Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Review : Wildlife in a City Pond

A friend wrote this, of the book, on facebook "... brought back memories of a few mornings spent wandering around here..." and what little doubts I had of procuring it were brushed aside. Not many books succeed in make that connect with readers. 

This is the kind of book that perhaps one had been looking for!

The illustrations gel endearingly with the text - are simple and lovely. They seem natural (in other words are not overdone like in couple of other books of this genre) and while they depict species mentioned in the text there are no labels and pointers (which helps). Loved the page with owls and nightjar.

A line that fascinated the rain lover in me “The first raindrops on the thirsty land gave off a lovely earthy smell. But they also did what no magician could do, turning the brown earth into an oasis of green and blue.”

Could the last part that talks of saving the lake have been a little longer? Like Jane Austen said “if a book is well written, I always find it too short.” 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Glimpse into the History of the Higginbothams Store, Bangalore

Aliyeh Rizvi takes us back in time to tell us more about the Higginbotham Store in Bangalore.

In 1898, the building witnessed the great plague that decimated the population of Bangalore and resulted in new extensions like Basavanagudi being planned on the city periphery. Seven years later, a fully recovered Cantonment saw a sign come up over it in 1905.

It said `Messrs Higginbotham &Co.' Book lovers flocked to it and browsed eagerly through shelves piled high with popular periodicals and writings on philosophy, science and literature. They had heard much about this famous bookstore in Madras. It had been listed as a `premier bookshop' in a guide book called `Presidencies of Madras and Bombay' by John Murray in 1859 and had also been the sole supplier of books to the Prince of Wales upon his visit to India in 1875. 

The Victorian South Parade then became busy MG Road, but for old time Bengalureans, visits to Higginbotham Ltd continued to be a city tradition. 

Like its namesake in Chennai, Higginbotham Ltd, Bengaluru retains its stately character and effortlessly straddles the past and the present. The oldest bookstore chain in India now sits opposite the modern Bengaluru Metro station but also stocks the speeches of Churchill.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Our Books Reach Churachandpur (Manipur) through STEP Trust

A few months ago, our friend Chintan Girish Modi brought our attention to a project called 'Peace Shelf' being run by STEP Trust. STEP Trust was looking for book donations that would go to the Library of Lalpuithluaii Foundation School, Churachandpur Manipur.

When asked about the project, Shreya Jani said :

STEP Trust has been working with this school for 2 years starting with doing workshops for teachers and students and now conducting peace education classes for 6 months everyday from classes 5 -10 and teacher training as well. Being cut off from the mainland access to good sensitive reading material which fosters curiosity, openness and sparks the imagination is limited. Thus, we decided to initiate a shelf in their library called the peace shelf which can give them access to such books. 

And, thus 300 of our books made our way to the peace shelves being created in the Lalpuithluaii Foundation School library. Thank you STEP Trust!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Wildlife in a City Pond - Sangeeta Kadur's Work on JLRexplore

When JLRexplore completed a year in existence, they celebrated by featuring 5 artists and their wildlife/nature related works. Sangeeta Kadur - illustrator of our book 'Wildlife in a City Pond' - gave readers into the making of the book. 

Thanks to all the wetland bird watching trips, nature walks, wetland projects and lake surveys I have been a part of over the past few years, a fondness to wetlands has grown on me. It was in October 2013 when a phone conversation with Mala Kumar, the editor of Pratham Books, sprang an unexpected discussion about a children’s storybook that involved three of my favourite elements – rain, lakes and wildlife! However, I had never worked on a children’s storybook illustration ever before. Bundled with a lot of apprehension, anxiety, excitement and eagerness, I decided to wake up to the new challenge that was thrown my way. I was more than happy to be illustrating a story authored by Ashish Kothari, who is well known amongst the environment and conservation circles, and is the reason behind ‘Kalpavriksh’, an environmental group in Pune.

