Kids & Teens

Interactive session on children’s content!

An interactive session with an eminent author Dr Ken Spillman, from Australia and well-known illustrator Suvidha Mistry from India, was organised by National Centre for Children’s Literature (NCCL), National Book Trust, India. During the event, the guest speakers interacted with makers of children’s content, school children and teachers.

The first session was attended by students and teachers from ‘Dwarka International School, Dwarka’ & ‘Alcon Public School’, Mayur Vihar. Mithlesh Anant, librarian-cum-documentation officer, NCCL, gave the introductory address while Dr Rita Choudhry, director, NBT welcomed the guests. She said the stories we tell to our children carry the human values and the teachings relate to day-to-day problems of humans in their daily lives. “Children should read good literature and imbibe it in their lives,” she said. While, Baldeo Bhai Sharma, chairman, NBT, India, also stressed upon on the need of reading good literature.

Dr Ken Spillman said that through reading, one can learn more about people than one will ever learn through talking to them. He also read his book ‘The Rahul and the Dreambat.’ He also talked about the writing process and about his books. The children were very enthusiastic and he was very crisp at answering questions to everybody’s satisfaction.

While, the creative writing session was attended by creators of children content. Dr Spillman interacted with authors and mentioned that it is easier to write engaging tales for young adults as he enjoys writing. “It is important to stay in touch with the child that is in all of us,” he said.

It was the first time Dr Ken Spillman had visited NBT, India and met children and the makers of Indian children content. He was a man on a mission, bent upon connecting children with the magic and the power of imagination and writing.

Akbar and Birbal

Publisher: Edu Hub Publishing

Birbal or Mahesh Das was born to a poor farmer in 1528, in Trivikrampur, on the banks of River Yamuna. He was appointed as an administrator and a military advisor in the court of Akbar. It was his wit, wisdom and courage that brought him close to the Emperor and he was assigned as one of the nav ratnas.

Akbar often employed difficult tasks to test Birbal's skills and each time, Birbal won his heart with his exemplary astuteness. Birbal also advised Akbar in matters of justice using amusing parables. Over the years, Akbar and Birbal had become an inseparable pair, despised not only by the courtiers within the kingdom but also by rulers of countries far and wide.

The interactions between Akbar and Birbal have been recorded as gems of Indian folklore that have been passed on for generations. They are a storehouse of knowledge for the young and the old.

Birbal also wrote a collection of poems under the pen name Brahm, preserved in the Bharatpur museum, Rajasthan, India. Edu Hub Publishing Company brings the same collection in a narrative version to interest the young and old readers alike.

—Nidhi Kundra

Dictionary – an essential tool of language

In simple terms, a dictionary is a compilation of words ranging from letters A-Z. For systematic study of any language, a dictionary of that language is a prime necessity. Primarily, its purpose is to give meanings to words. However, there are many advantages of using a dictionary, which include correct spelling, right pronunciation, and parts of the speech. Truly, a dictionary is of great help to everyone especially to students who are learning a language. It is also helpful in enriching our vocabulary.

Dreamland Publications will unveil its dictionaries at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016. Dreamland’s Concise English Dictionary, with 1600 pages, is specially designed for children who are curious to build a great treasure house of vocabulary. Concise English Dictionary has ample of entries covering science, literature, nature, cultural words, phrases and their meaning. Numerous examples of usage, separate notes on grammar and vocabulary building are the prominent features of this dictionary that gives clear explanation.

Dreamland also prides itself on creating another Mini English Dictionary to cater to the needs of children at home and school. Being compiled in simple language, easy-to-understand definitions and examples, this handy dictionary could be of great help to everyone.

As well as offering a treasure of information about words, Dreamland Publications’ Dictionaries include a wide range of additional features like: quick notes on grammar, pronunciation, spellings, idioms and phrases with usage, popular quotations, etc.

Unique & user-friendly, these dictionaries will definitely enrich your treasure-trove of English language, expand your understanding of words, and ensure you are using them correctly.

Kids love to read…it’s official!

The 5th edition of Kids & Family Reading Report, conducted by Scholastic and YouGov, says that 91% children aged 6 to 17 love being read aloud to. And while the survey also found that most parents stop reading aloud to their children as they get older and can read independently, 40% of children ages 6–11 say they wish their parents would continue to read aloud to them because “it is a special time with their parents.” To guide parents on reading aloud to their children, Scholastic released an infographic about the importance of reading aloud and Scholastic Parents online has created a free resource guide featuring read aloud book lists for all ages.

