Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coming Out Early

M.Venkatesh on the bold steps being taken by English-language publishers in India by bringing LGBT-themed books for young adults into the market.

Dhar’s next book, Slightly Burnt, to be published by Bloomsbury in December, is about a teenage girl and her best friend. “It’s a story about understanding what it means to be different,” says Dhar. Other publishers and authors are also looking at the genre with interest. 

Duckbill Books has planned a November launch for its first LGBT-themed YA book, Talking Of Muskaan. Written by Himanjali Sankar, it has an LGBT theme. “But it also has other interesting ideas woven into it,” points out Sayoni Basu, publisher, Duckbill Books. 

YA is where most new LGBT fiction is appearing, probably because young adulthood is a time when people find out about themselves—who they are, and who they are attracted to. It could be an eye-opener for readers as well—reading about similar situations may help them feel less alone and less likely to condemn and bully other young people who may be different. “LGBT children are invisible and unacknowledged in our society and it’s about time they got even a teeny hint that they are not alone,” says Dhar.

“With increasing awareness of LGBT issues, it is but natural that such themes will be reflected in books for children, pre-teens and teens. What matters is how sensitively and imaginatively such issues are dealt with,” points out Radhika Menon, publisher, Tulika Books. Another Tulika title, Mayil Will Not Be Quiet, is a diary of a 12-year-old girl who talks about all the things that she is concerned or curious about, including gay relationships. “As publishers,” says Menon, “we don’t believe in taboos in children’s books.” Others might, though.

Also watch : Raghava KK's thoughts on 'shaking up our perspectives'. 

Hindi Literature for Kids

Promoting reading at the orphanages (Mapusa)
Ruchika Kher on unraveling the delights of children's literature in Hindi...

Via mid-day

But with changing preferences, lack of good writing and substandard promotional strategies, the demand for Hindi literature for kids has been witnessing stagnation and in some cases, a steady decline even.

“Almost every eminent writer in Hindi, starting from Premchand to Mohan Rakesh, has written children’s books. The problem is of availability, and inadequate efforts to market these books,” rues Manisha Chaudhry, head of content, Pratham Books. She explains that most prominent Hindi publishers don’t promote their children’s list (if they have one) and also don’t invest in good illustrations or take care of production values. “So most children’s brush with Hindi literature is through prose and poetry that has been put in Hindi language textbooks,” she adds. 

Shobha Viswanath, publishing director, Karadi Tales Company, adds another view that the potential for those who’ve had Hindi as their mother tongue or those who would like to relate to Hindi, is huge. However, the encouragement of general reading among children is prevalent more, among affluent classes who prefer that their children read in English. “The absence of a strong market for children’s literature in Hindi has also meant that writing for children in Hindi has not been nurtured. When there is good writing, the illustration and production qualities are quite poor because the books have to sell for a low price,” she says.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Meet the Illustrator : Poonam Athalye

You've read about the serendipitous discovery that led us to the book 'Takloo- The Little Salt Seller'. You've read about how Radhika Bapat came up with this story about a little boy in Anjarle village. In today's post, Sandhya Taksale interviews Poonam Athalye - the illustrator who brought Takloo's story to life through her subtle and enchanting illustrations.

As a child, Poonam spent most of her time with her drawing books. Some picture books left a deep impression on her mind and she rediscovered their enchantment while making animation films. Through her paintings, she wants to share her sense of wonder with everyone. She has been illlustrating children's books since 2007.

How did this story come to you? And what did you think of it when you first heard it?

I met Radhika because of this book and we got along wonderfully. The first time we discussed children’s content we realized that we share similar concerns and likings. I was happy with the optimism in the story. I also liked that it was set in a very regional context and the characters had humorous idiosyncrasies. It made designing the illustrations of this book very interesting for me, as I had to go out and study the habits and behaviors of people who were like the characters in this story. I was quite excited to work on this book when I read the story for the first time.

The illustrations in this book are quite different. They bring in the fun element powerfully and enhance the story. The illustrations are delightful and pleasant but not unnecessarily sweet and cute. What was at the back of your mind when you selected this style and treatment for the story?

Both Radhika and I dislike the aseptic and painfully sweet children’s books that the market is flooded with. We both agreed on making the characters quirky and approachable. They are written in a way where they have flaws and make mistakes and that very human quality was delightful! We didn’t want the characters to look perfect in any way. 

So the technique I chose for this book was such that I could show some details while rendering. I chose to illustrate using graphite pencils but I also wanted to bring out the energy of the story using colour. So I used a combination of graphite pencils, watercolours and gouache. I have also used photographs in some places to make it look a little realistic. At the end of the day its not always very carefully planned and engineered. My whims also play a very large part in how I decide to illustrate a book.

There is a judicious use of colour. In many frames, one single object is done in colour and other things are kept in black and white. For example, Takloo's red purse, mother's green and blue sari, colourful leaves etc. What type of impact you wanted to achieve through this? 

Some elements in the character can be beautifully enhanced through colour. It is about drawing attention to these elements by drawing the eye to the bright colours. So I have used colour to highlight a few things that are important either to the story or to the character at that point. The pencil is used where I can detail out certain features to make them more pronounced like amma’s oily hair. This is very typical of a female character coming from that region. I like to use colour sparingly as it is very powerful especially in illustration. Even if I were to decide to use colour throughout the whole page I would use the same colour in different intensities or shades. It creates the effect I desire.

Now a days, even small children have mobiles in their hands. Do you think these children will relate to the 'old style of photography '? One of your illustrations shows the photographer covering himself before clicking the photograph.

This story is actually historical in nature, which is Radhika’s memory of a story she was told. I was aware of the time period it was based in and it added so much more to the visuals by giving the whole story a context. Although the era or time period is never mentioned in the story I thought the illustrations could do the job of placing it in those times. The children born today or the ones who will read this book in the future will not be aware of the Daguerreotype Camera shown in the illustrations but it will create a sense of intrigue in them and it is these things about the story that they will remember. They will ask questions and want to know more and that is how they will learn new things. Children need to be shown unfamiliar and unusual things in stories as it builds curiosity, which helps in recall and holds their interest in the story. You need to give them something new and puzzling to keep them interested.

