Thursday, April 30, 2015

On Books About Farmers and Farming

Bijal Vachharajani writes about why it is important for children to read books about farmers. One of our books (The First Farmers) also gets a mention in her article.

Via daily O

Cocooned in our urban bubble, few of us think about the people who grow our food, except to complain when the prices of onions become exorbitant. In schools, for instance, children continue to learn that “Old MacDonald had a farm” and all was hunky-dory there. The one nod we give to “indianising” it, is by changing the children’s song to “Lakshman Chacha had a farm, dhinak dhinak dhindha.” Unfortunately, Lakshman Chacha most probably lost his hens to a deadly disease and they didn’t “cheep cheep” happily because they were cooped up in a factory farm.

There are ways of sharing stories, real and fictional, about the people who grow our food and our clothes. Especially now, it’s critical that these stories go beyond outdated nursery rhymes, especially for children, who are naturally curious about where their food comes from. 

Apart from the Blyton books, there are plenty of classic and contemporary children’s books set in and around farms. There’s The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff and Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, to begin with. Michael Morpurgo writes delightful books about nature and rural life. Mudpuddle Farm is full of charming stories about animals who live there while Farm Boy is a poignant read for young adults. And Morpurgo also has a Farms for City Children charity where he introduces children to farm life first hand.

Last year, when I asked Sedam Bheem Bai, a Fairtrade-certified farmer, if she would like to pass on a message to the people who wear her cotton, “We want them to be aware of the life we live.” Closer home, Pratham, Tulika and Tara have published picture books on farming, but mainly for younger audiences. The First Farmers is a Warli folktale which has been retold by Benita Sen and illustrated by Rajiv Verma ‘Banjara’ for Pratham Books. It retells the story of how the first farmers took on the task of greening a very brown earth. You can read the book here. Then there’s Tara Books’ Do! By Ramesh and Rasika Hengai, Shantaram and Kusum Dhadpe and Gita Wolf, which is a pictorial rendition of tribal community life for young children. Unfortunately, few books for young adults tackle the subject in India.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shilpa's Chronicles at Pratham Books

Shilpa Gopal has been interning with us since the end of November and has been helping the digital team immensely as they prepare to launch two platforms this year. Shilpa writes about her experience at Pratham Books :

I arrived at Pratham Books through an unusual route. I graduated with a degree in architecture as of May 2014. On a whim, I decided to volunteer full time at an educational NGO. On completion of my stint as a volunteer there, I applied and got selected for the Teach for India Fellowship which I will be joining in May 2015.

To make the most of the next few months, I decided to work with a promising organization with the intent of gaining some valuable experience. Thus, Pratham Books happened. It has been an exhilarating six month journey filled with learning, fun, and laughter.

The moment I walked into the doors of the Pratham Books office, my apprehensions, anxiety and nervousness melted away almost instantly. The cosy office with its warm yellow interiors, huge balconies and creative wall art made me feel at home right from the start.

I am delighted to have joined the office at a time when there were interesting new projects in the pipeline. I worked with the Digital Team for the next few months. I hit it off instantly with my zany, quirky and extremely lovely bunch of co-workers, who also became my constant companions and good friends in the process.

Amidst testing, phone calls, emails, conference meetings, blog posts, book fairs, PDF designs, excel sheets and drooling at wonderfully imaginative entries for the 6FrameStoryChallenge, we managed to find time for treasure hunts with Akshara Foundation, birthday celebrations, snack breaks, and team lunches (a particularly memorable one of Karthik vainly trying to gulp down an “interesting” dish while the rest of us looked on in mingled hilarity and admiration comes to mind).

To all the folks at PB- goodbye everyone! Thank you for all the laughs, the fantastic memories, an amazing farewell, and for this great learning experience.

A special thanks to the folks at the Digital Team is in order- for their endless patience with my never-ending questions, for giving me a free rein and for being wonderful to work with! I’m so proud to have been an integral part of StoryWeaver, 6FrameStoryChallenge and fundraising platform.

The cheery office culture at PB always kept me in high spirits throughout my time here. I shall swing by the office the next time I’m in town for more PBee madness and for more puliyogare. Here’s to more books- and more insanity! 

A Remixed Story Hits the Stage

A tweet from Modern Troubadours had us giggling when we saw that humans aren't the only ones who are excited to participate in the Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest
What made us even happier is when we received another tweet a few days later telling us that the story they remixed for the contest has already hit the stage!

Sarah Nichols from Modern Troubadours tells us more about why she participated in the contest and how her story made its way to the stage.

I found out about the contest via twitter - I like following people who are linked to storytelling, and I came across the Pratham Books page. I liked the page and their philosophy. That's when I also discovered the contest, and I immediately liked the illustrations and the idea of creating a story around those images. The minute I saw them, ideas and stories were running through my brain! 

