Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best Books of 2009 and the Decade

It is that time of the year when the book lists come out. The best in non fiction, the best in fiction and more....

designboom has a list of the top book cover designs of 2009.

The Afterword shares a list compiled by Indigo Books & Music Inc.
Ami McKay’s The Birth House and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road were among the top 11 works in fiction; Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle and Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father were included in the 12 best biographies; Margaret Atwood’s Payback and John Grogan’s Marley and Me were among Indigo’s top 33 non-fiction works; while Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes by and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner were named in the “booklovers’ top 10 ‘life-changing’ books.”
What books do publishers, agents and translators consider as the decade's best unread books?
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan, published in 2006: Yes, it was a collection of short stories and yes, the industry wisdom is that it's hellishly difficult to sell short story collections but what a collection this was. It was like having a new Angela Carter on your list. Margo is an award-winning author of fantasy stories of haunting power and beauty which seemed to speak to genre fan and non-genre fan alike courtesy of strikingly beautiful prose and an unflinching eye for truth. Black Juice contained Singing My Sister Down. When this story was circulated in-house it had an unprecedented impact – countless people admitted to being brought to tears by it. We sent that story out to the trade and the response was the same. We had a stunning cover for the book, we published it as a hardback for the price of the paperback, the trade supported us to the hilt, we got a decent number out, got rave reviews ... and 60% of them came back. Crushed. And utterly mystified.
The Guardian also has a list of the best books of 2009.

Children's fiction had a good year. The second part of Patrick Ness's trilogy, which he began with the award-winning The Knife of Never Letting Go, continued strongly with The Ask and The Answer.

Other lists you can check out are...

The 10 Best Books of 2009 - The New York Times

Best Books of 2009 - Publishers Weekly

Washington Post critics pick their favorite novels, biographies, mysteries, memoirs and more.

Publishers Weekly picks out the best children's books of 2009.

npr has many many many lists to choose from - best airplane reads, best books for a book club, best debut fiction, best foreign fiction, the best books to share with your friends, etc. The lists can be accessed here.

Image Source

Rare Book Room

Via Rare Book Room

The "Rare Book Room" site has been constructed as an educational site intended to allow the visitor to examine and read some of the great books of the world.

Over the last decade, a company called "Octavo" digitally photographed some of the world ’s great books from some of the greatest libraries. These books were photographed at very high resolution (in some cases at over 200 megabytes per page).

This site contains all of the books (about 500) that have been digitized to date. These range over a wide variety of topics and rarity. The books are presented so that the viewer can examine all the pages in medium to medium-high resolution.

Visit the website.

Image Source : From 'A Little Lottery-Book - 1767'

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Book a Day for 365 Days

Since her last birthday in October 2008, Nina Sankovitch was on a mission - to read a book every day for the next 365 days.

Last Oct. 28, on her 46th birthday, Nina Sankovitch read a novel, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” by Muriel Barbery. The next day she posted a review online deeming it “beautiful, moving and occasionally very funny.”

The next day she read “The Emigrants,” by W. G. Sebald, and the day after that, “A Sun for the Dying,” by Jean-Claude Izzo. On Thanksgiving she read Peter Ackroyd’s biography of Isaac Newton; on Christmas, “The Love Song of Monkey,” by Michael S. A. Graziano; on July 4, “Dreamers,” by Knut Hamsun. When seen Friday, she was working on “How to Paint a Dead Man,” by Sarah Hall. She finished two more over the weekend during a trip to Rochester with her family (husband; 27-year-old stepdaughter; four boys ages 16, 14, 11 and 8) for her in-laws’ 60th wedding anniversary.

But perhaps what stands out most is that, at a time when reading books can feel like a pre-Internet anachronism, she did it mostly because, well, she wanted to.

“This is not someone trying to run an ultra-marathon,” said her husband, Jack Menz, a lawyer, whose first thought about her plan was, “How about a book a week?” He added, “It’s someone getting to do what she really enjoys.”

All the books are ones she has not read. She reads only one book per author. She reads one day and posts the review the next morning.

But mostly she makes it up as she goes along. By necessity she mostly sticks to books 250 to 300 pages or fewer — Thomas Pynchon’s paranoid primer “The Crying of Lot 49,” for example, rather than the weightier, in all ways, “Gravity’s Rainbow.” But on March 1, she made it through all 560 pages of “Revelation,” by C. J. Sansom, a murder mystery set in Tudor England.

Aside from the pleasure of it, Ms. Sankovitch had other goals — inspiring a love of books in others and finding her way through a period of sorrow and soul-searching brought on by the death of her sister Anne-Marie in 2005.

“I’ve always thought great literature is all one needs to read to understand human psychology, emotions, even history,” she said. “For someone sitting around reading books, it’s been a really lively year.”

Read the entire article here. You can visit her website and read about the project or read the book reviews she wrote during this project.

Image Source : Yves.

Twitter Recap

Tweet tweet... It is the end of the year and we bring you the last Twitter recap of this year. Wishing you a twitterific 2010!


Children’s writer Roopa Pai talks to Arati Rao about her new Taranauts series and writing for kids in India.

'When Kulbhushan Met Stockli' is the result of a comics collaboration between India and Switzerland.

Keep up with your favourite Random House author on your iPhone.

@heyjudeonline- The Book Cover Archive ~ for the appreciation and categorization of excellence in book cover design.

'Media Meltdown' is a media literacy comic for kids.