What are the elements in your illustrations that exercise the imagination and the fantasy world of the child?

I like to go back and forth between the realistic and the imaginary. It infuses a sense of magic in everyday life. There are times when the surroundings of the character seem realistic and then suddenly it cuts into an imaginary world. For example when Takloo is standing in the forest and the next frame he is looking at the various sizes of pots where sometimes he is smaller than the largest pot. It just expands the boundaries of what is real and what is imaginary. So the child would become more flexible in thinking and have a free reign imagining scenarios as she pleases. Also I have not always painted the trees green and the waters blue. Nature is full of colours and with this approach of not sticking to a fixed colour palette, I want to encourage a child to perceive colours in a different way.

How do you feel that this book is chosen for storytelling to celebrate International Literacy Day by Pratham Books and will be used by hundred of volunteer storytellers. 

I am very pleased to know that this book will reach many people and I hope it enriches their lives in some way. Also I am pleased that it is printed at an affordable cost in many languages.

Read more interviews with Pratham Books authors and illustrators


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Connecting Kids through the Crayons of Hope

The world has strange and beautiful ways to make people connect and grow and earn their independence and be responsible for it. Just a week before Independence Day, August 15th, we received a mail from the not for profit social enterprise Crayons of Hope. They now work with 870 children across 9 cities in India.

Fanned by the spirit of the season, I sent off a message of hope on behalf of Pratham Books. A few days later, Roni, a young boy whom I've never met had sent me this colourful card.

This is the message that Roni received:

"Hope is that warm feeling that bubbles in your heart, and makes the mind do wonderful things.
Our hope is to see all children in India being able to read, and wanting to read!"

Wishing Crayons of Hope all success in their mission. And we wish Roni and his friends a colourful and joyful  future.

National Book Fair in Srinagar

Adding to the list of events happening this week (Delhi Book Fair, Jumpstart in Bangalore)  :

Via Business Standard

Book worms in the Valley are in for a treat as authorities have organized a national book fair that is currently attracting thousands of people in the 'Kashmir Haat' ground in Srinagar.

The biggest national book fair has been organized by the National Book Trust (NBT) in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir Academy for Art, Culture and Languages, Federation of Publishers and Booksellers Associations in India, National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) and District Administration Srinagar.

Book fair organizer, Vijender Kumar said, "Our aim behind organizing this book fair is to connect people with books. The entry is free here as we want more and more people to come here. Apart from the books of NBT, there are more than 90 publishers here."

The fair-cum-exhibition began on August 23 and will conclude at the end of this month.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Library With No Members

Trinity College Library
Via The Hindu

The Anna Centenary Library, established in 2010, has since been threatened by closure, by conversion into a hospital, and by use of its public space and auditorium for unrelated activities such as a wedding reception, a result of what is apparently a political and administrative tussle. That events have come to such a pass in Tamil Nadu is ironic, for it was here that the first Public Libraries Act of independent India was enacted in 1948.

Today, more than two years since its establishment, the Anna library still does not issue books and has no members. No books leave its doors to grace the favourite reading corners in the homes of its citizens.

The nine-storey building is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and holds a collection of over 500,000 books and subscriptions to dozens of newspapers and periodicals from all over the world. The library is air-conditioned and well lit, with large rooms and spacious shelves, seating and writing spaces in each room, and comfortable sofas along the tall windows overlooking the city and gardens. The library carries a gold rating in the LEED green building certification system, becoming apparently the first such library in Asia, and currently employs 96 professional librarians and over 100 staff for security and housekeeping.

The Tamil section on the second floor has over 25,000 titles with four copies of most books: clearly the library is prepared for lending, despite this not being implemented yet. A selection of books from other languages—Hindi, Urdu, Telugu, and Kannada—also caught my eye. I drifted through the other rooms and floors, scanning categories and titles, exhilarated at the spectrum of choice. The English literature section alone would bring me here again, besides the sprinkling of translated works from Indian and foreign languages.

Whatever be the reasons the extraordinary potential of this library is currently stymied, one hopes that the administration, politicians, and civil society will rally round to rise above the present stalemate.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Winners All!

Some Saturdays are just too hot to handle!

Aug 23, 2014 was one of those. 

Not one but two of our most beloved authors got the Bal Sahitya Puraskar for their contribution to children's literature! 

Subhadra Sen Gupta was awarded this recognition for English and Madhuri Purandare for Marathi by the Sahitya Akademi.

Madhuri Purandare - author and illustrator
Madhuri Purandare

Subhadra Sen Gupta
Source : Mussoorie Writers 
Many congratulations to both these amazing writers! Their work has sparkled with creativity and has tickled the creative gene in millions of beautiful little minds and hearts( and truth be told, in an equal number of not so little ones).

Our joy as a multilingual publisher knows no bounds. It is our fervent hope that authors in all Indian languages write brilliant books for children and are inspired by Subhadra and Madhuri.

In the midst of all the buzz and excitement, Subhadra took time out to share some of it with us:

Did you ever think you would be a children's author when you were a child?
~~ I just knew I wanted to be a writer. It was also because I sort of sensed I'd be a disaster at any other profession!

When did you write your first story for children?
~~ I began freelancing in college for youth magazines, doing small articles and news reports but the first story... I don't remember the exact date. It was sometime in the early 1980's. Clearly the memory is going :-)

Where was it published and who had the honour of publishing your first book?
~~ Ah this I remember! The first book was 'Good Times at Islamgunj' published in 1982 by India Book House.

Describe your journey as an author?
~~ In the beginning it was tough because I had to find time to write while working as a copywriter but once I broke free, ah! it was heaven and it got much easier. Also the real joy is in the process of writing itself and as long as you are in love with the work, life becomes richer and much more enjoyable.

