Kids & Teens

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.

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.

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

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.

For one-of-its-kind publisher Chennai-based Tara Books, making book is an important cultural intervention. Tara is specially known for its visual arts titles, particularly for pioneering stunning books made entirely by hand, screen printed and hand bound. D Ramalingam brings more on their craftsmanship. The beginning…

Gita Wolf and C Arumugam.Established in the year 1994 by Gita Wolf, Tara Books has definitely made a mark for itself. Over the years, Gita has been joined by other writers and creative professionals who were drawn by her vision of bringing a variety of marginalized voices and perspectives to the reader while continuously playing with different form of the books.

Today, the publishing house creates its own books as well as collaborates with a range of unusual talents from signboard painters to tribal and textile artists. While the core group is based in Chennai, other members reside in London, New York and various locations across India and the world.

The creative edge…

Gita is a highly original and creative voice in contemporary Indian publishing. She has pursued her interest in exploring and experimenting with the form of the book and its status as a revered cultural object. She has written several books for children and adults, many of which have won prestigious international awards and have been translated into several languages. Trained in English and comparative literature, she left her academic profession to explore her interests in visual and literary communications.

Gita Wolf has authored more than 20 books, the recent one titled, ‘Do!’ is an introduction to basic verbs, aided by the elegant pictograms of Warli art, meant for children and is screen printed. Four more authors have assisted her in this book. Warli art is created by people belonging to a tribal community of Maharashtra state.

The books or the masterpieces…

Imagination runs riot in Tara but they are down to earth in sourcing their ideas from tribal and folk artists, street art and oral narrative traditions. Tara began as a children’s publisher, but the list has expanded to include a strong but select collection of visual arts titles and adult fiction. Working with local communities and exploring social and political issues form a critical point of view, Tara’s non-fiction list comprises craft books for children as well as titles for all ages on the themes of peace and justice.

They categorize their books into ‘For all age’ graphic novels, picture books/visual arts; ‘For adults’ picture books/visual arts, photography, art & design/pop culture, fiction/non-fiction; and ‘For children’ picture books, fiction/non-fiction, arts & crafts and stationery in creative format.

A peek into a masterpiece…

Just to take one example of a book meant ‘For all ages’, titled Metamorphosis, an artist envisions the asanas of yoga. In this book, Padmasana is depicted through a lotus form, showing the flower and asana posture, explaining that “the central bloom among the Yogic asanas, Padmasana relies on a deeply rooted spine to allow the mind to blossom into deep meditation.”

While, Parvatasana is depicted through a seated mountain, explaining that “Parvatasana is a meditative pose that quiets the body from base to peak, and elevates the mind into a place of still and focused contemplation.” Like these, it relates 18 other asanas to eagle, lion, crane, camel, scorpion, fish, dog, tortoise, peacock, cobra, tree, plough, cow, pigeon, bridge, bow, plank, monkey, wheel, etc.

As per Gita, “This playful merging of the human form with lions, snakes, scorpions and stone bridge is a brilliant vision of yoga’s potential to transform the relationship between body and mind and in the process celebrated the union of matter and spirit.” This 48 pages book (203 x 178mm), printed by offset and bound in Thailand, costs Rs 395.

Hand-made books: Tara’s specialty

Tara’s expertise is the production of books made entirely by hand, right from the paper to the printing and binding. Tara printing unit is a bustling workshop employing 16 skilled printers and binders who are drawn largely from the locality. So far, they have created a total of 1,80,000 handmade books. Calculating the printing impressions, it will run into 11,000,000. “We aim to touch about Rs 2 crore turnover this year,” informed Gita.

Ably assisted by her production manager C Arumugam, Gita produces offset printed literature overseas while handmade books are produced at their own printing unit. Starting with five persons, today their core group consists of 11 designers and typesetters, apart from printing unit workforce. Manikantan, incharge of the unit, trained by Arumugam, is proud of his work. He informed that they produced 18,000 copies of a particular book for a customer in Canada which took one year to complete.

Talking about outsourcing printing, Gita and Arumugam told that it becomes cheaper in Hong Kong, China and Thailand than in India. Arumugam, who is in touch with all well known printers in Chennai and in other parts of our county, bemoaned about pricing and lack of training at shop floor, especially binding.

The clientele and the distributors…

Asked about their clients, Gita and Arumugam informed they consist mainly of art lovers while for fiction/non-fiction, they attract general readers.

“We have worked out selling rights with various publishers for about 40 books in European, Japanese and African languages. Our distributors for India are Rupa & Co while they have a distributor for UK & Europe and one for US & Canada. There are agents in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Japan and Korea. Publicists also take care for India and overseas markets,” informed Gita.

Some books and their price range…

Out of 68 titles mentioned in their 2009/10 catalogue, 19 titles are produced as handmade books. The Nightlife of Trees is a large format book (25 x 30 inches), signed and numbered edition of 25, screen printed and hand bound is priced at Rs. 10,000 each. Another one, Meena Art Prints contains screen print images from Meena village in Rajasthan known as Mandana Art, available in sets of 15 and in various sizes, is priced at Rs 19,000.

The accolades…

In the year 1996, they won an Award for Book Design from Canada. In 2010, they were listed in IBBY Honour List and figured in the annual list of USBBY for Outstanding International Books. They got MPLA Award for Excellence in Printing and got FESPA Award as well. Like these, they have been rewarded for Arts Craftsmanship, Fiction and Children’s Book in Germany, Spain and USA. Regularly, they figure in White Ravon’s Catalogue of World’s Best Children’s Books.

Blessed by such creativity and talent, Tara Books is busy bringing out one masterpiece after another.