@karaditales: We’ve partnered with a wonderful children’s website to bring a fun story writing contest for kids.

@linkstoliteracy - Reading Comics Aloud to Kids: 10 strategies that enhance literacy A phone box gets a new life as a library.

Read about how Random House got the ban on the book 'Ulysses' dropped and how it went on to become a bestseller.

@weheartbooks - The cutest ABC ever! The WorldBank blog asks - Can eBooks replace printed books in Africa?

@tulikabooks: Children & art appreciation: a review of Tulika's latest 4 books in the 'Looking at Art' series.

A list of authors who will be attending the Jaipur Literature Festival , 21st-25th Jan 2010

@abhaga - List your best 5 Indian Comics (1, 2)

@vimoh - Story Something quietly opens up, turns your kids into heroes Read about a book club's holiday tradition. Author Pamela Redmond Satran talks about the ultimate gift - Books for Christmas.

Find out which books are the most frequently stolen books.

@tarabooks: Anushka Ravishankar blogs about the 'Bookaroo' children's event held in Delhi.


@swagatsen - Student Film Festival of CMCS, TISS : (Last date for submission of entires: 15th January, 2010).

@akb_books - Ashok K. Banker's first book reading and signing in over 5 years is being held on 9th January, 2010 in Mumbai.


Google’s 2009 Holiday Gift To Ad Partners: $20 Million To Charity. Pratham is also one of the intended recipients.

@Toybank- Toybank featured in 'Time Out Bengaluru'

@thinkchangeind - Janta Foundation launches p2p micro-loan site for child education @CSOPartners - Only 2 more days to submit application for CSO Partners' annual report awards for NGOs


We were revisiting our blog archives to browse through Prashant Miranda's lovely travel paintings/diaries.

@ashokpadda - Interesting idea - piggybacking products/ads/information over match boxes to rural markets -

Ommwriter is an application that is supposed to help writers concentrate. More information here and here.

@brainpicker -Yves Behar and Nicholas Negroponte announce XO-3, tablet follow-up to the XO One Laptop Per Child.

Image Source : Alex Eben Meyer

Tsunami: A Patua Scroll Style Book

On 26th December 2004, a terrifying Tsunami struck the Indian Ocean. Moyna and Joydeb Chitrakar, Patua scroll painters from Bengal, have collaborated with Tara Books to bring out a Patua scroll-book.
Rendered by Patua scroll painters, Tsunami recalls a terrifying event in our common history. In the traditional manner of Patua art, this innovative scroll-book transforms dramatic news into a moving and artfully rendered fable. Dirge-like in tone and translated from the original Bengali, the Tsunami ballad evokes, as all ancient forms of keening do, the persistence of life in death.
The first Patua scroll to be rendered into the form of a book, Tsunami is silk-screen-printed by hand.
The extraordinary imagination of the Patua artists introduces an old fashioned empathy into modern reportage—and in the process, creates a moving tale that transforms the ephemera of newsrooms into art with a universal resonance.
Moyna and Joydeb Chitrakar are storytellers, both visual and verbal, from the Patua scroll painting tradition of West Bengal. This is their first collaboration with Tara Books. (Link)
Note: If you are receiving this blog post in an email or through an RSS feed and cannot see the videos, please open the link in a new page.

You can also listen to Gita Wolf from Tara Books talk about the making of this book. The book can be purchased here (Pssst: Tara Books is offering a 30% discount on all books and stationery purchased before 30th Jan, 2010)

Rewind. Recap.

The week that was...

If it is a book you want to buy from Pratham Books and are wondering which one to choose from our huge list, maybe you should read a few customer reviews to help you make the choice. Our intern Naomi reminisces about the time she spent teaching at a government school in Bangalore.

Our friends at Pratham have been awarded the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year 2009 Award in the public service category.

Neil Gaiman talks about his love for audiobooks and the components of a good audiobook. Paulo Coelho talks about digital media, readership, piracy and more. Author Robin Antalek shares a story about a holiday tradition that was inspired by a beloved chidren's book.

Project Madurai is an open and voluntary initiative to collect and publish free electronic editions of ancient tamil literary classics. January 1st is the day, each year, when the works of some authors enter the public domain. Learn more about Public Domain Day.

All proceeds from the sale of the 'Birdi Num Num' book will support World Literacy of Canada's India programme. Poets dominated this year’s Sahitya Akademi awards winners with eight of their books chosen for the honours in 24 categories of literature.

Students can participate in two competitions - A Billion Dreams (last date for submission: 30th December 2009) and The Shortie Awards: Film & News Festival (last date for submission: 9th April 2010).

Funky book accessories we spotted this week were the polar bear bookcase and the quote/unquote bookends.

Image Source:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sahitya Akademi Awards 2009

Via The Hindu

Poets dominated this year’s Sahitya Akademi award winners with eight of their books chosen for the honours in 24 categories of literature.

The poets honoured were: Praduman Singh Jindrahia (Dogri), Kailash Vajpeyi (Hindi), Jess Fernandes (Konkani), Raghu Leishangthem (Manipuri), Vasant Abaji Dahake (Marathi), Phani Mohanty (Oriya), Damayanti Beshra (Santhali) and Puviarasu (Tamil).