One of the joys of my life today is that I get up thinking of what I'll write that day and I don't have to go to office clutching my lunchbox. The freedom is worth the sacrifices.

How have you combined your background as a historian and your love for stories in your work?
~~ That's easy because history is about people and their stories (something that some of our historians forget). All I do is bring back the human details and the stories come with them. Everything about how people lived, why they build temples, fought wars, cooked with chillies or went off to trade along the Silk Route has a story in it. 

Why do you think it is important for children to 'know' history?
~~ History is not just about Akbar or Shivaji, it is also the story of how your grandparents migrated from their village to a city or your father practicing as a doctor. It is our roots, what makes us a person. Also we as a human race are evolving all the time and by knowing history we can at least try to stay away from the mistakes we made in the past. 

History is also about great people and without history we would not know about the Buddha, Gandhi or Mandela and that would be a great loss to us.

How hard is it to stay away from being didactic as a children's author? Your writing never talks down to children yet it gives them much to chew on.
~~ I write to a child's face and if my writing is getting solemn or moralistic the face spits at me. Seriously, if you listen to children, which I do all the time, they'll tell you what they like or dislike and they can be brutally honest, thank god. Kids never say a book is 'nice', they have opinions.

The Bal Sahitya Puraskar acknowledges your work of many years. How does it feel to get it? 
~~ Winning an award feels good but when a child runs up to me waving one my booksand treats me like a long lost friend, that's when it feels really great.

What are you working on next? Your favourite genre?
~~ I just finished a teen novel and am taking a breather. My favourite genre? That's a no-brainer - historical fiction. 

Are you ready to mentor new writers, young and old? 
~~ I mentor every chance I get. My inbox often has stuff new writers send me. I couldn't have got this far without editors and writers taking me in hand and whipping me into shape. I'm a tough mentor but when I notice talent it makes my day.

~ Written by the Manisha Chaudhry, head of content team at Pratham Books.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How Wattpad Made Reading a Craze

On the platform, reading
Hazal Kirci explains how Wattpad transformed her and her sisters’ lives, and made reading a craze.

Wattpad is a global sensation in young adult literature. And I fell for it hard.

In my case, introduced to it by friends, I slowly became addicted, clicking and double-clicking my way through until my online “library” was full of romance and the paranormal, often finishing 40-chapter stories in a day. I downloaded the app on to my iPod Touch – you can also get it on iPhone and iPad – and when I saw I could read stories offline it began a reading marathon as I commuted between work-experience jobs.

Boy was it exhilarating. So much so that I abandoned “real” fiction for a while, relishing instead the heaps of clichés that populated practically every story I read. And as most readers know, stories have an uncanny ability to spark one’s own creativity and inspiration. So I began writing and uploading my own stories, choosing to (the originality will blow your mind, I’m sure of it) centre my narrative on a werewolf romance.

I have two sisters. They are 14 and 12 and before they were into Wattpad, it was all about One Direction. Their rather frightening obsession resulted in a friend suggesting to my 14-year-old sister Heral, that she read fan fiction about the boy band. She had never read novels before, but after that you could not separate her from her iPod Touch with a pair of pliers. Often it’s 4am and 12-year-old Hislen is begging for her to switch off the lamp, but no, she needs to read.

Eventually, Hislen began to portray similar symptoms. Unexpected things began to happen. Heral would come home, telling our mum all about her new English teacher and his stream of praise for her. This was shocking; she had always been the opposite of me, hating English. To see the transformation in her grades was amazing – and something I fully credit to Wattpad. If this app hadn’t provided her with the only type of story she could love and feel passionate about, my sister’s improvement in English may not have happened.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dastan Alice Ki

Via livemint

With white rabbits that talk, caterpillars that smoke the hookah and a Queen of Hearts, writer Lewis Carroll knew better than anyone perhaps that the imagination has no restrictions. Well known for reviving Dastangoi, the almost lost art form of Urdu storytelling, Mahmood Farooqi and team are now adapting two of Carroll’s most celebrated children’s stories—Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass—to their style. 
Alice in Wonderland
Dastan Alice Ki (Alice’s Story) begins with Alice’s journey in Wonderland and revolves around her evolution on the chessboard to become a queen. The performance, by dastangos Poonam Girdhani and Ankit Chadha, will open in the Capital on Tuesday.

“The reason I chose Alice’s stories to begin our work for children is because her adventures are tilismi (magical) in nature, and the flavour of fantasy is similar to what we find in traditional dastans,” he says.

This, however, is the first time that it is focusing on children’s literature as a genre, to facilitate Hindi/Urdu learning among them.

“When I visit literature festivals for children, I see how most of the offerings are for an English-speaking audience. Therefore, we intend to adapt a lot of English texts into Hindi and Urdu dastans,” says Chadha, who quit his full-time job in digital marketing to join the team in 2010.

Event details : Dastan Alice Ki, 26 August, 7pm, at The Attic, 36, Regal Building, Connaught Place (23746050). Limited seating.

Play to Learn : A Workshop for Teachers

Pratham Books is conducting a workshop for teachers at this year's JUMPSTART (Delhi).

26th August, 9.30am-12.30pm

This is the one thing that we don’t have to learn. This is the one thing that we all have a natural propensity for and it is the one thing that we all enjoy-the act of play. It is a universal thread in all human development regardless of race, class, region and belief system.

Educational planners and practitioners in India have also used play and activity as a scaffolding for children to achieve learning objectives in the early grades. Are there some experiences that are unique to our country? What are the points of convergence and divergence with the variegated cultural practices and beliefs around childhood ? Where are the interfaces between learned theory and actual situations on the ground ? What are the challenges in implementing play-based classroom activities In overcrowded multilingual classrooms where materials may be scarce? How does play get transformed in a multi-grade classroom? Can such challenging situations that may be common in resource poor schools, be turned into opportunities for greater sensitivity and a more holistic definition of education?

