Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Literary Landscape of Indian Writing in English

Via Deccan Herald

Indian writing in English has begun to resemble grass after a lavish rain. Step into a bookstore and you see a crop of books — eager, full of hope, lovely to look at. Next time you visit the same store, it has been mowed down. But, not to fear. There is a fresh crop of equally energetic and bouncy looking, indistinguishable from each other titles. The problem with grass is that it can’t hold its own for long. Only here and there on the literary landscape do you spot a rare tree or a few hardy shrubs doing their own thing. But mostly titles come and titles go — their shelf life not much longer than that of the glossy magazines on the racks.

Why, of late, are we producing a literature that is so ephemeral? Perhaps, because the soil we stand on is too thin, our roots going in barely a few inches deep. Citizens of an increasingly globalised world, more of us than ever before read and write English as our first language. The connect with the mother tongue has weakened to the extent that while many still speak it fluently, few are equally adept at reading and writing in it. And so, without quite meaning to, we’ve thrown away the keys to our own inheritance — the literature of our forefathers — and are left standing on shallow soil producing a literature which is correspondingly stunted.

Yet, all is not quite lost. A contrary trend and one which has been gaining in strength over the last few years is that of Indian fiction in translation. Earlier, the only works in translation one could hope to find were classics by a Tagore, Premchand or Sarat Chandra, with lacklustre production values, hidden in some obscure bookshelf at the back of the store. A new breed of intrepid translators like Arunava Sinha, Pritham Chakravarthy and Sudarshan Purohit are very rapidly rewriting that old story. Backing them are big names in publishing like Penguin, Hachette and HarperCollins. And new entrants like Blaft which are reinventing the rules about what is of interest in translation. Blaft added much colour and vibrancy to the shelves by its Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction and the translations of Surendra Mohan Pathak’s bestselling crime thrillers The 65 Lakh Heist and Daylight Robbery. Recent titles in stores show that a great range of translated literature is suddenly on offer. There’s Banaphool’s What Really Happened, a collection of hundred short stories, brought out by Penguin, and there are historical fiction titles like Saradindu Bandyopadhyay’s By The Tungabhadra (HarperCollins) and N S Madhavan’s Litanies of Dutch Battery (Penguin) while Hachette has plunged into the sports novel genre with Bengali writer Moti Nandy’s Koni: The Story of a Champion and Striker, Stopper Two Novellas.

The translator’s art is a delicate one and his labour even more than that of any other writer, is essentially one of love. A K Ramanujan, in the excellent commentary to his translation of classical Tamil poets, Poems of Love And War, describes the translator as “an artist on oath”, who owes several double allegiances, to his own artistic expression and to the needs of representing another, to the truth of the original text, as well as to the needs of the language and times he is re-creating the work in. “Even one’s own tradition is not one’s birthright,” Ramanujan writes, “it has to be earned, repossessed. One chooses and translates a part of one’s past to make it present to oneself, and maybe to others.”

So, the next time you’re at a bookstore, reclaim some of those roots — the branches can only spread out as wide as the roots go in deep.
Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Appeal of Children's Magazines

Time Out Delhi lists a few of the children's magazines available in the market.
In the 1980s, a generation of Indian children grew up reading the exploits of Detective Moochwala, and Gardhab Das. They were characters from Target, a magazine published by the India Today group. Although Target shut down in 1995, it continues to be remembered fondly by its readers. The magazine nurtured a talent pool of writers including Paro Anand, Subhadra Sen Gupta, Ranjit Lal and Deepa Agarwal.

Over the last two decades, few magazines have been able to replicate Target’s popularity. Only a handful, including Chanda-mama, Champak and Magic Pot, continue to be published.

That hasn’t deterred ACK Media, the company which publishes Tinkle comics, to launch Brainwave, a science magazine for children. Edited by Vinayak Varma – who hasn’t studied beyond class ten – the magazine is a blend of science, technology, environment, conservation and design.

Last year, Hachette India launched two magazines for children – Hoot for pre-schoolers and Toot for tweenagers. Both are packed with short stories, fun activities, brainteasers, puzzles and colourful illustrations.

Illustrator Atanu Roy, who has also worked for Target, doesn’t think it’s difficult to get print advertising for a children’s magazine. “It is just that no publisher takes it seriously,” said Roy. “Till we get together and break the stranglehold of the textbook and stop being condescending towards kids, we will not move at all,” he said. “Writing and illustrating for children is a specialised area and you’ve got to have a special rapport and empathy for kids to succeed.”

Besides, magazines play a substantial role in encouraging reading habits in children, Kaul-Banerjee says. “Magazines can easily be read in capsules, if one so wants, and there are different kinds of things to do, and something for kids with different interests, so that really helps,” she said. “As parents, we should learn to judge the worth of something, especially a book or a magazine, and be ready to pay for it. We don’t think twice about ordering a pizza for ` 250 four or more times a month, but a book for ` 250... And a magazine for that much!”
Read the entire article here.

With a Little Help from Our Friends

We love to hear stories of how our lovely community participates in our mission of putting 'a book in every child's hand' in different ways. The following story was shared by Sowmya Rajan Srinivasan on her blog.

It was carnival time at SSK, and I have been canvassing Pratham books for some time here. So decided to get a stall and sell the books!!

I was so excited; so much so that when I sold 5 sets of books at one go, I got the addition all wrong! ( typical if I say so myself!!)

The folks at Pratham Books were very sweet, not only did they support my eccentricity they had done a great job too. The books arrived all packed in sets of 5 to 6 books, costing 100 to 115 only! Thanks Sanjay!

I really believe the low cost books are amazing in their simplicity of story, and classy in terms of paper quality. Ideal for children who are first time readers/learners of the English language.
Read the entire post on Sowmya's blog.