Soon, the story was followed up with a pagination, which helped me compose each page with the required story elements. The author, Ashish Kothari, beautifully narrates in the story, his move into a new home in Pune; a little pond that his balcony overlooked and the exciting transformation the monsoons bought in along with the incredible variety of birdlife, insects, amphibians, mammals and reptiles that began to inhabit the little ecosystem. He continues to talk about how the lake was suddenly threatened by urban development, and how people from the neighbourhood came together to save that mini-sanctuary.

I started work with key sketches for each of the pages and a couple of coloured plates to decide the style; soon there was a go ahead. Juggling with another project at hand, I probably took about two whole months to finish all the 15 page illustrations for the book. The artworks were couriered off to Delhi to scan. The text was inlayed within the art and in a few weeks, the .pdf version of the book was shared for final edits. At the same time, translations in five other languages - Kannada, Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Urdu were underway.

Finally, in August 2014, the book ‘Wildlife in a City Pond’ was added to the Pratham online library. I am happy to mention that this storybook falls under the Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA 4.0), and will soon be available for free download!

Hop over to the JLRexplore page to view more of Sangeeta's work. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Write a Letter to Santa and Help Someone Contest

RivoKids is running a contest asking people to write a letter to Santa. Along with a chance of winning some cool gifts, your letter goes towards a cause. For every unique letter RivoKids receive, they will donate money to an NGO. They also hope to donate a Library-in-a-classroom kit through Pratham Books.

Good luck participants and good luck RivoKids for raising money for a good cause!

Hurry!! The last date to send in your entries is 21st December, 2014.

Meet us at the Bengaluru Book Festival

Block your calendar, the Bengaluru Book Festival is here!

What better way to end the year than in the company of books? The much awaited Bengaluru Book Festival is back, and is bigger and better than ever!

With over 250 titles in 5 languages, Pratham Books is sure to spoil you with choices. Pick up books in English, Kannada, Hindi, Tamil or Telugu and jump into the magical world of stories.

Venue: Stall No.39, Elaan Convention Center, 7th Phase, J P Nagar, Bengaluru.
Date: 19th - 28th December
Time: 11 a.m to 8 p.m. 

Don’t miss it. See you there!

Notes from Nielsen Children's Book Summit

"Kids Are Thriving, Reading and Hungry for More: Crunching Numbers at the Nielsen Children's Book Summit:, says the Publisher Weekly headline. "Forget Your Preconceptions About Teenagers and Reading", says the Publishing Perspectives headline. Sounds like good news!

The studies, conducted over a four-year period, sought to collect data that would provide insights into the ways in which children and teens consume media, specifically books, in an era of rapid technological advancements. 
Among the key take-away points from the day were: children’s book sales have risen steadily across all categories, though performing strongest is middle-grade and YA fiction; children and teens have an overwhelming preference for print over digital books; tablet use has risen exponentially, even among young children; and, as raised by a panel of teen readers and other presenters, the categorization of books as YA can be problematic for book industry professionals who find the classification inadequate and for teens who are resistant to labeling. 
According to Nielsen, “67% of kids read for fun fairly often,” and that there is a significant preference for print over digital books, with 71% of kids purchasing in print. These misconceptions about the way youth consume media, Junco said, come about through the lack of “good information,” and what he called the “adult normative perspective.” He believes that views of technology tend to often align with “panic narratives,” or the belief that new forms of technology will morally corrupt and “progress narratives,” which suggest that “technology will save us from everything.” Neither is an accurate view. One thing is for sure, he said in conclusion: “Our kids are not only okay, but they are thriving.”
Read the entire article for notes from each of the panels presented at the summit.


The paragraph from on 'hearing directly from the readers' caught our attention in the Publishing Perspectives article.
On the “In Their Own Words: Live Teen Focus Panel,” the teens, who weren’t in the room when the data was being discussed, illustrated many of the points already discussed in the research—they preferred print, they had to read a lot for school, they influenced their peers. What the teen panel also shared were the number of ways to reach these teen readers for book discovery—Instagram (book covers), YouTube (book trailers), Facebook (ads), and Tumblr (photos of book covers and highlighted passages). And, much like adults, teens are inclined to read books they get for free.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Peshawar killing of the innocents, so ....

