Kids & Teens

says Shamim Padamsee, author of AWIC award-winning children book ‘The silly story of Bondapilli.’

Shamim Padamsee is a writer who has been through several avatars in her life – educationist, globe-trotter, social worker, businesswoman, diplomat, mother and grandmother. She is passionately interested in children’s literature and believes that books are important learning tools. Here, Shamim shares her love for writing and her experiences with writing.

On writing…

Shamim Padamsee with a group of childrenThe seeds of writing were sown a long, long time ago when I was growing up. However, it lay dormant until they started to get watered by my rich experiences in the field of education and nurtured by the sunshine brought into my life with the coming along of grandchildren.

As a child I loved to read, however due to lack of indigenous books I read mostly ‘foreign’ stories. I read Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and other such books and realized that something was missing. Those kids were not like me. They lived differently, ate different foods, and had different festivals, in other words they were from a different world. Whilst I enjoyed the stories, I felt a disconnect. And then, when my kids were growing up again, it was the same. And so, I started making up stories for my children. Stories of Indian children, Indian animals, Indian festivals and more. I wanted my children to discover and know India.

Soon my grandkids started coming along. Luckily, however, many Indian publishers today are bringing out interesting India specific books for children but we definitely need much, much, more.

Most difficult part of writing…

The hard part is holding a pen to the paper and getting started. However, once I start and get into the swing of it, words just flow. I love writing. It is so amazing to be able to mould the story any which way you want. Right from how the story will begin to how it will end!

Unlike what most people think, writing for children is not as easy as it looks. For one thing, one has to grab the attention of the child as soon as possible the story has to move quickly and has to be told in as few words as possible. Long winding descriptive sentences that are used for adults are a definite no-no! The important thing to keep in mind is that whatever the message of the story it has to engage the child – only then will they develop a love for reading.

On her book ‘The silly story of Bondapalli’…

Bondapalli started with an episode in Chennai. My sister was visiting me. As we chomped on the Bondas, as usual we started to worry about the impact of this delicious snack on our figures. One thing led to another and soon the Silly Story of Bondapalli was born.

Infact, Bondapalli is a fun story that has a lot of play on words. I think that the child in me came alive when I started to write it, and egged on by my two little grandchildren ideas and thoughts tumbled and bounced all over the story!

I was happily surprised when I received a mail from Tulika, my publishers telling me about the award from AWIC. But, my real reward comes from the fact that so many kids are enjoying the book. In fact, parents tell me that their kids want to read the story over and over again and some are even asking me to write a sequel!

Advice to young authors…

One of the most important qualities of getting your work published is Perspiration, Patience and Perseverance. The three most important P’s! Believe me, having patience and perseverance is equally as difficult as the perspiration bit, if not more. After all you have penned down the most amazing story – according to you, the author, and then you are surprised as to why the publishers don’t all rush and grab it. Sometimes an author feels rejected, when his or her work gets rejected. Writing is love’s labour. And one must persevere and who knows someday suddenly you get an acceptance letter and feel on top of the world! So, that brings me back to the first P – Perspiration. Even after one’s story is written, there is still a lot more to do.

What I am reading…

As to what I’m reading today, it is mostly children’s books, especially Young Adult. There are some amazing books out there. I recently read the book Just a Train Ride Away by Tulika. It is set in the pre-independence era. What a great way of learning our history! I also read Faces in the Water by Puffin, dealing with the very serious subject of female infanticide in an amazingly appealing manner.

Advice to parents…

Read to your child from a very young age. Not only it is fun but is also beneficial in so many ways. One, it helps mental growth, two, it helps the child’s vocabulary, three, it will open up new horizons for the child, giving him a window to the world, so to say. If children grown up with TV as a source of entertainment, you can’t blame them for not reading!

On my next books…

I love to write. In fact, I write prolifically. Anything that catches my attention is converted into a story. Next year should see the release of some more of my stories, a series of adventures with Puffin and a couple more with Tulika.

HarperCollins to publish manuscript discovered on teen writing site

HarperCollins Publishers recently announced the first acquisition from inkpop (, its interactive website for teen writing. Slated for Fall 2011, The Carrier of The Mark, by debut author Leigh Fallon, is a fresh and thrilling paranormal romance linking two teens to a supernatural destiny.