1000 Illuminated Poems

Via flavorwire

While the world’s Christians have been decking their halls with boughs of holly, the rogue artists of Luzinterruptus have been at work on a much more ambitious tree-adorning project. In honor of a poetry festival in Madrid, the group stuffed 1000 envelopes with tiny lights and poems by 17 writers and hung them in the garden outside the building where the event was being held. On the festival’s final night, 100 of the illuminated envelopes were distributed to attendees to send through the mail.

Via luzinterruptus
With the installation 1.000 poems by mail, we wanted to illuminate the poetry and at the same time and ensure that the visitors actively enjoyed the installation.

To do this, we filled the garden with 1,000 white envelopes containing poems written especially for the occasion by the poets who participated in the festival.

The lit envelopes remained hanging in the garden for 3 days, serving as intimate illumination for the poetic festival. The last night, with light still in the interior, they were offered to the public as keepsakes, or better yet, for them to address to a loved one, to whom we would send the envelope.

With the intervention we wanted to look a little towards the past, in a nostalgic way and remember times in which important words travelled in envelopes.

We also wanted each person that read the poetic message, to think of an important person to whom they would like it to arrive.
View more pictures here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Delhi Book Fair

Have you visited our stall at the Delhi Book Fair yet? We are at Stall No 12AF-07-2 Pragati Maidan, New Delhi.

Delhi Book Fair has established it self as a gateway to the Indian book publishing industry. An eagerly awaited exposition, it offers a sales forum and a meeting place for publishers, booksellers authors, translators and book-lovers of all age group.

Indian publishing industry consisting of books, magazines and newspapers is estimated at Rs. 200,000 million. Of this, the book market for educational and non educational books is worth Rs. 130, 000 million approximately. Publishing industry in India is expected to grow at around 15 percent per annum to keep pace with the rising literacy rate.

The Indian book market is truly vibrant with over 16,000 publishers and 30,000 bookshops besides multi-national publishing companies like Oxford University Press, Macmillan, Penguin, Haper Collins, Random House, Hachette, Picador, Rutledge Harvard business Publishing etc., who, along with Indian publishers, bring out around 70,000 titles per annum.

Hindi records highest number of titles published every year, while 30 percent of all books are published in English. Other major books are published in Bengali, Gujarati, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and rest in the other 16 official languages.

Delhi Book Fair has evolved over the years as a highly popular conduit to the world of books and publishers and distributers. The last edition of the Delhi book Fair attracted over three lakhs visitors from India and overseas. The ever increasing numbers of visitors and exhibitors speaks volumes of its success.

Click here for more information.

Date : December 25, 2010 to January 2, 2011
Venue : Hall NO. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 12 A (air –conditioned)
Timing : 11.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m.

Literature Festivals take India by Storm

Via The Economic Times

It is, therefore, no surprise that even though 100 percent literacy level in the country is slated to take another 50 years, the festivals for literature (Lit Fest, as they are popularly called) have arrived on the scene with much fanfare.

Take, for instance, DSC Jaipur Lit Fest. In less than four years, the event has grown to be one of the five biggest in the world along with Edinburgh, Hay-on-Wye, Sydney and Berlin. “We are at the top spot in Asia,” says Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamwork Productions that produces the Jaipur Lit Fest. “Last year we received 32,000 visitors (the press estimated this to be 50,000). This year, we have increased the capacity in our venues to accommodate 7,500 people per hour. We shall continue to create an experience which is sexy, fun and blows the mind with new ideas and thoughts,” says Roy. Noted writer and co-director of the festival William Dalrymple, pitches in: “It has become a massive enterprise today.”

Jaipur festival is not a lone case. The Mumbai Lit Fest, the Hay Festival, the evolving Kovalam and the Bookaroo (for kids) are other shining examples of where the literati are headed in India. Expect more in future because, as Roy puts it, “A good festival drives business.” Figures vouch for his claims: Book sales in the 2007 DSC Lit Fest were 3 lakh and they crossed 17 lakh in 2010. Book sales at the Hay Festival this year was 3.5 lakh. “A Lit Fest will contribute to the spurt in India’s vibrant publishing industry and stimulate readers. It gives them an occasion to discover new writers, open their minds to new writing and brings to the fore the writing from different languages which are now finding translations into English and other languages,” reasons Roy.

For Peter Florence, founder director of Hay Festival, Lit Fests were a natural progression of Indian writing. “We've been taking Indian authors around the world for years, and it seemed natural to celebrate literature in their home country too,” says Florence, who was encouraged by writer and MP Shashi Tharoor to come to Kerala. “People in Kerala just joined in and made it theirs from the get-go. It's about willingness to share stories and ideas. This works just as well in Malayalam as in English,” says Florence, who feels India was a natural country to hold a literature festival since “India is more rooted in its stories than any other culture”.
Read the entire article here.

Nine Minutes of Fame - Student Edition

Via an email sent by Chintan Girish Modi

Do you have kids who aspire to be writers or simply love writing and have an unpublished collection of poems ? Or a finished manuscript waiting to be shared with interested listeners ? Or maybe a story they feel would be better listened to, than read ?

Words.Rhythms.Images presents Nine Minutes of Fame ( STUDENT EDITION ) on 17th January, 2011 at Kunzum Travel Cafe ( Hauz Khas Village ).

The jury will select from amongst the entries the final 9 writers who will get 9 minutes to share their manuscript with the like-minded audience.

Registrations will be open till 5th January, 2011. Those interested can register themselves at CMYK Bookstore.

Registration fee - Rs.500.00.

Genres - novels, short stories, poetry, film scripts, plays and anything in between. The underlying objective of the event is to create a platform for good writing that may not otherwise find an audience beyond friends/family.

In case of poetry - 3 sample poems, in case of prose - a synopsis and 3 pages of prose, in case of film/play - a synopsis and one scene.
Click here for more information.

