It all started with a vision to celebrate different cultures through stories and dance. We talk to indie authors, Vivek and Ajanta Chakraborty, about their two latest books that highlight the cultural aspects of Janmasthami and Ganesh Chaturthi. Based out of Chicago, they have written twelve books for children. We chat with the duo, as they continue to explore the whole world through books!
Tell us the backstory of what led you to write stories about Indian mythology, and more specifically on Ganesha and Krishna?
Vivek and I call ourselves “accidental authors”. We started with the mission of combining dances and stories with our dance company, Bollywood Groove. Initially, I would create the material myself but it was in 2016 that we decide to create the books so that kids around the world could enjoy the content without having to come to our in-person classes. We have sort of come full circle now by teaching our Dances & Stories classes around the world through our virtual offerings.
Our first book was on Diwali. We decided to focus on festivals because kids love to celebrate! The book surpassed all of our expectations when it ranked #347 in all of Amazon’s 8 million books! Since then, we have managed to cover festivals, places, and even Indian weddings through our books and hit the bestseller rank many, many times.
We were drawn towards Krishna and Ganesha because of the fascinating mythological stories, especially of their childhood. Kids truly enjoy stories of baby Krishna and Ganesha because they can relate to them more easily. We decided to focus on their birthday celebrations because which kid doesn’t like birthday parties? Our method is always the same – make learning about culture, fun!
You are addressing this book to a specific readership- children born to Indian parents who have settled abroad. Is this correct?
Our books are for everyone! However, we retell the stories to fit the global audience. The main characters of the books are based out of Chicago (where we live). They visit India for their traveling adventures. However, kids from anywhere in the world should be able to relate to these books.
Keeping your readership in mind, what were the specific content/design decisions that you have taken to cater to this group?
Sometimes it means that we take away the violent or gory aspects of the mythological stories. Also, our books are completely non-religious and only highlight the cultural aspects of all celebrations. This makes it more popular among people around the globe.
I like the way you have combined explanations of the myth along with the modern-day celebratory aspects of the festivals. The illustrations are also fabulous! Do share some of the feedback that you have received from your readers.
We have been so fortunate to receive absolutely amazing reviews of our books. Just one look at the Amazon listing with glowing reviews from parents and educators makes our day! We have got compliments on the content being extremely engaging (a book that even a 3-year-old will actually sit and listen to!), for the fun illustrations but best of all for creating a sense of excitement and even pride around the Indian culture!
How many books have you already written?
We have written 12 books so far. Ten of them are storybooks and two of them are 50-activity books.
Are the eBooks more preferred or do parents want physical books?
Under normal circumstances, parents and kids alike prefer physical books. At this age, kids still love to look at an actual book. However, since the pandemic, we are also seeing a steep rise in kindle purchases.
One of your goals in writing these books is to promote multiculturalism. What are the other topics you are looking at?
The long-term vision of Culture Groove is to explore many different cultures around the world. Since the topic of India was closest to our hearts, that’s where we began our journey. But we hope to take our little readers on traveling adventures to more countries.
However, we are two indie authors without the backing of a big publisher so we are a bit resource-constrained. Thankfully, the support from our amazing readers has managed to keep us going so far. We are hoping for that support to continue as we explore the whole world through our books!
Have a look at the titles of the book collection here