Kids & Teens


Tagore Classics
Publisher: BPI India Pvt Ltd
(Pp 16, ISBN 978-81-4972061, Rs 50)

The book is a part of ‘Tagore Classics’ series, written by Nobel Prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore. It is a famous story which has been told many times. It is about a little girl Mini who befriends a Kabuliwala and both grow fond of each other. They shared jokes and laughed together. Kabuliwala used to give a handful of dried fruits to Mini every time he met her. But fate had something else in store for Kabuliwala who was jailed for committing a criminal offence. When he returns from jail, Mini is no more a little girl- she’s getting married and she has forgotten his old friend. Each page of the picture has an illustration of the story, which makes the story livelier. Printed in large print, the book will be liked by both children and adults (who would like to read to their children).

The ‘desi’ avatar of Archie

Good news for children who love the famous comic series – Archie but cannot read it in English. They can now read it in Hindi and Malayalam. These desi versions from Archie Comics would be published by Variety Book Depot and distributed by EuroBooks, the leader in children’s book publishing in India. Priced at Rs 30 each, the company plans to launch 12 Archie titles in the first phase and 36 titles within the coming year.

Remote intervention classes for students
- Another initiative towards literacy

Cisco has announced the first pilot project based on Cisco Education Enabled Development (CEED) platform for its Inclusive Growth architecture. This pilot project will deploy specialized remote intervention teaching for two government pre-matriculation social welfare boys hostels in the Shimoga district of Karnataka. To enable implementation of this pilot project, the Government of Karnataka has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Cisco.

The project will be on a Public Private Partnership model where Cisco will deploy its solution and maintain it as a service that includes remote access and support. About 450 students in the two Pre-Matriculation hostels at Vidyanagar and Shikaripura will receive intervention training in English, Math, Social Sciences and Science. Sessions would be conducted after class for these sixth to tenth standard students. Children’s Lovecastles Trust, NGO that specializes in pedagogy and providing access to quality teaching for remote government schools using technology, will deliver these training sessions.

“Through Cisco’s technology, we are able to provide our students in rural areas with supplemental training in core subjects. I’m certain this will enhance the learning experience for both teachers and students and we should be able to attract more students to pursue their studies with facilities like this,” said Chandra Naik, district social welfare officer.

The Hidden Treasure

Tagore Classics
Publisher: BPI India Pvt Ltd
(Pp 16, ISBN 978-81-4972047, Rs 50)

Another book from the ‘Tagore Classics’ series is The Hidden Treasure which revolves around a mysterious treasure hidden in a village called Dharagole. But, what is real treasure? Gold, silver, coins or your family? That’s what the book tries to teach children – it is not the material things that matter! An interesting book with vivid illustrations and beautiful moral!

‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ becomes first e-book to sell one million copies

The opening book of Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, has become what industry experts believe is the first novel to sell more than a million copies in e-book form, The New York Times reports. News of the million mark milestone comes via Knopf books, which is a subsidiary of Random House publishing.

Combined digital sales of the Millennium series, which also includes The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, have so far reached three million, the publisher said. Total sales of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which includes e-books, audio books and printed copies, are maintaining an impressive steady pace of about 5,00,000 copies per month. Hardback covers of the book, which first went on sale in September 2008, have reached a total of about 3,00,000 copies.

Lively conversation and discussion, the camaraderie and the coming together of so many minds and hearts to create a reading nation – what more could you ask for? That was how one felt at Pratham Books’ Sabha 2011, a gathering of minds engaged in multilingual books for children, which was attended by more than 100 writers, translators and illustrators. Pratham Books Pratham Books, a not-for-profit publisher that creates quality books for children, definitely needs no introduction. Their mission is to put ‘a book in every child’s hand.’ With 201 titles, 1,300 books, 8 million story books, 8 million story cards…and a readership of 25 million…Pratham Books is indeed working towards its mission.

More recently, they organized Sabha 2011, a gathering of more than 100 writers, translators and illustrators engaged in crafting multilingual books for children. The excitement at the event was infectious – everybody applauding the wonderful work that the authors and illustrators together create.

The keynote address was given by Rohini Nilekani, chairperson, Pratham Books. She raised a point that books need to reach the hands of the children for which platforms need to be built, better libraries need to be set-up – there’s lot to do in this wonderful world of reading books. “Power comes from knowledge, which needs to be transmitted through books,” she added. She also stressed that it is the books that have the ability to create empowered citizens of tomorrow. “And this is possible when children have some joyful stuff to read,” she iterated. Interestingly, Pratham Books has reached 5 million books but this is nowhere where they want to reach. “There are 347 million children in India and we want to reach all of them,” she concluded.