Image Source

Reading - A Gift That Keeps on Giving

Being the holiday season, I wanted to re-post a favourite story of mine here at Pratham Books and it pretty much sums up why I do what I do. As some of you will remember, we spent the last few months of 2008 distributing hundreds of thousands of books across Bihar and spreading the joy of reading across the state. During one of the melas that were organized to distribute these books, we always had kids come up to us and ask for books to read or by.
Our mela was at a school that was functional during the mela hours and these kids would come every morning and look longingly at the books we'd displayed. So I asked them, in my terrible and halting Hindi, what they were looking at and they said they wanted to buy a book or two to read. Unfortunately, we didn't have loose books and were only distributing sets. So I snuck a few books to them which they read and returned everyday.
 So gift a book and spread the joy of reading this holiday season!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Out comes a story!

Our editor Mala Kumar shares this story and says "As editors in a publishing house we're used to getting a lot of stories, but nothing comes close to the ones narrated by spunky, bright-eyed children!"

Like Santa Claus, we wait with bated breath for his arrival. All of seven years, he has so much to
give, that we wait for our turn to receive our gifts with utmost curiosity. His eyes shine. His head
jerks this side and that, to assess his audience. You can see a hundred thoughts flitting through his brain. You can see the words wanting to rush out of his mouth. We wait with anticipation.....what atrocious story is he going to come out with next?

Even before we open the front door, he has rushed into the house, taken his place on a chair,
carefully away from our pet's jaw, and then he is out with his first gift, his first story for this
visit. "Do you know what happened to Sweizer, S-W-E-I-Z-E-R, not C-E-A-S-A-R, he jumped over the fence and ran way and no one could hear him barking because Joshi Uncle from 6th floor had scolded him about making too much noise and ....."

Just when the story about Sweizer, the German Shepherd, seems like it will have no end, the boy switches track. "Shall I tell you the story of the thirsty crow?" And without waiting for an answer, he shoots off the story. It definitely has many unique additions that no teacher in school could have furnished! Next he turns to an aged relative and asks if he can recite a poem. "Tell it in Tamil," I coax, and the next minute, without batting an eyelid, he gives us a poem first in English, then translated roughly into Kannada, and then again in Tamil!

He has so many tales to tell, so much concern for everyone in the family, so much love for all his fellow beings, and gives it all away with so much gaiety. I dread the times when people ask him to stop talking. I dread the times when people ask him to put a finger on his mouth. He's a noisy entertainer, no doubt. But so is Santa Claus! Ho! Ho! Ho! And a Merry Christmas to all!

Image Source : Alberto+Cerriteño

Experiencing the joy of giving. Spreading the joy of reading.

Every year around Christmas we visit the Ananth Shishu Sevashram. The Ashram houses about 50+ kids, all in the age group of 3 – 18. Each year we ask the management their requirement and accordingly take things. This year was the same.....except I decided to add-on some storybooks from Pratham Books. There was a good mix of English and Kannada books. After we finished singing “Jingle Bell” we distributed the notebooks, storybooks etc, post which we went to talk to the caretaker. As I came out I saw a little girl engrossed in 'From Submarines to Sky raiders' the Kannada version].

I looked to the left to see an equally interesting scene, an older boy helping a younger kid to read. In office we always talk about spreading the joy of reading but to actually experience it first hand was amazing.....these children were really really besotted by the books. And what hit me the most was, why had I not ever taken books before? Well I sure don't have a good enough answer for that one, but for all of you who always wanted to do something good – go ahead gift a book, spread the joy of reading.

Pratham Books at the Delhi Book Fair and the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas everyone. Just like Santa is spreading a lot of joy and cheer everywhere, we are spreading the joy of reading by participating in the Delhi Book Fair and the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan.

So, come join us at :

Marathi Sahitya Sammelan
Stall No 85 for , Thane, Mumbai.
25th Dec -28th Dec 2010

Delhi Book Fair
Stall No 12AF-07-2
Pragati Maidan, New Delhi
25th Dec, 2010- 2 Jan, 2011

For the people in Delhi, we even have a storytelling session with Paro Anand scheduled for the 27th of December.

(Please click on the image for a larger view)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Folk Art in Children's Books

Via Hindustan Times

Manu Chitrakar, 38, a Patua artist from Naya village, 160 km from Kolkata, had never heard of Martin Luther King. So when Gita Wolf, publisher of Tara Books, narrated the story to him over two days in Chennai, he was mesmerised. When he returned to his village, he spent nearly three months sitting on the edge of the rice fields that surround his hut, illustrating his first graphic novel - I See The Promised Land - on scrolls of handmade paper.

About 2,000 km away, in a plush home in Prabhadevi, Mumbai, 14-year-old Nivrutti Desai is flipping through Chitrakar's creation, which hit bookstores last month. King's struggle is part of her International Baccalaureate school's curriculum and Desai has picked the Tara book as the subject of a class project.

I See The Promised Land is among a host of books bridging the gap between urban children and folk and tribal artists from rural India. Publishers such as Tara Books has published 19 titles using tribal and folk art forms like Warli, Gond, Patua, Meena, Kalamkari and Patachitra, since 1995.

Pratham Books, a children's publisher, produced two books last year illustrated with Warli art. In January, the publisher will launch a set of four books, each about a child from a different tribal artisan community.

But back home, many urban Indian children are unable to identify with these art forms. When Durga Mhatre, 12, picked up Flight of the Mermaid at a bookstore recently, she was a little dismayed. "What happened to Ariel's red hair and cute blue eyes?" she asked.

Children are as conventional as we are. They need a mediator to introduce them to a different way of looking at things. Parents, of course, can help. Seven-year-old Nayantara Piramal's favourite book is Tara's The Old Animals Forest Band, illustrated by Gond artist Durga Bai, a book she was introduced to by her mother Reshma, a paedtrician.
Read the entire article here.

Toronto Public Library's Human Library Project

Via YongeStreet

In comfy green chairs in front of a massive and sunny window overlooking Bloor Street, several different conversations are taking place between pairings of strangers. A CBC journalist is telling someone about the stories he's covered. A Tibetan Buddhist monk is talking about his journey to Canada and about the importance of peace. I'm talking to 19-year-old Brandon Hibbs about his life. Originally from Newfoundland, Hibb's parents moved the family to Windsor, then Toronto to make sure their son, who has cerebral palsy, got the best services he could get. I ask Hibbs about school (he likes history and science), his career plans (broadcasting) and his love life (could be better). Hibbs holds nothing back.

