Thursday, November 27, 2014

Contest No. 6 : Subhadra's World

Yesterday, we held a contest on Twitter - asking people to tweet an ode to their daddy. The winning poem :

We also concluded the 3rd contest which asked people to share 'the bravest thing that their child/student had done'. It was tough choosin one because all these stories were so personal and courageous in their own ways. We finally chose Fiona's story (posted by her co-teacher Vaibhav) of her student :
Last year one of my students was caught sniffing glue. He did it once and then got addicted. He began sniffing glue often and got caught often. After a point nobody believed that he could get out of the habit. His mother was devastated and neither of us had any solutions. I remember I spoke to him and asked him to return to class and stop getting into trouble. I didn't believe he could. He was 14 years old and his mother was walking him to school and back. I know it was terrible for him to return to class. But one day he did. Dressed smartly in his white shirt and ready to learn- there he was. It was very brave of my students to put their biases aside and engage with him and it was also very brave of my that one student to return to class in order to make a fresh start.
You can read all the courageous stories that came in here - from chasing lizards to being independent, from making better choices to staying calm.

This next contest is going to be an easy one for all our readers who are big fans of Subhadra Sen Gupta's work. Look for the character names hidden within this grid. All the characters are from the books Subhadra has published with us.
Click on the image for a larger view
1. She is the famous wife of a freedom fighter and we call her ____
2. He marched India to freedom.
3. A book about someone who sang on the banks of River Jamuna and went on to become Birbal's friend. Who is he?
4. This little one is a resident of village Khajuria and is always late to school.

Still can't guess the names? Maybe our website has some clues :)

The Prize : 
An autographed copy of 'Freedom Run', autographed by author and Bal Sahitya Puraskar winner Subhadra Sen Gupta. In the Mirzapur and Bhadohi districts of Uttar Pradesh, in Many tiny villages, small children work long hours at the looms to create carpets famous around the world for their intricate designs. This is a story about the forgotten children of India.

How to participate : 
  • Answer the riddles we've posed by leaving a comment on this blog post.
  • The first person to give the correct answer wins
More Details:
  • This giveaway is only open for people with an address in India (You could personally be based out of India, but the winning books can only be posted to an Indian address)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review : Takloo, the Little Salt Seller

Terry Hong reviews our book 'Takloo, the Little Salt Seller' on BookDragon.  BookDragon is a new media initiative of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC).

The book is quite the learning opportunity: author Radhika Bapat is a clinical psychologist well versed in using storytelling as a teaching tool; artist Poonam Athalye’s whimsical illustrations are gentle, subtle lessons in ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, not to mention a celebration of gorgeously colorful palettes. As effective as the story is, before it even begins, you’re presented with a full page of “How should you use this book?” suggestions to enhance or even disregard the narrative. Clever Takloo, clever publisher, too. 
That publisher is Pratham Books, a not-for-profit organization based in India, with a mission to put “a book in every child’s hand.” They publish in 11 languages, offer over 1800 titles (thus far), most of which cost less than 35 Indian rupees. That’s just over 50 cents (!) in U.S. dollars. Their story cards go as low as 4 INR – less than a dime! That’s impressive access to their “brand of story books as Indian as the children who read them.” And thanks to our global markets, their books are available all over the world, which is why Pratham is getting the international recognition they deserve: Last month, they were cited by the Library of Congress Literacy Awards 2014, commended “For Its Effective Implementation of Best Practices in Literacy and Reading Promotion.”

Read the book (in 6 languages)

Contest No. 5 : Join us on Twitter

The #11Days11Books contest is on and the 5th contest is almost here. Join us on Twitter today to find out more about the contest. The contest will be held between 3-4 pm. We are @prathambooks on Twitter.

The 4th contest ended in 2 very quick minutes (one reason to LIKE us on Facebook if you aren't)

The 3rd contest is still happening over at the Pratham Books Facebook page. Head over there and tell us about the bravest thing your child/student has done. The deadline is 26th November, 5pm.

The 2nd contest is making us smile all the time! It is still on - so grab your cameras and albums and lets celebrate dads who read.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rekhta : A Website for Urdu Literature and Poetry

The other day my colleague Payoshni shared a little gem she found on Twitter : A dictionary for children written by Ghalib . The link sent me off in other directions to learn more about this website.

Launched in 2013, Rekhta's objective is to promote and disseminate Urdu literature, especially Urdu Poetry to an audience beyond those conversant with the Urdu script.

Mayank Austen Soofi tells us more on The Delhi Walla blog

Unveiled in January 2013 at a ceremony in India Habitat Centre, the site offers everything from ghazals and couplets to audio clips and poets’ biographies, all available at a few clicks of a mouse. The word ‘rekhta’ meaning “scattered, mixed, the old name of Urdu poety.”