Fallon, a native of Cork, Ireland, tried to get her manuscript published through conventional channels. She started by contacting agents and eventually took a less traditional route. She heard about inkpop through a writing group and decided to upload her manuscript. Within weeks her manuscript was voted into the coveted “Top Five” by the inkpop community and was reviewed by an editor at HarperCollins. A few emails later, she signed her first book deal with HarperCollins for World English rights.

Inkpop combines community publishing, user-generated content, and social networking to connect rising stars in teen literature with talent-spotting readers and publishing professionals. In just over a year, inkpop traffic has grown by nearly 500 percent. With over 60,000 projects uploaded, the highly engaged members spend an average of over 20 minutes per visit on the site.

Asian Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference

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? Get the answers at The Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) in Singapore from May 26-28, 2011. Organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and The Arts House, this festival is back - bigger, better and bolder. The conference director is R Ramachandran, Singapore while conference consultant is Pooja Makhijani.

There would be an interesting sessionon ‘What is the Future of Children’s Publishing?’ Then, there would be a symposium on Asian Children’s Publishers Other highlights include Asian Children’s Media Summit, Asian Primary and Preschool Teachers Congress, Asian Media Mart.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (translated in Hindi)

Author: Mark Twain
Publisher: Kalyani Navyug Media
(Pp 68, ISBN 978-93-800280-2-6)

The stories of Mark Twain will always remain one of the most read classics, the popular one amongst children being ‘The adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and ‘The adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. Campfire (Kalyani Navyug Media) has brought out a graphic novel on Huckleberry Finn in Hindi. The language is simple and the visuals are beautiful. The book is full of adventurous life of a ragamuffin – Huckleberry Finn, a close friend of Tom Sawyer. Children will love his carefree attitude and his careless ventures.

The Wind in the Willows

Author: Kenneth Grahame
Publisher: Kalyani Navyug Media Pvt Ltd
(Pp 88, ISBN 978-93-80028-81-1)

This is a new initiative of Kalyani Navyug Media, where they have developed a workbook for CBSE. Utilizing the powerful visual capabilities of the graphic novel, Campfire workbook aims to educate children in the classics of yesterday, while simultaneously promoting visual literacy and developing essential communication skills. This will foster a love for reading, while helping children develop vital comprehension capabilities.

Wind in the Willows is a workbook for classes V and VI, where the classic story has been retold in the form of a graphic novel. Each page has a glossary of new words for children and each chapter is followed by a set of questions and activities to help children understand it better. All efforts have been made to make the book attractive to young readers – the visuals are breath-taking.

3D Coloring Book for Kids for iPhone users

ComboApp, a leading educational publishing and marketing agency, is currently offering their ‘3D Coloring Book for Kids: Pets’ digital art utility. This engaging coloring app for the iPhone and iPod touch is developed specifically for children’s use. True to its namesake, 3D Coloring Book for Kids: Pets offers users the ability to draw in three dimensions rather than two, allowing them to rotate and move original content around within the app.

Interactive discussion on books for the early readers

National Centre for Children’s Literature, a wing of National Book Trust organized an interactive discussion on the topic ‘Books for the early readers: Concepts and visuals’ on December 15, 2010 at their premises in New Delhi. Satish Kumar, director, NBT welcomed the speakers and the guests present on the occasion. He emphasized the relevance of the topic with the present day scenario as children have access to various kinds of media like television, computers, video games etc. The books, therefore, should also be appealing.

Dr Varsha Das, eminent author and editor, and Jagdish Joshi, renowned illustrator presented their views on the pre-school books in the 21st century. Dr Das drew attention to the millions of children deprived of any kind of interaction with books. She also stressed “early readers should read books in their mother tongue.” She also suggested that the stories should relate to real life characters so that they may relate themselves with the characters. The stories should contain subjects which children of a particular age group which children can identify. Joshi was also of the view that children like realistic illustrations and coordination between the writer and illustrator is the key to a good illustrated story book.

Dreamland’s My Jumbo Book of…series ABC (ISBN 978-81-8451-571-8),
Numbers (ISBN 978-81-8451-572-5),
Animals (ISBN 978-81-8451-573-2),
Birds (ISBN 978-81-8451-574-9),
Words (ISBN 978-81-8451-575-6),
Fruits (ISBN 978-81-8451-617-3),
Vegetables (ISBN 978-81-8451-618-0),
Vehicles (ISBN 978-81-8451-619-7),
Dog (ISBN 978-81-8451-621-0)
and Nursery Rhymes
Publisher: Dreamland Publications 
(Pp 32 each, Large format, Rs 160 each)

Beautiful, lively, breath-taking pictures…a small description – the Dreamland’s My Jumbo Book of…series gives children a reason to learn. The jumbo size of the book – 42.5 cm x 28 cm has mesmerizing big lovely pictures printed on thick art card.