I am the founder of the "Modern Troubadours" - a storytelling and music group. Our philosophy is about connecting people through music and stories, and learning about each other's cultures and backgrounds. We give workshops and performances around the world. We had a performance in The Hague in April, and we try to make every performance unique and push ourselves to use new stories and create new music. We also love getting the audience involved and actively participate in the show. 

That's when I decided to use the story I had just written for the contest. I printed out the illustrations on A3 papers, and showed them to the audience while telling the story. And when we reached the part of the dance (in the story), we gave little percussion instruments (drums, maracas, etc) to the audience, and made them play and sing with us. It really brought the story to life! It was such a joy to see the people's faces light up as they played and chanted with us. 

The illustrations also helped a lot - every time I turned the page to the next one, I could see the audience studying the picture and really enjoying the experience. This performance was for adults, but I can also imagine it working really nicely with children. 

I would definitely want to repeat this experience in future performances. I am also thinking of using it with my students (I teach music in a primary school) - creating the story together (or using the one I have already written), and then putting music to it.

I find these types of projects really exciting - combining different arts, with storytelling, writing, drawing and music - and collaborating with people from around the world, exchanging ideas and experiences. It is exactly what the Modern Troubadours is about and it is wonderful to be able to share all of this, and grow and get inspired in the process. 

Some photos from the rehearsals :

You can follow the work done by The Modern Troubadours on Facebook and Twitter

Intern with the German Book Office (New Delhi) this Summer

Our friends at German Book Office (GBO, New Delhi) are looking for someone to assist them on a short term project.

Via an email from GBO, New Delhi

Event Marketing Internship

Are you a go getter and looking to gain some experience in the creative industry? Can you take initiative, roll up your sleeves and fix issues? Does children’s content and making international connections excite you?

Then come and intern with us at German Book Office New Delhi. Contact: Saloni Grover

The full time position is open from 15th May 2015 to 31st August 2015. We offer a handsome stipend and a lot of fun!
Your tasks would include:
  • Create and maintain lists, responses, and a FAQ database
  • Responding to queries in assistance to the Sales & Marketing Manager
  • Assist in the distribution of marketing materials
  • Assist with promotion of marketing offers
  • Sales driven telecommunication and tailor each call to audience needs
  • Perform analysis of marketing and sales data
  • Assisting in execution of trade events organized by GBO New Delhi
What you have to offer:
  • Graduate in any discipline
  • Excellent communication skills: Speaks clearly and persuasively in positive or negative situations; listens attentively and seeks clarification; Responds well to questions; Ability to draft error-free creatives
  • Adept at Social Media promotion
  • Demonstrated sales and marketing skills
  • Communicative and social competence
  • Independent and solution-driven way of working as well as creativity
  • Proficient in MS Word, MS Excel, MS Outlook, Power Point
  • Expertise with design tools is an added plus

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pratham Books at India Public Libraries Conference 2015

Pratham Books was a participant at this year's India Public Libraries Conference (IPLC) held between 17th-19th  March 2015. Purvi Shah who was a speaker at the conference tells us more ...

Bringing the charm back to libraries. IPLC 2015

My first memory of a library goes back to my school where we had a big library full of aluminium cupboards and tons and tons of books. Every Friday we were allowed to take one book home. This was when I was introduced to the wonderful world of libraries and reading.

I also remember having to be very quiet and whispering as “Silence Please” placards seemed to dominate all the libraries from my first one to the one I visited during my MBA days. Therefore, the IPLC conference that I recently attended was a pleasant shock.

The recurring theme for almost all the sessions was “how do we make the library more exciting, more relevant for today's generation, can there be just one quiet corner in the library and the rest of it be seen as meeting public places. It was electrifying to hear some radical thinking around this.

There were many international speakers who spoke about how they transformed libraries in their countries and all of them said that libraries need to be seen as a place to socialize not just borrow books. Modern libraries should have training centres, digital libraries, places for meetings, small conferences, concerts, a children's corner etc. If you do have the time you can find some interesting ideas by Marie Ostergard ( Denmark), Niel MacInnes ( Manchester) and closer home, Arati Desai shared her experiences with the Nehru centre, Mumbai and Shashank Bhargava, an architect spoke about his experiences in re­designing a library in Sonepat.

I was on the panel for “E­-content and ICT enabled services for the future”. With me were Sarah Jaffe of Worldreader, Dr. C Kathiresan of Vikaspedia portal. Each had an interesting story to tell and you can hear it here.

Pratham Books was invited to speak about its upcoming open source story publishing platform “StoryWeaver”. StoryWeaver will give free access to a library of digitized stories and illustrations. These will be released under open licenses and will be Unicode complaint. The stories and illustrations will become a starting point for content creators to write new stories, upload illustrations, do real­time translations, convert content into digital formats, adapt readily available content to make it locally relevant. StoryWeaver could be every child's digital library.

You can watch Purvi's presentation below :
(P.S - If you are wondering why Purvi exclaims - "Nooo, not yet" in the middle of her presentation, it is only because the sessions were running late and everyone had to rush through their presentations because of time constraints.)