Few other findings say that more than three-quarters of children aged 6–17 (77%) believe reading books for fun is extremely or very important. While, eight in ten children aged 6–17 (81%) say they love reading books for fun or like it a lot, with girls being more likely than boys to say they love reading books for fun. One-third of children aged 6–17 (32%) report they are frequent readers, but overall, nine in ten kids (92%) say they read books for fun at least one day a week. Across ages, close to nine in ten children (87%) say they know they should read more books for fun; the same number of parents (86%) wish their child would read more books for fun. As children grow older, reading competes with many screen-related activities and 85% of parents with kids aged 6–17 agree: “I wish my child would do more things that did not involve screentime.” Parents and children agree by a wide margin that strong reading skills are among the most important skills children should have.

Imagine a four-year-old child browsing through children's books in a bookstore. What probably catches his/her attention is a book with his/her favourite character like Barbie, Mickey Mouse, Ben 10, Superman, Dory, etc. That’s the power of the licensed product! Publishers have seen a huge opportunity in this segment and have been really innovative and creative to bring books and other related products featuring these characters. So, how big is this segment and what are the trends within, finds out Varsha Verma.

What is licensing? Licensing is a way to allow others to use an owner’s (licensor) property in their products, while the licensor keeps control of the copyright. A licence is a legal agreement, which allows the licensor of the property to grant the right to use the property on specific products, usually in a defined territory over a defined period of time.

“In licensed publishing, publishers take rights of characters like Disney, Marvel, etc. We have licenses for characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Frozen, Sofia, Cars, Princess, Spiderman, Avengers, Batman, Scooby-Doo, Barbie, Tom & Jerry, Ben 10, Superman, Baby Looney Tunes, Looney Tunes, Hot Wheels, Max Steel and Smurfs. We have been into licensed publishing for the last 10 years, but all these licenses are not for books, but they are used for toys,” explained SK Ghai of Sterling Publishers. “It is a craze for children and publishers offer these products to cater to them.”

Market statistics…

Though it is very difficult to estimate the size and expanse of the market for licensed books in India, due to lack of statistical data, we thought it best to talk to the publishers of licensed books and here’s what they say. “The print market for licensed products would be in the vicinity of Rs 100-200 crore, which is growing at a rate of 15-20%, depending on the character and the licensed product,” shared Sanjiv Beckaya, CEO, Parragon Publishing, which is one of the leading licensed publishers in the world, representing brands such as Disney, Mattel, Nickelodeon, etc. In India, they started with Disney 10 years back, followed by Barbie and Nickelodeon. More recently, they have come up with Dory books.

While, Neeraj Jain, managing director, Scholastic India, said, “While I can’t comment on the size or rate of its growth, the licensed publishing market in India has been growing steadily. Movies have and continue to be largely based on books. The trend in the past 5-7 years has seen many books being made based on movies. So in that sense there’s an abundance of licensed products.” Scholastic offers a huge range of licensed product. “We have a global partnership with LEGO for books. We also hold the license for Star Wars and Marvel, which are both Disney properties. These are arguably the biggest brands out there when we look from a pop-culture and media consumption perspective,” added Shantanu Duttagupta, marketing head, Scholastic India.

“For Dorling Kindersley Global, the licensing brands and products are massive. The DK Licensing list is made up of an extensive range of internationally recognized and best-selling titles for children and adults, based on films, comics, toys, TV and other popular culture tie-ins. We pride ourselves on creating books that offer comprehensive information presented in highly visual, beautifully designed formats, and we work with leading licensors such as Lucasfilm, LEGO, Marvel Comics, Disney and Warner Bros,” said Aparna Sharma, managing director, Dorling Kindersley India. More recently, DK's Autumn 2015 Star Wars publications Star Wars The Force Awakens books and Star Wars Absolutely Everything You Need to Know have been shortlisted in the Best Licensed Written, Listening or Learning Range category of the Licensing Awards 2016. While, LEGO Awesome Ideas has been selected for the 2016 ILA (International Literacy Association)-CBC (Children's. Book Council) Children's Choices Reading List. They have also come up with some beautiful Finding Dory books.

“Though the licensed products are very popular in US, UK and Europe, it is a definite growth area in India. For DK, traditionally, it was not a big focus area for us, as we were more focused on family learning and references, but we see a real shift now. Even with licensed products, we have come up with books with family learning and values, coupled with the entertainment factor. Since we started participating in Comicon, our books have become quite popular with the masses,” she added.