The Pratham Books-Jumpstart session on Aug 26, 2014 will give a hands-on opportunity to explore such questions and more. Eminent academics, Dr Asha Singh Associate Professor Lady Irwin College and Ms Amukta Mahapatra, Director, Schoolscape will lead a workshop for early grade teachers on the use of play in learning. The backdrop of theory will be lit up by incandescent questions from real practice. The participants will get a chance to work in groups to try out fresh ideas with the benefit of expert facilitation. It will be experiential learning at its best…because after all, it will all be child’s play

To register : mail purnendu(at)prathambooks(dot)org or call +919990444437

Storytelling Session by the Bangalore Storytelling Society

While the folks in Delhi have the Delhi Book Fair to head to this weekend, our friends in Bangalore can head to a storytelling session being conducted by five storytellers on behalf of the Bangalore Storytelling Society. This session is part of the TENTASTIC campaign where volunteers have committed to conduct ten storytelling session this year.

Follow the Bangalore Storytelling Society on Facebook to keep track of their events.

Death in Fiction

YA author Rupert Wallis talks abut why death is so important in YA fiction.

UntitledDeath has always lurked in some of the most moving and beautiful children's stories, but for the younger reader, it's usually approached in a palatable manner: good overcoming evil in the traditions of fairytales or in some oblique manner that isn't gratuitous.

In a lot of YA fiction, the tone is different: with death woven as realistically into the lives of characters as it would be into our own, making the stories grittier and darker. This allows young adults to engage with the reality of dying through the safe act of reading.

For readers who have not yet been affected by the death of someone they know, this has to be a useful way of engaging with issues that will inevitably become relevant later in their lives. On the other hand, for those who have already been affected by death then being introduced to characters undergoing similar experiences must generate a sense of connection, of comfort that the reader is not alone.

If this helps adults engage with young adults about the issues surrounding death through mutually enjoyed stories, then I think this has to be positive when teenagers are so often distanced from previous generations through technology, vocabulary and life experience.

One way of tackling the difficult questions raised by death is to feel connected to one another in addressing them, to feel human together. The popularity of Twitter hashtags like #YAsaves and #fictionaldeathsiwillnevergetover point to the power of books to create connective emotional tissue between readers. YA bestsellers that address death, like The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, generate their own sense of community in reviews and on blogs and social media. In an increasingly atomised society, it must be a good thing to be reminded of the strength a group can have in facing issues together.

Delhi Book Fair Starts Today

Not too crowded the day I visited the fair
Wondering what to do this weekend? The folks in Delhi can head to the Delhi Book Fair and get their hands on some new books.

Via Business Standard

Film adaptations of books along with a graphic showcase of Indian cinema is the focus of the upcoming Delhi Book Fair, which has gone high technology with an exclusive mobile app designed for visitors to navigate the sprawling Pragati Maidan venue here.

"We are launching a mobile app which will tell people about the position of stalls, pavilions, washrooms and other essential amenities at the venue. This is an attempt to make the fair experience more relaxed and comfortable," President, Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP), Ashok Gupta said.

The FIP in collaboration with Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) is organising the 20th edition of the nine-day fair beginning August 23 with the theme "Literature in Cinema".

"Visitors can book their tickets online and avoid queue at the fair. We have also kept ten air-conditioned buses to ferry visitors from the gates to the halls," V Meera, General Manager, ITPO said.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Meet the Author : Radhika Bapat

Sandhya Taksale chats with Radhika Bapat - the author of 'Takloo, the Little Salt Seller'. As we gear up for the One Day One Story initiative, we learn more about Radhika and how the book Takloo came about.

Radhika Bapat has an M.Phil, in Clinical Psychology and is the Head of Department, Child Guidance Centre, Pune. This centre offers services in the areas of clinical psychology and rehabilitation to children with developmental disabilities. She uses storytelling as a tool to work with children.

Radhika, you are psychologist and work with children. How do you look at the 'story 'as a tool? How powerful it is?

I am a psychologist who is also very interested in education, for both adults and children- creating tool’s to facilitate pleasurable learning. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t enjoy an outstanding orator, puppeteer or weaver of tales. As a child the stories that I enjoyed the most were the one’s with the least written matter. As an adult I enjoy even fewer pages, larger print and better illustrations. Narratives help me help others cope with their reality – learn to not take themselves too seriously or to laugh at themselves. It is very important to be able to humor yourself. I am still learning. Some of my earliest memories of stories told to me were – “The Last Leaf” by O’Henry, “Androceles and the Lion” or stories of Akbar and Birbal. I was told these stories in three languages and so it also helped me acquire the knowledge of language without actually having to try or study hard. Some of my best professors at college, have been excellent storytellers and some of the worst have been passionless, uninspiring and dreadful. In the end, you are your own teacher - and it helps to be able to create stories and liven up your own learning. 

What made you write this story? Any special purpose?

I like writing. There have been many ideas and stories that have been inspired by very real people and incidences in my life or in somebody else’s life, that I jot down. I fall in love with my family all the time, their lives inspire me and this is enough. We do not try to impress the world. We love loving ourselves, and each other. This is a thing of beauty and incredible good fortune. The story of Takloo is loosely based on an event in my father’s life as a child. I thought he was one of the most beautiful people in the world and as a child I loved playing the "tabla" on his very shiny head, hence the name Takloo. Anjarle is a real village on the Konkan coast. 

I see these things visually, and Poonam’s illustrations blend in perfectly with my imagination. Switching between scientific writing which is unsentimental and succinct, and stories, which allow me to exaggerate is fun for me.

In what way can a parent / teacher use the instructions on 'How to use this book' which are there at the beginning of the story.

I leave the parent / teacher to use their own imagination – the “how to use the book” section is only meant to bring their attention to the flexibility they have in their storytelling technique. I would be mortified if this was used in a “question and answer” or rote format. It is not necessary to follow the words or language used in a particular book, it can be narrated in a multilingual format too. The central idea in the book is to use it as a tool to communicate variety and range. There is no transgressor or evil-doer in the book.