"People appreciate my personality. I'm very straight to the point," Hibbs tells me and it's at this point I realize his name tag features a barcode that looks like a book's ISBN code. He's one of the volunteer "books" in the Toronto Public Library's Human Library project. I used my library card to check him out of the Bloor/Gladstone branch. I have to "return" Hibbs in a half-hour so another library user can check him out; you can't just pay a fine for the late return of a human book.

The idea of a Human Library first emerged in Copenhagen about a decade ago, as a way to break down prejudice by bringing people of different backgrounds together for one-on-one conversation.

"With the Human Library, it's a one-on-one experience and that kind of storytelling, from person to person, does harken back to centuries and centuries ago when a story was the only way to learn," says Anne Marie Aikins, TPL's manager of corporate communications. "It's an old technology."
Read the entire article here. You can learn more about the Human Library project here.

Image Source : YongeStreet

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set Giveaway

One of our favourite blogs, PaperTigers, has a lovely giveaway on their blog. Who is in the mood to win a 'Spirit of PaperTigers 2010 Book Set'?

Via PaperTigers

The deadline for entries will be midnight Pacific Standard Time, on Wednesday 19 January. Just to remind you, this fabulous set of seven books contains:
Planting The Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola Frances (Foster Books, 2008);

First Come the Zebra by Lynne Barash (Lee & Low, 2009);

Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing by Guo Yue and Clare Farrow, illustrated by Helen Cann (Barefoot Books, 2008);

The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos by Lucia Gonzalez, illustrated by Lulu Delacre (Children’s Book Press, 2008);

My Little Round House by Bolormaa Baasansuren, English adaptation by Helen Mixter (Groundwood Books, 2009);

One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (Kids Can Press, 2008);

Where The Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009).
Visit their blog to find out how you can win this lovely set of books. You can also read the reviews about these books here : 1 , 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Good luck!

In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture

Via The New York Times
With little fanfare, Google has made a mammoth database culled from nearly 5.2 million digitized books available to the public for free downloads and online searches, opening a new landscape of possibilities for research and education in the humanities.

The digital storehouse, which comprises words and short phrases as well as a year-by-year count of how often they appear, represents the first time a data set of this magnitude and searching tools are at the disposal of Ph.D.’s, middle school students and anyone else who likes to spend time in front of a small screen. It consists of the 500 billion words contained in books published between 1500 and 2008 in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian.

The intended audience is scholarly, but a simple online tool allows anyone with a computer to plug in a string of up to five words and see a graph that charts the phrase’s use over time — a diversion that can quickly become as addictive as the habit-forming game Angry Birds.

With a click you can see that “women,” in comparison with “men,” is rarely mentioned until the early 1970s, when feminism gained a foothold. The lines eventually cross paths about 1986.

“The goal is to give an 8-year-old the ability to browse cultural trends throughout history, as recorded in books,” said Erez Lieberman Aiden, a junior fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard. Mr. Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, assembled the data set with Google and spearheaded a research project to demonstrate how vast digital databases can transform our understanding of language, culture and the flow of ideas.
Read the entire article here.

Graphic Literature in India


The novel “Kashmir Pending” begins without words.

Very few people in India have read this book. Published in 2007, it sold less than 5,000 copies and failed to get much mainstream exposure. It portrays the futility of violence—and given the polarized opinions fueling the Kashmir conflict, that message would not suit everyone. But the expressive images and nuanced story of “Kashmir Pending”—written by Naseer Ahmed and drawn by Saurabh Singh—illustrate the promise of a genre that’s now confined to a niche market in India, yet is steadily winning local converts.

Serious or amusing, dark or triumphant, such tales take tremendous work. The 246-page “Delhi Calm,” for example, was initially discussed with HarperCollins Publishers India in 2005. Its first pages were submitted in 2007 and a multi-pronged editing and revision process continued to grind forward until the pages finally went to the printer earlier this year.

So it’s not surprising that some authors would yearn for a greater sense of community while pursuing such long-term projects. Even shorter pieces, collected in anthologies or little magazines like Comix India can benefit from a supportive word or an irreverent spark. In India, such communities have gained momentum over the past two years with help from websites and blogs, university-based discussions, workshops, exhibitions, a writers’ collective, and a glimmer of international collaboration.

In one sense, it can be difficult to measure India’s graphic literary scene. Just about a dozen full-length graphic novels have risen to the surface in recent years, ...

Yet there seem to be countless works-in-progress, with authors ranging from restless IT executives in Bangalore to political cartoonists from Kerala to students at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad or Srishti in Bangalore. Academia is helping to fuel a sense of discovery, with courses on graphic world literature taught in Jadavpur University in Kolkata, as well as at NID/Ahmedabad and Srishti in Bangalore. A lively academic conference on comics and graphic literature was held in Thrissur, Kerala in March 2009—although Kumar from the Pao Collective mourns that the papers have not yet been circulated for more general consumption and debate.

Meanwhile, some publishers have seized on the idea of bringing grassroots art forms into the realm of the modern graphic novel. By the end of 2010, Chennai-based Tara Books plans to issue “Sita’s Ramayana,” with illustrations provided by Moyna Chitrakar, a Patua artist and storyteller who resides in a village in the Midnapore district of West Bengal. The text was composed by Samhita Arni, a 26-year old screenwriter and novelist living in Bangalore.
Read the entire article here.

Katha Winter Carnival

The Katha Winter Carnival will take place in Delhi between 23rd-30th December, 2010.