For example, the book has a full-page picture of a baby with B alphabet which attracts one and all. The full-size pictures of doll, owl, parrot, hen, etc are equally mesmerizing. The bigger-than-life ice-cream and sandwich make a kid feel hungry. Any child would love to possess this book.

Similarly, the book on numbers teaches counting from 1 to 100 – again with interesting pictures – the child would love to count on it as well.

The book on vegetables has all kinds of one type of vegetable together. For example, if there is a cauliflower, there is also a Roman cauliflower and Broccoli. Each vegetable has a small piece of information about it. Even children who dislike vegetables might want to try some!

The book on fruits has all kinds of fruits and the pictures of eatables made out of them – tangy juices, tasty milkshakes, jams, etc. The idea is to let the child associate tasty things with the nutritious fruits as well.

While, the books on birds and animals have picture and a small description stating the family they belong to, how much they weigh, what are they used for, etc.

Equally interesting is the book on words, where children can learn new words and also associate them with their images.

What is a vintage car, a SUV, a MUV, a MPV or van? Find these answers in simple sentences in the book on vehicles. The book has information on all means of transport – road, train, air, water. An informative book again!

A dog is not just a dog; there are so many breeds available. My Jumbo book of Dog features 32 breeds of dogs, each with a beautiful full-size image and a small description. So, if you are planning to bring home a dog, you can get relevant information on the various breeds and see which one matches your home and family.  All the books are excellently produced. The pictures are so lively, you would like to touch and feel!

–V Verma

conveyed Jai Saxena of BPI India in conversation with Varsha Verma.

Jai SaxenaKids market is not a dated market, as nothing is outdated and that’s the beauty of this business and publishing in itself is an interesting activity,” told Jai Saxena, director-Strategy & Business Development, BPI India Pvt Ltd.

BPI was flagged off in the year 1999 but it was just four years back that the company took children publishing very seriously. The company has carved a niche in publishing scenario with skill pool of refreshing writers, iron-fisted editors, dream designers and efficacious production team of enthusiasts. “Earlier, we did a few generic books and then we did licensing in a big way with prominent entities like Cartoon Network. It was the ‘MAD’ series of art books which actually got us into publishing in a big way. Infact, MAD is now available in regional languages like Marathi and Malayalam which is doing very well,” told Jai.

“We are now taking a step ahead and developing school textbooks using branded characters. For example, we are doing MAD for Tata McGraw-Hill. The ideation and licensing for these books is with us. We are also doing more such projects with them and another leading publisher S. Chand & Co,” informed Jai.

Another best seller from BPI include Ben 10 colouring books. “We wish to offer a larger product range to our customers. We think differently and need to take books and toys for children to a next level,” added Jai. “We also deal in corporate supplies wherein we develop customised products (books/toys) as per the needs of the corporate. Spicejet and Pepsi are two such clients for whom we have developed unique products,” he said further.

Talking about the factors kept in mind while creating a children’s book, Jai told that it is very important to visualize how good the book will look to a kid’s eyes. “Infact, we recommend reading to infants. For them, we have big pictorial books with one liner. Then, we also offer Indian literature like Tagore and Premchand on colourful, glossy paper, which gives a different feel to children.”

The company has also strategically diversified into edutainment, offering puzzles, activity books, art & craft books/games and other interactive board games. “Edutainment is a serious business. The traditional way of education is boring but the new schools have revolutionized the learning process. Now, schools work hard on kids and activity games play a major role in dealing with special needs children like dyslexic students. Our current hits among puzzles are those based on cartoon characters ‘Ninja Hathori’ and ‘Oggy and the Cockroaches.’ Then, there is a game called ‘Hack attack’ based on hacking and computer viruses, which is very popular. Infact, we have toped in an ex-IITian for board games,” he added.

Today, BPI is synonymous to excellence in content, design and quality in children’s publishing scenario. They have a well-qualified team of 29 people, most of whom are designers. “I like to invest a lot in designing and illustrations. I have a huge collection of beautiful creations. My wife Vidya, who is a graduate from JJ School of Arts takes care of the designing needs. Besides, we have a sales team all over India. We have direct accounts with all big retail chains and have separate distributors for books and toys,” he told.