On one level it has to be an engaging 'story' which kids will love to read for fun and enjoyment. On another level, you are introducing some specific concepts to the children through the story. Was it difficult to keep the balance between the two?

There is a story in even the most boring legal or medical texts – one only needs to weave it, with relevant examples, to one’s tastes. This is the best way to learn, in my opinion. I can find concepts that can be learnt through most pieces of children’s prose that I come across. So, I did not have to consciously balance between the two.

Generally, authors tend to portray the characters in the story that are beautiful and handsome. Here Takloo is bald, his mother's teeth are like Dracula. What made you do so?

Children like to have fun. For the most part, they are not judgmental, although they are highly impressionable. Stereotypical ideas of beauty, gender roles, good and bad are learnt through adult imitation, exposure to such information and peer influence. I believe that healthy, natural, humble and peaceful are things to strive for. I find Takloo and his mother very beautiful. Have you read the story “My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world” by Becky Reyher, Ruth Stiles Gannett? We do not judge people we love on their physical appearance. In fact, how they appear only remains a descriptive with no negative valence. An interesting article in the New York times by David Brooks talks about how a century back pink being a stronger color was associated with boys clothing and blue which was more delicate and dainty was associated with girls toys and clothing. These are all man-made associations. Pink and blue are just colors. Our associations are a result of learning. Let’s unlearn these. It is very important to communicate to children that size, shape and color have no bearing on how beautiful we find them. Also, the word “ugly” comes from “ugga” which means “to dread” or “fear” – The only characters that evoke such emotions would be one’s that are violent, conniving or manipulative in an unfair way – these are the one’s that wage wars and lack empathy or remorse.

Have you yourself read out this story to children and what was their response?

I read a short version of the story to my 2 year old toddler who enjoyed the animals and colors through the book. I had to quickly turn the pages so as to sustain his attention. I have not read the book out to anyone else. 

This book is licensed under a Creative Commons license. It means that it could be downloaded and remixed for free. What do you think about this license and in what way it will be helpful for children?

Writing is a hobby for me and not my singular profession. For people like me, it seems only fair to support the Creative Commons licenses. I have greatly benefitted from other authors and scientists who’s works I was able to access due to the permissions they granted. There are courses that one can now take online, from the worlds top universities, for free – only because of this license. For parents who are only able to afford a limited number of books, it is a great advantage to have free access to beautifully illustrated books. Hopefully, such instances reinforce ones faith in human values. For more information visit:

How do you feel about this book being chosen for the 'One Day One Story' campaign to celebrate International Literacy Day? The book will be shared in more than 1000 locations.
I feel delighted and a bit embarrassed, that this book is chosen and I think Poonam’s illustrations really bring the character to life. This might encourage us to work together and put out more stories. I would also encourage all those writers/ poets and illustrators with similar ideas and support for the Creative Commons to contact us, so that we can work together to create a corpus of children’s stories and material that can be freely used as teaching aids at radhikabapat(at)hotmail(dot)com or poonamathalye(at)gmail(dot)com.

Read more interviews with Pratham Books authors and illustrators


Spread the joy of reading in your community.

How Did We Find Takloo?

Mala Kumar shares a little behind-the-scenes (behind-the-pages?) story about the book chosen for this year's 'One Day One Story' campaign.

This is a story about Takloo. No, no, not about Takloo, the little character in our book ! This is about the book, and how Pratham Books got to publish Takloo, the Little Salt Seller. One of our illustrators, Indu Harikumar, sent us a link to illustrator Poonam Athayle's portfolio. We liked the illustrations, especially one that showed a bald-headed little boy and a crow sitting on top of a cow. "Do you have a story that goes with this illustration?" we asked the illustrator in a mail. And that's when she introduced us to the author, Radhika Bapat. When we saw the entire book as a PDF, our whole team fell in love with Takloo. And that's when we decided to publish it. Serendipity means...finding a beautiful sea shell when you are digging into a pot of sea-salt, isn't it?

Register to be a Pratham Books Champion and help us spread the joy of reading around International Literacy Day.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Turning a Taxi Into a Library/Bookstore

Our Facebook timeline threw up this lovely post about a couple who turned their taxi into a rolling library/bookstore.

Via The Wall Street Journal

The husband-and-wife team of Mehdi Yazdany and Sarvenaz Heraner were cruising the streets of Iran's sprawling capital in search of targets.

They homed in on a young woman standing at the side of the road looking for a cab. Her hair was covered by a black scarf.

Pulling over, they swung open the rear door and she slipped into their white compact sedan.

"Do you read a lot?" a smiling Ms. Heraner asked the woman as they drove into traffic.

Samira Chigani, 26 years old, was thus introduced to the quirky brainchild of Mr. Yazdany and Ms. Heraner: a mobile reading room and taxi service, complete with chauffeur-librarian.

More than 40 titles, 130 volumes in all, are stacked behind the back, shelved on racks over the passenger window, cluttering the dashboard, crammed into side pockets and stuffed in the trunk. When you pay the fare, you can buy a book.

The husband-and-wife team dreamed of offering Tehranis a few minutes of contemplative bliss amid the chaos.

Mr. Yazdany refitted the couple's Saipa Pride sedan with jury-rigged shelves and a high-end stereo and video system. The couple stocked it with an eclectic mix of translated international best-sellers and Iranian classics. They wanted their mobile library to be an inspiration, calling it "Ketabraneh," loosely translated as Books on Wheels.

Sharing Stories

Arthi Anand's Storytelling Express
A picture from Arthi's storytelling sessions as a Pratham Books Champion
In the run-up to our annual collective reading campaign (One Day One Story), we stumbled across Arthi Anand Navaneeth's article on why stories are powerful. We especially liked the tips she shared in the article.