Via an email from Prerna Seth
The carnival is laden with action! From theatre workshops to storytelling sessions, movie making workshop to poetry recitations, plays to dance to Sufi music, the Katha Winter Carnival is an extravaganza of hyperactive events for kids and adults. Through these workshops, Katha endevours to explore the myriad forms of story and through them broaden the cultural understanding of children and adults. The carnival will close with a silent auction of the beautiful products lovingly handcrafted by the women of slum communities where Katha works, on the 30th of December. Eight days of playing with paints, colorful papers and creative workshops will act as a platform for fun learning among the children.
(Please click on the image for a larger view)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Zubaan Celebrates 25 years of Feminist Publishing

Illustration Love

Starting the week with some book/reading related illustrations....

vast and vast
Source : ghostpatrol


Source : Fiona Dunphy

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Death of Picture Books?

girl reading picture books

Earlier this year, The New York Times carried an article that suggested that picture books were no longer a staple for children. Is this true? Do you buy picture books for your children or do you skip straight to books which have more text?
The economic downturn is certainly a major factor, but many in the industry see an additional reason for the slump. Parents have begun pressing their kindergartners and first graders to leave the picture book behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books. Publishers cite pressures from parents who are mindful of increasingly rigorous standardized testing in schools.

“They’re 4 years old, and their parents are getting them ‘Stuart Little,’ ” said Dara La Porte, the manager of the children’s department at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington. “I see children pick up picture books, and then the parents say, ‘You can do better than this, you can do more than this.’ It’s a terrible pressure parents are feeling — that somehow, I shouldn’t let my child have this picture book because she won’t get into Harvard.”
Read the entire article here.

This article in Publishers Weekly suggests that it isn't time to write an obituary for picture books just yet.
The evidence: BookScan figures show that last year, picture books represented 10.8% of the overall children's market—virtually the same as in 2005, when they represented 10.7%. "For us right now, picture books are still vibrant and thriving," said HarperCollins Children's Books president Susan Katz.

The story also overlooked Ben Franklin's brainchild: libraries. "They were looking at it from the perspective of booksellers as opposed to libraries," said Karen MacPherson, the children and youth services coordinator at Takoma Park Library in Maryland and a writer for Scripps. In her children's section, picture books are "very popular"—a close second to graphic novels when it comes to circulation.

Just what is going on with children's picture books? The true story is more complicated, involving the cyclical nature of the economy, the strong interest in picture books in public libraries, and the changing retail market.

Many in the industry pointed out that kids read picture books over and over. "If you think of it in business terms, when you amortize your investment, they turn out to be inexpensive," said children's book historian Leonard Marcus.

That's one reason some booksellers say they're still able to move picture books, just fewer of them, even in a bad economy. "Instead of somebody buying six, they're buying three," said Sally Oddi, owner and manager of Cover to Cover Book Store in Columbus, Ohio.

The pressure to get kids to read at a young age is unfortunate, said Ken Marantz, an emeritus professor of art education at Ohio State. "It's skipping a whole evolutionary chapter in the child's life."

In fact, picture books exercise kids' brains in a different way than text-only books. "There's no other art form where pictures and words are completely interdependent on one another," Bluemle said. "An illustrated storybook can stand on its own when read aloud, but a true picture book needs both."
Read the entire article here.

Image Source : petit hiboux

Color E-readers and Children's Books

kids' reading nook

The New York Times has an article about how color e-readers will open the doors for children's books because of their ability to showcase colour photographs and illustrations.
Apple said Tuesday that it was set to make a major push into illustrated books on Wednesday, introducing more than 100 titles to its iBookstore, an assortment of children’s books, photography books and cookbooks.

Some of the most popular children’s picture books of all time will be available, including some of the “Olivia” picture books, published by Simon & Schuster.

Jon Anderson, the publisher of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, said the publishing house had been “itching to do it since e-books became possible,” but there were always limitations because the books were in color.

“It finally gives us the opportunity to have our picture books join the e-book revolution,”.

Many iPad users, seeing the potential for the device to be used as an educational tool, have been clamoring for digital children’s books to be available in greater numbers.

But converting image-heavy books into digital form has not been easy. Authors are careful to monitor how their work appears on a screen, and publishers have struggled to replicate the experience of reading a print book.
Read the entire article here.

But, an article in The Christian Science Monitor asks if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
But from a reading point of view, the question becomes even murkier. Kids already get massive amounts of screen time these days. Is converting their favorite (and generally their first) reading experiences to a screen necessarily a plus? And as interactive children's e-books become more popular, will kids still have the patience required to enjoy simple text and images?

"Don't get me wrong, I love books, and I love the tactile, low tech experience of sharing a book with a child," children's book author and illustrator Jennifer E. Morris wrote on her blog. "But let's face it, how cool would it be to have your child's whole library of books available to you when you go to Grandma's house for the weekend or in the car?"

Hmm – maybe. "My kids won’t be getting a Nook anytime soon," blogger Rebekah Denn wrote here at Chapter & Verse. "They aren’t even allowed to fool around with my Kindle. The experience of holding a book and turning pages is still so different from reading on a computer screen."
Read the entire article here.

Image Source : ooh_food

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

कम नहीं हैं किताबों के कद्रदान

(Please click on the image for a larger view)

The Patna Book Fair is being held at the Gandhi Maidan between the 10th-21st December, 2010. Visit us at Stall F14 to get your hands on some great books. The timings for the fair are 11am - 8pm. See you there!

Source : Hindustan Times, Patna, 15th December, 2010.