Words fail me. Let me try....the killing of children in Peshawar is horrible, useless, heartless, unwarranted, cowardly, misguided... Sorry! No word comes close to expressing what it really is. As children's book publishers, we've often been asked why we don't have books with dark themes. Blame it on our collective peace-loving brains, but we've never felt the need to do it. When there is so much for children to be seen, heard, loved, enjoyed and shared in this world, why should we want to publish books that touch upon topics like violence, guns, hate, ideological intolerance? And then this happens, chilling us with the sheer cold bloodiness of it.

A few years back, Pratham Books participated in the Lahore Children's Literature Festival. Our colleague Rajesh Khar took pictures, and talked about how wonderful it was to be with the children there....exactly like children anywhere in the world.

As we work on more idyllic books, our hearts go out to the families of the children who died so unnecessarily in Peshawar. We'll hope that this intolerance stops. That children can go to school in peace. That they don't have to pay for the sins of another generation. That they can look forward to a peaceful and happy world. Anywhere in the world.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Play Santa Claus to Children This Christmas!

Play Santa Claus to children this Christmas! 

For this perfect season and reason of gifting, we have come out with the 'Young Reader Gift Pack' in 6 languages (English, Hindi,Marathi, Kannada, Telugu and Urdu)

Apt for children who have just begun their reading journey, the pack has a good mix of books from Level 1 & 2. The packs contain new arrivals like 'Anaya's Thumb' and 'Goodnight Tinku' as well as all time favourites like 'Timmy and Pepe' and our 'Going to..' series.

What's more, all the packs are on a marked down price.

Order now and fill up those stockings with words and pictures and lifelong friends.

Harshitha's Little Achievement

Little Harshitha has been visiting our office for a while now. She is our caretaker's daughter who comes to our office in the evenings. A shy girl, Harshitha would hardly talk to us even though my colleagues tried to converse with her. We would ask her to choose any book she wanted and read it if she wanted. But, she would hesitate. 

We finally convinced her to get any book she liked. Her choice was the book - The Tree. Slowly, one letter at a time - she started reading. In the picture below, you can see Arathi and Devi encouraging her to read. She read a page and a shy smile erupted. My highly motivating colleagues told her to come back the next day to read more pages from her chosen book.

The next day, she appeared with a smile on her face - while we gently nudged her to get her book. She came back and read a little more. 

The following day, she marched into our conference room with confidence - claiming her book on her own and walked over to find her reading mentor. Chai breaks at the Pratham Books office are now punctuated with the sounds of Harshitha reading loudly - word by word, page by page! 

She is slowly starting to learn our names and we made a little song and action routine for her to remember them. To our amusement, her mother informed us that she was practicing the name-song at home. Adorable huh?

Today, she finally finished the book she has been reading every day and we got the chance to see her biggest smile erupt. With a bounce in her step, she marched off to tell Arathi that she had finished her book. When Devi finished a work call she was attending, she showed her the new book she was going to read on Monday.

What a coincidence that the book she chose illustrated how a little seed grows into a tree - just like how Harshitha is turning into a confident reader right in front of our eyes.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Listening to Gulzar Recite 'Kitaben'

Adding to the books vs e-books debate : listen to Gulzar recite 'Kitaben'. The video quality isn't great, but the words make up for it. You can also read Kitaben in English, Hindi or Urdu on Rektha.

The Pratham Books 2015 Calendar is Here

Our annual calendar is back and we continue to travel across India. 

With this year’s calendar, we invite you to step into an India of stories – where every child has a book in her hand! Allow us to take you across the country, as we explore different states of India and celebrate the wealth and diversity of Indian languages.

This year's calendar has been created by  Sangeeta Velegar (concept) and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan.

Catch a sneak preview of the calendar here.

What’s more, all proceeds from the calendar sale will be used for the Pratham Books Champions  initiative (read more about them here). Pratham Books Championsgo on to spread the joy of reading in their own communities. Your gesture will thus bring us closer towards our mission of putting “a book in every child’s hand”!

*Shipping of the calendars will start from 20th December, 2014.