On Indian licenses…

Though most of the publishers are offering foreign licensed products, they are now looking at Indian licenses as well. DK India has tied-up with Green Gold Animation, an animated content provider and creators of the popular cartoon character Chhota Bheem, to launch a bouquet of print and digital products for children in India. "DK is recognized all over the world for its high quality learning books for children, and we are thrilled to be collaborating with Green Gold Animation to introduce a range of fun yet educational books in DK's iconic style, specially for the Indian child," added Aparna. “We would like to explore more and might pick up a few more properties.”

While, Sterling Publishers offers Pepper, their indigenously designed character. “This is very popular and we have given rights to countries like France, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Papua Guinea, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore,” said Ghai.

Before roping in a particular character…

Licenced titles from Scholastic India“The obvious factors while selecting a property are TRPs, product portfolio across categories, and merchandise, if any. These factors help in mapping the strength of the character. Of course, probably the most important thing to keep in mind is the life of the brand/property. Whether it would be sustainable in the long-term is major aspect of creating a publishing program around the said property/character,” said Shantanu.

Similar views were shared by Sanjiv, who added, “Some of the licenses we have, have been there for a very long time, like Disney, Mattel (Barbie, etc). When we select a new license, we see if there are any movies, if it is on the TV channel then on which channel and the consumer products available. That’s the way we would like to work for new license.”

While, Aparna added, “We look at something that has not just a mass appeal but also right value. For example, when we picked up Chhota Bheem, we looked at his personality which has an element of naughtiness and rebellion but has a good character. The character is very influencing for that age group. So, in our series on Chhota Bheem, there is learning and value, besides entertainment of course. These books encourage reading and enhance general knowledge. This was quite different from what we were offering, but this was something which has helped us penetrate further in the Indian market, way beyond the niche market DK currently enjoys. Our workbooks in this series are very popular. They are international quality workbooks at competitive prices. We are going in for a reprint for the first set in Maths and English. We also brought out a journal, which is at a higher price point and is taking little longer to establish itself. Looking ahead, we are planning four story books for Chhota Bheem by the end of this year. And by next year, we plan to come up with a Character Encyclopaedia as well. We have rights to sell these products in the Indian sub-continent initially but we might look at other regions also. We are also in talks to create digital workbooks as well.”

For Ghai, sale is the hardcore criteria for selecting a particular character as royalty depends on that. “Characters like Disney sell more as the reach is more,” he added.

Books and beyond…

Licenced titles from Sterling PublishersWhen it comes to licensed products, publishers do not just offer story books, they go for more. Parragon offers book plus items like stickers, add-ons to the main products, activity books, etc. “Infact, 60% of our licensed products is colour sticker activity books,” shared Sanjiv. “The idea is to add an impulse factor for the parent and the child, so that it is visually appealing for them to pick it up. For Disney alone, we come up with 200 new products in a year. At any point of time, we have an active list of 500-600 titles for Disney alone.”

DK offers encyclopaedias, story books, series of readers, activity books, sticker books, etc. The prices range from Rs 500 to Rs 899. “Since parents are the buyers of these books for children, they wish to have some value to the book. So, we offer different products to cater to them,” added Aparna.

Sterling Publishers offers white board books, wipe and clean books, colouring books, activity books, story books, fun packs, workbooks, My Carry Along Books, sticker books, copy colouring books, paint books, activity books, story books, jigsaw puzzle books, board games etc. “We have 100+ titles in books and 50-60 in toys in this category,” added Ghai.

On bestsellers…

“In India, Marvel is most popular, with Batman and Avengers also topping the list,” said Aparna. “We do Character Encyclopaedias with LEGO, which are again very popular.” While, Sanjiv said, “Some of our bestsellers include Book of Secrets, Stories & Treasures, Magical Story, and library copies of Dory.”

Children and young adults: both love licensed products

So, do licensed products work only with children or with young adults as well? “It most definitely does. I mean, look at some of the major properties out there: DC, Marvel, Disney, Barbie, LEGO, Star Wars. They’re all strong brands that target the children and YA segment,” told Neeraj.

Similar views were shared by Aparna, who said that series like Star Wars is a big hit with young adults. In fact, DK has some amazing licensed books for adults as well, which include the world famous James Bond books.

On print runs…

“Parragon International does 200,000-300,000 copies for each titles, for all offices across. We are sensitive to editorial and production. We choose UK English language for India,” said Sanjiv.