On asking about their USPs, Jai replied that they always try to do what others have not even thought of. “It was us, who started character based publishing. We were also the first ones to bring large print stories in Hindi, which were later translated into nine languages. Another USP of our company is our presence in regional language publishing. We have as many as 70 titles in Tamil.”

Coming to ebooks, Jai shared that good reading would never be obsolete. “It is very important for educational publishing to go for ebooks. Besides, we are also going with the trend and investing in e-media.”

Talking about his future plans, Jai revealed that they are set to launch 100 titles of young fiction for children aged 8-14 years by March 2011. “These titles are licenses from a UK based publisher and some of the series would include Ms Wiz, Grk, Agent Amelia, MRJ etc. In the series on MRJ, the character MRJ travels to different countries. There, we have beautiful pictures and information on all that a kid would like to see in that country. We are also going in for merchandising in a big way, which would be sold through retail stores. We have also tied with a few schools, where these titles would be available in their libraries,” he added. “Later, we also plan to rope in a few Indian authors for children books. Action games which kids love to play would also be on the cards.”

“The challenge for us is to reach the world markets by adopting new methods and new packaging. Our goal is to reach the UK and the American markets. Also, we would like to be known as the destination for kids not just for publishing but also for toys, stationery, e-learning, etc. We need to be recognized as a quality company for kids with a different thought process,” concluded Jai.

opines Anjali Raghbeer, author of ten children’s books in conversation with Varsha Verma.

Anjali RaghbeerWriting a children’s book is no child’s play. The book should be entertaining yet informative. The characters need to be real-like…the language engaging and the presentation attractive. So, how do children books authors manage to put all these elements into their books? Here’s what Anjali Raghbeer, a children books author has to say.

Characters…inspired by real life

“Often, the characters in the novel are inspired from real life. I have two children and I observe them and their peers carefully, trying to find what language they use and what would interest them to read,” told Anjali. “Infact, there have been a lot of books of Indian culture but children wish to read something in their own language, something with which they can relate to…and that’s what I try to put in my books,” she added.

The challenge…

“The biggest challenge in writing a children’s book is that they should feel that they are being taught something new. Neither should children feel that the book is talking down to them. It should be exactly at their level. Infact, we need to engage them at a different level, we don’t have to tell them a story, we need to excite their curiosity,” told Anjali as a matter of fact. Besides, the beginning of the novel is also the most difficult part of the book, she opined.

Anjali’s books…

Anjali’s first book, The Quest for Clues was published in the year 2007. In 2009, she brought out a series of four books. More recently, she is working on a book with scholastic, titled The Person With The Broken Step based on Humayun’s tomb and a series of four books, titled, Looking at Art by Tulika Publishers. She has also developed a picture book for them on Mahatma Gandhi.

The Looking at Art series of books leads children into the world and sensibilities of some of India’s best known artists. It is an engaging introduction to art and the artist through story, memoir and biography, as well as a valuable resource for the understanding of art. These include Barefoot Husain (Maqbool Fida Husain), My Name is Amrita...Born to be an Artist (Amrita Sher-Gil), A Trail of Paint (Jamini Roy) and The Veena Player (Raja Ravi Varma).

Reading – will surely continue…

“Even though schools are trying hard to inculcate reading habits in children, it is the environment which needs to be controlled. There are so many modes of entertainment, which just can’t compete with reading. But yes, reading will continue to exist until there are books to fire the imagination of children. Indian authors should get beyond myths and fables and create absolutely innovative and interesting literature for children,” added Anjali. “No wonder why titles like Harry Potter and Toy Story sell like hotcakes.”

Passion for writing…

The journey to writing was a long and circuitous one. Anjali Raghbeer, first did her MBA from the London Business School. While she threw herself into business activities, it was writing that pulled her. She went on to pursue a Certificate in Feature Film Writing from UCLA. In addition to the course at UCLA, she’s enhanced her craft with several short courses, books and self-study. She writes children’s books and develops scripts for film and theatre.

She firmly believes that in writing, she has found what she loves doing best. Her film scripts include dramas and romantic comedies. Her film ‘Track’ is currently in pre-production stages. The script is based on an Indian sportswoman.

The change required…

Anjali feels the distributors need to wake up and distribute books in a more organized manner and reach various audiences. “Nevertheless, it is an exciting time to be in children books,” concluded Anjali.