Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Stories Galore on a Windy Saturday

It was a chilly morning due to the incessant rains in Bangalore but that did not deter children and parents from coming for the interactive book reading session conducted by Bookalore at the Rajendra Sinhji Institute.

Children of all age groups started assembling near the main stage where many puppets were kept. After some time we were told that the main stage would be for children aged 3-6 yrs and on the other side of the hall for children aged 7 – 12 yrs.

Pratham Books was also a part of the event as one of our books called ‘The Rhino Charge’ was to be read out to the children. The sessions conducted by Vijaylakshmi Nagaraj and Roopa Pai with puppets and puzzles were very interactive. The children sang songs and enjoyed the session thoroughly.

The storyteller asked a question "What is a baby rhino called ?" Instantly someone replied "Buffalo" ! The hall burst into laughter but somewhere i felt that that metaphorically it was not wrong. 

A big shout out to the Bookalore team for putting together such a fantastic event and we look forward to many more storytelling sessions. 

Visit the Bookalore Facebook page to keep track of the events they conduct. 

Meet the Illustrator : Tapas Guha

In our joyful world of Pratham Books, there are many endearing characters who are our best buddies, stories that we tell and retell and values that we learn and imbibe. But how much do we know about the people who create this make believe world for us ?

We resolved to put this right, and decided to interview and bring forth few of our favourite authors and illustrators.

This week's interview is with Tapas Guha. Tapas has worked with us on the Kallu series ; the History series and Bishnu, the Dhobi Singer.

When did you first start illustrating ?I’ve been drawing since I was a child. Started illustrating professionally after finishing me post graduation in commerce.

What inspired you to take up illustration as a career ?For me illustrating is not a career! Its my love and passion.

Which was your first illustration ?Really can’t remember. It was long time back.

Do you keep the children's age in mind while illustrating for a story ?Not really. I draw what I think is right for the story. If I start thinking about things like children’s age etc. I’ll never illustrate. A creative work has to be spontaneous.

How did you decide what extent of illustration is required for a story too many, too few is there a method you use to arrive at these decisions?
No there is no method. It all depends how many illustrations a publisher can afford to pay for.

Once you finish illustrations for a book, do you take any feedback on them by maybe showing them to a child or discussing with friends or family ?Never. A million people will have a million opinions (people love to give their opinions even when its not welcome). It is impossible to incorporate every opinion. Also, it interferes with creativity.

Do you get nervous before the release of a book with your illustrations ? Do you worry it may not be liked ?
Not at all. Once the work is done, I’m busy with my next project.

How do you decide on a particular look for a character ?I go by the author’s description. Otherwise I use my imagination and it gives me hundreds of options of doing a single character.

The way your characters look, are they all imaginary or some also resemble real life people you meet?Sometimes use I real people. Specially if I hate someone, I show them as villains.

How many days does it take for you to finish illustrations for a book ? Which is your favourite book ? And Why ? Do you have a favourite illustrator ?It varies. From five minutes to couple of hours to do one illustration. It is ‘arabian nights’ - illustrated by Edmund Dulac. I love his illustrations. Also Victor Ambrus. Herge is my favourite.

What advice would you give to kids who want to take their drawing-painting skills seriously and make a career in that ?
Practice and stop think it as a just another career.

Can you share with us any funny incident that you remember related to any of your books ? Pick your favourite colour for us and tell us why.
Can’t think of any right away. There are many. As an artist, I love all colors.

Buy the books illustrated by Tapas Guha:
Bishnu, The Dhobi Singer
A Royal Procession
Marching to Freedom
Raza Meets the King
Sailing Home
Kallu 01 : In Big Trouble Again
Kallu 02 : Monkey Business on stage

The questions for this interview come straight from the little readers of Payoshni's class who had this and so much more to ask their authors and illustrators:)

Read more interviews with Pratham Books authors and illustrators.

(Payoshni Saraf is a Teach for India 2012 Fellow, teaching a bunch of teenagers in a low income school in Warje. Her class of 21 is hooked to books and reads and learns together.Prior to TFI, Payoshni was a corporate slave in the field of Marketing who quit the money and chose the matter.)

Friday, July 19, 2013

AFCC Call for Papers!

Via Singapore Book Council

The Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2014
30 May to 4 June 2014, Singapore

AFCC is calling for papers. Children’s writers, illustrators, preschool & primary school educators, publishers, librarians, literary agents, distributors, retailers, translators, and other media professionals are invited to take part in AFCC through innovative presentations for our four conferences: the Preschool and Primary Teachers Congress, the Parents Forum, the Writers and Illustrators Conference, and the Media Summit.