While, Ghai shared that they print approximately 3000-4000 copies initially, which might go higher for certain titles. “For some classic games, the print runs are upto 20,000 copies. The price of our books range from Rs 35 to Rs 1999,” he added.

Distribution channels…

Talking about the distribution set-up, Sanjiv shared that they have multiple distribution channels like trade channel, modern retail, distributors and co-editions with key distributors where they sell bulk quantities. “We are very active on social media and do cross-promotion and other activities. Our books are also available on online platforms like Amazon and Flipkart,” said Pooja Kapoor, assistant manager marketing, Parragon Publishing India.

While, Aparna shares that they use the Penguin Random House distribution network for their products, which in itself is quite huge.

“We have our own sales team and we also sell through online and retail channels. We have our own manufacturing unit as well,” said Tarun Monga, head-sales & marketing, Sterling Publishers.

Business quantum…

On asking about the percentage of the total business of licensed books vs. other products of the publication house, Sanjiv replied that it would be to the tune of 35-40% and they are offering these books for the Indian sub-continent and few licenses in Middle East and North Africa.

Sterling Publishers offers their licensed products in not just India, but certain licensed products are sold in Sri Lanka, Middle East and Africa. “We also do worldwide exports for such products,” added Ghai. “Our licensed products would account for 50% of our total business,” he said.

While, Aparna shared, “In 2015, Licensing accounted for 22% of DK’s global frontlist.”

Print or digital: the verdict is clear

“In our experience of selling licensed products over the past 15 years, we’ve seen that print tends to rule the roost when it comes to TV and movie characters,” told Neeraj.

Similar views were shared by Sanjiv who said that ebooks are not value for money, so print rules in such products.

But, Aparna hopes that digital might work on licensed content also as there is an element of attraction with those characters or properties that children enjoy through games and social media. “But, print works much better for the kind of content we offer. Nevertheless, enhanced epubs of Marvel and LEGO work good,” she says.

But, publishers are working towards e-versions as well.” We are developing the e-version for our indigenous character Pepper,” said Ghai.

On a concluding note…

Aparna shared, “There is definitely a market for licensed products and DK harnesses it very well with learning material for children.”

“I hope everybody like our books and keeps on buying,” told Sanjiv. “Things are dynamic; one has to adapt and look at innovation in production, which is a key to marketing. The touch, feel and smell of the book are important,” concluded Sanjiv.

With so much happening in this industry and with new properties coming out every now and then, this segment in sure to grab eyeballs and come up with really interesting, creative and innovative products.

First edition of Kahaani Festival in Pune concludes successfully

Pune city kids witnessed the magical world of storytelling with the city’s first edition of the Kahaani Festival, presented by HP Printers. A brainchild of pioneering entertainment company Teamwork Arts, the Kahaani Festival was hosted by Arthshila at the Delhi Public School recently. The two day Festival was attended by over 6500 students accompanied by their teachers, parents as well as grandparents.

The event was inaugurated by Dadi Pudumjee, renowned puppeteer from the Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust, vocalist and Arthshila’s chief curatorial advisor Vidya Shah and Avinash Kamtikar - area sales manager Maharashtra HP Printers. The inaugural ceremony itself was a spellbinding affair that gave sneak peaks into the Festival’s events, including a short story by a grandparent duo, highlighting the importance of storytelling in a child’s life.

The event set off with a performance by Vidya Shah, followed by a small skit which gave a glimpse into what storytelling is. The event, which was spread across a large area of the school campus, witnessed a multitude of activities and workshops for children as well as parents and teachers.

Several artists, educators and storytellers from across the country joined local counterparts in bringing together this exciting Festival for young kids. The Kahaani Festival Outreach, organized by Pratham Books, was also held at nearly 15 schools in and around the city, engaging students in exciting storytelling sessions.

Graded magazines from Edu Hub

Edu Hub Publishing Co has recently launched a series of magazines for children, titled Edu Hub Times. They have come up with different magazines for different grades like Class 1, Class 2, Class 3 and Class 4 & 5. “We will launch the magazine for other classes like nursery & KG as well. The initial print run is 20,000 copies and we will be sending these magazines to all schools across the country,” told Bharat Rai Mendiratta of Edu Hub Publishing Co.

Hitopdesha Tales

Publisher: Edu Hub Publishing

The word Hitopdesha comes from Hita and Updesha, where Hita means welfare and Updesha means to advice or counsel. Hitopdesha Tales is a compilation of stories that advise for the welfare of others. These stories have been believed to be written in 14th century by Narayan Pandit. Since then, they have entertained and advised millions.