The awardees for their collection of short stories include Vaidehi (Kannada), the late Manmohan Jha (Maithili), Samiran Chhetri ‘Priyadarshi’ (Nepali), Major Ratan Jangid (Rajasthani), Prashasya Mitra Shastri (Sanskrit) and Anand Khemani (Sindhi).

Well-known novelists Dhrubajyoti Bora (Assamese), the late Manoranjan Lahary (Bodo), U. A. Khadar (Malayalam) and Yarlagadda Laxmi Prasad (Telugu) were also honoured with the awards for 2009, Secretary of the Sahitya Akademi, Agrahara Krishna Murthy, said.

The Akademi also announced ‘Bhasha Samman’ for 2008, to Vishwanath Khaire and Surendranath Satapathy in the field of classical and medieval literature. Mr. Murthy said the government had agreed in principle to increase the Sahitya Akademi award cash prize from Rs.50,000 to Rs.1 lakh. The Akademi had decided to honour authors of children’s literature from this year.


Image Source: Alex Wendes

A Family's Holiday Tradition Inspired by a Well-Loved Children's Book

This is just such a sweet story and just in time for Christmas. Author Robin Antalek, author of the forthcoming family novel The Summer We Fell Apart, talks about the holiday tradition that was inspired by a beloved chidren's book.

Via Book Club Girl
...we stumbled upon the most glorious book: Night Tree by the beloved children’s author Eve Bunting. Night Tree tells the story of a family venturing out on Christmas Eve, bundled together in the cab of their father’s truck, as they head out into the woods to find the perfect Christmas tree. Not for cutting down, but for decorating with popcorn and fruit for the animals of the forest to have for Christmas.

Soon after that very first reading, my youngest daughter, a sensitive lover of all creatures, came home from preschool with a peanut butter smeared pinecone crusted in birdseed.
Her teacher had suggested she hang it in a backyard tree but my girl had something grander in mind. She wanted to fill a tree with these pinecone treats and not in our city backyard where our lab mutts would scare off any potential animals, but in the forest. She and her sister quickly set about collecting a box full of pinecones and making a list of the necessary ingredients: birdseed, carrots, cranberries, peanut butter and popcorn. With their father and me, they formed an assembly line at the kitchen table smearing and slathering the cones in peanut butter before rolling in birdseed and looping a twist of twine around the stem and packing them neatly in a big brown box.
Read the entire story here. The Book Club Girl is also hosting a series of blog posts during the month of December and is inviting several authors to share their favourite holiday traditions and memories.

Does you or your family have any book-related traditions (not just during Christmas...but during any holidays)? Share your story in the comments below.

Image Source

Polar Bear Bookcase

Spotted this on HotelChatter

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Paulo Coelho on Digital Media and Readership

Via The Times of India

Ten years ago, in 1999, my agent returned from Russia bearing bad news: The publisher of my novel ‘The Alchemist’ had decided to discontinue publication because fewer than 3,000 copies had sold.

The odd thing is that, only weeks before, I had found a pirated edition of the Russian translation on the Internet, and my immediate reaction had been to attribute the low sales of my books in Russia to piracy.

Like any other author, I wanted my books to be read. Since a physical book wasn’t available, and I had no idea when the new publisher would manage to buy the paper he needed to print the new edition, I thought: Why not make a virtual version available? Acting on impulse, I posted the pirated translation on my Web site, where anyone could download it without paying.

At the end of 2000, my Ukrainian publisher was thrilled to report that we had sold 10,000 copies! A year later that had risen to 100,000. By 2002, 1 million Russian-language copies had been sold.

During that time, I received e-mails referring to the pirated edition I had placed on my Web site. Many of those messages said: “I’m so glad to have found your work.” My conclusion: Russia was a vast country with enormous distribution problems, and the Internet was helping to bring the book to readers.

Excited by this discovery, I decided to do the same with my other books. But I ran into a legal problem: The Russian translation had been posted on the Internet by the translator, but what about translations to which I did not have the rights? My solution was to gather all the links to file-sharing P2P (peer-to-peer) sites and create my Pirate Coelho Web site.

This became a hit on social networking sites, which spread the news. By the time I spoke publicly of this at the 2007 Digital, Life, Design conference in Munich, a million unique visitors per month were visiting the site. There, they could find almost all my books in various languages - from German to Malayalam. Meanwhile, the printed versions were selling in ever greater numbers.Since none of my publishers had complained up until then, I assumed they must know about the Web site but had decided not to intervene.

The day after newspapers published my remarks in Munich, my telephone began ringing. Some of my publishers asked: “Do you know the risk you’re running? Don’t you realize that this is going to decrease your sales?”

Pirate Coelho had been online since 2005, I argued, and sales had continued to rise. That meant the traditional publishing model benefitted from file sharing. I must confess that, much as I respect my publishers, their view of reality bore little relation to what was happening in the bookstores. By that time, I had sold more than 100 million books, and that gave me a few privileges.

How can I explain what happened? It isn’t only the financial world that finds the word “greedy” problematic, but any industry that tries to claim a monopoly on anything, be it information or a specific product. In my case, people started reading my books on the screen, liked them and went on to buy a print copy — handier and cheaper in the long term. And so it went for several years. Somerset Maugham said: “We do not write because we want to; we write because we must.” And, I would add, because we want to be read.
Read the entire article here. Also read Paulo Coelho *hearts* Piracy

Image Source: valkyrieh116

Birdi Num Num Collector's Edition

Via World Literacy of Canada

World Literacy of Canada's overseas program works in Northern India, Nepal and Sri Lanka to improve the lives of impoverished people through literacy, education and community development.