A History of Pop-up and Movable Books: 700 Years of Paper Engineering

It is no secret that I love pop-up books (which is evident from all the pop-up book videos I post on our blog). At Bookaroo, I was extremely excited about one particular session. The session by paper engineer Robert Sabuda. The schedule in my hand stated that the event was open to the first 50 children who register for the event. At the assigned time, I made my way to the workshop and spotted a long queue of children and parents. More than 50 children had registered and the place was not spacious enough to host everyone. All the adults were banned from the session. Banned! But, since I work with Pratham Books, I was one of the few lucky adults who got to attend the session. Sitting amongst a room full of children and a handful of other adults, I was in paper heaven. Scissors, colours and pop-ups! Glee! And Robert Sabuda is absolutely wonderful. He was patient and made an effort to guide each and every child in the room. The kids would hold up their new creations and try to get his attention and approval and then try to skip all the steps once they thought that they were paper engineers too. After the session, one spotted many kids rush to buy the pop-up books available at the bookstore and then run to Sabuda to get it signed by him. So, that workshop was my favourite session at Bookaroo. But imagine our surprise when we visited Sabuda's website and saw pictures from his India trip...and...and...and... the paper flowers we took ages to make for one of our own events were featured on his site (Click here to read about why the paper flowers were made). See Robert Sabuda's pictures here. Yayyyyy, Sabuda liked the flowers we made. If you visit our Delhi office, look out for the cherry blossom tree in some corner of our office.

And since we are on the topic of pop-up books, you can watch a video about the history of pop-up books (The video is 52 minutes long, so make sure you watch it when you have a lot of time. It is worth your time if you are a pop-up book fan!)

Via Smithsonian Videos

Ellen G. K. Rubin discovered pop-up and movable books when she began reading them to her sons over 25 years ago. Today, she has more than 6,500 books and thousands of uncataloged movable ephemera. While at Yale Medical School's Physican Associate program in 1987, she attended the Sterling Library's exhibition on the history of movable books. It was there that she learned about the scholarly dimensions of her passion.

Ellen now lectures and writes about her books, conducts workshops, and curates exhibitions.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Activity Sheets to Teach Your Students/Children about the Environment

Found this excellent resource of environment-related activity sheets for children on the 'Centre for Science and Environment' website.

Based on experiential learning methodology, the activity sheets invoke the inquisitive spirit of the child to go out and explore the world around. The activity sheets do not preach or give out any information but create the interest to seek information. The basic idea is to 'do and learn in the process'.

These activity sheets may be given to students as a playful activity or holiday homework.
The activity sheets talk about issues like mining, plastic, waste, organic farming and more. Click here to visit the site and download the activity sheets.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Madhya Pradesh

In Lucknow there are 29 Urban Learning Centres (ULCs), and I had the pleasure of visiting two of them. The children were divided three groups: class 1, class 2, and class 3–5. One ULC also had a pre-school group. The collection of books included books from Read India and other publishers, and one of the ULCs had a room in which the books where hanging from a string. Since Lucknow is a mix of Muslims and Hindus, there were books in both Hindi and Urdu, as well as English.

While I was there there was a volunteer training going on, so I ended up attending that instead of visiting schools and observing classes. But it was nice to see this part of Pratham too. I also took the opportunity to attend a monthly meeting for ULC teachers.

My Hindi wasn't good enough to understand everything, but I did get some of it, especially when people were speaking to me. This was the case with the trainers I met, who didn't speak English at all. Since I roughly knew the context, I could get a lot of what they said (and asked for translation when I couldn't).

In MP they are proudly running a science programme, visiting schools with a set of science gadgets. It was great fun to "fool" gravity and play with air pressure. But the best part was to make a tiny water pump out of an empty tooth paste tube!

MP is the last state I will visit, which means my stay is coming to an end. In the coming couple of days I'll be working on my final report, but also be sure to catch some talks on multi-lingual education (MLE) at J.N. University, which is something I am very interested in. I'm also hoping to spark Pratham's interest for MLE...

Gobar Times

Chanced across 'Gobar Times' while I was trying to find the link to the post on 'Disgustingly Cool Books for Kids' (On a side note : I was looking for this link because one of our Twitter friends asked us if we could recommend activity books for kids between the age groups of 12-14years. Do you know of any books we could recommend to our friend? Please leave a comment at the end of this post. Thank you!)

So, the hunt for one link led to the discovery of 'Gobar Times'. Gobar Times magazine is a children's magazine on the environment and is brought out by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.


Gobar Times, is a monthly magazine for those who know 'environment' envelopes the entire planet and everything that lives and breathes on it, but are impatient to know more. It is for those inquistive explorers who are adventurous enough to dig below the surface and end up with a gold mine...of stories, games, posters and much much else..

Though primarily targeted at students, of course even adults love reading GT as it not only provides a fresh perspective and new ways of looking at environmental issues, but does so in an engaging, attractive and humorous way.

Visit the Gobar Times website to read their latest issue.

Feedback on Our Books

Whenever we hear good things about our books and our work, someone in our team will send out a mail to share it with the rest of us. Similarly, when we hear complaints about our work, everyone in the team gets to know too. Someone from our editorial team sent us a link to this post on the Bookstove and just like we share all our happy moments with our readers, we are sharing this review with you too. If you follow us on Facebook, you have probably already seen the post that says : "Gotta take the good with the bad, right? Critical feedback is good and we are thankful for it. Anyone else who has read this book has any feedback for us? Please do share."

At the Seaside written by Swapna Dutta and illustrated by Amitava Sengupta looks like an interesting book but falls short of almost every aspect of our idea of a presentable book. Peppered with tidbits of information about jellyfish, salt from the sea, the activity of fishermen, dangers at sea, and more, the story is narrated by a young girl whose name however remains a secret even in the days of heightened awareness about the rights of the girl child. Inspite of the colour, the illustrations look stale: even the breeze blowing from the sea fails to add life or movement. The fonts used are innovative, but if we look from the perspective of child readers, fonts like these usually make for difficult reading. The arrangement of text in the book is extremely haphazard and defies all theories of page-setting as it keeps alternating between centre aligned, right aligned, text wrap, left aligned and so on. The storyline is extremely arbitrary with random dialogues, events and information being thrown in. Finally, the book fails to make the young reader want to visit the seaside.
Read the entire post here. Have any of you read this book? What did you think of the book? You can read another review about this book here. If you have any feedback to share about our books (good or bad), please leave a comment below or you can mail us at web(at)prathambooks(dot)org .