About IPLC 2015:

To discuss how public libraries can be regained as public places for seeking information and knowledge, for the first time in India, an international conference ­cum ­workshop on public libraries was organised.

The meet was a part of a comprehensive initiative launched by non­profit Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and Developing Library Network (DELNET) with support from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to strengthen and upgrade public libraries in India along with a host of public library stakeholders and partners. The IPLC 2015 was inaugurated by Dr. Jitendra Singh, Hon’ble Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India. The recommendations submitted after the conference can be founds here.

You can view all the speaker presentations here.
Additional reading : Collection of case studies (of libraries) from across India

How Priya Narayanan's Story Travelled After Winning the RRR Contest

One year, we skipped hosting our annual Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest. We found out about the popularity of the contest only when people mailed us to ask why we weren't hosting it. Another way we knew that people liked participating is when we see familiar names popping up on our inbox with new stories. Priya Narayanan is one of those people. Priya's story 'The Jungle Cinema' was also one of the winning stories of the RRR Contest held in 2012. Priya tells us more about the life of her story : 

Being a children’s author, writing stories for children is always a pleasure. I love the way kids react to my stories and add their own nuances to make each story their own. While I encourage my own children to look at stories in a different perspective and try to take them forward with a new interpretation, I too try to push my own imagination by trying to take a story beyond what the original author conceived it to be. And the Retell, Remix, Rejoice contest lets me do just this, adding to it greatly with an assortment of wonderful illustrations that call out to you!

I first took part in the contest in 2012 on a whim, mainly as an exercise to deal with a stubborn writer’s block. I had recently embarked on my journey as a children’s author and was not prepared for such a mind-numbing situation. Once I looked at the illustrations on the Pratham Books blog, hundreds of stories started forming in my mind, and I was truly overwhelmed with what a few great illustrations could do to the constitution of one’s brain! And just imagine my surprise when I found that my story ‘The Jungle Cinema’ actually won the first place!!

It was truly humbling when I received a printed copy of my book soon after. My first reaction was to print out as many copies of the book and distribute it amongst children in my society, kids’ schools and the neighbourhood library – all for free, much inspired by Pratham Books' conviction to offer children cheap and easy access to books. I have since included the book in most of my school visits as an author and have received memorable reactions from the children in return.

My success with The Jungle Cinema also inspired my daughter to participate in the 2014 edition of the Retell, Remix, Rejoice contest. She wrote the story ‘Naman and the Dinosaur Eggs’ that received a shout out for the unique take on the illustrations. And that is precisely what I love about this contest. It opens up your mind to the immense amount of possibilities that just a few illustrations can offer and while you feel like a juggler, playing around with 8 to 10 illustrations, whether you put up a great show or not depends upon how well you balance them.

Participate in the 2015 edition of the Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest.

Plans for a Book Town in Maharashtra

Maharashtra is planning to promote a new “town of books”. Sandeep A Ashar shares more about this proposal on The Indian Express.

At a time when traditional book stores are shutting down in the face of competition from online stores, Maharashtra is planning to promote a new “town of books” on the lines of the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, famous for its book stores and literary festivals.

The proposed book town in the state will be close to popular tourist destinations such as Mahabaleshwar or Ganapatipule.

The proposal, currently in its early stages, envisages identifying a town that can boast of bookstores with a vast and rich literary collection and which can attract both writers and readers.

State’s Cultural Affairs Minister Vinod Tawde, who had recently visited the Welsh town, said that for branding this initiative, the state government would host a week-long literary festival every summer. “We will invite famous authors and novelists to interact with children and lovers of literary works,” he said during a discussion in the state Assembly.

Tawde said the book town would have a minimum collection of 5 lakh books, including works of international authors.

Literary tourism has caught up in a big way in European countries.

How children learn to's all in the head, really

How children learn to read does depend on their socioeconomic surroundings, and other factors. But mostly, it is about a region in the brain called the 'white matter' says researcher Fumiko Hoeft, a cognitive neuroscientist and psychiatrist currently at the University of California, San Francisco.

The home environment, the school environment, the kind of reading instruction they’re getting between kindergarten and grade 3 is what decides how this white matter develops, she says.

“That might mean that, in the earliest stages, we need to pay attention to that executive function,” she says. “We need to start not just giving flashcards, letters, and sounds the way we now do, but, especially if we know someone might be a problem reader, look at these other skills, at cognitive control and self-regulation.” Being a better reader, in other words, may ultimately involve instruction around things other than reading.
You may read the entire article here

Monday, April 27, 2015

New Books on the Pratham Books Mobile App

For World Book Day, we released our entire batch of new titles online - for you to read and download for FREE! Now most of the books (except the bilinguals) are up on the Pratham Books Mobile App

8 titles X 6 languages = 48 books
Read on the go with the Pratham Books Mobile App

Don't have the Pratham Books Mobile Reading App on your phone yet? 

1. Follow this link to download the app or look up Pratham Books on the Google Playstore. 
2. Register with your child’s age, your name and email id. 
3. Select your child’s Reading Level and preferred language to start reading.