WLC believes in a holistic, integrated approach towards literacy and community development and tries to develop its programs with sensitivity to the needs and the cultural context of those communities with which it works.

The story of Birdi Num um introduces the reader to the Hindi language and Indian culture, and is a pleasure to read for both children and adults. Birdi's adventures also teach us to give, help, and share.
Please click on the images for a larger view. All proceeds from the sale of the 'Birdi Num Num' book will support World Literacy of Canada's India programme. Here are a few spreads from the book : 1, 2

Pssst: Do take a look at the post on Prashant Miranda's work.

Public Domain Day


January first is the day, each year, when the works of some authors enter the public domain. Their works become officially a part of our cultural heritage in a way that makes them open for use, and not hampered by restrictions. The terms of copyright expire and give us the opportunity to remix and build upon the works of those who have gone before us. Building on the heritage of our shared culture is the key element, I think. Public domain status certainly also means that individuals get the first legal opportunity to simply copy a work. That’s great, but not the equal of making something new that wasn’t legal before.
Read more here.

Public Domain Works has a list of people whose works will enter thepublic domain in 2010.

Image Source: austinevan

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let a Customer Review Help You Choose a Book

This Christmas season, what gifts are you giving your children? If it is a book you want to buy and are wondering which one to choose from our huge list, maybe you should read a few customer reviews to help you make the choice. Earlier this month, we compiled a list of reviews written by different bloggers and you can read that post here.

The reviews for this blog post are from the Explorekids blog.
Ek Sudama Ek Banmali is a beautiful story of Lord Krishan and Sudamas’ friendship, in a form of poem. I bought this book in Hindi for Aru. She is fond of poems and here the Hindi is so simple that she loved it. The highlight of this book is the amazing bright and colourful illustration. One would love to read the poem again and again for it meters are so sweet to the ears.

Ashmit is quite afraid of the sound of thunder and rain. He cry his lungs out when its raining. ‘Rain Rain’ is a book where it says how the rain is important for the Peacock who wants to dance, for the farmer who wants to plant the seeds, for the fish who needs more water in the pond and to Raju who wants to sail his boat. ‘The Monsoon Concert’ is full of different sounds we hear when it rains. A frog is quite bored because it has not rained for long so he thinks to sing and send the message to the sky that he wants rain. When he starts singing “Kronker kronker kronk koru” , the owl, the cricket, the fire fly and the gecko joins him. So they all sing in their different voices and are heard by rain who then joins them with “Tupur tapur tup tuppoo” The book indeed is a musical concert. Ashmit enjoyed them and says that now when it rains he will sail his boat in the puddle and sing his rhymes.

The Sister Sister series has four books ‘Where does the sun go at night’, ‘Where does the thunder come from’, ‘Why don’t things fall up?’ and ‘Why is the sky blue’. These books attempt to demystify important scientific concepts through the medium of story telling. I bought ‘Where does the thunder come from’. Munna Raja asks this question to his sister, who in reply asks him to guess why this happen. He thinks and gives different reason like, some monster is angry, motorbikers who live in cloud are riding their bikes etc. Then didi gives him the scientific reason and he feels glad. The book make young kids connect with the reality and myth. Now Ashmit also knows there are no monsters in cloud and that he should not be scared by the sound of the thunder.
Read the other reviews on Explorekids.

Thanks Jo!

Project Madurai : Archiving Tamil Literature

Via Project Madurai (via @adropofwisdom)

Electronic versions of printed texts (abbreviated as Etexts) of ancient literary works are important pedagoic and scholarly resources. Stored in easily accessible archives, they permit preservation and wider distribution of ancient literary works around the globe through the means of internet. Etexts of literary works also allow quick search for phrases, words, and combinations of words in any literary work. There are many projects currently active world-wide that attempts to put in electronic form ancient literary works.

Project Madurai is an open and voluntary initiative to collect and publish free electronic editions of ancient tamil literary classics. This means either typing-in or scanning old books and archiving the text in one of the most readily accessible formats ("ETEXTS") for use on all popular computer platforms. All etexts will be distributed in both web/html and PDF formats.- Distributed through the World Wide Web servers , anyone located anywhere may download a copy for personal use or read what we publish on the internet, free of charge.

The project will be coordinated by a handful of volunteers, most of which have Project Madurai s as their hobby, just like you! Anyone who would like to contribute can join this project. Simply send an email note to Project Coordinators.

More details here.

Image Source: Idol

Two Contests for Students

A BILLION DREAMS (via The Hindu)

CII, Young Indians (‘Yi), launches ‘A Billion Dreams', a competition for high school and college students across the country. Participants are expected to submit a video clip of their vision for India at 75. The last date for submission of entries is December 30.

The participants can submit a video clip of their vision for India at 75 at and send their registration to and / or call 42444555. The clippings will be judged by a jury of personalities from various walks of life. The panelists would select the top videos, the makers of which will get to see their ‘vision' aired during a special felicitation ceremony on January 26 in Chennai.

The project aims to give Indians a platform to envision their development goals. The project, in essence, is a stage for Indians to inform, and in the process inspire other Indians of what they feel India should have evolved to epitomise, come 75 years of independence.

Read more here.