Friday, December 10, 2010

Konnex Bookshelf

Image Source

Figment : An Online Writing Community for Youngsters

Via Publishers Weekly

Founded by New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear and former New Yorker managing editor Jacob Lewis, is an online writing community aimed at attracting a membership of young people, ranging from kids to teens and older, to post, share and comment on each other’s original writing.

“We want to build a compelling site for young adults to share content and find stories by their peers as well as by published authors and publishers,” Lewis told PW, “a place where they can enter as reader that will offer infinite variety and where they can participate.” Since the launch earlier this week, Lewis said the site has about 10,000 registered users who have generated about 8,000 “books,” which Lewis said could be “a single poem or a multi-chaptered novel.”

While it is free to join and participate on Figment, Lewis said the site is a for-profit venture, and is expected to generate revenue from attracting publishers to market their titles through the site. While there is no banner advertising, Lewis said publishers can use the site as a platform for new releases and excerpt; “they pay us to run the stories and their content is their advertising.” Publishers can contract for pre-publication release through the site or they can post excerpts as books are released. “These days kids demand to be able to communicate with the authors of the books they read,” Lewis explained. “Publishers can use Figment to find new fans and new readers. On our site everybody is looking for everybody else. We’ve put everyone in a single place.”
Read the entire article here. Visit the website for more information.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

See you at the Patna Book Fair

Pratham Books is participating in the Patna Book Fair. The fair is being held at the Gandhi Maidan between the 10th-21st December, 2010. Visit us at Stall F14 to get your hands on some great books. The timings for the fair are 11am - 8pm. See you there!

Visit for more information.

The book fair, that has become a landmark event of the city, will bring the best the state capital has to offer in terms of culture and academics, said H. L. Gulati, the member of the book fair committee.

Providing more details about the fair, officials, including A. K. Jha, Dr. Kalanath Mishra, Amit Jha, and Ratneshwar, said the 12-day event, whose theme this year is the Right to Education, would be inaugurated by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Allowing Space for Surprises

Chintan Girish Modi writes a lovely article about an important lesson he learnt when he was facilitating a writing workshop for students.

While facilitating a writing workshop with school students in the summer of 2009, I noticed a pattern of strange occurrences. Some of the pieces that were being turned in sounded nothing like their authors’ other work. Expressions such as ‘four-leaved clover’, ‘a poem as lovely as a tree’, and ‘jolly heaven above’ struck me as particularly odd, coming from my students. The words seemed borrowed, forced, even inauthentic. I could not get myself to be glad about any supposed gains in vocabulary, since I was sure something was not quite right. It took me a while to realize what was going on, and to name the problem—plagiarism! Thanks to Google, I discovered that my students had not simply ‘lifted’ a few words, but entire texts. Poems such as Joyce Kilmer’s ‘Trees’, Richard Edwards’ ‘Good Luck’, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Vagabond’, among others, were being passed off as the students’ own work. There was no change in the actual wording of the texts. The poet’s name was merely replaced with the respective student’s name.

I was furious. Here was I, thinking of myself as a well-intentioned teacher, designing a new writing programme completely devoted to topics that students wanted to write about. I was certain that students would love the opportunity to write about things that mattered to them, experiences that held personal significance beyond pleasing the teacher and scoring good marks. The brief was simple: we’d work towards putting together a community magazine; students could write about any topic under the sun, as long as they kept their audience in mind; they would get peer and teacher feedback on their work; all drafts could be revised and shaped into final versions; each student would keep a portfolio consisting of drafts, feedback, and final versions.

Months later, as I looked through the journal entries written during that teaching stint, something hit me. I had missed something that had been staring right into my face. I had decided to work with learner-chosen topics because I wanted students to rid themselves of their dependence on essays memorized from composition books. How naïve of me to imagine that students would break out of their established patterns overnight!

While I had set out with wonder-eyed enthusiasm about the rich possibilities that lay in using learner-chosen topics, I had not anticipated the challenges this would pose to my students. The experience of another teacher, who tried encouraging student voice in academic writing in her own classroom, taught me that students resisted the new way of doing things because “they didn’t want to have to think that hard. They wanted me to tell them what to write. It was easier that way. And it was what they were used to.” (Gemmell 2008: 65).

It also occurred to me that my simple brief might have been excruciatingly daunting for those 10-14 year olds. Their previous writing experiences in school and at home might have been completely different from this one. Writing for a real audience, giving and receiving feedback after carefully reading and thinking about their peers’ work, and putting their writing through a process that includes multiple drafts to be entered into a portfolio—all of this could have brought on tremendous pressure, though it was intended to help them become better, flexible, resourceful writers.
Read the entire article here.

Image Source : Alberto+Cerriteño

Stories On Demand: Publisher Offers Reading To Ease The Wait


A popular Thai publishing company, A Book, has created a new promotion with the help of BBDO to introduce new readers to their books. Working with the idea that people are often bored in public places or in transit, A Book gives the reader short stories or book synopses to enjoy. A Book developed five concepts: SMS, stickers, a widget, place mats and best of all, a printout machine reminiscent of queue tickets.
Click here to see a larger view of the image.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Encouraging a Reluctant Writer

Pudú and friend.

Came across this lovely blog post where a child who was a reluctant writer transforms into a versatile writer thanks to the blog her mum encouraged her to start.

Ana, my youngest daughter, is an artist. A creator. Since she was very little, she loved to make things. She is a collector of stuff. She sees possibility in every little thing that I attempt to throw away--old jars, empty boxes, buttons, and scraps of paper. In her eyes, everything can become something. Ana lives her life envisioning what she can make.

However, up until this year, Ana was also what I would consider a reluctant writer. She worked hard to avoid writing. Some years, during writing time, Ana would produce a few lines of text in an hour's time. She became quite skilled at avoiding writing.

One day, when Ana and I were chatting about blogs, I suggested she start a blog about the things she makes. I thought a blog like that would be great for others who liked to make things. Her eyes got wide and she said, "I can do that?" And off she went to become a writer.