Via Indian Moms Connect
But most of all, reading is FUN. It can be done almost anywhere and alone or in a group. It need not ever get boring. You just need to find the next book that appeals to you. There is never, ever a short supply of reading material.
  • Alternate between reading and narrating to your child, after they begin to learn the alphabet since they will register words better and it will help them progress to reading on their own.
  • Do not ever force your child to read.
  • Expose them to a lot of variety of books. Do not fret if your child has different reading sensibilities than yours.
  • If you notice a liking for a particular style of book or genre, get more of the same.
  • Set an example by reading yourself.
  • And somewhere, somehow your child will take to reading. If he does not, it is only because he is yet to find the right book for himself.
  • Keep reading and narrating to him.
Read the entire article.

What tips would you share with other parents/teachers?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How the #PBChamps Campaign Sparked a Monthly Reading Programme

Last year was the first time that the team from Swechha got in touch with us and expressed an interest in our annual Literacy Day campaign. Earlier this year, Josh Roberts who used to work with Swechha told us about what happened in the next few months after they conducted that event.

In Josh's words ...

Pagdandi is our non-formal alternative learning program for kids and adolescents of Jagdamba Camp slum community in South Delhi. It started as a library in the community, Kitaab Ghar, with reading and story-telling sessions conducted everyday. This has now grown to a community-based initiative that focuses on education, empowerment and employability. 

Kitaab Ghar continues to be a space for children and youth to study, read and learn in. On the 7th of September, we held our first reading day at Kitaab Ghar. The day was a huge success, reaching out to over 90 children and women, all of whom read in Hindi and English. We decided to repeat the magic of International Literacy Day by institutionalizing "Pagdandi Day" as a day of reading in the community on the 3rd Saturday of every month. On this day, reading sessions happen in the Kitaab Ghar and outside. While volunteers conduct reading sessions, based on a theme, for age-specific groups through the day, staff and volunteers distribute books to households and read out stories to adults and children in the narrow lanes of the community. The day aims to create a buzz around reading and celebrate reading anywhere and everywhere. With every month, our outreach is increasing with more and more children and adults being encouraged to read through the day. This month (February), 125 people read and listened to stories through the day while 60 books were distributed to households.

A big thank you to the Swechha and Pagdandi team for taking giant leaps to spread the joy of reading!

If you want to do your bit to spread the joy of reading, register for this year's International Literacy Day campaign.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Leading Reading Schools of India Awards 2015

(Click on the image for a larger view)

The Leading Reading Schools of India Award is an annual award established by Young India Books - India’s foremost review site of children’s books; to recognize and honour the five leading schools of the country; schools that believe in the power of the written word and inculcate a love for books and reading.

The competition is open to children of all reading institutions, viz, libraries and book clubs, however only schools are eligible for the Award.

The theme for the year 2015 Award is Wild about Wildlife. Books that showcase Indian wildlife – a fast dwindling heritage, have been carefully selected as reading material to enable children to appreciate our flora and fauna better and to reflect on the challenges that they face. 

The junior group will write a note about a day in the life of an animal or, illustrate a scene from the selected book. Likewise, children from the senior category will write an autobiography about an animal or illustrate the story in 4 - 5 pictures.

Winning schools will receive a citation plus a year’s membership to the Bombay Natural History Society and a hamper of books.

Prizes will also be given to children in both the junior and senior categories and their work will be posted on the Young India Books website as well as on the site of our partners for this event.

The librarians of the top five schools who have successfully cast a magical spell of love for books on their students will also receive a token of appreciation.

All participating children will receive a participation certificate.

To know more, log onto

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Garden Library for the Migrant Communities and Neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv

Via ArchDaily

The Garden Library for Refugees and Migrant Workers was founded in 2010 as a social-artistic urban community project. The project sees the right to a book as a fundamental human right and a possibility of both escape and shelter from daily misfortunes.
The library is located in the Levinski Park, by the Tel Aviv central bus station. The park is the place migrant workers congregate on weekends. It was important for us that the library come to the people, that those who maintain illegal immigrant status will come without fear, that the library would not have a closed door or a guard at the entrance who would check and ask questions.

The library has no walls or door. It is comprised of two bookcases, which are supported by the walls of a public shelter located in the heart of the park. It is transparent and illuminated from within so that, at night, the books glow in the park. 

The library contains approximately 3,500 books in Mandarin Chinese, Amharic, Thai, Tagalog, Arabic, French, Spanish, Nepalese, Bengali, Hindi, Turkish, Romanian, and English. The children’s cabinet also holds books in Hebrew.
The books are not catalogued according to conventions of genre or author name, but according to the feeling they arouse. Every detail in the sorting and categorization system reflects the spirit of the library: The library is a small and parallel world: the books wander between the shelves as their readers have wandered/are wandering the world. They carry with them their emotional history. The placement of the book is not decided by popular vote, but by the last reader. Even if ten readers thought a book was amusing and the eleventh thought it was dull, the book will move to the Boring shelf – at least until the next reader weighs in.

Image Source : The Garden Library

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Making the World Fall in Love with Indian Folklore

Hema Vijay's article talks about the handmade books being produced by Tara Books and how they are making the world fall in love with Indian folklore.

Today, if children in western countries are enjoying stories based on Indian mythology and tribal folklores, as much as they love their Walt Disney animations and fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, then a great deal of the credit should go to Gita Wolf and her publishing house, Tara Books. 

For two decades now, this Chennai-based children’s book writer-turned-publisher has been churning out stories on literature, folk art, philosophy and politics with intriguing narratives and mesmerising imagery imprinted on fabulously textured handmade paper.

Presenting their brand of creativity in this already unique world of eclectic storytellers are tribal artists from different parts of India. How did the publishing house hit upon the game-changing idea of getting these tribal artists to illustrate their books? 

Explains Gita, “We felt that India has several living art traditions that need to be explored. We network with museums, craft centres, and, of course, our researchers go to different villages across India to locate these tribal and folk artists.Our books derive heavily from such research explorations because tribal art offers new ways of seeing the world and is great for illustrating children’s books.”