The Shortie Awards: Film & News Festival is the premiere film festival for students ages 7 to 18 and their teachers!
Entry Categories:

Live Action: Narrative, Documentary, Experimental, PSA, Music Video, or Other
Animation: Stop-Motion, Claymation, Machinima, Digital, or Other
Daily News Program

We are accepting entries for the 9th Annual Shortie Awards until April 9, 2010.
Visit the website for the rules and more details.

Image Source

Monday, December 21, 2009

Neil Gaiman on Audiobooks

Neil Gaiman's take on audiobooks...

Via npr

I grew up in a world where stories were read aloud. My mother read to me. My father and grandparents invented stories, mostly about animals, which they would tell me at bedtime.

Some of my earliest memories are listening to stories on the radio as a boy in England. I had a record of Beatrice Lillie reading the poems of Edward Lear that I played until it was one long scratch.

I read aloud whenever I could. I would read to my sisters if they would sit still long enough. I still remember being played the original 1954 Under Milk Wood in English class, and rejoicing in the words and the lilt of the voices.

I didn't rediscover spoken-word stories until I was a parent. I would read to my children, and began to supplement that with cassette audiobooks. They made car journeys pass faster, more interestingly. And you knew you had a good one when nobody wanted to get out of the car at the end of the journey.

I began to buy, or rent, classics and new books and old favorites. A drive from Florida to Minneapolis became Stephen King reading his book Bag of Bones; a journey from Wisconsin to New York was Tom Parker reading an unabridged Huckleberry Finn. I realized I was experiencing the stories differently, word by word. Listening.

I was overjoyed the first time one of my publishers let me record one of my own audiobooks, though I was slightly saddened when she explained that there would soon be no more audiobooks: Cassette tape players were vanishing from cars, and packaging long books on CD was cost-prohibitive. The audiobook was going to go the way of the dodo. I began to treasure audiobooks as beautiful things that would soon be history.

But the death of the audiobook never happened. In the past six years, I've recorded six audiobooks, and although it can be exhausting, I've loved the process and have been delighted with the result.

Author David Sedaris is someone else who records his own audiobooks, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has heard his NPR pieces. When I decided to investigate the world of audiobooks, I started with David.

"I often believe that no one could appreciate the iPod more than me. I think that it was invented especially for me," David said. "I would fight for my iPod. Like, I wouldn't fight for my freedom, but I would fight for my iPod."

But audiobooks can vary wildly. The person reading makes all the difference.

"Sometimes you get an audiobook, and you realize too late that it's just the wrong reader," David said. "Like, I hate it when a guy is reading a book and he'll say, 'There was a knock on the door. It was Rebecca. Well, it was about time, she said,' " David now using a narrator’s high-pitched voice.

There are pitfalls you really only discover when you're reading aloud. Inadvertent tongue twisters or clumsy sentences that make you curse the author, which for me, is me. So I'll sometimes rewrite sentences prior to publication.

Of course, there are those who don't like audiobooks. Critic Harold Bloom said, "Deep reading really demands the inner ear as well as the outer ear. You need the whole cognitive process, that part of you which is open to wisdom. You need the text in front of you."

So is an audiobook a book? I asked audio producer Rick Harris. "Well, my feeling is that it is not a book," he said.

"An audiobook is a separate entity that is absolutely true. And a novel can be seen as many things, and one of the things it can be seen as is a script for an audio performance."

"[Bloom is] utterly correct in saying it's not a book, but it is another thing," Harris said. "It is an audiobook, and that has its own validity, its own limitations, its own strengths. The ear's ability to perceive nuance. The human voice is unquestionably the most expressive musical instrument there is. You combine those two, and you get an audiobook.

An audiobook is its own thing, a unique medium that goes in through the ear, sometimes leaving you sitting in the driveway to find out how the story is going to end.

Read the entire article here.