Almost the minute I suggested it, Ana started her blog, Fun Things to Make. Within a few hours of that first conversation, Ana nagged at us until she had a blog, an avatar and a profile. Up until that point, she had no idea that she could write about the thing she loved best.

I watched Ana blog all summer. She blogged once or twice a week all summer and she wrote more in each post than she had written in the entire year. She came to care about her audience and she became fascinated in the world when she discovered the "stats" button on her blog. She checked her email for comments and found countries on the map that she had never heard of. I often found her thinking aloud about her readers, wondering if they would be interested in certain things she was making.

She learned to find copyright free images on Flickr and she learned to take her own photos that told a story. She learned to link and she began to read other kids' blogs. Last month, after discovering a great new store that sells unique crafts, she ran home to blog about it, knowing her readers would want to know about this great place, Wholly Craft. Later that day, she asked if she could do a video interview of the owner for her blog and emailed the owner telling her how much she loved her store and asking if she'd be willing to do an interview. Ana was thinking like a writer.

This year, Ana is in 5th grade and she is writing more than ever. She is writing poetry and narrative. She is adding music to her writing and collecting words she loves in the back of her notebook.

Ana learned so much from starting with something she was passionate about. Ana has a new confidence this year and I attribute so much of that to her blog. She knows herself in a way that she didn't before. She knows that she can work through challenges. She knows that she loves to make things but that the work that goes along with that is often hard. She knows that she can work through challenges and she knows that it will be worth it. Most importantly, she's found work that she loves and a community who cares about the work she does.

Watching Ana this summer has been a reminder to me about how important it is to give kids choice in their learning lives-to find what they love and to build on that. So much about this era of testing has compromised that one thing that is so important to a child's learning. If children are to find their passions, giving students choice and finding the things they love is key.
Read the entire post here.

Image Source : Lizette Greco



Dial-a-Book is a Delhi-based start-up founded by brothers Mayank and Tarang Dhingra. Tarang, 25, is a final-year student at the University of Delhi.

“We were trying to make ordering books as simple as ordering burgers or pizza,” says Mayank, of the initial idea. His solution was to combine cash on delivery with fast, personalized service—delivering books ordered through the phone within 48 hours. He conducted a “brief, unscientific” survey on Twitter, where he has around 1,381 followers, to find out if there could be a market for this. “I found out that people who buy books value convenience, and not just price—and what could be more convenient than a simple phone call or SMS?”

Mayank started a trial run for Dial-a-Book on 25 September 2009. He purchased a SIM card for the phone number, set up the website, and began to promote it through social networking services.

The customer would send an SMS or call in with his requirements. Mayank would send a confirmation, then find out how soon he could get the book from his supplier network. He’d SMS the estimated delivery time. Once this was confirmed, one of Dial-a-Book’s delivery staff (the company currently has five employees, including the two founders) would set off. Mayank still makes about 30% of the deliveries himself, and tries to keep the operation as lean as possible.

Dial-a-Book began to deliver about five books a week in its first month, with volumes growing slowly. Dial-a-Book’s order volumes are now about 100 books a month, which Mayank calls “comfortable”. They’ve also started accepting orders outside Delhi, and tied up with courier services, but the Capital still accounts for 70% of their orders.

“We get all sorts of requests, from eclectic music books to 18th century manuscripts,” he says. One early customer wanted a copy of Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad, which Mayank was unable to source from local suppliers. He got it shipped, by “sheer luck”, from a friend holidaying in Belgium who spotted it in a local book store.
Read the entire article here. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

A Children's Library in Arunachal

Via Teacher Plus

Wakro may seem like your usual picture post-card village – a remote, educationally and economically backward area in the Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh – the land of the Mishmi tribes. But what makes its orange orchards a perfect Neverland for the children and bibliophiles like me is the wonderful AWIC (Association of Writers and Illustrators) Apne library. A part of a network of children’s libraries coordinated by the Vivekananda Trust, Apne Library is managed by Apna Vidya Bhavan, a school under the Anu Shiksha Seva Trust (ASSET) of Wakro.

With a whopping collection of 1000-odd books, contributed by the Om Prakash Foundation, USA, this modest but wholesome collection will put most of the libraries in the cities to shame.

The philosophy behind the library and the school itself is interesting. The motto of the Apna Vidya Bhavan, an innovative educational initiative inspired by Swami H.H. Anubhavananda, an eminent spiritual saint of our times, is ‘Grow Wise’. The founders believe that education should be ‘formative rather than informative’.

In the same way, a book is not something that should be forced upon a child. Each child should discover the pleasure of reading for himself/herself. All we need to do is to expose them to books and let each child take his/her own time with them. That is why no student in Apna Vidya Bhavan is forced to read but only encouraged to be with the books.

What is commendable is the way these library books been have integrated with classroom learning. There is no separate library room. The books are divided into levels and are kept on open shelves in the corresponding classes. But the children can start reading at whatever level they feel comfortable. The readers themselves are in-charge of the maintenance of the books. No closed cupboards or locks! And the books are not meant just for the students of the school. Anyone from Wakro town can walk in on a weekend afternoon and sit there browsing the books and the magazines!

Library books are a part of the lessons in Apna Vidya Bhavan. So when they learn their lessons, say about Kalpana Chawla, the teacher immediately supplements it with a picture essay of astronauts in space. Science and Geography lessons make much more sense to children when they see the things they learn about. During my stint with the Apne library, my English classes would get longer because the kids would invariably unearth the unabridged glossy version of the lesson we would be doing.

The Apne Library is open to the public on weekends. It also conducts regular book exhibitions, competitions like story-telling, book reading, etc. Such competitions have worked wonders with their self-confidence. They have not only participated but won competitions both at the district and state levels. It is remarkable to see that some of the kids are already turning into authors and poets themselves. Some children already have dreams of establishing libraries in their own villages when they grow up. Says Amonlu – a class four girl, “It is so boring in our village. It will be really nice to have a book for a friend.”
Read the entire article here.

Photo Source : vtroing