Anil Kumble launches 'Books, my Friends' campaign

Anil Kumble launches 'Books, my Friends' campaign

It was a great day for some students of Kiriya Pushpa, Mysuru, and Amala’s Kutumba Abivrudhi Yojane, Tumakuru. They got to perform in front of an appreciative audience at the Bengaluru office of ChildFund India. They got to pose with cricketer Anil Kumble and they got a bag full of books! Kumble launched CFI's three-year campaign 'Books, my friends/Kitabein meri dost', which aims to donate books to 1,15,000 underserved children in 14 states of India. Pratham Books is proud to have many of our books in those bags.

“Will you read these books? Will you share it with others once you have finished reading them?” asked Anil Kumble, speaking to the children in Kannada. As the kids nodded happily and shouted out their responses, we spotted one girl surreptitiously opening the bag she had just received to take a peek at the books!

For my colleagues and me sitting at the event, it was a moment when our work had come full circle. Ever since Pratham Books signed up to be the content partner to ChildFund India for this project, our team has been on overdrive. Not just our team, but also our translators, reviewers and so many others who jumped into the task and work to tight deadlines to get the books ready.

To see those books in the hands of children was to see a project reaching the desired goal. It is ironic that on the same day, thousands of miles away at the Nobel Awards Presentation, Nobel laureate Malala Yousufzai, remarked,
"Why is it that giving guns is so easy, and giving books so hard?"

We're happy that Pratham Books could work with ChildFund India to make the difficult possible. And on we shall go to see more books in the hands of every child.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What Does it Take to Print Half a Million Books at Pratham Books?

For a few months now, we've been silently working hard on a BIG project we were invited to participate in. Pratham Books is thrilled to finally announce that we were content partners for the launch of ChildFund India's 'Books, my Friends' campaign. 
“Books, my friends” is a new campaign to help marginalised children aged 6-14 improve their learning abilities by discovering the joy of reading at an early age. It is about helping them read and learn better in a fun and enjoyable way through the many pleasures books can offer them.
So, what was the Pratham Books team doing?
  • Our fundraising team charted out how we could be part of this lovely campaign.
  • To offer the best possible choices from our available titles, our content team was busy burning midnight oil - choosing books, preparing them, translating them. The team added 120 titles in 3 additional languages to have enough variety in each language. ​We had books in 4 reading levels and 8 languages going to 14 states across India. 
  • The slogan, look of the reading campaign and nearly 6 lakh book marks, was designed by the Pratham Books in-house team. The illustrations used for the campaign are by Jasjyot Singh Hans (from our book 'Tall, Taller, Tallest'). 
  • Our design and production team was busy spending their time at the printers to make sure there was a smooth amd uninterrupted supply of books reaching the warehouse. 
  • Our warehouse was converted into a 'book adda' of sorts for a few weeks. We even had to hire extra people to help us sort out the volume of books reaching our godown. With the books in hand, the execution team got into action - making book sets, sorting books, working long hours (sometimes even at nights) to make sure our books reached the kids on time.
  • After the distribution of books, Pratham Books will also hold a pan India training programme for all CFI partners - to make best use of our books.
Take a 'behind-the-scenes' look at what we were upto:

Manisha (head of content team) inspecting the books
Mukesh keeping a hawk's eye on our books at the printers
The books get prepared
Books waiting to be sorted and packed 
The highly efficient execution team in action
More packing and sorting of books
Almost there! Waiting to be sent off 
Phew...and the books are off!

The 'Books, my Friends' campaign was launched on 10th December, 2014 at the ChildFund India office in Bangalore and inaugurated by Anil Kumble. 

 More on the event in tomorrow's post :)

Why We Love Malala

Illustration by Bilawal Khoso
Malala Yousufzai moved me to tears with her powerful acceptance speech at the award ceremony in Oslo which conferred upon her the honour of being the world's youngest Nobel Peace laureate.

"Why is it that giving guns is so easy, and giving books so hard?" she asked. Coming from Malala, it wasn't just a smart rhetorical question thrown in for effect. She has seen violence at close quarters. The Taliban tried to kill her, and muffle her young voice demanding that girls too have the opportunity to access education, schools, books.

