directly through us or online through Amazon US, Amazon India and Shumee in India. But recently we have been contacted by boutique bookstores in India and US to stock our books. Our books are available on Amazon US which automatically makes it worldwide.
T4Tales has made an amazing start and opened up a world of possibilities for parents who want their young kids to be in touch with their mother tongue. We’re surely looking forward to new releases that promise to take our little ones on another flight to fantasy!
Inspired by his own cello teacher, he sees the book as a way children and music lovers can forge a link with the great composers by getting to know them as friends.
In this book, Isserlis introduces us to six of his favourite composers: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Stravinsky. All of them have produced beautiful music that plays on till today and will do so for eternity.
He narrates interesting anecdotes from their lives. I was highly amused to read that Bach threw his wig in a fit of rage at a player who did not play well. Or that, Beethoven did actually throw the stew at a waiter, again in a fit of rage! Consider this passage that describes the child genius Mozart, whose father Leopold often took him and his elder sister Nennerl to give concerts in faraway places:
The children gave concerts everywhere-usually starting with Nannerl playing difficult pieces brilliantly, and then being upstaged (poor Nannerl) by her little brother. He would not only play equally difficult works – even if he’d never seen them before- and duets on one keyboard with his sister (quite a novelty for those times), but would make up on the spot huge pieces based on tunes suggested to him by the audience. People didn’t believe that he was really doing it all without any preparation; they kept trying to catch him out- they’d spread a cloth over the keyboard (a strange thing to do but they did it anyway), smile knowingly at each other, and wait for little Wolfgang to make a fool of himself. It didn’t work-he played just as amazingly as before.
The language and style is very witty and informal. You would be forgiven to think that you’re actually having a chat with an old friend. There is a lot of text…packed with really useful information. If children are okay with reading more text, they can surely enjoy the book on their own. It is also a great tome to share with an adult and read jointly.
The lively black and white line illustrations provide a perfect accompaniment to the text!
What I like best about the book is the way it sees the masters of classical music as human beings with their share of strengths and weaknesses. We know their music as great, but their lives were often far from perfect. They battled poverty, insecurity, psychological problems and many other issues. This book presents them as regular humans who were obviously great composers.
I also love the way Isserlis has brought out the psychological problems faced by some of the composers, who suffered from specific disorders. It has been described in a gentle manner for it to be relatable. Take for example the following passage which introduces Robert Schumann (who was diagnosed with psychotic melancholia). The reader gets an inkling that not all is right with him, but this is done in a subtle manner.
The trouble with him was that he was never normal; either he was so happy that he could hardly speak, or so depressed and miserable that he couldn’t speak at all. In fact, speaking in general wasn’t his strong point. Once, for instance, he wanted his new symphony performed, so he went to see his friend Ferdinand David, a violinist and conductor. The two men sat opposite each other for an hour or so, while poor Mr. David tried to guess what it was that Schumann wanted. When he finally guessed, he agreed to perform the symphony; Schumann was delighted, and made gestures to show that he’d willingly pay the musicians himself. Having been that communicative, he obviously felt he’d done his bit; he sat back in silence, smoked two cigars (Schumann loved cigars), tried to say something (but nothing came out because he kept wiping his hand over his mouth at the crucial moment) and then got up to leave.
Indeed, Isserlis brings the composers alive in an irresistible manner that can’t fail to catch the attention of any child whose ear has been caught by any of the music described, or anyone entering the world of classical music for the first time.
Witty and informative, touching at times and at times plain hilarious, this a book you cannot miss if your child is deep into music. If they have a ear for music, you gotta have an eye for this book!
You can buy it from Amazon by clicking the link below. Just in case you are too bowled over by it, and still want more, there is another book that follows this one: Why Handel Waggled His Wig.
Indian mythology is full of fantastical creatures and we’ve woven legends around them. Yet, very rarely do these monstrous beings find space in popular books. Till now that is. Tooth and nail, fur and scale, a book for introduces us to some amazing creatures found in popular as well as long forgotten traditions. Intended for the 10-14 year age group, it is
It is also interesting to note that a couple of the creatures described in the book have their origins in works of old Greek and Roman lores that mentioned these monsters as inhabiting India.
With the repertoire of stories that we’ve grown up with, one may think that these creatures would be familiar to us. But that’s far from the truth. They have been carefully drawn out from myths and placed in different situations and realities and weaved into a tale.
The settings for each of the fifteen short stories are varied. You will glide through ancient courts. You will meet a Yaksha at the airport, learn about a strange friendship between a pishacha and a human being, and ride to faraway mountains to meet gold digging ants or venture in the forest to encounter a cow eating tree. On the more sinister side there is the croccota who tears apart bodies of princes who dare to woo a certain princess. There is the astomi who feeds on smells, poochandi who kidnaps children and the pishachas who inhabit human bodies.
It’s a heady mix of tales. Some will spook you. Some make you smile and some are plain heartwarming!
My favourite story in ooth and nail, fur and scale was that of poochandi, the Tamil bogeyman. We’ve all been scared out of our wits as children by some version of the poochandi. While the protagonist of the story bravely follows a poochandi, hoping to catch him in the red handed as he takes away naughty children, does the faceless horror live up to his reputation of being THE one kids are scared of? Without revealing much, let’s say the tables are turned in this one.
At the end of each chapter, there is a brief description of the creature that forms an integral part of the story, and of course a lucid illustration of the monster as well.
What I find refreshing is that we have always placed mythical creatures in mythical settings. Here, in some of the stories, Arunachalam brings them out from their worlds and puts them in ours (which is why you have a pishacha ride in an Uber and a yaksha chatting with the protagonist at the airport fountain). This makes it fascinating and scary. After all, how can you be comfortable after knowing that any of these may well inhabit your current urban surroundings?
Humour and horror don’t really make strange companions as you will find out on reading “Tooth and nail, fur and scale”. The reader does smile all the way to the end! It’s got enough spook to raise quite a few goosebumps, but at the heart of it all are beautiful stories that will strike a chord somewhere within you!
So if you’re wondering about really fantastical creatures and where to find them, now you know where to look!
Tooth and Nail, Fur and Scale by Anupam Arunachalam
Age Group: 10-14 years
Published by Penguin Random House India, July 2017