You can also read/download our latest books here
If you want to buy these books, they are currently on a discount too (for a limited period only).

Urdu Authors' Workshop

A few weeks ago, we held an Urdu Authors' Workshop in Delhi. The workshop was featured by The Hindu

This past weekend, at a workshop-cum-brainstorming session organised by Pratham Books, 22 Urdu authors, academics and playwrights came up with stories for children based on universal but out-of-the-box themes. The non-profit publisher, which aims to give children access to books written in their mother tongue, organised the workshop for Urdu writers.

Poonam Girdhani, who manages Pratham Books’ Urdu programme, said the aim of the workshop was to encourage writing for children and improving the themes of such writing.

“Among the top themes in children’s literature are kings and queens, detectives or spies, and animals. Plus, all stories end with a message about what an ideal girl or boy should be like,” said Ms. Girdhani.

The participants questioned the need for that kind of message. Urdu research scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia Saleha Siddique said stories should make children think and not tell them about good morals.

“We keep telling children that good girls and boys do not do this or that. Why don’t we let them think and understand for themselves,” she asked.

An average of two stories was written by the participants and some may be published by Pratham Books.

“Many children are not autonomous readers. We want them to pick up a book and be interested in the story,” she said.

From stories about everyday objects like the toothbrush to a more heavy subject matter that is the environment, the workshop, held at the Urdu Academy here, left the authors pleased.

One of Ms. Siddique’s stories was about a girl who liked to pluck leaves and flowers, while her mother liked gardening. On a hot day, she takes shelter under a tree and is forced to think about her actions. The next day, her mother finds her watering the household plants.

Three More Days to Send in Your Stories for the Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest

We are drawing close to the end of our annual Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest. If you've not yet started writing your story, you need to start NOW! Our inbox is full of stories and some remixers are already taking their stories out into the world and sharing them through storytelling events (more on that soon). 

Head over to our first post on the contest to see how you can participate.

Mala Ashok, a remixer who has participated in a few of our RRR contests shares why she continues to participate and also has a little message for others :
I love entering the "Retell, Remix, Rejoice," contests - this is the third year I'm entering it. Each year there is a theme and I make sure I use the theme as a guide for writing my story. In the year 2013 I repeatedly brought in "trees" in my story "no school today." This year I've been more subtle about using the theme "wishes," in my story. Whatever I write, I have a great time creating the story and later reading the prize-winning story. Do write a story,  you too will have a lot of fun!
She also adds,
"If I remember the Mathematics I learned eons ago, you can select 10 pictures from 30 in 100,15,005 ways - that's right over one lakh ways! So, what are you waiting for just pick 10 of those pics and write a story about them. Go on, I did and I may even write another one; so there's 100,15,003 remaining ways for you to select the pics and write a story. Believe me it's a lot of fun!!"
We hope you take Mala's advice and we get to see the fabulous stories you can come up with.

Read Mala's stories from the previous years :
No School Today
The Tenth Wicket

Friday, April 24, 2015

Buy 'Books by Weight' at the Book Bonanza

If you live in Bengaluru, you may want to check out the 'Book Bonanza' happening in Jayanagar. We tweeted about it yesterday and then heard from someone who had seen the tweet :

We haven't been there yet, but after this - we may just head there over the weekend too.

Via The Hindu

The ongoing book fair at ‘Book Bonanza’ at Jayanagar 4th block consists of nearly 10-lakh book inventory sold by weight! “This has been our forte to reach connoisseurs, students and the poor to make even ‘classics’ affordable. Our book fair has the ‘books by weight’ offer with a better price-slash as we are moving to a new building,” says Tipu Waseem Pasha, owner of the book store.
The 4000 sq feet store on 11th Main Road has loads of books piled up with both new and used ones, without a trace of the old smell or discolouration seen in them. Since the collection, mostly by foreign authors, is too varied and dense, they are not segregated under subjects and themes. So the only way out is to have sufficient time to browse through the many halls of the stacked wonder and take old books at Rs. 150 a kg! New books are given away with an 80 per cent slash in prices. So take away a Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon or even Rowling’s Harry Potter for a measly Rs. 200, Kane & Abel’s ‘Honour Among Thieves’ for Rs. 200, Robin Cook’s ‘Fever & Brain’ for Rs. 200 or Stephenie’s Twilight series for as little as Rs. 300 for all the 4 volumes! “These books cost nearly 8 to 10 pounds, but since we have people to source used-and-spotless-books from the U.K and the U.S., we are able to offer at street-sellers price,” says Mr. Pasha.

Book Bonanza’s collection is mind-boggling. The Readers Digest series, DK publications, King-Fisher publications, nearly 100 varieties of dictionaries, medical books from across the world, psychology, history, math, arts & crafts and books for special children that attract most school and college students. Pop-up Scholastic publications and western music books for children and books in nearly 10 international languages are amongst the collection. “We even source new launch foreign books for connoisseurs, we allow exchange or swap of books too,” says Mr. Pasha.