Today, she lives in the UK, far away from her home in the picturesque Swat valley in Pakistan. However, her soil and her people have a warm place in her heart. As she said in an interview with journalist Barkha Dutt earlier in the day, she hopes to return to Pakistan.

Malala has become an inspiration for millions of people all over the world. I am reminded of my eighth graders and their sparkling eyes from a class few years ago. They were filled with hope when they first heard Malala's story. She reminded them of their own brilliance, lying latent, waiting to flourish.

A celebrated campaigner for girls' education isn't all that Malala is. She also offered a beautiful example of the role that faith can play in one's activist work. At a time when groups and individuals in many parts of the world are committing brutal acts of violence by misusing the name of Islam, Malala spoke about what her faith and her holy scripture motivate her to do: read, seek knowledge, speak up for others who don't have a voice.

Yes, I am aware of all the criticism surrounding her receiving this Nobel. Whatever you may say about her being a Western stooge, or her father being an opportunist milking his daughter's injury for fame, or the Nobel Committee's decision of giving the prize to some recipients whose commitment to peace is questionable, there is one amazing thing this young woman of 17 managed to do.

Since she shared the prize with Indian child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, she invited to the Prime Ministers of both India and Pakistan to grace the ceremony with their presence. She appealed to them to sit down and talk. "India and Pakistan have similar challenges. We must work together," she told Dutt in an interview from Oslo.

The Prime Ministers didn't show up but I hope they were listening to the wisdom in her humble appeal. Satyarthi too spoke about the disproportionate allocation of resources to education and defence.

Let us ride on the energy of these Nobel Peace laureates, and show the world that Indians and Pakistanis can work together and transform their countries into places where children read books, write stories, perform plays, compose music and make films - not toil away in carpet factories, or be shot at for daring to dream.

(This is a guest post by Chintan Girish Modi. Chintan is an old friend of Pratham Books. He is the founder of Friendships Across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein, an initiative promoting friendship between Indians and Pakistanis through storytelling, social media and interactions with students. To know more, look up and Friendships Across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein on Facebook. He tweets @chintan_connect and @aaodostikarein)

The illustration used in this post is by Bilawal Khoso - a Karachi based artist. You can follow his work on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ask a Penguin

In today's world where are bombarded with a lot of information, we quite like Penguin Random House's idea of 'asking a penguin'.

Via The Washington Post
What publishers call “discoverability” is the great challenge of bookselling: How to help readers find books they’ll enjoy in a marketplace that pumps out a bewildering 300,000 new titles a year. 
Indie bookstores have long tried to compete on the quality of their hand-selling, matching your particular interests with just the right book. Meanwhile, Amazon’s supercomputers run through complex algorithms to let you know that “customers who bought this item also bought. . . .” 
This week, the New York publisher Penguin Random House unveiled thePenguin Hotline for anyone trying to find the perfect books for the folks on their gift list. 
First step: Fill out a short form online:
• Age of the person you’re shopping for?
• In general, do you know what this person likes to read? Any favorite books, writers or magazines?
• Any other good clues? Hobbies, interests, favorite radio, TV, or other passions? 
That’s it. Within a day or two, a well-read member of the Penguin staff will e-mail you a few personalized book recommendations, along with directions to a bookstore near you. 
The new program is the brainchild of Penguin President Madeline McIntosh, who was weary of “holiday ads that are just shelves full of books with holiday doodads attached to them that people pay no attention to.”

Monday, December 8, 2014

J.K. Rowling's Christmas Treat

Harry Potter fans - time to rejoice! J.K. Rowling is going to share 12 new Harry Potter stories leading up to Christmas.

Via Huffington Post

Harry Potter CakeIn a newsletter to the members of Harry Potter fan-site Pottermore, J.K. Rowling announced that she will releasing 12 new stories expanding on the wizarding world on the site on the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Starting on Dec. 12, each new installment will be posted at 8:00 am ET, and will include "moments from Half-Blood Prince, shiny gold Galleons and even a new potion or two."