The 54-year-old Mr Saraf does not fit the stereotype of an Urdu poetry connoisseur. He is neither Muslim, nor does he live in Purani Dehli. An IIT alumnus, he is the founder and chairman of Polyplex Corporation, a Rs 2,500 crore multinational and one of the world’s largest producers of polyster film. “My father was fond of ghazals and I grew up listening to Begum Akhtar, Ghluam Ali and Farida Khannum,” he says, adding, “about two years ago, I stepped back from the business to focus on my passion, ghazals. However, I was quickly disillusioned with what was on the net — no credible sources, incomplete verses, often only in Urdu script with unreadable fonts. A vast treasure of poems, I feared, would be lost if it was not properly digitized, archived and preserved.”

In mid-2011 Mr Saraf set up a team of 15 archivists to produce a website on everything related to Urdu poetry. A 10-member panel comprising university professors, poets and research scholars was formed to check for authenticity of the published material and to advise on the most representative selection of the work for each poet. (Ahmad Mahfouz, professor at Jamia Millia Islamia University and leading expert on Mir, was contacted to shortlist the poet’s repertoire of more than 2,000 ghazals.) Books for cross-reference were sourced from Maktaba Jamia bookstore in Old Delhi’s Urdu Bazaar and the Sunday book market in Daryaganj.

“Rekhta will remain ad free,” says Mr Saraf. “It is not just for those who have a curiosity for Urdu, but also for those whose hearts are touched by poetry.”

Read the entire article (and take a look at Mayank's beautiful photographs).

Additional reading:
Rekhta: A Site for Urdu Poetry Lovers

Image Source : Rekhta

Diving into a Digital Universe - Part 3

When my father first picked up a Kindle, I genuinely didn't think he'd take to it so effortlessly. He adapted remarkably quickly and was inspired enough to re-read Anna Karenina because it suddenly seemed lighter in many aspects. This was a fairly revelatory moment for me, and one that made me rethink my own sceptical and narrow attitude towards digital reading. 

Then again, the Kindle has a rosy reputation for being a dream in any reader's eyes. So let's talk Smartphones, a far more affordable option and as a result, much more widely used. In a recent report shared by Publishing Technology, they have explained why a large population of Smartphone users have turned away from reading on their devices. Their finding is that the most significant barrier to greater mobile reading is poor user-experience. Although the study is set in the US and UK, this remains a relevant insight for publishers, booksellers and e-reading platform providers in other countries as well, and certainly something they should not be dismissing easily.

In this current state of transition in reading, it is interesting to see how diverse sets of users are responding and adapting. My aunt's cook had recently added me as a Friend on Facebook and I was mildly surprised (not to be patronizing) at the number of Tamil articles that he had been sharing. 

As renowned author Margaret Atwood rightly said in an interview last year: “One of the things the Internet does do is that it drives towards literacy. You have to be able to read and write to use it. And cheap cell phones have enabled information exchange in an unprecedented way. So you may not have a library or a bookstore or even a school, but most villages now have at least one cell phone. Farmers in remote areas can use it to track marketplaces; people are doing banking on their phones.” Atwood – aged 75 – has been called by The Guardian as “literature’s digital doyenne”. Apart from interacting regularly with her readers through Twitter, she has contributed stories to innovative digital platforms such as Wattpad and Byliner.

While there are authors like Atwood who have been early adopters of technology, there are plenty of others who are apprehensive about the integration of reading and technology. In this third installment of 'Diving into a Digital Universe', we continue with asking creators of children's stories in India how they feel about the steadily changing form of the book and whether this has altered their creative processes. Here's what they had to say:

Nandini Nayar, Author

Like everyone who has grown up reading proper books, I viewed the digital texts with suspicion, certain that they would never catch on or replace books. But with the passage of time I find that I am open to new ways of reading texts. So yes, I can see myself reading digital books.

As a writer the ‘eureka’ moment of finding a great idea remains as magical and unchanged in the digital age as in the past. The only difference and challenge lies in adapting the story effectively for the digital medium. I have written stories for mobile phone apps and find that I have to learn a whole new set of dos and donts while doing this. These rules are not big or scary enough to interfere with the actual process of writing. They are just markers of a new territory that I have to keep in mind. In many cases I have found that the digital medium adds to the basic story, since it provides opportunities for noises and other such details to be included in the story.

Check out Nandini Nayar's book 'When Amma Went to School'

Priya Kuriyan, Illustrator

Surprisingly, I've not as yet illustrated for something that was envisioned specifically and solely as a children's e-book. Perhaps, this is because a lot of publishers in India convert what was meant as a traditional physical book into a PDF and then sell them online as e-books. There are no interactive features in the book. Therefore, as an illustrator, the work is not very different and I would imagine that even as a reader, the experience wouldn't be very different. (This might not hold good for older readers who read books without illustrations.)