The book fair is all set to go on for three weeks more due to public demand, says Mr. Pasha. Call 97413 25687 or

Read the entire article.

If you head to the fair, tell us what you thought of it and if you found some interesting books.

Marching Back to School with Mala Kumar

Friday the 17th of April, 2015 brought the Bookalore team to Army Public School for a fun activity-filled morning. Amidst shouts, squeals and peals of laughter, Mala Kumar conducted a storytelling session with the little, high-energy second graders. The junior library rang loudly with "I want that one!", "I want this one!" and "On your mark, get set, go!!!"

I time-travelled back to school and fondly remembered the rare storytelling sessions that we used to have. To see the enthusiasm and joy on the children's faces when Mala played the part of an angry Anil was a treat indeed. The children could relate with Anil and were very curious to know what Anil's Amma wanted. Why did "No, no, not that one!" become "I want that one!"? Multiple guesses were made at the answer (some funny :)) and when the right one was revealed shouts of "I knew it! I knew it!" could be heard.

A fun Friday morning left us in high spirits throughout the day. Mala's awesome ability of interacting with children and her transformation into angry little Anil brought the session alive. We got what we wanted - to spread the joy of reading and to colour the young minds with stories. :)

And just in case you are wondering what Anil wanted, you can read Mala Kumar's story for free here.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Celebrate World Book Day with New Stories

Today is World Book Day or World Book and Copyright Day a event organized by (UNESCO) to promote reading, publishing and copyright every year on April 23rd. For us at Pratham Books, this day holds a special place in our hearts as it combines everything that we stand for.

It’s about the joy of reading good books, the joy of publishing good books put together by our talented authors, illustrators and translators and the joy of sharing these good books with a large audience, thanks to the Creative Commons license our books carry.

Our journey with Creative Commons started in 2008, when we realized that the way to make our story books travel to far off places was to free them from the limitations that copyright brings with it. The gap of good reading material for Indian children was wide, and we wanted to fill the gap as fast as we could. We got our wheels via the Creative Commons license which allowed our stories to be translated and adapted multiple times, taking its reach further than we had imagined.

And then came 'Muchkund and his Sweet Tooth', our first book to be launched digitally and made accessible for reading even before it was printed, thanks to the CC license. Our beloved Sringeri Srinivas made an appearance on ‘Too Much Noise’ digitally and is soon going to be available in print. After that, we printed the entire Adikahani series under a CC license. 

In all these years, our belief in the power of ‘Openness’ and ‘Sharing’, through Creative Commons has only increased. Our extended family of Authors and Illustrators are recognizing it too and are getting on board the CC bandwagon. For the first time since we've adopted these licenses, we've printed an entire batch of new titles under a CC-BY license. 

On World Book Day today, we couldn’t think of a better gift for our readers than this:  All our latest 10 books (in 6 languages) are available for reading and downloading on Scribd. 

That's 58 new books for you to read and share! 

Not only that, you can get your very own copies at a discounted price* too. Because we know you love books as much as we do.

Celebrate WORLD BOOK DAY today by curling up with a beloved book. Whether it’s a print-copy or a bright glow of a device – Books are friends we all need.

All the books (except the bilinguals) are also available on the Pratham Books Mobile App. So, you can now read on the go :)

*The discounted packs are available for a fixed period of time only.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Duckbill Workshop : Writing for Children

The folks at Duckbill are conducting a workshop on writing for children. If you've been following the books being published by Duckbill, you'll notice that some of the authors were participants of the previous workshop held by them. So, if you've been toying with the idea of sharing your stories with the world, this workshop may be of interest :

Via Duckbill

Duckbill is happy to announce the next in their series of workshops on writing for children.

Duration: Friday, July 17 to Sunday, July 19 2015, 9.00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m

Number of participants: Maximum 20

Conducted by: Anushka Ravishankar and Sayoni Basu

Scope of the Workshop:

Fiction for children; the target ages can be anything between 7 and 14 years. We are not, therefore, working with picture books or YA books. The workshop is structured to give an overview of contemporary children’s literature, genres and trends, and an understanding of the craft of writing for children. The goal is to enable each participant to explore the kind of stories that they want to tell. The participants have the option of submitting a synopsis and/or a few chapters of a book they want to write. We will give one-on-one feedback on each submission.

Find more details about the workshop here.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Reading Picture Books And More

If you follow the group called The Reading Raccoons on Facebook (managed by Tanu Shree Singh), you definitely know that Tanu is a wealth of information - on books, authors, reading and more. We get a glimpse into her world of books through this post on RivoKids :

We read books. Secretly. No, I am not talking about the Fifty Shades of Grey. We read picture books and enjoy them immensely. They are teenagers and there is a limit to which you can challenge the teen boundary of cool and not cool. Reading picture books falls on the opposite side of the boundary. 