Image Source : Tara Books

Crossword to Open 10 stores in Tier-II Cities

Via Business Standard

Even though the online shopping is a growing trend in India, the offline players like Crossword, a books retailer chain of Raheja Group, is planning an expansion in tough market conditions.

'Crossword' book store, Pune (Poona)The company is opening 10 stores across India focusing on tier-II cities. These cites are Guwahati, Kozhikode, Surat, Coimbatore, Ballarpur, Vapi, Kohima, Gandhi Nagar and Goa. Most of the stores will be based on franchise model. Currently, Crossword has 89 stores in 27 cities across India.

Commenting on the rising trend of e-commerce and online shopping, Kinjal Shah, chief executive officer, Crossword said, “Our largest business comer from the books category. The online shopping has increased in India and is growing rapidly. But its is not going to affect our business because In India people still prefer to visit a book shop for buying. The touch and feel factor for buying books will remain for long. The retail book shop business is still growing at 15 per cent annually. Most of the players in the retail books shops, have shrinked its business where as we are expanding our network. Retail book shop is a challenging business and sale per square foot revenue is lower. Our stores are designed as a new age bookstore which focuses on being a community centre for society. There is a lot of emphasis on recommendations, browsing pleasure & discovering your next read."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bookstores in Delhi (for the Bibliophile's List)

Ritika Bhatia shares details about three bookstores that should be on every bibliophile's list - from first editions, vintage copies, old comic strips and rare, personally signed books.

Shakespeare & Company Sign No.2 DetailAnjali International Book Store, located in Central Market, Lajpat Nagar - that bustling space that sells anything and everything from coffee to coffins - has been named after owner Ramesh Madan's daughter Anjali. Madan, himself an avid bibliophile, has over 3 lakh books stashed away in various warehouses. I found a first edition copy of W Somerset Maugham's Catalina, priced at a paltry Rs 200. Apart from classics, comic fans will be delighted to find copies of old Indrajal comics, Amar Chitra Katha books, Mad magazines as well as collector's edition magazines. Madan's most precious item is The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven - one of the six copies in the world - that contains records and music sheets, priced at Rs 30,000. 

Amid grimy auto repair shops and coaching class centres in Kotla Mubarakpur is nestled Timeless Bookstore, a red brick building with French windows and forest green shutters. 

Stocking mostly coffee-table books, the best picks here are almost all of Raghu Rai's works (from his Varanasi, Calcutta, Mother Teresa series, priced at Rs 2,000 each) and Henri Cartier Bresson in India by Satyajit Ray (also for Rs 2,000). There is a 50-year commemorative edition on Martin Acoustic Guitars for Rs 2,500. 

Hauz Khas Village's slow but steady decline from culture-lover's haven to commercial hub has seen the demise of Navratana Art Gallery and Bookstore that had set up shop in 1999. Now having moved to a gallery space in Gurgaon, owner Nikhil Gupta invites customers by appointments to view his collections that include signed copies of books by Jawaharlal Nehru and Lala Lajpat Rai as well as historical maps of India such as those from Bombay Presidency, Jaipur and Hyderabad.

Remembering Pran : The Creator of Chacha Chaudhary

ComicCon India  (46 of 52)

One of India's most successful Indian cartoonists Pran Kumar Sharma passed away on Wednesday. Pran was the man behind the famous comic series Chacha Chaudhary. Other of his famous characters include cartoons like Shrimatiji, Pinki, Billoo, Raman, Channie Chachi and many more.

Pran began his career in 1960 as a cartoonist for the Delhi-based newspaper Milap with comic strip Daabu. In 1969, he sketched Chacha Chaudhary for the Hindi magazine Lotpot, which made him famous.

Pran Kumar Sharma who created the legendary character of Chacha Chaudhary breathed his last on Wednesday. Chacha Chaudhary was one character who defeated all other characters like Superman, Batman and Spiderman because Chacha Chaudhary depicted heroism through his brain and not by mere looks or anything else.

He was included in People of the year 1995 by Limca Book of Records for popularizing comics in India. Pran received a Lifetime Achievement Award 2001, from Indian Institute of Cartoonists too.

Read the entire article.

Did your childhood also consist of a diet of comics that included Chacha Chaudhary? Comment and share your memories of Chacha Chaudhary comics.

Image Source : Saad Akhtar

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Do Schools Ignore Talents?

Learning World producer, Aurora Vélez, met Sir Ken Robinson in Paris to talk about talent, innovation and educational challenges as part of Learning World on "XXI Century Education" 

We All Become Literate Story by Story

“We all become literate story by story.” I heard Carole Bloch from Nal’ibali mention this at the recent launch of the African Storybook Project (ASP). What a wonderful thought and it resonates so well with the ethos of Pratham Books and all the new platforms that we are trying to build.
Saide’s African Storybook Project is an initiative to stimulate the provision and use of openly licensed stories in local African languages for early reading. They launched the website with hundreds of stories across English and 25 African languages.

Our conversations with the team started last year when they chanced upon our books released under the creative commons licences. They wanted to use our books for their upcoming website. Ofcourse, you can we said. And months of engagement led to us being invited by the SAIDE team for the launch of their website.

Our chairperson, Ms. Suzanne Singh was the keynote speaker at the 2-day symposium and she spoke about Pratham Books' integrated approach and the alternative models to get a book in every child's hand. As expected there was a lot of interest around our model and it was very inspiring to see other people be in awe of our work and come and want to know more. We had a display table and everyone wanted to buy our books in bulk. Needless to say all the display books were lapped up.

It was very interesting to hear Judith Baker talk about how the idea of such a project came about. Judith is the founding member of 'The African Storybook 'project and also their Literacy Consultant. She said many years ago she had raised $1000 in the US to start a library in South Africa but when she went to the book shops she could not spend the money as there were no books in Zulu. So even though she had the money she could not start a library. That is when she started these conversations with like-minded people on creating a website which could create local language content for African children.

