Sadiq wants to stitch by Mamta Nainy is a picture book that takes us right into the verdant valley of Kashmir. Sadiq is a young boy and he loves stitching colourful patterns on rugs, just like his Ammi. However, Ammi can be quite stern when it comes to this! She reminds him that boys in his community don’t stitch. Instead, they tend to the livestock.
But things are about to change. Winds of change blow over and Sadiq happily crosses the line. Will his mother be angry? Or will she embrace this change?
This is a simple but heart-warming tale that shows how gender norms must and can be defied. It also highlights the beautiful relationship between a mother and her son. It shows how intergenerational change can be simple and can be embraced openly.
The main theme of this book is to do with defying gender norms. However, underlying the principal story are other interesting strands. The story also highlights the culture of the ‘Bakarwals’, a nomadic community of shepherds and goatherds in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir. The Bakarwal embroidery is very well known. However, like other indigenous crafts, this too is slowly withering into oblivion. The book in a sense highlights this by talking about the beauty of this embroidery and the importance it has for the livelihood of the tribe.
Niloufer Wadia’s illustrations do justice to the breath-taking beauty of the Valley and the mountains surrounding it. Simple, joyful and very colourful, they add to the story beautifully.
Sadiq wants to stitch is a picture book that is apt for children aged 5 onwards. The beauty of this book however, is that there is no upper age limit. At every age and stage, a child will be able to pick up something from the book that is relevant to his or her life. For younger children the appealing story also illuminates the fact that age or gender should be no bar in pursuing what you love. Older children may additionally find the lives of the tribal nomads and references to their culture, quite interesting.
Title: Sadiq Wants to Stitch
Author: Mamta Nainy
Illustrator: Niloufer Wadia
Publisher: Karadi Tales
Age group: 5 years onwards
OTHER BOOKS BY KARADI TALES
For readers who enjoy reading on-screen, a new Juggernaut release, Jambavan, King of the Bears brings forth an interesting tale.
By the time most Indian children reach their tweens and teens, they are aware of the epic stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Even if they have not read the numerous translations and interpretations of these texts, there are cartoons and TV shows based on the same. They would be aware of basic stories from these ancient texts.
However, Jambavan, King of the Bears takes a dip into the realm of Indian folklore and mythology, and tells many tales on the side line. The story of Jambavan begins with the popular scene in the court of King Bali, when Vamana, that is, Vishnu disguised as a poor Brahmin requests for land from the king. He asks for a mere stretch of land that his three footsteps will cover. The king obliges. Little does the king know that the three steps would cover three worlds and Vishnu would claim everything! Right here in the court is the just, fair and very intelligent bear Jambavan.
The story follows Jambavan from here to the forest where he has a role to play in the larger scheme of things. He interacts with Hanuman, opening his eyes to his immense powers. But, a greater turn of events is to come. When he spots a lion carrying a jewel in its mouth, he senses something amiss. He takes the jewel away from the lion and gives it to his children to play with. Who comes to claim the jewel? What implications would this have for humanity? What lessons does this hold for humanity?
The author Arshia Sattar has a PhD in classical Indian literature from the University of Chicago. In this short rendition she charms the reader once again with an interesting tale elicited from the sidelines of the great Indian mythical works.
These two tales show a side of Indian mythology that has been eclipsed so far by larger and popular narratives. Quite short and simple to read on the Juggernaut website or App, these two stories are a quick-read for children between 7-14 years.
Read the story on https://www.juggernaut.in
Title: Jambavan, King of the Bears
Author: Arshia Sattar
Genre: Fiction/ Short Stories
Age group: 7 – 14 years
Getting a child on to classic mystery chapter books may seem daunting. However, Mira the Detective by Pavithra Sankaran is an apt book to hook younger readers on the genre.
The protagonist, Mira, is an eight-year-old girl who is curious about everything that goes around her. With her wit and quick thinking, she is able to solve some challenging problems that people around her encounter. This book has three mystery stories for younger readers.
In “Tic Tic Tic Trouble” an antique watch is stolen from Mira’s mother’s shop. How does Mira manage to find the culprit?
In “The Mayamix Mess” packets of the popular and tasty Mayamix are destroyed in the factory. What could be the motive behind the crime…and how does Mira find out?
In “The Payasam Puzzle” a neighbour goes missing and is supposedly kidnapped. How will Mira get her back?
Mira the detective is always ready to solve a new mystery!
Vandana Singh’s illustrations make the reading all the more enjoyable. The three stories have a familiar cast of characters that the reader will get acquainted with. There is enough suspense to keep young readers intrigued, and yet, not so much that they get overwhelmed!