This informative address was followed by a presentation on Pratham Books by Suzanne Singh, managing trustee, Pratham Books. She started off by citing the facts that for 347 million children in India, there are just 15 million books produced by the organized publishers annually. “This is negligible as compared to 30 million books for 12 million children in UK,” she told. Another important point to ponder is that India has 22 languages and 1,600 dialects and the books are predominantly produced in English and Hindi. “There are great gaps in languages, especially Urdu. And this really led the Pratham books seeing a book in every child’s hand. We are working towards democratizing the joy of reading, where every child gets to read,” she added.

It is indeed a feat that Pratham Books started offering books at a rate of Rs 25 seven years back and they still continue to do so. “Ofcourse, we have books that are priced more but those are different kinds of books which need a higher pricing, catering to the needs of both rural and urban children. But, the quality of all books is excellent, the paper used is good quality paper and all the books are produced is minimum five languages. So far, we have covered 11 languages and are adding the 12th language – Malayalam this year. Another feather in the cap would be books on plays, for which hardly any books are available,” added Suzanne. She further told that Pratham Books is always on the lookout for innovations in product, distribution and technology. They even produce a Rs 2 book, which is a four page book with a small story with illustrations and which is a major hit in rural areas. They have also put a bunch of books online, where anybody can download the book and use it. “Hence, without any extra effort, our books have been translated into audio books and Braille as well. Majority of our books posted online have been downloaded in Nepal and used for ‘One laptop per child’ scheme,” told Suzanne proudly.

“As of now, we have a print run of 10,000-15,000 copies for every title we produce and the moment it goes up to 50,000, Pratham Books will become a self-sustainable enterprise. We are able to give books in the range of Rs 2-25 and we would really appreciate if we could bring down the cost to 50 p in future,” she concluded.

Then, there was an interesting panel discussion on ‘Creating joyful and accessible content for new readers,’ moderated by Manisha Chaudhry, head of content at Pratham Books. Rukmini Banerji, trained economist and author of several children books shared her experiences about the learning they got through various activities conducted by Pratham Books. She cited a particular incident where they were given a budget of Rs 10,000 to procure 300-400 books for children and they were not able to spend even half of the amount because the books available in that price segment were very few. “Hence, at Pratham Books, we first focused on the books for early readers. Many books have evolved through our interaction with children,” she told excitedly.

Another panelist Shudhasatva Basu, a well-known illustrator, painter and animator, stressed that though word is the best medium to communicate, visual language is very important to converse with children as it can be imaginative and filled with various emotions like fantasy, irony, humour, etc. He gave a glimpse of many of his illustrations used in books.

Anushka Ravishankar, well-known writer of nonsense verses, shared how as a writer, she creates content for joyful reading. She read out her famous verses ‘Today is my day’ and ‘To market!’ and displayed images of the book for everyone to see and feel the effect of illustrations. She added that it as a joy to create these verses but they became more alive with the excellent work of the illustrators. “Children are more alike than different and anything written with joy will be taken up by all children, whether he is a new reader or not,” she concluded.

Yet another panelist Paro Anand, a writer or children and young adult, who is known for her writings on how terrorism impacts children, told that she started writing animal plays and later when she became a part of ‘Literature in action’ programmes, which goes to villages and interacts with children and donates books, she started writing about the impact of terrorism on children. She cited various incidents which became an inspiration for her books.

This interesting session was followed by an open house where the audience interacted with the panelists on the author-illustrator relationship. While a few authors stressed on the importance of briefing the illustrator about the book, others stressed that when illustrators have a free hand, the creativity is better. A consensus was achieved that there is no thumb rule for it.

Later, Gautam John gave a brief presentation on ‘Creative Commons’ where people can post their content and give restrictive permission to use it. The vote of thanks was given by Sandhya Takshale and marked the end of the energetic and exciting Sabha 2011.

Learn to Play Cricket

Cricket is not just bat and ball; it is a team sport. It started as a children’s game but it became a well established adult sport in the 17th century. In the 18th century, it became the national sport of England. People enjoy the game because of the craze, glamour and the fun involved in it.