 I have two bookworms at home that are a perfect example. There has never been a transition; there only have been additions. So our shelves are full of picture books, beginner chapter books, middle reads, and YA, absolutely not in that order.

Picture books are not just a rung of a reading ladder. There are some excellent ones out there which are sufficiently layered to be enjoyed by all ages. The boys loved chewing on the board books when they were babies. As toddlers, the pictures told a different story each time they turned the pages. The book also became a weapon in case of a disagreement. By the time they were in first grade, they started sticking their chest out in a bid to look older. The picture books started gathering dust. 'It is for babies!' I was told. I continued picking the ones that I fell in love with anyway.

In the last few years, they have come back. They read everything, from blood curdling YA reads like 'The Bunker Diary' to their all time favourite 'Where the Wild Things Are.' The only difference is, we have the pact. They are not ready enough to go against the tide and declare to the peers that they love picture books. So I do not egg them to come out of the closet. I sit there with them and ogle at the goodness between the pages. We discuss how the illustrations transform from the beginning to the end. They point out the nuances they spot, the character that appears on each page despite her not being a part of the narrative yet, the way the text swirls around, and the tiny poster they noticed in the background when they read the book n+1th time. These books are a journey for them - with each extra mile, they discover something new.

Deadline Extended : Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest

We looked here and we looked there,
we looked in our inbox and we can't find it anywhere. 
Where are those stories hidden?
They are just waiting to be written!
Oh dear parent, teacher, adult and child...
let your imagination go WILD!

No time to write you say,
the deadline is extended, the last day to submit, now far away..

30th April... the new deadline for the Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest,
Lets get together and make this a fun story fest!

*Click here for more details on the contest
*Join the event page for updates, news and more

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kidsstoppress Recommends ...

... our ten new books to 'freshen up story time this summer'

Via Kidsstoppress

If you are trying to add some zing to that Bookshelf then here are 10 books from Pratham Books that will do just that. Pratham Books is a non profit publisher that produces children’s books in Indian languages and they have published 250 titles in over 11 languages. I absolutely love reading to the kids in all languages and here is how you can do the same. With simple language and close to real life illustrations, these books will give kids a great reading experience.

Grandma’s glasses (Rs 30): Grandma loses her glasses all the time, now she needs a smart detective to find them for her. Suitable for Level 2. This one is an absolute favourite with the kids and could relate to the story completely.

Veeru Goes to the CircusNo Smiles Today

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mala Kumar at Bookalore's Friday Book Feast

Our editor and author Mala Kumar is conducting a session at Bookalore's Friday Book Feast (17th April, 2015). Mala will be reading from her new book : 'I want that one'. This session is only for parents, teachers and kids of Army Public School. However, do follow the Bookalore page for updates on future sessions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Chennai Puthaga Sangamam

Lots to look forward at this year's Chennai Puthaga Sangamam. Are you heading there?

This year at the third Chennai Puthaga Sangamam’s book exhibition, bookworms can look forward to browsing through books in over 155 stalls. The fair organised by Periyar Self Respect Propaganda Institution along with National Book Trust, New Delhi, will be held at the YMCA Royapettah from April 13 to 23. 
The stalls on display will have books in various genres ranging from literature, children’s books, sports to economics, fiction and self development. The stockpile of over 1,00,000 to 2,00,000 books will also comprise works on various topics like history, political sciences and science, which have been popular in the previous editions, said Olivannan, one of the organisers. 
“This year, we have also organised a section for children called ‘Fun, Love and Compete’, where they will get to learn and take part in brain games, soap carving, mimicry and paper quilling,” added Olivannan.

The event will also see prominent people from the literary world including Kumari Anathan, Pazha Karuppiah, and director Seenu Ramasamy delivering talks everyday at 7 pm. 
An authors corner workshop will be conducted by author Manushyaputhiran between 4.30 pm and 6 pm every day.

You can find our books at the Eureka Book Stall (Stall no.68).

Looks like our friends are already heading to the fair to get our books. Leave a comment to let us know which books you look forward to buying at the fair.

Book Review : "My Fish!" "No, My Fish!"

Asha Nehemiah reviews our book "My Fish!" "No, My Fish!" (written by Suraj J Menon and illustrated by Soumya Menon) on Goodbooks.

With a catchy title comprising the two lines of dialogue that capture the core argument in the book, “My Fish!” “No, My Fish!” is perfect both for reading-aloud and for children beginning to read with help. The language, the length of the sentences, the placing of the text, the humorous story – all work together to make the book appealing and inviting to an early reader. 

Kicchu and Choru, the two best friends in Suraj J Menon’s story, meet one morning when they are heading to the pond to catch fish. On the way, they meet another friend Munia and disregard her plea to leave the fish alone. The three children spot three fish swimming in the pond and are, naturally, very excited when they think they have caught the biggest of them.