However, when a children's book is specifically designed to be an e-book, with interactive illustrations and experiments with narrative structures, I would imagine the illustrator's creative process - in terms of the way they plan the book – to be different. The size of one's canvas would vary within a story and one is not restricted to the same proportions of a traditional book through the entire story. While illustrating traditional picture books, 'page turns' are considered very important, while in an e-book, that aspect is replaced by other more film-like techniques like zoom-ins and transitions. So I guess the process of visualising it would differ considerably. Also, what one creates on screen is the final product. So, the entire aspect of colour-correcting, worrying about paper quality, etc, wouldn't be part of the process. 

I feel that the e-book and physical book are two entirely different products - which is why one won't replace the other - and there is a different kind of pleasure in consuming each of these.

Check out Priya Kuriyan's illustrations in 'Susheela's Kolam', 'Peacocks and Pakodas!', 'Everything Looks New!', 'Lassi, Ice-cream or Falooda?', 'Hot Tea and Warm Rugs' and 'Kheer on a Full Moon Night'.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 in the 'Diving into a Digital Universe' series. And read about Pratham Books' journey into the digital universe.

Stories Cut from Paper

With scissors and paper, artist BĂ©atrice Coron creates intricate worlds, cities and countries, heavens and hells. Striding onstage in a glorious cape cut from Tyvek, she describes her creative process and the way her stories develop from snips and slices. (via TED)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Contest No. 3 : The Brave Ones

The third contest that is part of the #11Days11Books contest is happening on our Facebook page

The Prize : 
An autographed copy of 'Freedom Run', autographed by author and Bal Sahitya Puraskar winner Subhadra Sen Gupta. In the Mirzapur and Bhadohi districts of Uttar Pradesh, in Many tiny villages, small children work long hours at the looms to create carpets famous around the world for their intricate designs. This is a story about the forgotten children of India.

How to participate : 
  • Answer the question we've posed by leaving a comment on Facebook.
  • Encourage your child/student to share what their views too.
More Details:
  • This giveaway is only open for people with an address in India (You could personally be based out of India, bu the winning books can only be posted to an Indian address)
  • The giveaway is open till  26th November, 5pm

Pssst : Contest No.2 (Dads who read) is also on till 30th November, 2014. Send in your entries.

(To know about the other contests we are running : check the Pratham Books blog / Facebook page / Twitter account regularly from 20th-30th November, 2014.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Madhuri Purandare on Writing for Children

One of our authors, Madhuri Purandare, was the recipient of this year's Bal Sahitya Puraskar. At an event held in Bengaluru on 15th November, all Bal Sahitya Puraskar winners expressed their thoughts on their own writing/ children's literature. The following is Madhuri's speech :

Madhuri accepting the Bal Sahitya Puraskar
All of you have been writing for children with integrity and persistence. I don't have anything new or extraordinary to tell you. I have made some rules for myself when writing for children; I am going to try telling you something about these.

  • Whether it is writing, illustrating, or doing something else; anything for children must be done with care, seriousness as well as with joy. I must always be mindful that instead of doing something for children with just a sense of responsibility, or duty, or out of a sense of charity that by expending my time and efforts for children despite being an adult is something extraordinary, it is better not to do it at all.
  • I have long realized that it is no longer possible for me to create something as impromptu, free and refreshing as children can. I should not forget that I ought to create something for children, but in my own way.
  • I should never take children for granted by saying 'Oh, what do they know!'
  • Although I am creating something for children, I should not make the mistake of leaving adults out of it. By this, I mean: whatever I create for children should have the capacity to attract and to involve adults as well. If I can achieve this, then it presents them with an opportunity and a good way to gain entry into the world of children.
  • As a famous author has said: Every time a child says, 'I don't believe in fairies,' there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead. Don't you think this is unfortunate? I must keep seeking how to tell fairy tales to children in today's world whose childhood meets an early end.
  • I cannot bring those values to my work that I do not believe in myself. When I create for children, I should at least not be dishonest with myself.
  • A newspaper gets delivered to me every morning. A lot of my energy goes towards getting myself out of the depressed state that reading a newspaper leaves me in, and getting hold of enough energy to face the day. And yet, I should not lose faith in something – that the world is a beautiful place and that life is worth living.
This is all I have to say.

Thank you.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

State of the Commons

Creative Commons has shared a fantastic infographic (and a report) on the adoption and usage of Creative Commons licenses.

Some of the graphs that were of interest to us :

Find all of Pratham Books' work that is available under Creative Commons licenses and the derivatives created through them.

Young Adult Literature and Indian Authors

Kareena N Gianani  wonders if YA literature is finally finding a strong, indigenous voice.