Moreover, this book belongs to the popular hOle series. Put very simply, it is a book with a hole on the top right hand corner. Believe it or not…this is endlessly fascinating for young children as well!
Crime….curiosity…suspense…a lot of deductive thinking….and of course, a brave little child- this book has all these elements of an exciting mystery story. With three stories packed into a single hOle book, it is a great collection of mystery stories for younger readers.
Title: Mira the Detective
Author: Pavithra Sankaran
Illustrator: Vandana Singh
Publisher: Duckbill Books
Age group: 5-8
OTHER hOle BOOKS
As most of us know, children can be extremely cruel, especially when it comes to treating other kids who are different. Duckbill Books has been a forerunner in tackling this theme in its well-crafted stories for children.
Susie Will Not Speak by Shruthi Rao continues this theme. Susie, a young lively girl, speaks with a lisp. Needless to say, she is the butt of jokes in the playground…and sometimes even with insensitive adults. However, she handles these difficult situations with grace and bravado.
Enter Jahan- a fun-loving boy who has a strange knack of hurting himself all the time. They develop a close friendship. However, something happens and Susie just stops speaking at all. The adults do their bit to set things straight…but ultimately it is all up to Jahan. Will he succeed in making Susie speak again?
Narrated with a generous dose of humour, it will have the reader smiling all the way to the end. While the book shows how mean adults and children can be to people who are ‘different’, it also shows how there are many sensitive people around. It illuminates how more often than not, children do have the power to overcome their own problems no matter how difficult it seems!
Susie Will Not Speak by Shruthi Rao is a part of the hOle books series by Duckbill Books. It is a chapter book and a great way to introduce beginning readers to chapter stories. With the illustrations by Lavanya Naidu, the book becomes all the more fun and accessible to children. But, more than anything else, it is an inspiring read for younger readers!
Title: Susie Will Not Speak
Author: Shruthi Rao
Illustrator: Lavanya Naidu
Publisher: Duckbill Books
Age group: Younger readers, 6-8 years
OTHER hOle BOOKS BY DUCKBILL BOOKS
The teachings of Chanakya are timeless. Chanakya, also known as Kautilya is best known for his treatise Arthashastra, which talks about the rules of governance. His wisdom has been expressed in many modern works. Dr. Radhakrishnan Pillai, renowned scholar who holds a PHD in Arthashastra from the University of Mumbai has written many books to translate the teachings chronicled in the original Arthashastra for a modern audience. With the book Chatur Chanakya and The Himalayan Problem, he brings the teachings of Chanakya right into the minds of young children.
A new academic year has begun. Arjun is excited to be in the fifth grade. Like every year, this year too he wonders if he will have a bench partner. Enter a new and very different boy- Chanakya, a thin guy with a ‘choti’. He is welcomed with peals of laughter which makes him angry. However, he has an even bigger problem – a bully called Himalaya who sits behind the bench that Chanakya shares with Arjun.
Chanakya looks different with his ‘choti’ but he is actually a very wise boy. Himalaya bullies him, but by using a clever strategy Chanakya resolves the issue. Through his wisdom Chanakya wins the heart of children who live in his colony as well. Not only that, but through his philosophical discussions with the kids he manages to make them more sensitive, aware and mindful of what is around them.
Through the well-narrated story, the book reveals the strategies of Chanakya in practice. Wisdom is a quality one does not usually associate with a child. However, this book quite cleverly shows how a young boy uses wisdom in order to gain true respect from children and adults alike.Chanakya, the protagonist in the book, has been homeschooled and is extremely knowledgeable. It thus shows how gaining knowledge is not limited to attending school only. Through a story within the story, the boy Chanakya introduces the readers to his namesake, the great kingmaker Chanakya.
Philosophical but not preachy
The book is an easy read. Though philosophical in nature, it does not sound preachy. Little nuggets of wisdom that are a part of the great treatise Arthashashtra also appear here, disguised as a part of the story. The boy delves a little into Indian history to the life and times of Chanakya and his students. It touches upon the Indian Gurukul system where education was free and equal for all and where gurus focused on thinking rather than ‘mugging’!
“Chatur Chanakya is a character, just like Chota Bheem is a popular character for children! Chatur Chanakya is a modern boy who goes to school. There will be a series of Chatur Chanakya books. Though the stories, my aim is to teach children how to think. Many teachers and parents have also loved the book! Even when parents read the book, they learn a lot,” says Dr. Pillai.