The illustrations by Soumya Menon capture the light-hearted fun of the story wonderfully. The mischievous expressions on Kicchu and Choru’s faces and their ignominious fall are extremely entertaining. Little details of the cat, the crab and the snake watching the proceedings with different degrees of interest add a quirky dimension to the book. 
“My Fish!” “No, My Fish!” is a winning combination of a funny story supported by engaging visuals.
Read the entire review.

On Children's Publishing in India, the Crossword Book Award List and More

In her article 'The kids are all right', Nilanjana S Roy talks about children's publishing, the books shortlisted for the Crossword Book Awards and building bridges to readers.

Via Business Standard

Children also need the right kind of books, by which I mean chiefly the kind that doesn't preach or talk down to them. They sense when you're sneaking a moral into a story, or trying to sell fiction that is a lesson in disguise, and their b******t detectors are as sharp as ours were as kids. "I don't like books that talk to me like Teacher Madam," I was told once by a bright 10-year-old who was volunteering with his school's fledgling library programme.

That's why this year's Crossword Books Award list in children's writing is a triumph: because none of the five books on the shortlist are earnest, preachy or are moral science lessons in disguise. 

None of Pratham Books's or Tulika Books's titles are on the shortlist this year, but these two publishing houses have also changed the way Indians read. Pratham is a non-governmental organisation that publishes books in several languages - English, Hindi, Kannada, for example - and also publishes story cards, priced at Rs 4 in an attempt to take stories to the millions of children who might not be able to afford an English-language story book.

They invite Champions to read a story every year on Literacy Day to children from under-represented schools: they had 250 champions in 2011, which grew to 1,300 by 2014.

Twenty years ago, the complaint about Indian children's books in English was that you didn't have good production or innovative local storytellers and writers. You have both today; what's missing is the bridges that connect publishers with readers.

"Why I Participate in the Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest Every Year" - Joysree Das

Every year at this time, our inbox starts filling up with stories that come in for the Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest. One year we decided not to host the contest (for reasons we don't seem to remember now) and got emails asking us when the contest would be launched. That made us realize that our community did look forward to this annual contest.

Every year, we also spot a few regulars who've been participating in the contest. One of those regulars is Joysree Das who has been sending us stories for 4 years. I asked Joysree what made her send in stories year after year and this is what she had to say:
In fact this idea is unique. So many beautiful illustrations to choose from. They melt in your head and lead you gently to story ideas till a new story is formed. The creative process is Really Rejoicing. I feel close to Pratham Books because the institution really seems to care for children. The picture books are so simple and genuine and address the needs of under privileged children who cannot afford to buy the highly priced books. Surrounded by consumerism and tough competition, Pratham Books is altogether a different world. That is why I like to participate in its programs. My favorite is Mr.Pinkball. I still remember him.   
This was the first story Joysree sent in to us in 2011. Read on to find out what happens in her story :

If you've been inspired by Joysree's reasons, jump right in to weave your own stories through the Retell, Remix and Rejoice contest.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Book Review : Freedom Run

Sreedevi Kolady reviews our book 'Freedom Run' (written by Subhadra Sen Gupta, illustrated by Tapas Guha) on her blog :

Freedom Run is the story of three young children who have been forced into child labour to pay off the debts incurred by adults in their families. They spend their days weaving carpets for their barbarous malik, never daring to hope for a better life. They are frequently beaten up till they bleed, and many of them receive no pay for the hours of backbreaking work they do.

But despite the horrors portrayed in this book, Freedom Run is at its heart a tale of hope and courage. How the children contrive to escape from the brutal malik forms the crux of the plot. And the ending is all the more powerful for the horrors shown earlier.

It is intended for older children who can understand the many layers of the plot,and appreciate how beautifully the images play up the powerful text. I grabbed Freedom Run because I have never yet come across another comic for children that is as gritty and hard hitting as this.

The story holds you in a tight grip from beginning to end, despairing for the children and rooting for them in the end. I found it noteworthy that the book begins with the senior children imitating the harsh ways of their malik, but the intrinsic goodness of children finally takes over. While the language is taut, it is the evocative images by Tapas Guha that add layers of complexity to this slim volume. The warp of the wool that mirrors the bars on the window, the way adults often seem to tower over the children, the palpable joy on a child's face as his brother comes looking for him.... all these and more add subtle nuances that make this story so thrilling.

This is no candy fluff story. But it is the reality of hundreds of children around the country, and it is an important story that needs to be told.

Read the entire post here.

Giving Life to Stories

Our Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest is on. For all these years, one of the important components of the contest was that the stories sourced would be under Creative Commons licenses. This means that anyone is free to use the stories, remix the stories, etc. In this post, Vani Balaraman tells us how she gave life to her stories even after the contest ended.

Vani has been a Pratham Books Champion from the beginning of the #PBChamps programme. Apart from being a champion, she is also an active participant of our Retell, Remix and Rejoice contest. We've already received 5 stories from Vani for this year's contest.