We are looking for new insights on trends, observations, and developments in the field of children’s content with proposed sessions that will be useful to AFCC attendees and encourage discussion. AFCC is a conference for creative professionals, publishing industry professionals, and media industry professionals, not an academic conference, and all proposals should be targeted accordingly. Your one-page proposal should reach us by 19 August 2013.

  • Topic: related to Asian content for children
Click here for more details.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pratham Books and Cisco come together for a book reading session

As a part of their CSR initiative, Cisco collaborated with Pratham Books to come together for a book reading session at GKMPS, Kormangala in Bangalore on 12th July, 2013

With a team of two people from Pratham Books and twenty two volunteers from Cisco we reached the school post lunch to start our book reading session. The time given to us by the school to start the session was 2pm but we reached twenty minutes earlier to settle down a bit. It was a fabulous sight. As soon as we entered the gates of the school, we saw children running from one side to the other, some playing kho kho and chain chain. With these visuals gushing before our eyes we all were suddenly transported back to our childhood and wished we could go back to school again.

We settled ourselves in the library of the school and the volunteers from Cisco were handed over books and activity sheets. It was a super session for the children. From making Christmas trees to filling in colours in the vegetables or coming infront of their class to speak about their best friend - they did it all.

The highlight of the day was when a group of children were supposed to write a few lines about their mother and one of them wrote “I love you mom” almost a hundred times ! When asked if he had nothing more to write, he replied “I love my mom this much” !

It fills our heart that in a small little way we brought stories to the lives of children at GKMPS, Kormangala. If you would like to do the same, join the tribe of Pratham Books champions. To read more about the champions click here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bookshelves at 17000 Feet

Our friends at 17000 ft Foundation have been taking many of our books to remote libraries across Ladakh. So happy to see tons of our books in these lovely libraries.
Sweet Spot Media travelled with 17000 ft Foundation in the beginning of winter, in 2012, through five villages in Ladakh. In Tukla, Puga, Hanle, Mudh and Skidmang - all scattered over distant stretches of Nyoma block - we filmed five different schools. Three middle schools, one residential school for nomadic children and one nunnery atop of glacier gave us a slice of student life in Ladakh.
FINAL - BOOKSHELVES AT 17000 FEET from Shamik Sen Gupta on Vimeo.

Learn more about the work they do and how you can volunteer with them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Do you have an eye for detail??

Sorry, the post has been filled. Thank you.

What do you see when you see this picture?

Do you see a great children's book in the making? A book that will find itself in the hand's of a child in a remote village? Do you see a child beaming as she manages to read her first colourful book? Do you see a child reading this content on a mobile phone? Do you see volunteers telling the story about the Sun all across the country in thousands of schools and libraries? Are you already thinking of how you can tell this story to a child who does not know English? Because at Pratham Books, we look for potential first. As a mulitlingual publisher of children's books, we have published 1559 books across 11 languages and sold over a million books. We're looking for an assisstant editor with a proven track record, and laods of potential to join the team and take our mission further. Are you that person?

If you've spotted at least two typos in this communication, consider yourself short-listed. Now read on...

Pratham Books is looking for a creative person to take on the work of an assistant editor. This is a full-time position at our Bangalore office. The position involves reading and review of new manuscripts, keeping in touch and co-ordinating with authors, translators, reveiwers, designers and illustrators, working with the design team, proofing copy at the layout and print stage, writing copy for blurbs, catalogs and promotional events. The assistant editor will also need to co-ordinate with the administrative team for documentation, records and payments. We expect this person to bring in new ideas to create interesting books in Indian languages for children, especially those children who may be first-generation school-goers.

Preferred Requirements:
Degree in Literature/Journalism/Mass Communication/Media /Language (English/Kannada/Telugu)
* Excellent Communication skills in English and ability to read and write well in either Kannada or Telugu
* Sharp eyes to check copy
* Ability to visualise
* Ability to write copy for blurbs, catalogues
* Ability to multi-task and be a team player
* Ability to maintain and document day-to-day editorial assignments
* Basic computer skills

Salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. Please send your resume and sample of work to with 'Assistant Editor – and your name' in the subject line of the email.

And  if you are our ideal candidate, you would rush to check out how the raw illustration at the top of this communication and the story got transformed into a much-appreciated, freely downloadable, bilingual  book,  'The Seventh Sun' here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Stories on a Postcard Challenge

Time to visit your nearest post office  and send in a story to the 'Stories on a Postcard Challenge'. What fun! When was the last time you sent some actual mail?