Chatur Chanakya and The Himalayan Problem by Radhakrishnan Pillai is a book that parents must read to their children. It introduces the reader (including parents!) to the teachings of Chanakya in a very simple and accessible manner.
Author: Radhakrishnan Pillai
Publisher: Puffin books, Penguin Random House
Age group: 8 onwards
Other books on teachings of Chanakya by Radhakrishnan Pillai
Toilet training comes with a great relief for parents when the ‘training’ is finally done. But, ensuing that there is another unique problem that parents face. Once their kids have outgrown diapers and refuse to wear them, the parents must deal with this innocuous request at the oddest of times and places- I Need to Pee
Rahi has an odd problem. She loves to drink all kinds of things. Though little children drinking a lot of fluids is a good thing indeed, it makes her want to pee all the time. And that, is a bit of an inconvenience. This witty and funny picture book travels with Rahi, her mother and brother in tow, to all the public places where it is quite challenging to find a decent loo. Rahi has her book of important quotes with her, and any obstacle to her peeing, she is ready with a witty one-liner.
As parents don’t we often roll our eyes or get irritated when our child wants to pee at the unlikeliest of places and at the most inconvenient of times? In a subtle but humorous manner the book reinstates this situation from the point of view of this child.
Rahi’s attitude is amazing. She boldly reiterates her need to relieve herself despite all the ‘obstacles’ that include dirty toilets, stinky facilities and irritation from all others on her need for going to the loo all the time. I love the way Rahi sticks to her guns, demands what she wants without flinching a bit. She carries her “Book of Important Quotes” with her. Whenever any adult comes in the way of her ‘right’ to pee, she boldly reads a quote from her book and the adult is left stunned and wondering! On one level, it is humorous. But, think deeper and you will see that this is actually assertion of one’s rights. This is the stuff little children should be made of!
The book is beautifully illustrated by Meenal Singh and Erik Egerup. The artwork adds to the vibrancy of the story.
Well, I Need to Pee will certainly not solve all your ‘toilet-problems’ when you travel. But what this book truly stands for is the belief that a safe clean toilet experience is a basic right. Adults should look at it more seriously.
Title: I Need To Pee
Author: Neha Singh
Illustrators: Meenal Singh and Erik Egerup
Publisher: Puffin Books
Age group: 3 onwards
It is very special to read a Rani Lakshmibai biography dedicated to young readers. Not only is she an enigmatic historical character, but as a woman warrior known for her mental and physical strength, she continues to be an inspiration for many.
A different face of the Rani
We have known Rani Lakshmibai as a brave queen sitting on horseback with a child on her back and a sword in hand. But, Sonia Mehta delves into the childhood of the queen, to the very roots of her strong personality.
Through the well narrated tale we learn how the motherless girl who was not even a princess by birth, grew up to be one of the most revered queens in history.
My favourite aspect about the story is the thread of feminism that runs through it. The book describes how, as a child, Manikarnika (for that was what she was called) defied tradition and educated herself. She rejected gender boundaries set by the mores of the times she lived in. Not only that, but she inspired other women to break norms of the time. She had her own secret army of women!
Mehta’s narrative brings out these aspects in an inspirational and positive manner. Another small but important touch is at the of the book where Mehta gives a brief description of brave queens in the history of the world.
The story-like flow ensures that facts are narrated as if one is reading a fiction book. This angle makes it interesting for the reader. Since the story of the Rani Of Jhansi needs to be viewed against the backdrop of the British rule in India, it is necessary that the readers are aware of some relevant historical details (for example, the British policy of annexing states without an heir). Such historical facts and background information is provided in sidebars and side boxes. Thus, the flow of the story remains uninterrupted and the facts are also presented for easy reference.
The book is easy to read and divided into chapters, each dealing with a specific point in the queen’s life. It is based on extensive research. The illustrations add to the enjoyment of reading and appreciating the book. Interspersed with interesting facts and details, the book provides a refreshing insight into the life of a queen who is still very famous in popular culture, but who people actually know very little about.
A great story about Rani Lakshmibai that traces her journey from childhood through her valiant end in detail. It is pepped with interesting less known facts and supporting information which is sure to interest readers. This is a Rani Lakshmibai biography that every child must read!
Author: Sonia Mehta
Illustrator: Jitendra Mahadik
Publisher: Puffin books
Age group: 8-10 years
Other books in the Junior Lives Series
Deepak Dalal is well-known for his wildlife fiction books centred around the flora and fauna of the Indian subcontinent. His adventure filled stories are often set in the jungles of India or natural havens in the country. Besides the thrill of an adventure novel, his works provide a glimpse into our rich natural heritage.