According to The Telegraph, one of the stories is set to focus on Potter's former school rival, Draco Malfoy. Rowling made it clear that she was not entirely ready to put her series to rest, providing fans with the first new material since the release of the seventh novel. On Halloween, she posted a story detailing some of Dolores Umbridge's background. In July, Rowling published a tabloid-style column in the voice of Rita Skeeter, focusing on a nearly 34-year-old Harry Potter, his family and his best friends Ron and Hermione as they attended the Quidditch World Cup.

Pustaka Parishe - 25 Lakh Books on Offer

Via Deccan Herald

Hundreds of book lovers from across the City filed into the National College Grounds in Basavanagudi on Sunday as the three-day ‘Pustaka Parishe’ (book fair) began on a grand note. 

Nearly 25 lakh books on literature, culture, education, health and religion are on display. Visitors can pick any book of their choice free of cost. The organiser of the event, Srishti Ventures, a socio-cultural organisation, expects more than two lakh visitors during the seventh edition of the Parishe. 

Among the books are the works of Kannada literary giants Kuvempu and Shivaram Karanth next to acclaimed American writers Ernest Hemingway and Arthur Miller. 

With the rare and old titles, the organisers have developed a library of 30,000 books. There are 1,516 dictionaries of various languages and subjects, besides 60,000 titles useful to school and college students. Publishers and writers can sell their books on the second and third day. They expect about 150 writers and publishers. A symposium on ‘Survival of Kannada: Practical Measures’ will be conducted.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Big Shout Out to Our Favourite Volunteers

Today is International Volunteer Day.  A big shout out to our loveliest tribe of volunteers - the Pratham Books Champions. Thank you for taking our stories to kids all across the country and the world. 

Raipur Sahitya Mahotsav

The Raipur Sahitya Mahotsav will be held from December 12-14 .

Via dna

The three-day Raipur Sahitya Mahotsav is set to be India’s first ever literature festival dedicated to Lok Sahitya and Hindi Literature. It will be held from December 12-14 at the Muktangan cultural centre in Naya Raipur. 

“I have heard so much about Jaipur and other literature festivals but all of them happen in English. We wanted to do something to celebrate the rich culture of our national language,” says Rajat Kumar, Additional Secretary to the CMO. “There’s a huge dip in interest in the field of literature in Hindi and we want to change that.”

The festival will be a platform for writers from the state to interact with the contemporaries in the field, from across the country. Some of the key sessions at the three-day event include — Women in Hindi literature, a discussion on noted playwright Habib Tanveer, Democracy and Hindi literature, Literature and Cinema, Journalism’s new era, the Indianness of Indian languages, The new face of poetry, etc.

There’s also a book fair that they’re hoping will attract a lot of school children. “In this part, they aren’t too many book fairs. We have invited some 17 Hindi publishers and 7-8 English publishers to come display their books,” he adds.

Image Source : Raipur Sahitya Mahotsav 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Review : The Elephant Bird

Terry Hong reviews our book 'The Elephant Bird' on BookDragon. BookDragon is a new media initiative of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC).

The underdog overpowers her detractors. Check! 
The unjustly accused is publicly exonerated. Check! 
An unexpected friendship repairs foolhardy mistrust. Check! 
Girl power saves all! Check! 
Surely that sounds like just the superhero adventure tale you want to share with your kiddies! 
Author Arefa Tehsin – deemed an “honorary Wildlife Warden of Udaipur” – empowers, cheers, and rewards with her feel-good story of loyalty and truth. Artists Sumit and Sonal’s Gond-style art (a distinct, tribal folk art form originating from the Gondi or Gond community indigenous to Central India) capture Munia and her adventures in brilliant colors, and imaginative whimsy, inviting young readers to explore patterns and shapes, as well as appreciate unexpected details (that tiny brown mouse is never, ever far from all the action). The interactive possibilities makes this a book that keeps on giving … 
Here’s an empowering reminder that the most unlikely superheroes are the ones who are best at making everyday magic …

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Listening to a 7 Year Old : 'There’s No Such Thing As A Boy Book'

A 7-year-old girl convinced a publisher to change the title of a book which was branded 'for boys'.