Via mid day
Bolder, better YA literature is sniffing air - pacy mythological thrillers, complex graphic novels, stories set in conflict zones are on offer. 
Ameya Nagarajan, editor, Inked (Penguin’s imprint dedicated to young adults) says Indian writers attempting YA literature seem to have understood the thumb rule -- negotiate this complex space without talking down to your audience, and that, by itself is half the job done. And take more risks.

Young Man ReadingThe key change, feels Nagarajan, has come about because people are hearing about ‘unusual’ themes in books and a market is being created in India. “It’s taking a while for the readers to invest in a book by an Indian. We have been told we should try and use non-Indian pseudonyms for some of our international level YA, for example. The problem is the general feeling that Indian’s can’t really manage to write at international standard in English. The solution of course is very simple, find the people whocan and then publish them. The market will learn,” she explains. 
“Nothing is off limits. If as a parent or publisher, you think you are sheltering this age group by not making them read some themes, you’re really oblivious,” smiles Khan. The only thing she considers a no-no when writing for young adults is glamourising negative behaviour. “I have had characters in my books who have large breasts, I’ve used a cuss word, I’ve even dealt with sexual manipulation between a teenaged couple. But all with a consciousness that someone out there might take all the wrong things from it, and my style will have to walk some very tricky ground,” she explains. 
Publishers, writers and YA readers call this phase ‘growing up’, and they expect much trial and error, and very tricky times ahead. There’s much to be done, and a marketing model to be cracked for such a tricky segment. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Contest No.2 : Looking for Dads Who Read

Yesterday, we announced the 11 Days - 11 Books contest. The first contest has just concluded and we received some lovely responses. Time for the second contest. This contest will have three winners - so you have a higher chance of winning! Time to take a picture/a selfie or dig into the archives to find that amazing picture you want to share with us.

How to participate : 
  • Send your photo to web(at)prathambooks(dot)org with the title 'dads who read'.
More Details:
  • This giveaway is only open for people with an address in India (You could personally be based out of India, bu the winning books can only be posted to an Indian address)
  • The giveaway is open till 30th November 2014, 11.49 pm. We will contact the winner via email. If we do not hear back from the winner within one week, the prize will go to the next person we choose.
The Prize :
We will choose 3 winners and each will get a copy of Daddy's Mo, autographed by author and Bal Sahitya Puraskar winner Madhuri Purandare.

About the Book :
What does Anu like the most about her dad? His Mo! Do you know what a Mo is? Actually, Anu likes everyone with a Mo. So much so that when she see a Mo, She gets funny ideas!

***The pictures shared for this contest will be shared on our Facebook account.

(To know about the other contests we are running : check the Pratham Books blog / Facebook page / Twitter account regularly from 20th-30th November, 2014.)

Event : PubliCon 2014

The theme for this year's PubliCon 2014 is 'Publishing Across Platforms' and will be held on 3rd December, 2014 at FICCI, New Delhi


The digital revolution has brought a number of changes in the world of publishing. It has not only revolutionised the publishing process, but has also brought new models of book distribution and new platforms to read and interact with the book. In addition, digital has enabled the creative industries, publishing services, technological innovations and the internet revolution, to become an integral part of the publishing process today. Further, existence of numerous publishing apps clearly indicates that publishing is increasingly moving towards a mobile platform. These new developments have brought to the fore new challenges of innovation, strategy and adaptability.

The major challenge that a publisher faces today is how to make a book accessible across multiple platforms and to be able to access new revenue streams. Content strategy and information architecture management are the new buss words through which the publisher grapples with. PubliCon 2014 will look into these new areas of publishing and will try to find solutions to some of these new challenges.

Find more detaills about the registration and schedule of this event. Limited sponsorship opportunities are also available. 

Authorisms - Words Created by Writers

Paul Dickson shares the top ten words invented by writers which have entered the wider language and  have been enriching English for centuries. 

To be irresistibly enchanted, dazed or pleased A word that Shakespeare debuts in The Taming of the Shrew when Katharina says: “Pardon, old father, my mistaking eyes, that have been so bedazzled with the sun that everything I look on seemeth green.” Several of the websites that track the Bard’s words have, in recent years, commented on the fact that a commercial product called The Be Dazzler had come on the market and was taking some of the shine from the word. The Be Dazzler is a plastic device used to attach rhinestones to blue jeans, baseball caps and other garments. One site commented: “A word first used to describe the particular gleam of sunlight is now used to sell rhinestone-embellished jeans.'

SerendipityNovelist William Gibson invented this word in a 1982 short story, but it became popular after the publication of his sci-fi novel Neuromancer in 1984. He described cyberspace as “a graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system.

The writer and politician Horace Walpole invented the word in 1754 as an allusion to Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka. Walpole was a prolific letter writer, and he explained to one of his main correspondents that he had based the word on the title of a fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The three princes were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not looking for.

View the entire list of 'authorisms'.

Image Source : Paula Eklund