Indian Post Card

Via Katha Kosa

Stories on a Postcard is a joint collaboration between Settle Stories, UK and Katha Kosa, Mumbai and India Post, India. Settle Stories is a charity in the UK that promotes storytelling and learning. They run a successful storytelling festival annually in October. Each year Settle Stories run a ‘Stories on a Postcard Challenge’. This year Katha Kosa and India Post is joining in to spread this concept at Indian Subcontinent and at International level.

Anyone is allowed to participate. People are invited to send their story on a postcard to Settle Stories in the UK or to Katha Kosa in Mumbai, India, by September 15, 2013.

All the postcards will be gathered together and will then form part of an exhibition that takes place at the Storytelling Festival in October 10th to 13th 2013 in UK. And at the exhibition held during the Postal Week, India Post from October 9-15, 2013, Mumbai.

What kind of stories?
You can write any kind of stories, contemporary, ancient, real, fiction, aimed at adults, children, just anyone. The story can also be written in a form of poetry, verses, etc., that fits on a postcard.

Image Source : Katha Kosa

JUMPSTART : Speaking in Tongues 2013 - Register Now

JUMPSTART 2013 is back with ‘Speaking in Tongues’. We are also happy to announce that Pratham Books is also collaborating with German Book Office New Delhi's JUMPSTART: Speaking in Tongues 2013 as a Knowledge Partner. JUMPSTART will be held on 29th and 30th August, 2013

Our popular two-day festival for everyone involved in the world of children’s books returns this year to focus on language.
  • In this land of many tongues, is linguistic diversity a challenge or a gift?
  • Is language a bridge or a wall?
  • What are the special challenges of translating children’s books?
  • What goes into a successful bi-lingual or multilingual book?
  • Can picture books do away with language altogether?
  • Mimbuwawa pish-pash or in other words - is nonsense a language too?

Come join us for a bracing dip into the ocean of language, with inspiring, presentations, discussions, workshops and masterclasses led by experts in the field of children’s books from across India and the world, and a chance to meet key players in the industry face to face.

View the schedule and register for this year's festival.


Pratham Books will also be hosting a panel discussion : 'What is your Bhasha? What is your Language?' on 30th August.
How do we deepen our understanding of learning of languages among children and what is the place of literature in that Authors, illustrators, text- book writers, teachers would have thoughts to share.
We hope to have a panel of speakers who have experiences to share about the teaching and learning of different languages and its impact on learning as a whole. Authors will share experiences on why they choose to write in a particular language and their own experiments with it. All these are important questions and issues.
They are important for educationists, teachers of language and publishers.
They are just as important for us as a society. After all, bhasha – language defines us in indefinable ways.
Entry is free on a first come first serve basis. To register contact:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Penguin and Random House Merge

Via The New York Times

And a new temporary logo — with a penguin in profile next to a tidy house — was released until a permanent one could be designed.

On Monday, the newly formed company of Penguin Random House began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed.

Together, Penguin and Random House will make up the biggest and most dominant publisher in the business, one that has unmatched leverage against and the potential to inspire other mergers in the industry.

Markus Dohle, the chairman and chief executive of Random House, who will take on the role of chief executive of the new company, announced the completion of the merger in an e-mail to employees on Monday.

“Today, we are Penguin Random House,” he wrote. “You should be proud of what you’ve accomplished and what we are all now a part of: the first truly global trade book publishing company. Together, we are even better positioned to fulfill our core purpose: to bridge authors and readers by publishing the very best books.”

The combined companies will control more than 25 percent of the book business, with more than 10,000 employees, 250 independent publishing imprints and about $3.9 billion in annual revenues.

One goal of the merger, he said, is to “crack the code of discoverability” — of how to put books in front of potential buyers — “in a world with fewer bookstores.”

“There’s positives and negatives,” said Elyse Cheney, a literary agent. “The positive is that I hope they will be able to have greater leverage with companies like Amazon. But more importantly, that they figure out new and innovative ways to reach consumers, now that the marketplace is changing so rapidly.”

Monday, July 1, 2013

Meet the Illustrator : Maya Ramaswamy

For the first time, Pratham Books is launching a digital version of a book ahead of the printed book. Written by eminent scientist Dr. Madhav Gadgil and beautifully illustrated by wildlife illustrator Maya Ramaswamy, 'Muchkund and his Sweet Tooth' is a tale about a fictional bear called Muchkund and his bright gang of ghosts who negotiate with bees and come up with a clever way to live in ecological harmony. Fact and fiction go hand in hand to give you an entertaining presentation of ecological realities.