India is a cricket loving country – when the popular cricket series are held, people breathe cricket, literally! But, many do not know the nitty-gritty of the game. How the game is played? What are the various positions? What are the various terms used? What is forward defensive? What is helicopter shot? And more….

Learn to Play Cricket addresses these needs of those who wish to play or those who wish to know more about this amazing sport. The book starts with the basics of the cricket then moves on how to play the game. There are batting basics, bowling basics, fielding basic etc. There is also a glossary of cricket terms for novices. Then, there’s a compendium of record holders.

All these information are supported with beautiful lively illustrations so that the readers can actually see what they are reading. You can see how to hold the ball, how to throw it and more….Then, there are tips to choose a cricket bat and a diet chart for a player. In all, it gives complete information to start playing cricket.

There are books for adults and there are books for children, but what about the adolescents, the young adults, who are tired of reading children books and somehow do not fit into the adult segment? Young Adult Fiction (YA) caters specifically to this age group. Though Indian market always had its share of Harry Potters alike, but it’s time young adults in India get to read books, specially published for the Indians. This new era has begun…. Varsha Verma brings more on this nascent segment of the Indian publishing industry. Karthika (L) & Sudeshna Shome Ghosh (R) Technically, young adult fiction (YA) refers to books written for the young adults or the adolescents, roughly in the age group of 14-21. Mostly, the main character is an adolescent and the stories or novel revolve around what he/she sees, feels or experiences in that age. The story line is limited only by the imagination and the language is what adolescents in this age can relate to.

But, it does not means that a young adult book is enjoyed only by the children in this segment…many adults would also love to read these books. As Karthika VK, publisher & chief editor, Harper Collins Publisher India, puts it, “We do not want to restrict the readers by age. Hence, we do not use ‘YA’ symbol on our books. But, we have started a different imprint for this category, which is called ‘Harper.’ The title designs are made really interesting and stand apart from kids books.”

While, Penguin has initiated a separate Penguin Young Adult imprint for the same. “We are targeting mid to late teens in the books that carry this label. It is ideally meant for readers who have outgrown children’s books and adult books may not always be what they are looking to read,” told Sudeshna Shome Ghosh, editorial director, Puffin and Penguin Young Adult as a matter of fact.

The varied topics…

But Young Adult books are not limited to fiction alone; there is a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles. “We have tried to bring books of diverse kinds into the list. Mostly we have looked at what interests them at the age. Fantasy adventure is a popular genre for young adults, which is why David Hair’s books are appearing in this series. The books would usually have a young adult protagonist and can fall into a variety of genres – crime, fantasy, coming of age. We are also looking to do non-fiction books in this category – we also have a book on teen fitness and one on business and the professional life,” told Sudeshna.

Similarly, Harper-Collins, which started this division an year back, has a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles. “We are also launching a book on Euphoria (rock band by Palash Sen), which would be released with their new album. Then, we have a book on ‘Body talk’ where we have explained things that young women would like to know about their body. We also have books on crossover fiction for adults and young adults. Our first YA fiction – Potato Chips – received an overwhelming response,” informed Karthika.

Penguin has an initial print run between 2,000 and 8,000 copies for these books while HarperCollins goes with a print run of 5,000 copies.

Finding authors – a mammoth task…

Finding authors for young adult fiction is not easy. As Sudeshna puts it, “It is not easy, the way it is not easy finding really good children’s writers. When an author writes for a specific target group, various considerations do come in – is the language appropriate, or the content and the relevance of issues that crop up in the books. In YA we also need to be careful that the book does not come off sounding as if it is talking down to anyone. We prefer to have books by Indian authors, or if not Indian, then ideally the book should have an Indian or a subcontinent connection.”

Her views were echoed by Karthika who agrees that there are very few writers in this segment but since they are not looking at a huge list in this category, they wait for the right author and the right manuscript. “Sometimes, even adolescents write very interesting books. Our title ‘Potato Chips’ was written by Anshuman, who is a 16 year old boy. The idea is to have a book which is smart and has an immediate appeal to the young adults. Besides, it should directly appeal to Indians, it should not be boring – it should be cool and have hyper urban chic style.”

The marketing angle…

Merchandising seems to be one way to promote the books. Harper is looking at bringing out merchandising like chic handbags to promote their books like a fiction by the ‘Sex and the city’ author Candace Bushnell. Besides, advertising at the live media at coffee shops etc is also done from time to time, besides organizing the regular reading sessions at bookstores and schools.