Bookedforlife chats with him to know more about his work…
You gave up a career in chemical engineering to write books for children. Can you share your motivation for this?
I hated chemical engineering! The only reason I became a chemical engineer is because we have a family business that requires engineering skills. But, when I finally graduated as an engineer and started working I came to realize that I was in the wrong place. My heart was not in an office job. I preferred the outdoors, wilderness areas, wildlife and adventure. So, a few years down the line, I switched and started travelling and writing books for children.
How has the writing journey been?
The journey was difficult to start with. I hadn’t studied creative writing and I had to train myself. This took a while. But now the going is great. I enjoy my work and look forward to it on a daily basis.
It is unusual to find fiction books set in the Indian wilderness, talking specifically about Indian birds. What was the inspiration behind the Feather Tales Series?
Let alone children, even adults know so little about birds. Most of us live in urban environments and the only birds we are aware of are crows, pigeons, sparrows, kites and parakeets. But India is home to 1200 species of birds. Birds like hornbills, cranes, storks, orioles, ibises, pelicans, kingfishers, flycatchers…the list is endless. The inspiration behind the ‘Feather Tales’ series was to make children aware of the beautiful birdlife we have in our country; to connect them with birds, and hopefully convert them into birdwatchers someday.
The Feather Tales series:
Some of your books, such as the VikramAdtiya adventure series, are used as supplementary texts in schools. Do you feel fiction can be used as a tool for teaching facts?
More than a hundred schools have used my VikramAditya books as readers. There is no finer way to learn than through a page-turning story. The story captivates the reader and while the story unfolds, titbits of wildlife, history, flora and fauna are unconsciously digested by the reader. Stories are great tools.
The Adventure Series set in Indian wilderness:
India has a rich heritage of flora and fauna. How can urban parents create a sensitivity and connectivity to nature?
Travel. Visit wildlife and bird sanctuaries. Learning is wonderful when it is experiential. India is blessed with many wildlife and bird sanctuaries. Start early, while kids are young. Wildlife and birdwatching are great pastimes and if children are drawn to them while young, they will keep returning for the rest of their lives.
What are some wildlife fiction books and books on nature that you have loved and would like to recommend?
In a time when unscrupulous human activity threatens the natural world, wildlife fiction books have a great role to play in sensitizing the younger citizens of the world to the beauty that they must not lose!
India is known as the land of diversity. Delving into the storytelling traditions of India is expectedly a Herculean task! But, in Lore of the land: Storytelling traditions of India, Nalini Ramachandran takes up this challenging task.
Storytelling is one of the most basic cultural activities of any group of people. Storytelling can be through words, dance or music. It could be oral, written or enacted. This book is an introduction to the beautiful world of stories in India.
Story of storytelling
The book begins with an incident involving Mohini- a young girl who is born into a family of storytellers. Well, it would be more appropriate to say, a family of exceptional storytellers. But the story of Mohini begins with a failed performance, where she is not able to narrate a proper story. Disappointed, she decides to run away from home following this humiliating performance. As she sets off she encounters a book loving spirit, aptly named Katha, who takes her on a captivating journey through the world of stories.
Each chapter takes Mohini and Katha, the story loving ghost to a different part of India. They manage to cover the length and breadth of this gigantic country! They take their time, taking in the beauty of the place and its unique culture. They then delve into the storytelling traditions of that place- how these stories originated, how they changed over the years and what they are now.
Katha happily imparts all this information to Mohini in form of a story. Interspersed with this narrative are side boxes that outline facts about the traditions of the area. Most importantly, the actual age old lores that have been passed down generations are also narrated. Well, a story within a story…that’s always fun!
The book outlines 38 storytelling traditions of India in most of its states. It is also like a crash course in Indian traditions and rituals! After all, most storytelling traditions in India have roots in the agrarian lifestyles of people or are linked to mythology and religion. They are also closely interwoven with the art and music traditions of the state. Hence, a dive into the world of stories of a particular state reflects not only its stories but also its art, culture and music.
Storytelling traditions of India are not just about stories alone. They are also linked to art and craft traditions. Hence, when we read about the puppetry performances of Andhra Pradesh for instance, we learn also about the intricate puppets crafted from leather. In Arunachal Pradesh a local dance performed by a tribe captures traditional stories. Or, how Mithila and Madhubani forms of art are interwoven with storytelling traditions.
The book is quite detailed and comprehensive. However, reading it is never overwhelming because the information is broken into different headers and sidebars and also colour-coded. This makes the text easy to navigate.