It was quite shocking to hear that a good children's book in Africa costs about Rand 100 which is approximately Rs. 700 and books are largely available only in English. This problem arises because the overall population numbers in Africa are so small that publishing in local languages is not a profitable endeavour– infact because there are fewer people talking a single dialect/ language, the local entertainment – television programming / news channels are also not available in most African languages. So the whole joy of conversing and reading in local languages is completely lost.

A large selection of books in English
Not a large variety of books in the local languages

The conference was a good mix of people from various education departments, people leading the pilot sites in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa and partners like us. If you haven't already visited their their lovely website, please do and try a shot at reading Pratham Books' very popular title, 'Where is my Bat' in Sepedi, Lumasaaba, Kiswahili, Sesotho and many more African languages. 

Since we were going such a long way we took an extra day off to visit some of the pilot sites that the African Storybook Project team had enabled. We visited a primary school in Atteridgeville. The pilot sites are focussed on training the on-ground teachers at the sites on use of the website and training them on how to conduct the storytelling sessions with the children.They equip each pilot site with a laptop, projector and wifi. This enables the teachers to use the laptop for the translations and the projector is then used for sharing the revised local language story in a classroom. We had the good fortune of seeing the teachers in action and they were such an enthusiastic bunch when it came to narrating the stories to the class. The children as expected were a delight to watch and super excited to have visitors.
A grade 1 child holding a print out of the story translated by his teacher on the African Storybook Project website

We wish our friends at the African Storybook Project all the best with their initiative and hope thousands of African children get access to lovely stories in languages that they can read and relate to. 

Closer home, Pratham Books has also been working on a similar collaborative Story Publishing Platform. Its most amazing how similar ideas are surfacing parallelely in different parts of the world. Seems like this is the need of the hour! Watch out for this space to know more about our foray into the world of digital books and platforms.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sudha Murthy and Penguin Books India Are Looking for Stories

Sudha Murthy and Penguin Books India are looking for 20 memorable & inspiring true-life tales.

If you have a real-life story that warms the heart and inspires people, or one which captures the hope, faith, kindness and joy that life is full of, all you have to do is write it interestingly and send it to us.

Penguin’s editors and Sudha Murty will shortlist and handpick the top 20. Then these will be published in a collection by Penguin Books India, edited by Sudha Murty.
Something Happened On The Way To Heaven

Contest closes 15th August 2014.

Read the terms & conditions and submit your story here (1500-3000 words)

'BOL BOSH' - Website launch

Via an email received by Namita Gokhale

Join us for the launch of a special website at the Oxford Book Store, New Delhi- N 81 Connaught Place, New Delhi on Tuesday, the 5th of August, 6:30 pm onward

Bol Bosh in Kashmiri means communication in a very endearing way, such as that of birds and children. 
Created by Asiya Zahoor, the website, Bol Bosh is an archive of aesthetically rich and culturally significant literature from the Baramulla region written in languages such as Balti, Pahari, Ladakhi, Shina and Dorgi, Gujri and Kashmiri. Apart from this, it also contains an online Kashmiri dictionary, which has been compiled with the diligent efforts of various scholars and students from Kashmir University and Baramulla Degree College.

 (Click on the image for a larger view)

Celebrate International Literacy Day with Takloo

Season 3 of One Day One Story is back. And we want you back in action! Last year, 600+ Pratham Books Champions conducted 1000+ sessions in 21 languages. This year, we want to reach many more thousands of kids. For which we need you, our zealous champions, of course!

The idea behind the campaignThe idea is to encourage children to fall in love with reading. This initiative is part of the Pratham Books' Champions program where we encourage our community of volunteers to use one book to conduct reading sessions. These sessions are conducted free of cost and mostly with children from under-served communities.

We continue to celebrate the joy of reading around International Literacy Day. The book chosen for this year is Takloo - The Little Salt Seller (written by Radhika Bapat, illustrated  by Poonam Athalye).  A delightful story about a clever boy who has got entrepreneurship in his genes, it seems! A story that is sure to engage children of all ages. This year's event is scheduled for 6th September, 2014.

We want you to take this story and use it in creative ways with kids -read it, narrate it and enact it.

Sounds interesting? Available on 6th September, 2014? Join thousands of others and do your part to make reading contagious!

So, how does this work? 
Fill in the form. A copy of the chosen book and a banner will be sent by the Pratham Books team. You are free to choose the place and time you want to conduct the session. You can also conduct other activities that you think may go with the theme of the book.

After the session, send us a short write-up or send us some photos from the event and we will feature it on the champions blog.

Note : For logisitical reasons, we can't ship books to international destinations, but we will be able to share the PDF of the book with any international volunteers.

If you have any queries, please mail champions(at)prathambooks(dot)org BEFORE filling in the form.

You can read champion stories at :

Frequently Asked Questions
1. Will the book be sent for free or does the champion pay for it?Answer : The book is sent to you for free.

2. Does the champion have to find the venue?Answer : Yes. Identify places where you can conduct this event in your city - A government school, an NGO, a library, a bookstore, a park, a train, your building...any place with regular kids footfalls. Approach the organization and explain the concept to them. Most of them will be happy to host you.

3. This is the first time I am conducting an event. How should I prepare for it?Answer : Read the book a few times. If you are reading to a younger age-group, see how you can tell the story without actually reading the book (to retain their attention). Think of activities that you can do after the storytelling to engage the children (example : can the story take on a skit form, can the story be a way to talk about an important issue, etc).

4. Can i conduct multiple events?Answer : Definitely!!! The aim is to reach as many kids as possible. We've had champions who've conducted 2-3 sessions on the main day and then gone on to conduct sessions on other days too.

5. Should I document the event?Answer : We expect all our Champions to send us some documentation about the event conducted by them. You can send us mini videos, pictures or a write-up on the event which will tell us [and the whole wide world] on the “real impact” made. 

(P.S- all the images in this post are of actual storytelling sessions conducted by our awesome champions).