Last year, Vani created multiple stories too and she also decided to conduct a storytelling session based on one of her stories. She tells us more ...
When India and the world erupted with joy with the success of Mangalyaan in Oct 2014, I scheduled my story session in Atta galatta titled 'Mangalyaan' and read from my story 'The Magical Scooter'. This was a story I had remixed for the 2014 edition of the Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest . My story had naughty boys curious about science. Does their magical scooter help them achieve their dream of visiting the planets? Kids listened to the story and there was an associated craft too where kids cut, pasted and drew rockets.

While my stories did not win the contest, my real winning came when a good friend (who also happens to be a book enthusiast) gifted my son a printed copy of 'The Magical Scooter' for his 5th birthday. My son and I could not have asked for a better gift.

Vani goes on to tell us another interesting opportunity that came up with her stories :
When Aarohi Life education was celebrating tall tales and was seeking entries, I shared some of the stories I wrote for the contest. Aarohi found my story 'Where is my smile' very amusing and sent me an invitation to visit their campus to share stories with kids 
While her full time job as a software engineer and mom has kept Vani busy, Vani hopes to visit Aarohi campus this year with more stories - stories which she has penned so passionately for the Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest 2015!

(When Vani is not battling customers and issues in the IT industry, she dresses up as a book devouring monster and visits library and book launches in Bangalore. She also runs a facebook page CuddlesandReads where she shares her passion for stories and writing.)

View more images from Vani's storytelling session here

Read Vani's stories from the 2014 edition of the Retell, Remix and Rejoice contest :

Find out how you can participate in this year's Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Designing Adikahani : Tradition with a Twist

For this year's Retell, Remix and Rejoice contest, we decided to use illustrations from the different books that we created to make up the Adikahani series. Some of you may have seen the behind-the-scenes pictures we shared from the workshops we held to produce these books. In this post, Gopika Chowfla tells us more about what happened at the illustrator workshops. 

When Manisha asked me if I would work with Pratham Books on a project to develop children’s books in tribal languages, I was really excited and instantly agreed. I have to admit, at first I assumed it was just an assignment to illustrate stories. But after discussing what the broader concept of this project as Manisha envisioned it was, it became so much more interesting and challenging.

The idea to hold workshops for writers and storytellers to collect tribal tales, poems and stories in local dialects was brilliant. When it came to design and illustration, we had many discussions about how to find a visual language that could use the traditional tribal imagery and art of the region. The fact is that kids, even in the remotest part of Odisha, are watching cartoon network and more familiar with Disney characters, Chhota Bheem and Pokemon than with the iconic native visual aesthetic that is fast disappearing from their lives. So the challenge was to find a way to make the books vibrant and engaging using an idiom that may be fading, but still familiar. 

The Saura painting style uses geometric forms, usually as single colour silhouettes. The paintings, often made on the walls of their huts have ritualistic importance and are imbued with symbolism. The challenging part was to use the traditional forms but build them into to characters with some identity and to make the narrative unfold with every page. I picked up some of the typical motifs - of people, dogs, trees and other elements and put them on a page to construct the scene of the story. I realised that there needed to be some intervention - like eyes and expressions - to animate the characters and make them distinct from each other. (A bad wolf needed to look different from a good wolf!) After doing the basic groundwork and some preliminary sketches, we decided that the workshop format would be the best way to achieve the results we want. Bhubaneshwar was a convenient meeting point and over a couple of days I worked with 4-5 artists to try and put the illustrations in place. The first day was less than spectacular and it seemed like what I was trying to do was far-fetched and needed more time for us to understand each other and to get the kind of drawings I was expecting. Some of the artists were not tribal and were trained in the classical art style which they found hard to move away from. The tribal artists have become so practiced in repeating the Saura motifs for commercial craft objects that it took some time to get them to shift into a different gear. But the learning was both ways and miraculously on the second day, 2 of our artists were getting totally into the spirit of the enterprise and creating fabulous material! What I loved was the confidence and ease with which they just put that black sketch pen on a clean white paper with not even the faintest pencil line as a guide and just fearlessly drew, as if the images were pouring out of their hand from some inner source!

All the drawings were done in black ink on white paper. These were scanned and sent to me in Delhi where Kalyani, a talented illustrator in my studio, painstakingly filled them with colour and designed each page to fit on the size prescribed for the book. We picked up borders and decorative elements from the original drawings to embellish the text pages. All of it was definitely a labour of love and all I can say is that learning from this experience we would love to do more books like these.

(Gopika Chowfla runs a very successful design studio in Delhi. She is a senior design professional with numerous prestigious campaigns to her credit and has mentored a host of young designers. She is always up for an adventure and good food!)

Wondering how you can remix these lovely illustrations to create your own story? Participate in the Remix, Retell and Rejoice Contest

A Reading Surprise from Uttarakhand

The best way to make the Pratham Books team happy is to send us pictures of how our books are being used :). Some days ago, we got a happy surprise from the Chirag team in Uttarakhand - pictures of kids deeply immersed in the books our colleague Yamini sent them. Yamini used to teach at the Chirag school a few years ago and we are sure she made reading a fun time for the kiddos while she was there.