Like Panchtantra, these stories can never be out of vogue. Edu hub Publishing has recreated the magic of these stories in this book. Beautifully illustrated, the book will be liked by children and parents alike!


Interactive sessions at NCCL

In its endeavour to promote books and reading habit amongst children, National Centre for Children’s Literature (NCCL) organized an interactive session at the NCCL Library. A large number of students along with their teachers from Nigam Pratibha Vidyalaya, Masudpur, Vasant Kunj and Teach for India participated in this session.

While exhorting the teachers and students to read more frequently, Baldeo Bhai Sharma, chairman, NBT talked of the essence of knowledge and the role of teacher as described in the age-old Indian scriptures. A session on how to write a poem was conducted by Dwijendra Kumar, assistant editor, NBT wherein the teachers and children got acquainted with the nuances of composing a poem.

NCCL also organized an interactive session for children (from Katha Lab School, New Delhi) with Liladhar Mandloi, director of Bhartiya Jnanpith. He was also the former director general of All India Radio and Doordarshan.

Telling Stories Through Pictures

Campfire Graphic Novels, India’s leading publisher of graphic novels, recently held an exhibition at the India Habitat Centre titled ‘Telling Stories Through Pictures’. The exhibition showcased the popular medium of graphic novels and explored how they can be a useful tool for both entertainment and education.

Purple Turtle and Colour Fairies garments on the cards!

The India-based IP development company, Aadarsh Pvt Ltd, has recently signed a license agreement with Mustang Enterprises to launch Purple Turtle & Colour Fairies socks and undergarments for kids. Mustang is one of the largest manufacturers of children’s socks in India and holds a market share of about 50% in the organised sector.

Purple Turtle, a globally-recognized cartoon character developed from the noted publishing house have been enjoying immense popularity among young audience since its inception. With books in more than 30 countries Apps, E- books & games available online children are hooked to Purple Turtle. Purple Turtle videos on YouTube are loved by children, parents and teachers alike.

Sharing his happiness, Manish Rajoria, director, Aadarsh Pvt Ltd. said, “The Purple Turtle is a gender-neutral property that stimulates a child’s mind. This deal permits us to expand Purple Turtle’s growing popularity even further. Young children will now be able to enjoy their favourite character’s garments and we are thrilled about it. Mustang, a leader in providing high quality socks and garments for children, is a perfect brand to support our ever-growing initiatives for Purple Turtle & Colour Fairies brand.”

Rouhaan Shahpurwala of Mustang also expressed pleasure saying, “We are happy to be associated with Purple Turtle as it is the only Indian character which has a global presence. We will be launching Purple Turtle socks and undergarments for toddlers and kids shortly.” He further added, “The designs are very cute and I am sure young parents and kids will love to have Purple Turtle collection as part of their wardrobe. The Colour Fairies range is targeted specifically towards girls. Both these collections will be available through online and also in prominent retail stores in major cities.”

Ever wondered why animals are central characters in fables, classic, folk tales and literature? Here, Shabari Chaudhry throws light on the same.

Reading and being read to are a dominant part of childhood. From the moment we begin to understand language, we are regaled with rhymes and bedtime stories. Most stories written for children often have a moralizing aspect that aims at inspiring a sense of right versus wrong in young minds. For those of us who have read the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare”, even today, we immediately connect it to the adage—slow and steady wins the race. This seemingly simple and straightforward story and other fables—“The Ant and the Grasshopper” or “The Little Red Hen”—seem to have a lasting impression on our minds.

What is it about these tales that has kept them alive for centuries and endured generations?

The common thread here is the talking animals that are central to the stories’ unfolding. Be it fables, classics, folk tales or modern satire, literature is replete with instances where animal characters have been used—allegorically, metaphorically or literally—to convey the essence of the story. From Aesop’s Fables to The Call of the wild to Animal Farm, animals have always had a special significance when it comes to story-telling.

Why animals?

Throughout history, animals have had a consistent presence in human tales, which is a testimony to the human-animal bond. This bond or a sense of association can be traced back to the time of early cave paintings. During the middle ages, men compiled elaborate encyclopedias that documented mythical as well as real animals and their unique characteristics. Today, animals have become a part of the celluloid space as well. It would seem that wherever man goes, so do his beasts—but why?