Image Source: jc.westbrook

Naomi Goes to School

Our intern Naomi reminisces about the time she spent teaching at a government school in Bangalore.
About a week into my time at Pratham Books, and about two weeks into my time in India, I had to leave the country for a week to travel to South Africa where an important family function was taking place ( duty calls!). Although I had a great time, the one disadvantage of this was that I missed the first week of the next stage of our internship (there were no more books to review!): working in an Akshara library in a school in Bangalore. Our first task for this, and what I was most disappointed to be missing, was selecting which school we wanted to work with.
The fact that I could not participate in this made me a little nervous to start. I was going to a school that I knew next to nothing about; whereas Amani had already been with the children for several days. So, he knew them and the teachers reasonably well, and was comfortably settled. When I spoke to him I learned that rather than assisting in the library like we had thought we would be doing, he was actually teaching a class English. As you can imagine, this didn’t much help my nerves. However on arriving at the school it was clear that such nerves were unnecessary.
The school we were teaching in was the Government Urdu School on Mosque road, Fraser Town. The school is not big, and is currently undergoing construction work so much of the outdoor playing space is piled high with bricks and other building materials. The school is predominantly, if not entirely, Muslim and class sizes vary greatly. Certain standards seem to have fewer than 20 children to a class whilst in others the numbers approached 40. The reason for this variation, however, was unclear. Within the school there is also a preschool for 3-6 year olds which has around 10 children.
During my month at the school I tried to have some interaction with all the different classes, but worked mostly with the class we were initially assigned, which was the 7th standard. With no prior knowledge about the English ability of the children I spent the first week or so simply revising “the basics”, some of which the class were completely clued up on, some less so. We did animals, fruits, body parts, actions, emotions, colours, transport, and much more, and taught through a variety of different means. When revising these quite basic topics most of the lesson was spent getting individuals from the class to come to the front and spell/ draw the requested word or words on the board. There were always many students eager and enthusiastic to volunteer which was pleasing to me, not only because it showed their English ability but also as it showed they felt comfortable with me and Amani, which I had not expected to happen so quickly.
Much of our class time was also taken up teaching songs. Although I know sing-a-longs are a popular teaching method (and not just in English, the 7th Standard maths class tended to start with a Hindi rhyme) and are often used I had always thought of this as something of a cliché, and was sceptical about how effective it could be. I was proved completely wrong however. The main advantage of teaching through the songs is that everyone in the class is engaged together and no-one is left out. It was always nice to see some of the shyer members of the class become excited and confident when we were doing songs. To make sure the songs had some educational purpose I would link them in with what else I had taught that day: “head, shoulders, knees and toes” followed naturally from learning body parts; “the wheels on the bus” fitted in with doing transport; and after teaching different words for different emotions I taught them “if you’re happy and you know it.” The latter in particular was loved by the children, so much so that just days later I saw other kids in the school, to whom I had not yet taught the song, singing it among themselves.
Overall I was infinitely impressed with the children’s English ability. I was told by one of the school’s teachers that they only start proper English lessons in Standard 6. When taking this into consideration, their English is amazing. The only time that mistakes were common was when the children were copying long passages that I had written from the board ( often with missing words for them to fill in themselves), though I think that much of the time this was just because many of the kids were rushing to finish first. When introduced to new words and ideas they were always quick to pick them up, and although many of the teaching staff at the school indicated that they expected there to be a problem in communication between the children and us because of having such different accents and pronunciations, I did not find this to be the case.
Aside from teachers, there were also quite often other people working in the school who were not the school’s staff, but working for an organisation trying to help the school to improve. It is my understanding that it is this organisation that it is funding much of the renovation work at the school. However during a conversation I had with one of these men he said that because of lack of funds the main way they are trying to improve the school is by pushing the teachers to push the children’s ability further, and to encourage more discipline throughout the school. It is obviously very encouraging that there is an organisation working to improve the school, although admittedly generally speaking I found the discipline in the school to already be of a high standard.
The one thing that really shocked me was the previously mentioned construction work and the effect this has on the school’s facilities. Although undoubtedly any improvements to the schools facilities are a positive thing, the bi-product of these improvements is that at the moment children are quite literally going to school in a building site. Even before you enter the school, there are piles of bricks and slabs of stone leading up to the entrance, some half-placed over large holes in the ground which someone could easily trip on or even fall into. Given how small some of the children who attend the school are, and how many children can be coming into/ leaving the school at any one time this seems quite dangerous. Going fromone level of the school to the other is a similar situation. One must jump around/ over piles of bricks, heaps of stones, even long wooden logs to move between levels. The worst thing I saw was concerning the preschool. For over a week whilst I was at the school (this was still the case when I left) the preschool room was being renovated. You’d expect given this that the class may have been shifted to another class room; even if this meant just sitting at the back whilst the older children were being taught. However this was not the case. Instead, the teacher was forced outside with the children, and had to look after all of them from a small, immobile roundabout that was sitting, literally, amid piles of stones and bricks. On one occasion when I was standing next to the roundabout and talking to the teacher and the children, one child even fell off the roundabout, though luckily was not hurt. The fact that the preschool teacher is responsible for all the children’s well being in such conditions seems like quite a burden.
Aside from this though, I have nothing but good things to say about the school. All my time working with those children is over but I am lucky because I live close by and will still be able to regularly pop in to say hello and see how things are coming along. It will be interesting to see if, when not there every day, I see more progress being made building-wise, and I am also interested to see if the children’s enthusiasm and confidence in English continues. I very much hope and believe that it will.

Pratham Awarded the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year 2009 in the Public Service Category

Our friends at Pratham have been awarded the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year 2009 Award in the public service category. Pratham receives this award for its contribution in the field of literacy and education. The other nominees were Anna Hazare, Association For Democratic Reward, Dr Devi Shetty, Ecosphere Spiti and Naaz Foundation .
CNN-IBN Indian of the Year 2009, the biggest and the most credible awards of the nation, are back to honour and recognize Indians whose endeavor stood beyond the ordinary this year and in the process, built brand India. The pinnacle of Indian achievement, the award adheres to the unparallel four-tier process, standing resolute for the resilience and trust of a billion free Indian minds. (Link)
Being associated with Pratham and having provided content for many of their projects, we all were extremely happy to hear about this news and we wish Pratham all the luck and success for the future.

Update: PM's remarks at the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year Awards- 2009

Rewind. Recap.

The week that was...

Contemporary Santhali literature has taken off in a big way but it needs more government support to flourish.

A Kannada portal, based on the Wikipedia format, has been launched. The portal offers viewers’ participation in updating the information and serves as a source of information on various issues in Kannada.

Our friends over at Akshara Foundation are participating in GiveIndia's US End-of-Year 15k Giving Challenge and they need YOUR support.

Designer Stéphane Massa-Bidal has designed a series of book covers imagining a few web services as vintage paperback covers.

Keep a track of our Twitter activity by following our Twitter recap.

Read about the Kinkajou Microfilm Projection System - a low-cost teaching tool designed to improve and expand access to education by transforming night-time learning environments in rural, non-electrified settings.