To top it, there are lots of illustrations to complement the texts. The illustrations by Abhishek Choudhury bring out the story and the stories within the story in a very vibrant manner. The illustrations are apt for the story as well. For example, in the chapter describing the Madhubani traditions, one of the illustrations is depicted in the Madhubani style, thus adding authenticity to the story.
But, the most important theme that emerges from the book is the fact that stories can be told in many ways and that there is never a single story for a single thing. Mohini learns that different versions of stories exist and “people believe what suits them”.
When I think about this theme of the book, I recall a popular lecture by Novelist Chimamanda Adichie who spoke about the danger of a single story. It is with pride that I recognise that storytelling traditions of India have always incorporated multiple viewpoints.
As Katha puts it in the book:
“Why should there be only a single story about anything? “Katha asked. “There is always room for interpretation and imagination. A story can be told in a zillion ways!”.
There are many more storytelling traditions in India than have been described in the book. But, the book talks about key ones that people need to be aware of. Some of them flourish, but most of them are dying out. Maybe this beautiful storytelling attempt will open people’s eyes and ears to the wonderful world of stories that exists in our own country.
This is a book packed with information and stories, as well as stories within stories. It is a captivating and detailed introduction to the storytelling traditions of India. It has many legendary stories woven with stories of the origins of many myths and traditions. The book is written in a manner that appeals to young adults and adults. Anyone with an interest in stories and storytelling traditions in India will find the book to be a worthy addition to their library.
Author: Nalini Ramachandran
Illustrator: Abhishek Choudhury
Age group: Adults and Young adults
A thriller for young adults, mixed with a historical side of Bombay…Clues in the city’s architecture, tied to a deeply buried secret from the past- a secret for which one can kill. Not once, but many times over. What Maya Saw by Shabnam Minwalla is an exciting thriller for young adults. The tale promises to keep the reader on the edge!
The protagonist, Maya, is an intelligent ‘geek’ who joins a summer school course on the history of Bombay at the renowned St. Paul’s College, which is a fictional version of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
The setting of St. Paul’s College with its gothic architecture and centuries old building seems perfect for the story that plays out. Maya discovers that she has a strange gift- she can actually see people known as ‘shadows’ who seem to be hell-bent on obtaining a secret that has been preserved for years. This ‘secret’ has to be protected from the evil shadows, who will do anything to get it.
Can Maya fight the shadows and outwit them? The journey is filled with danger. She has to enlist the support of friends. But, who can she trust and who should she be wary of? And, all along she needs to solve strange clues that lead her to the history of Bombay itself.
The story moves fast keeping the reader guessing and eager. The satirical humour used in the book will certainly appeal to young adults. This thriller for young adults is a sure page turner!
Bookedforlife chats with author Shabnam Minwalla to reveal a bit more about the book…
There are a lot of facts about Bombay presented in the book. What kind of research did you do for the same?
For ten years I was a journalist with the Times of India, and covered city news. During those years I crisscrossed the city and saw little details- statues, trees, buildings, streets, and heard stories that stayed with me.
When I started writing What Maya Saw, I was clear that I wanted to incorporate a clue hunt through the city. So I read a few books on local history and made a long, long, long list of possible clues. Sadly, very few of these clues made it to the book. Also, as the past is a very important element in this story, I looked at lots of old photographs and read old newspapers to get a feeling for the city that once was.
The setting for the story is St. Xavier’s College, your alma mater…what made you zero down on this institute?
In 2009, St Xavier’s approached me and asked me to write the text for a coffee table book on the college. So I was lucky enough to go back to Xavier’s and see it through fresh eyes. I spent hours and hours in the glorious, golden library doing research for the book. One afternoon, I was almost alone in the library, when I looked up and thought I saw a girl with horns coming out of her head.
It was a trick of light. But for years I wondered, what if it had really been a girl with horns coming out of her head? What Maya Saw began with that moment — and that question.
What is your next project?
I have written a hOle Book for Duckbill, my third book for them, about a friendship across a wall. Jiya lives in one of those gated communities in Parel. Urmila lives in a basti on the other side of the gate. One day the girls meet and join hands to battle a common enemy. And, they realise that they quite like each other.
I am also writing a three-part middle school series featuring a girl named Nimmi Daruwala. The books tackle all the inevitable issues — best friends who turn mean, nasty teachers, fitting in, not fitting in…After that, I want to write a horror book!
Well, that’s a heady mix for sure! But for now, we’re sure readers will cherish this delightful thriller for young adults – What Maya Saw.
Title: What Maya Saw
Author: Shabnam Minwalla
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2017
Genre: Young adult/ Suspense
Age group: 13 onwards