Perhaps, the history of man is incomplete without his beasts. One of the theories posited by scholars is that using animal characters in stories and assigning them human characteristics allows humans to distance themselves from the actual incident and still experience the emotions or learn the lessons intended.

Whether written for children or adults, good literature works as a thinking device. Works of literature allow us to make sense of our world, understand our belief systems, have a dialogue with ourselves and others, question old systems and create new ones. Populating these works with animals that are similar to us allows us to experience these facets via proxy.

Anthropomorphism or assigning of human characteristics to animals is a device that is used in story-telling. Oral narration being the first mode of transmission of tales, early folklore typically employs anthropomorphism. However, all stories with anthropomorphic characters are not the same. Though the characters are essentially talking animals it is their representation (by the author) that marks the difference. For instance, the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm are quite unlike the pigs from the children’s fable “Three Little Pigs”. While Orwell uses the pig to represent the ruling class of a society—greedy and unproductive—the talking pigs from the children’s story serve a didactic purpose about the benefits of quick thinking and strength in numbers.

In the case of graphic novels like Art Spiegelman’s Maus or, more recently, in Malik Sajad’s Munnu: A boy from Kashmir, symbolic and metaphoric visual representation of anthropomorphic characters creates a richly layered and compelling read. Owing to the emphasis on the visual quotient in a graphic novel, it is inherently well suited to depict anthropomorphic characters. Talking creatures imbued with life in full colour have a definitive impact on the readers. In fact, one may forget to remember that the representation is not always literal.

Campfire’s graphic novel adaptation of classics like The Call of the Wild, The Wind in the Willows and The Jungle Book have given readers an opportunity to enjoy this unique reading experience. By bringing these well-loved characters to life Campfire’s adaptations infuse them with a tangible quality that leaves the reader with a lasting impression.

The case of The Jungle Book

An apt example of a timeless tale involving animal characters is, perhaps, The Jungle Book. The book’s popularity led to its being made into an animated series and a live-action film, more than once.

Jungle Book is as much a story for adults as it is for kids. There are characters in it that all can identify with, irrespective of age. Animal characters in stories appear under different guises. A loyal companion—the eponymous hero of White Fang or Buck from The Call of the Wild, an alter ego—the Cheshire Cat from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a trickster—wolf from The little Red Riding Hood, a guide, a guardian or even a mentor. Jungle Book too has its share of such models. Each animal character in this book also represents a quality or trait that is human. There is Baloo—a lovable mentor and teacher, Bagheera—a manipulating schemer with shades of grey, Kaa—the unpredictable ally, Shere Khan—the archenemy and Mowgli, the – boy-who-talks-to-animals. In the book, Mowgli represents every/any person trying to find his place within ‘the world’ (the jungle in his case).

The Jungle Book presents the fantastical journey of a wild man-cub who defeats his nemesis and finds a home with people who accept him as one of their own. As a narrative that uses animals to convey human characteristics—familial love, friendship, loyalty, courage and determination—the novel manages to connect with the reader every time.

(Shabari Choudhury is a Delhi-based art lover and an editor at Campfire Graphic Novels. She enjoys both superhero and off-beat independent comics and is a fan of films based on comic book characters.)

Thousands of years ago the Panchatantra stories projected men’s quest for self-realisation, to win friends and influence people in order to secure his own happiness and well-being – all focussed towards a stable, orderly society. Books always open the mind to other cultures and ways of life enabling children to overcome fear caused by ignorance, intolerance, conflict and war. Dr Ira Saxena, a child psychologist, writer, and critic of children’s books, talks more about peace initiatives in children’s stories.

A wide range of aesthetically pleasing picture books published in the West and translated in many languages generally deal with pre-conditions of peace – intolerance, xenophobia, prejudice against being different, misuse of power, oppression, and violence against people and property. The fury of war comes alive in their illustrations; the destruction of war bracing intense hatred for it in realistic grey shades of oppression as contrasted with vibrant colours of spring and flowers of hope.

Conflict is a certainty where there are differences – in colour of skin, rituals of worship, customs and norms of the society, ways of living and celebrations. This otherness provokes their urge for supremacy hindering the acceptance of people as they are. Always at variance with peace and harmony, intolerance subdues the appreciation and understanding of otherness.