Two contests that you can participate in are the 'Chanda Pustaka's Annual Book Cover Design Contest' and the 'Will You Write With Me Contest'.

We leave you with the lovely work of illustrator Priya Kurian.

Image Source: schoeband

Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Will You Write With Me' Contest

Via Karadi Tales

Here is an opportunity to become a published author with Karadi Tales! All you have to do is finish what we’ve started!

Here’s how it works. A renowned author has written the first half of a story for us… but we don’t know how it ends! Read the story and tell us what you think should happen next. Complete the story within 800 words and send it to us.

The entries will be judged by an eminent panel of your favourite writers.

The four best entries will be published as an audiobook by Karadi Tales.

And that’s not all! We also have a celebrated Indian icon waiting in the wings to lend voice to your story in the audio track!

So what are you waiting for? Get cracking and email in your entries to us at

Send us your entries latest by 14 February 2010!
Click to read more and participate in the contest.

Image Source

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Twitter Recap

The twittering week that was...

Have you seen the MAD photographs from our ethnic day celebrations yet? See the new look that most of the people from our Bangalore team donned for the day :).

Anorak Magazine's Winter Drawing Issue features drawings by the kids from the Akshara libraries. We will have pictures of the magazine for you to see soon. Roopa Pai's Taranauts series transports kids to a fantasy world. Take a look at the entries sent in for 'Unshelved's Pimp My Bookcart' contest here and here. Peter Mendelsund designs book jackets/covers and his website showcases his work perfectly. People in UK have a chance of winning every book on the Costa book awards shortlist.

@radhika_rayan - Take a look at some children's books illustrations from Iran

@bookbole - Audible menus will unlock Kindle for the blind

brainpicker - The Bookshelf Rethought, 5 innovative designs for a bookworm with a design fetish

@CulturattiKids - Library of Congress adds historic newspapers on Flickr

@drvivekm - Inside the Select Book Store, Brigade Rd.

Our friends at the Akshara Foundation are participating in GiveIndia's US End-of-Year 15k Giving Challenge. Find out how you can support their cause. Send in your applications for the Teach for India 2010 Fellowship.

We were reading about the use of pen drives in government school classrooms. @vijaysappani shared a link with photographss of @Asha4Education's school projects in Tamil Nadu.

@twestival - It is with great excitement to announce @ConcernWorld is our 2010 Twestival Global recipient!!!

If you are on Twitter, you can keep track of our updates by following @prathambooks.

Image Source: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chanda Pustaka's Annual Book Cover Design Contest

Via The Hindu

Chanda Pustaka is holding its annual book cover design contest. The participants this year will have to design a cover for Radhesh Tholpadi's children's book “Hello Hello Chandamama”. The dimension of the design should be 11.5 centimetres in width and 19 centimetres in height.

Those who want to see samples of poems to aid in designing can log into or The best entry wins Rs. 5,000 and the last date for entry is December 31. Entries can be sent to

Kinkajou Microfilm Projector and Portable Library

Via design that matters

One in five adults worldwide does not know how to read. In rural regions of West Africa, up to 75% of the population is illiterate. According to Barbara Garner of World Education, “It’s the lack of resources”—specifically access to books and lighting—rather than a lack of interest in education that contributes to illiteracy rates. Since most adults work during the day, the majority of World Education’s students in Mali take classes at night. Residents of these rural communities lack access to electricity and, therefore, electric lighting. Before the implementation of the Kinkajou, each student in a two-hour class had maybe fifteen minutes to learn—the amount of time the classroom’s single kerosene lantern was close to their desk.

....the design of a rugged, lightweight, low-power projection system, which uses a microfilm cassette to store up to 10,000 images at a fraction of the cost of paper books. The system also employs low-cost plastic optics adapted from Fisher-Price toys and state-of-the-art LED lighting to project an image large enough for the entire classroom to read. In 2004, with funding from USAID, World Education implemented Kinkajou Projectors in literacy centers in 45 Malian villages. After two years of use, over 3,000 adults have learned to read using these projectors.

The Kinkajou Microfilm Projection System is a low-cost teaching tool designed to improve and expand access to education by transforming night-time learning environments in rural, non-electrified settings. The projector represents an innovative combination of cutting-edge hardware, "abandoned" technology and the creative re-purposing of existing products.

According to literacy teacher (“karamogo”) Martine Sogoba in Digani, Mali: “It is better, because without [the Kinkajou], when the teacher is writing on the board, students wait in the dark in vain, and they do nothing. We lose much time and the quality of handwriting is not good.” The Kinkajou is also increasing interaction time between World Education instructors and their students. Karamogo Moulaye Yatara in Ngoye says, “[The Kinkajou] is wonderful. The teacher won’t spend time and energy searching images, or walking between tables to show them. We will gain a lot of time.”
Read more here.

Image Source

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Priya Kurian's Illustrations

While looking for information on Roopa Pai's new book, I came across Priya Kurian's blog and was immediately mesmerized by the use of colours in her illustrations. After you notice the colours, you notice the amount of detailing that Priya's work has. Every inch of her work has something new to discover...something new to see..and has a story to tell. As I went through her blog archives, I saw some awesome videos for kids too (1, 2 and 3).