While Sudeshna says that there is no substitute for good gripping writing. “The design of the book has to be appropriate and not look too kiddish. The promotions of the book can look at various platforms like social media, mobiles, and other avenues,” she added.

On encouraging reading habits…

Adolescents have a lot of other entertainment options but books undoubtedly remain their best friends. As Sheba Karim, an author of a young adult novel opines, “I’d say that unlike movies and video games, which create a visual world for you, the visual world created by books is, though guided by the author’s words, entirely of your own mind, that reading books opens up your mind to new emotional depths and physical possibilities, and there’s nothing more fun than exploration of one’s own imagination.”

“We encourage reading habits by publishing well thought out, well edited books for them. Our commissioning into this section is well thought out and sustained, which means we will continue to publish for this segment regularly,” added Sudeshna.

How big the market is…

Since it is a new segment, there are no ready data available for how big the market is. There have always been books for this segment but it is only now, that they are marketed in this genre. “Most trade publishers are bringing out books for this age group though no one in India has a separate imprint or series name for it like we do and it is difficult to state how big the market is,” told Sudeshna. “We enjoy a good market share for our other books, since the YA series is just introduced we would obviously want to be optimistic and go for similar numbers as our other books. The initial sell through has been receptive, and we hope that we continue a good run,” added Sudeshna.

At HarperCollins, Karthika feels that right now, they are just eyeing 10 percent of their list for this segment but as the market will grow, they definitely will bring out more titles.

The challenges ahead…

Karthika opines that it is not an easy segment as there are not many writers who write for it and a lot of aggressive marketing and publicity is required to make people aware that there are books in this segment. “This segment will get its due share once they have a substantial segment in the bookshelves. I think it will find its own voice and we would be really glad to see Young Adult weave its way into the Indian publishing industry,” concluded Karthika.

Says Sheba Karim, an author of YA fiction in conversation with Varsha Verma.

Q: Tell us something about your book ‘Skunk Girl’ and the response it has received so far?

Sheba Karim: Skunk Girl is about a Pakistani-American teenager in small town USA, trying to forge her own path in life, with a lot of humour and occasional despair. It has received a positive response from readers. The other day, someone sent me a YouTube video of two young students acting out the book!

Q: How was the character and storyline created, is it inspired from the real life?

Sheba Karim: The inspiration from the novel came from a monologue I wrote for Yoni ki Baat, a South Asian version of the Vagina Monologues. While I drew on my own experiences in writing it in terms of challenges and emotions, it’s a work of fiction.

Q: When did you “know” you wanted to write professionally?

Sheba Karim: I always loved writing, but decided to pursue it professionally when I started practicing as a lawyer.

Q: In your opinion, what is the hardest part of writing a book? Why?

Sheba Karim: Undoubtedly revision. It takes a lot of patience and courage to take what you’ve written and make it better, again and again, even if it means rewriting some of it, or even all of it, from scratch.

Q: What factors are kept in mind while writing for young adults?

Sheba Karim: Be honest to your story and your characters. Young adults can spot ambiguities as easily as adults can.

Q: What writing/publishing advice do you give to aspiring writers of any age?

Sheba Karim: Write, write, write. Show your work to a few different people whose opinions you trust and be open to their criticism. Revise, revise, revise. Be prepared for rejection. And, of course, read.

Q: What are you reading right now? Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences?

Sheba Karim: Right now I’m reading The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon and War Horse and Elephant by Simon Digby. Honestly, I’d say almost every half-way decent author you read has some sort of influence on you, whether you realize it or not.

Various books have influenced me in their own ways. One that comes to mind in Karen Armstrong’s wonderful biography of Prophet Muhammad, which eloquently depicts a man revered by many as the embodiment of perfection, he is not only extraordinary but also fallible.

Q: Which is the next book that readers can look forward to?

Sheba Karim: I’m working on a historical fiction novel based on the life of Razia Sultan.

Asian Festival of Children’s Content

May 26-28, 2011, Singapore

Once upon a cyberspace, children explored the world through libraries, bedtime tales and story books. Books are still around, but they are looking different. As technology puts media access into children’s pockets and bedrooms, how do content makers stay connected with connected kids?

Organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and The Arts House, The Asian Festival of Children’s Content would be held from May 26-28, 2011. As part of this three day long festival are Critique Sessions and an art exhibition, the Children’s Book Illustrators’ Gallery (BIG), which aims to showcase the works from writers and illustrators around the region.