Domination and tyranny fuelled by prejudice thwarts free expression of people, hence, frustrating the environment of peace. All along, children’s books have echoed the cry for peace and freedom subscribing to natural feelings for the good things in life – song of the dawn along the river, gentle rustle of leaves in the forests, red poppies in the meadows and children rushing joyously at the sound of school bus. Culture of peace cannot be equated with abstract pacifism and passive intolerance. It originates in the commitment of building a world that is acceptable to all.

Tolerance is closely linked to freedom, solidarity, and justice. The universally acknowledged twentieth century idol of peace, Mahatma Gandhi, carried the meaning of non-violence beyond mere cessation of war into the depth of an unflinching faith – the realm of ahimsa as a way of life and the law of civilised species. He articulated a vision of peace in which justice is inherent; peace requires not only absence of violence but also presence of justice: “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.” "Without Gandhi…there can be no world of tomorrow…" the words of Raja Rao (The Great Indian Way – A Life of Mahatma Gandhi) resound in the life of the great American voice of non-violence and justice, Martin Luther King Jr (Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr Martin Luther King), where Martin’s intense expressions and oft-repeated phrases are woven in the text to create a captivating yet completely accessible book for young readers.

Everywhere in Martin’s hometown he saw the signs Whites Only. His mother said that these signs were in all southern cities and towns in United States. Every time Martin read these words he felt bad, Until he remembered what his mother told him, “You are As good As anyone.”

In the footsteps of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr reiterated the demand for justice to complement freedom in his dream for equality through non-violence. The directness and simplicity of King’s portrayal transcends the meaning poetically, complete with the spiritual strength and peaceful visage of the great fighter of human rights. The promise of peace presented in fiction registers convincingly as the role players come closer to reality.

Real people in fiction

The perception of peace makes a direct impact on the readers as the lives of real heroes, the struggle for liberation and devotion of martyrs on the altar of peace speak out from the pages. Non-violence impacts directly upon strengthening of will, purifying the inner self through the all-absorbing power of love (Mahatma Gandhi: A Biography) as Gandhi pledged his commitment to peace, fighting a unique battle for India’s Independence. (Our Gandhi: Child of Fear to Man of Freedom, The Story of Dandi March). Political freedom took a new shape and acquired a new content, but the essence of his teachings remains persistently peaceful (The Story of Gandhi).

For young adults, “Gandhi” by Louis Fischer presents a penetrating and comprehensive understanding of the subject by unravelling the deep layers of Gandhi’s thoughts with subtle sensitive nuances.

The modern approach to great stories of real people became a form of therapy for the readers. The conventional concept of national heroes and narratives of success melts in the psychological explorations of their personality. Fictional biographies, articulation of the story of life and idealist analysis of the individual achievements enhanced the popularity of biographies. The biographies brought real people in flesh and blood to shed a guiding light upon young readers.

In Indian publishing, biographies constitute a favourite genre in modern publishing. Nearly every publisher has a series of biographies of heroes of modern Indian history – the leaders of the freedom struggle ( Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India; Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India; Bal Gangadhar Tilak; Jai Prakash Narain; Sarojini Naidu; Vijayluxmi Pundit; Rajkumari Amrit Kaur; Aurobindo; Raja Ram Mohan Roy etc.). The soldiers of the peaceful struggle for Indian Independence rose above their mundane existence into the exceptional, broadening the genre, to inspire the campaign for non-violence and peace.

Inspired fiction

The unique saga of Indian freedom movement, full of heroism and thrilling to the core, recounts the story of mobilisation of the inner strength and will of the masses driven by truth and ahimsa towards a common goal of freedom (Triumph of Non- Violence). The backdrop remains as powerful as the lives of individuals who emerged as great martyrs, endowing writers like me with inspiring material for fiction (Kamala’s Story – The Saga of Our Freedom, Together We Marched: fictionalising of history through the eyes of a little girl and relating the stories of unsung heroes of the Independence movement from different walks of life).

As a co-author of these books I experienced a strong sense of fulfilment, due in part to my upbringing influenced by my mother, Kamala Chaudhri – a Gandhian, freedom fighter developing phase of the nonviolent struggle for independence (the novel is the recipient of the Shankar’s Medal for Writing). I dwelt upon compelling images of real people motivated by the sheer force of will, overwhelming inner strength, courage and patriotism, capturing the spirit of the non-violent movement.