So, make some time to jump over to Priya's blog and sift through the ENTIRE blog to see the magic she has to share.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Children’s Film Festival, Bangalore

Via Bengaluru Habba

Organised with the support of the Children’s Film Society of India, the film festival will showcase the best of films for children from across the world and across multiple languages.

Spread across 7 days, the films will be aired daily at Inox (Garuda Mall) at 10 am and 12pm. The Children’s Film Festival has partnered with select schools across the City in order to ensure that these films reach their target audience. Some of the films shown will include Vaadya, Innondu Mukha, Boy and the Crocodile, Sunshine Berry and Disco Worms, Summer with the Ghost, Tsunami 81, Surabhi, Gilli Gilli Aata, Puttani Party and Unique Hospital, to name a few.
More details about the Children's Film Festival and Bengaluru Habba can be found here.

Web Services as Vintage Paperback Covers

Designer Stéphane Massa-Bidal (aka Rétrofuturs (Hulk4598)) has designed a series of book covers imagining a few web services as vintage paperback covers.

View the entire set here.

Image Source

GiveIndia's US End-of-Year 15k Giving Challenge

Our friends over at Akshara Foundation are participating in GiveIndia's US End-of-Year 15k Giving Challenge.

It's special because Akshara Foundation can win $250 EVERYDAY and the impact of your donation can thus be multiplied!

How's that?

The NGO to recieve the most funds for each day between the 15th-30th Dec '09, from US donors (via Paypal on the GiveIndia site), will receive a matching grant upto $250 from GiveIndia.

So, if ever there has been a good time to support them, this is it. Remember, every donation helps, and no donation is too small. If you are ready to donate now, please go the below link and make a donation:

Do note that you WILL receive a 501(c)3 receipt for your donation, which you can use for tax purposes.

Please spread the word too!

Akshara is a Public Charitable Trust that began its work in Bangalore, Karnataka. Their lie in the localized delivery of direct interventions and in the grass root mobilization of resources. Akshara believes that to universalize elementary education we need to build strong partnerships between the government, the voluntary sector, civil society, and the corporate sector. They work closely with the Education Department of the Government of Karnataka, different school administrations and the Department of Women and Child Welfare. They believe that it is important to institutionalize their programs into Government.

Visit the Akshara Foundation website

Santhali Literature on the Rise But Needs Government Support

Via The Publisher's Post

Contemporary Santhali literature has taken off in a big way since it became an official language of Jharkhand in 2003, but it has not come of age because the government has not added it to the list of official Indian languages, says a pioneer of the Santhali book trade.

“Contemporary tribal literature does not get government grants – and flourishes on personal and individual enterprise,” Mangal Manjhi told IANS in an interview.

His modest Adim (ancient) Book Centre — which sells Santhali works written in the traditional Ol Chiki script — was set up 15 years ago in the tribal-dominated area of Parsudih on the outskirts of the steel city of Jamshedpur.

“It was the lone tribal bookshop in the region and also the first tribal shop to take part in the prestigious Jamshedpur Book Fair in 1994. Till today, Adim Book Centre is the only tribal representative at the fair,” Manjhi said.

His shop is currently one of the two surviving tribal bookshops in Jharkhand. “All the others have downed shutters because of resource crunch over the last five years. A couple of tribal hawkers sell books door-to-door in Ghatshila in East Singhbhum,” he said.

Since 2003, after Santhali — along with Maithili, Bodo and Dogri — was put in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution, contemporary literature has witnessed a spurt of new writers, Manjhi said.

Inclusion in the Eighth Schedule means the government is now under obligation to take measures for the development of the language. A candidate appearing for a public service examination is entitled to answer questions in the language.

“On an average, 50 new Santhali books are published every year. They are books on drama, poetry, novels, historical tales and religious texts,” Manjhi said. “The number of books can go up two-fold if the government recognises Santhali as an official Indian vernacular language like Bengali, Punjabi and Oriya under Article 345 of the Constitution.

“Tribal children are not encouraged to study Santhali — even in schools — because it’s not official.”

Talking about his shop, Manjhi said: “Classical Santhali literature is still the most popular. Two books of drama by the creator of Ol Chiki script, Raghunath Murmu, titled ‘Kherowar Bir’ and ‘Bidu Chadan’, are still in demand.”

Murmu, who was born in 1905, felt the need to create a script because Santhali was written in the Roman script before that. By 1925, Murmu created Ol Chiki, the only tribal script without any compound words. “The creation of Ol Chiki gave birth to Santhali literature,” Manjhi said.

Manjhi sells about 45,000 to 90,000 books priced between Rs.200 and Rs.4,500 (for the dictionaries) every year. “But it is difficult to procure rare Santhali books, though I have built a small stock of vintage texts over the years.

“As there is no help from the government, unlike in the other states, we fall back on small printing units in Kolkata to print tribal books at low cost.” He spends money out of his pocket to publish Santhali books and manage his book shop.

“Publishing each book costs Rs.16,000 to Rs.17,000,” he said.

Read the entire article here.

Image Source: basoo!

Kanaja Launched

Via Deccan Herald
The portal, which offers viewers’ participation in keep updating the information, serves as a source of information on various issues in Kannada. The State government had released Rs 2 crore for the project. The portal can accommodate up to 1.3 lakh articles.

The portal has separate sections for art, literature, science, environment, media, history, technology and business. Writer Go Ru Channabasappa suggested the title ‘Kanaja’, meaning a treasure, for the portal.

The universal resource locator of the portal -
Read the entire article here.