Our editorial team caught up with illustrator Maya Ramaswamy to chat about her latest book 'Muchkund and his Sweeth Tooth'. Maya Ramaswamy is wildlife illustrator working for awareness and education in the Indian subcontinent. She is a keen student of natural history and conservation. Maya is based in Bangalore.

1. You have a passion for Wild life and Nature. How did it all start?
Well....we had wild gardens everywhere we lived when I was a kid. Since our parents never asked us what we were up to in our free time, we were forever running into wild creatures around us. There was no such thing as TV. Children need wild spaces to play in. We must let the wilderness in. Exotic imported plants guzzle water and are only good for ‘show’. They do not support natural wild creatures.

2. Animal life comes alive with lot of details in your drawings. What are the key things in such drawings which make all the difference?
Kids who are really interested in art, should be allowed to take it seriously. It is a long, long process of learning and observation. A life-long commitment.

3. Would you tell us a little about the process of illustrating for a book like this? How long do you normally take? How do you maintain consistency in style and colours?
I first read the manuscript a few times, just enjoying it and feeling the nuances. On the third read, I highlight paragraphs and lines that appeal to me or set off exciting visuals in my head. Then I set down very rough thumbnail sketches for the whole story, maintaining the flow for the main characters. This is similar to storyboarding and helps to keep consistency in characters. Style and colour consistency requires years of dedicated practice.

4. Any special moments while working on Muchkund?
Dr. Gadgil is a gifted storyteller. He weaves together nature and culture, fiction and fact, timelines and characters with incredible ease. Muchkund was special and sparkling all over. 

5. Do you illustrate in any other style also? Your natural realistic style works wonders with nature and wildlife but would you also accept a sci-fi manuscript?
I use the realistic style for a reason. Children in India are losing touch with the natural world at an alarming rate. In deliberately keeping my style close to nature, I hope I can excite their interest in the wilderness heritage of this amazing subcontinent.
Sci-Fi…well…”Muchkund and the sweet tooth” is wildlife Sci-Fi, isn’t it?

6. You are interested in conservation. How could we reach out to children and motivate them to involve in such activities? Especially through Art?
Natural ecological landscapes must be preserved even around cities. 
Corporations, municipalities, school-boards, ‘developers’, city planners; they all treat natural grasslands, lakes and wetlands as ‘waste’-lands and dumpyards! We allow them to be ‘developed’ with concrete and stone edges, benches and walk-ways. 
When left alone and protected, natural areas are incredibly rich in wild creatures. Every school should have a ‘Nature-Consultant’. People should consult ecologists, naturalists and birdwatchers before they ‘invest money’ in ‘landscaping’. 
As children, we did not sit inside worrying too much about ‘Art’. We went out and watched birds, plants, frogs and insects. Children need to climb trees, play with mud, weave grasses, and catch bugs. Children need unrestricted ‘playtime’ in nature. There is no creative learning better than that.

Read 'Muchkund and his Sweet Tooth' in English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi and Telugu.

Read more interviews with Pratham Books authors and illustrators.

Meet the Author : Dr. Madhav Gadgil

For the first time, Pratham Books is launching a digital version of a book ahead of the printed book. Written by eminent scientist Dr. Madhav Gadgil and beautifully illustrated by wildlife illustrator Maya Ramaswamy, 'Muchkund and his Sweet Tooth' is a tale about a fictional bear called Muchkund and his bright gang of ghosts who negotiate with bees and come up with a clever way to live in ecological harmony. Fact and fiction go hand in hand to give you an entertaining presentation of ecological realities. 

Our editorial team caught up with author Dr. Madhav Gadgil to chat about his latest book 'Muchkund and his Sweeth Tooth'. Dr. Madhav Gadgil is a field ecologist, in love with the hills and forests ofIndia; their denizens- animal, vegetable and human. Educated at Pune and Harvard, he spent long years at Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Along with scientific papers and books, he wrote a fortnightly children’s column for The Hindu. His distinctions include the Harvard University’s Centennial Medal, Volvo Environment Prize and the Padma Bhushan.

1. You are a renowned scientist and ecologist. You have authored books and written articles for various newspapers. What made you write for children, and that too fiction - a story?
Yes, I am a scientist and very fond of my profession and certainly do enjoy writing technical papers to be read, primarily, by fellow scientists. But I am also a lover of nature, of poetry, of literature, of outdoor sports and have always enjoyed writing for the general public. I started on this at the age of 15, and have been very encouraged by the response, over more than five decades by now. I guess I am a child at heart and all my life I have played, first with my children and their friends, and now with my grandchildren. Children love nonsense rhymes and tales of natural world and for over five years I wrote a fortnightly column called ‘Sense and Nonsense’ on these themes in The Hindu Young World Sunday Supplement. So when the newest arrival in my family, my granddaughter, Tara, demanded that I not only tell her stories, but new, original ones, I was happy enough to give it a try. The result was this Muchkund story, and many other Muchkund and other tales. I enjoyed the experience very much and so did Tara, and later Tara’s younger sister Revati, too. 