The jumbo pearl, a sacred heirloom – left in the custody of the little heroine by her grandfather as he is led away by the soldiers to the prison – slips away from her possession. In the search she experiences a trail of adventure, an encounter with enemy soldiers, violent revolutionaries active in the struggle for freedom and the peaceful brigade of non-violent marchers. As the drama unfolds the impact of Gandhian movement and nonviolence gradually grows upon the little heroine, juxtaposed against the prevailing violence of repression by foreign rule. I have lived my mother’s childhood, her developing conviction in non-violence as expressed in the heroine’s letters to her grandfather in jail and learning the practice of hand spinning cotton. The energy of actions climaxing to a happy solution asserts the final supremacy of non-violence.

The spirit of freedom and non-violence underline many an adventure fiction (Adventure before Midnight), which records real episodes and real people, such as the brave act of a bunch of school children who resolutely attempt to hoist the Indian flag on their school building but end up sacrificing their lives on the altar of freedom. Even fictionalised history in A Pinch of Salt Rocks an Empire – the story of Gandhi’s famous Salt March – rings with the profound message of nonviolence and the unyielding faith in peace.

The absorbing autobiography of a tiger – Tiger for Malgudi – is an engrossing novel for young adults in which the narrative imbibes the philosophy of peace in the tiger’s search for a way out through the storm. Through the depths of the natural and spiritual worlds, the Master empowers him with virtues of non-violence for transformation.

The tiger begins to enjoy the vision of the rising sun, sparkle of sunrays on leaves and in the last scene the laughter of children coming to see him at the zoo. These books carry the message of tolerance – a requirement for peaceful coexistence among people and races of the world.

Among the other iconic legends of peace is Sadako, a Japanese holocaust victim who emerges as life-like, in the pages of fiction, with her thousand paper cranes. She folds coloured papers into cranes, believing that an offering of 1,000 such birds would cause the gods to grant her wish and make her well again. Unfortunately, Sadako dies; but her classmates finish making the paper cranes as a memorial to be buried with their young friend. It has become a custom for people to place paper cranes at the memorial each year on August 6, Peace Day. The story of Sadako rewritten by writers in many countries remains a literary experience of raw emotion, a reflection on life and war and peace.

The Apartheid in Africa was the consequence of a racist law. With a root in colonisation, apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation and white domination, which stripped people of their civil rights, sparked a widespread movement for liberation and human rights in modern times. The story of Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid as narrated in Nelson Mandela echoes the spirit of Gandhi and King in its proclaimation of the culture of peace (Peaceful Protests: The Life of Nelson Mandela and Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela).

The meaning of peace spreads beyond the limits of war, freedom, philosophy, and spiritualism to peace in day to day conflicts in family, school, and social exchanges where sometimes the images grow out of proportion into racial attitudes and terrorism (The Road to Peace). One World narrates tales of peace and pressure encountered by children. Paralysing all attempts for peace, terrorism has unfortunately seeped into the society like cancer, striking fear among people irrespective of nationalities and race, forever increasing and intensifying, only to destroy. As morning begins with Sun rays sparkling over snow-tipped Himalayas, securely enclosing saffron fields’ persistent insecurity and fear of suicide attacks, gunfire surround the young. It has been observed that the young had lost the skill to be happy; their imagination had been frozen under the burden of their grief. The harsh truth prompted a stressful tale (No Guns on My Son’s Funeral and Weed) of bleak reality of a suicide bomber shrieking for peace throughout the rough-ride into terrorism. In stories that handle the theme of terror, the plot remains as stark as the gruesome reality loaded with a cry for peace.

More recently, a Korean publication compiled the works of children writers from 22 countries (Peace Stories) in its effort to proclaim a wider sense of peace. Another mosaic of stories by eminent Indian writers, There’s Another Way, The Road to Peace, describes the daunting way through a thorny terrain where the goal remains the same – peace and friendship. The stories weave a logical explanation to conflicts and chaos to illustrate complex truths of life that ordinarily defy analysis.

On the printed page, the truth assaults fiercely, ravaging the hurt, arousing a painful fury from the innermost recesses of human sensibility, simply pleading for a solitary assertion – let me live in Peace. A belief in the innate goodness of human beings endures in the darkness, a force for hope and peace. The stories show the readers a way to cope with harsh realities of life and to prevail in spite of them.

“There comes the morning with the golden basket in her right hand bearing the wreath of beauty, silently to crown the earth. And there comes the evening over the lonely meadows deserted by herds, through trackless paths, carrying cool draughts of peace in her golden pitcher from the western ocean of rest. But there, where spreads the infinite sky for the soul to take her flight in, reigns the stainless white radiance. There is no day nor night, nor form nor colour, and never, never a word.”

–Rabindranath Tagore