Celebrations!Parker Dains, seven, from Milpitas in California, wrote to Abdo Publishing after she discovered that the Biggest, Baddest Book of Bugs that she was reading was part of a series called the Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys. She told her local paper the Milpitas Post: “It made me very unhappy. I was like, ‘What the?’ I said, ‘Dad we have to do something quickly.’” 
So she wrote to Abdo, telling the publisher that “I really enjoyed the section on Glow in the Dark bugs and the quizzes at the end”, but that “when I saw the back cover title, it said ‘Biggest Baddest Books for Boys’ and it made me very unhappy. It made me very sad because there’s no such thing as a boy book. You should change from ‘Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys’ into ‘Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys and Girls’ because some girls would like to be entomologists too.” 
According to the local paper, the publisher responded and told her she had made “a very good point”. “After all, girls can like ‘boy’ things too,” wrote Abdo, adding that it had “decided to take your advice”.

In other news,  Ladybird is also moving away from branding books ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls.

Ladybird, the iconic publisher of children’s books including the classic Peter and Jane reading scheme, has vowed to remove any “boy” or “girl” labels from its books because it doesn’t want “to be seen to be limiting children in any way”. 
The publisher, which is due to celebrate its centenary next year, is the latest to sign up to the Let Books be Books campaign, which argues that labelling books with titles like The Beautiful Girls’ Book of Colouring or Illustrated Classics for Boys sends the message “that certain books are off-limits for girls or for boys, and promotes limiting gender stereotypes”.

Additional reading : Battling Stereotypes in Children's Books (includes book suggestions from several Indian publishers)

Image Source : Ali Mir

Monday, December 1, 2014

Showing Some Book Love

The Coimbatore edition of The Hindu asked a few people about their favourite books. Some of our books also got featured on that list. Everyone's favourite book 'Annual Haircut Day' made it to two lists :).

Shobha Viswanath of Karadi Tales added Sringeri's adventure to the list of books she recommends for kiddos under 5. Archana Dange from Bookmark recommends 'The Moon and the Cap' for kids between the ages of 1-3. Archana thinks that kids between the ages of 4-6 would enjoy 'Annual Haircut day', 'Paplu the giant', 'The Elephant Bird' and the 'The Generous Crow'. 'Sister, Sister, why is the sky so blue' finds a mention on Archana's list for 6-10 year olds. 

Which is your/your child's favourite book?
Buy the books mentioned on these lists :
Annual Haircut Day
The Moon and the Cap
Paplu the giant
The Elephant Bird
The Generous Crow
Sister, Sister, why is the sky so blue

What to Expect from Libraries in the 21st Century

Via TEDx Talks

Why do we still need libraries in the age of digital, real-time information? In this emotional talk, Pam Sandlian Smith shows how she works to use the library as a hub for community-based knowledge creation and discourse.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Contests Galore!

Today's contest will take place on the Pratham Books Facebook page at 4 pm. So, set those alarm clocks and exercise those typing fingers because our newest comic book will be up for grabs!

(Update : Fly directly to the contest)

The 'Reading Dads' contest is on till 30th November. Take a peek at the lovely photos that have been coming in. Send across your photographs to join this tribe of reading dads.

The last two contests of this month are going to take place on our Facebook page on Saturday and Sunday. Do check in on both days to win a copy of 'Freedom Run' or 'Daddy's Mo'. 

If you missed the previous contests, fret not - you have 6 more chances to win books. Good luck!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Contest No. 6 : Subhadra's World

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review : Takloo, the Little Salt Seller

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

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

Read the book (in 6 languages)

Contest No. 5 : Join us on Twitter

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rekhta : A Website for Urdu Literature and Poetry

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

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

Mayank Austen Soofi tells us more on The Delhi Walla blog

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

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

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

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

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

Additional reading:
Rekhta: A Site for Urdu Poetry Lovers

Image Source : Rekhta

Diving into a Digital Universe - Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

Nandini Nayar, Author

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

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

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

Priya Kuriyan, Illustrator

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

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

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

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

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