The Secret Keeper

Author: Mithali Perkins
Publisher: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
(Pp 210, ISBN 978-93-5029-047-7, Rs 199)

A diary is our best friend – our secret keeper! Aimed at young adults, the book shows how a girl confides in her diary. Asha, a Delhite, visits her ancestral home in Kolkata with her mother and elder sister. It was supposed to be a short-term temporary visit until her father found a new job overseas. But, Asha’s life is changed…she has to deal with lots- conservative extended family, new relationships with cousins, fending off her sister from unsuitable suitors, besides teaching lesson to neighbourhood boys who think girls are not good enough. With her hands full all the time, she finds solace at a rooftop hideaway, where she confides in her diary – her secret keeper. And here she finds a boy, who makes her heart beat faster…and adds love to her life.
The book is a reflection of what girls from metros face when they visit their cousins in other smaller towns. Written in an interesting and lucid manner, the book is entertaining and insightful.
- Vasu V

Free children’s book library

Story Time For Me has released a library of free interactive multimedia storybooks for homes, schools, daycares and libraries. The programme will encourage children to read entertaining, animated stories with socially relevant themes such as ‘Not to bully’, ‘Sharing’, ‘Being responsible for the environment’, ‘Helping your neighbor’, etc.

“The development of this free library fosters a continued love of reading through our multimedia storybooks,” said Andrew Gitt, co-founder of Story Time For Me. “We are thrilled with the response we are already getting from educators and schools across the United States, and are currently expanding our outreach

efforts. Select branches of Goddard Schools, Bright Horizons, Primrose, YMCA, JCCA, Childcare Network and a dozen other National chains are using our books as supplemental learning resources for their children.”

A new book for children on social sharing

Windsurf Publishing LLC has released a new book about social sharing for young children by Maureen Mihailescu, that describes and teaches the ways children share, interact, cooperate, and play with one another.

Mihailescu acknowledges that many children today have communication and behavioral challenges that interfere with their ability to cooperate and interact with other children. She posits that children can also be very shy socially and have anxieties during new social situations. That is why she created Social Sharing Is All Around Us. Her belief is that this book can be beneficial to those children who find it difficult to join in with others, understand other children’s feelings, and interact in age appropriate ways. She feels that children can also be reluctant to socialize with children. And she stated that sometimes children who start school for the first time could be nervous. Her feeling is that having a book about other children and activities that children share in can help the socially anxious or those who are social novices.

Social Sharing Is All Around Us is now available on Amazon worldwide, Barnes and Noble online, and other international booksellers.

Skunk Girl

Author: Sheba Karim
Publisher: Penguin Young Adult
(Pp 232, ISBN 978-0-143-33165-0, Rs 250)
Aimed at young adult, the book deals with teen aches of a Pakistani NRI girl, who feels herself odd at her high school. Nina is the only South Asian student at Deer Hook High. Her sister is very intelligent and is studying at Harvard. Her parents and teachers expect the same from her, but Nina is different. She likes to study but she is not a bookworm, she wants to enjoy like her friends. She wants to have a boyfriend, she wants to go out for parties and she wants to have a normal life like her friends. But her family is orthodox, she is not even allowed to wax…she is hairy and she hates that.

The book is a true depiction of a girl from a Muslim conservative family. It gives an insight into teenage problems – peer pressure, change in hormones and family pressure for studies. It forms an interesting read, not just for the young adults but for adults as well!
- Varsha Verma

Self-improvement guide for teenagers

In her latest book, Pull Up Your Pants for Personal and Social Change (Infinity Publishing), Sabrina Hayes, an author, trainer, and mother of three, shares her inspiration, traditional childhood rearing philosophy and avid purpose to mentor and develop young people. Hayes is passionate and unequivocally determined to take young people “back to the basics”—observing and honoring sensible, respectful, and obedient behavior.

This book is an insightful, self-improvement guide offering practical solutions, valuable leadership and phenomenal transformation. The book reveals the consensus of teenagers and young adults surveyed, that: “saggin´ pants or any other bizarre display of expression is our constitutional right and, is merely a form of personal identity, self expression, total independence... exempt from societal endorsement.” To counter such attitudes, this book teaches the fundamental principles of individuality, leadership and character, encouraging young men to embrace the “men of honor” concept and, young women to understand the true meaning of self worth and self value in society as a “virtuous woman”.