2. Muchkund is quite a unique and lovable character. How did the character get developed? Was it challenging?
I was born next to Pune’s Vetal hill and after a 40 years’ gap, live next to it again. 

Although an atheist, I am very fond of Lord Vetal and his gang of ghosts, and of stories such as Vikram and Vetal. JBS Haldane, one of last century’s greatest biologists, and one of my scientific heroes, was a passionate believer in communicating science to people. He not only wrote popular scientific articles, as I have been doing for years, but also many charming children’s quasi-science 
books whose hero is a magician, ‘My Friend Mr. Leakey’. I have also enjoyed Rudyard Kipling’s “Just so stories” and the “Jungle Book”. So when Tara wanted an original tale, I thought of a member of Vetal’s gang, who, like Leaky, could perform magical, even miraculous acts, and the story flowed, set in the Indian jungles where I have been spending many, many enjoyable weeks every year, for the last 40 years. 

3. Many people believe that scientists are rationalists who do not care about myths. You have brought in ghosts and folk beliefs into this story. What according to you is the role of fantasy in a child's life? 
All people, and most certainly children, live, at least partially, in a world of fantasy. When I was young I had a firm belief that in a decade or so, all of the world’s energy needs, for all times to come, would be more than fully met by atomic energy. It turns out that I was living in a world of fantasy! So we keep fantasizing, and enjoy the fantasies, some admitted to be so, others not admitted to be so. My grand-daughter Revati dwells quite happily in a world populated by figures from Indian mythology and 
from the cartoons of Chhota Bheem. To me this is natural and just fine. 

4. What makes the three 'B' s- Bears, Bees and Blossoms the enchanting building blocks of our natural world?
Humans experience beauty in contexts of sensations characteristic of a world in which they find abundance of food, water, safety. Where there are blossoms, delicious fruit is expected to follow and where there are bees delicious honey will follow; so we love blossoms and bees. Bears are in many ways like us, of similar size, and often walking around on two hind legs. They are associated with honey, of which we are naturally quite fond. The three also represent a natural food web. So ‘Bears, Bees and Blossoms’ are enchanting to us. 

5. How can the interest in nature be kindled in children so that they understand and enjoy these fragile yet strong bonds among various elements and creatures?
By exposure to the charms of nature, by encouraging them to understand the natural world in many different ways.

6. Do you see an increase or decrease in young people's interest in ecological sciences? 
I have witnessed a distinct increase over the years. 

7. Any older traditions based on harmonious coexistence with nature that can be revived?
Certainly, we have many precious traditions such as sacred trees like peepal, sacred groves, sacred birds like peafowl, sacred ponds. We must strive to understand their present day significance, and continue the protection using modern day devices such as provided by the Biological Diversity Act. 

8. Any memorable moments while writing this story or while reading it out to your grand daughter?
The original story was a little tame, without the scoundrel Vali. I recounted it to my writer friend, Anil Awachat, who suggested that I must add a conflict and its resolution to make it truly interesting. I did so, and remember with pleasure how Tara and Revati burst out laughing when I narrated the incident of burning off all the hair from Vali’s bums! By the way, I never read the story to them, it was always told, in Marathi, when they were in bed and the lights were off.

'Muchkund and his Sweet Tooth' is available in English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi and Telugu.

Read more interviews with Pratham Books authors and illustrators.

Meet Magical Muchkund - on a Digital Platform

(Click on the image above for a larger view)

Meet Magical Muchkund - on a digital platform!

Don't know who Muchkund is? It's understandable because for the first time, Pratham Books is launching a digital version of a book ahead of the printed book.

Written by eminent scientist Dr. Madhav Gadgil and beautifully illustrated by wildlife illustrator Maya Ramaswamy, 'Muchkund and his Sweet Tooth' is a tale about a fictional bear called Muchkund and his bright gang of ghosts who negotiate with bees and come up with a clever way to live in ecological harmony. Fact and fiction go hand in hand to give you an entertaining presentation of ecological realities. 

The book is on its way to the printers and will be available shortly through our eStore. Until then enjoy a good read of 'Muchkund and his Sweet Tooth', for FREE in English, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Telugu.

Once you've read the book, don't forget to read the interviews with author Dr. Madhav Gadgil and illustrator Maya Ramaswamy and learn more about this lovely book.