Kids & Teens

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 link for you 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

Vikram & Betaal: The Storyteller Series

Sutradhar: Nidhi Kundra
Publisher: Edu Hub Publishing, New Delhi
(ISBN: 978-93-859-9405-0)

Indian mythology boasts of a number of evergreen stories, which have been told and retold many times and will continue to be a favourite for centuries. Vikram & Betaal is based on Betaal Pacchisi, written nearly 2,500 years ago by Mahakavi Somdev Bhatt.

These are spellbinding stories told to the wise King Vikramaditya by the wily ghost Betaal. King Vikramaditya has been given the task to catch Betaal, who with his wit, always succeeds in setting himself free. He tells a story to the king on the way and warns him not to utter a single word, else he will fly away. After every story, Betaal asks him a puzzling question, which Vikramaditya cannot resist to answer, as he is a wise man.

In this new series, these old stories have been given a fresh look and appeal to attract kids. Beautifully illustrated and simple text, the book will appeal to one and all.

–Varsha Verma

Simply Nanju

Author: Zainab Sulaiman
Publisher: Duckbill Books, New Delhi
(Pp 128 Pages, ISBN 978-93-83331-70-3, Price Rs. 199)

A sinple and warm story about a boy Nanju, who is a carefree lad, who does not cares that he walks funny or that he’s known as the class copy cat or that the cleverest (and prettiest) girl in class barely knows he’s alive. Nanju studies in a school for children who are differently-abled.

But, he is really smart and he, along with his beloved friend- Mahesh, manages to solve the mystery of books disappearing from the classroom as everyone suspects Nanju. Moreover, his father has warned him that he will send him to Unni Mama’s all-boys Hostel from Hell, if he is the culprit. Nanju is determined to find the real thief and continue to live the life in the way he loves.

Fast-paced and extremely enjoyable, the book will appeal to kids and also help them empathise with those who are differently-abled.

–Varsha Verma

My First Encyclopedia

Publisher: Edu Hub, New Delhi,
(ISBN 9789385994005, Rs 350; $ 10)

My First Encyclopedia (First Edition: 2016) is designed as a ready reference for the upper primary age group. The book is beautifully illustrated with real and lively pictures and gives the reader an insight into the Universe, the world of Science, Human Body, Birds and Animals, Wild Fauna and Wonders of the World. The encyclopedia has been designed in simple language as a supplementary tool not only for school projects but also to satiate the appetite of the eager learners. Amazing Facts have been added in each topic to provide an insight into the mystics of the natural and man made world. First in the series, My First Encyclopedia is sure to serve as a self help tool for its learners.

–Vasu V

Indian author shines at Scholastic Asian Book Award 2016

Aditi KrishnakumarThe grand prize winner of the Scholastic Asian Book Award is Codex: The Lost Treasure of the Indus by Aditi Krishnakumar from India. The book is about deciphering the mysterious script of the Indus Valley Civilisation, which proves to be a puzzle in three languages. It’s a job for Codex, who’s a linguist, mathematician and all-round geek. But Codex soon discovers that this isn’t like anything she’s done before. As the sinister implications of the find become apparent, Codex must work with agent Lila Raman to get to the bottom of a fourthousand- year-old mystery.

The first Runner-up is Chasing Freedom by Tina Cho from South Korea while the second runner-up is Island Girl by Stephanie Ho Lee-Ling from Singapore.

Tina ChoThese awards were recently announced by National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) and Scholastic Asia. This year, five finalists were selected from a pool of 54 submissions. Entries came from 11 countries, with Iran and Palestine being represented for the first time.

R Ramachandran, executive director of NBDCS, said, “Since its inception, SABA has been positioned to be an avenue for budding and established writers from around the region to showcase their diverse literary talents. With each edition, we’ve received an increasing number of submissions and better quality ones – this is a clear indication that SABA is wellrecognised by authors as a platform for promoting their works to a larger audience.”

Stephanie Ho Lee-LingOrganised since 2011, SABA promotes Asian experiences and expression in creative and innovative forms, by celebrating writers of Asian origin whose works have the potential to share uniquely Asian experiences with the rest of the world.

Selina Lee, vice president of Scholastic Asia, said, “At Scholastic, we believe that literacy is the cornerstone of all learning, and we aim to help children discover the pleasure and power of reading. SABA is a demonstration of our commitment to producing quality, engaging educational content, and we look forward to once again bringing the experiences of life, spirit, and thinking in different parts of Asia to the world, through this year’s award.”

It is sad but true. What it makes sad is that many good new Indian authors writing in English remain undiscovered, as if imprisoned them in a closet. Anita Krishan is one among them. Jyaneswar Laishram from All About Book Publishing discovers this threebook- old author from Shimla, now residing in Delhi-NCR, whose work is tantamount to classic literary pieces, deeply touching, sensitive, hilarious and unpretentious. Of the three books of Anita Krishan published by Finger Print is Fluffy and Me, the latest and a memoir, revolving around a period of the author’s life when she was growing up from a little girl to a young woman, all along with a selfless canine companion named Fluffy. It was Fluffy that animated the laid back life of Betu, nickname of Anita at home, whose house was located on the Observatory Hill, near The Mall in Shimla. “I have two sisters and a brother, all of them elder to me; I was often asked to buzz off whenever I tried to join their gossips they had at home with their visiting friends,” remembers Anita. This was a sheer reason why she desperately needed for a friend of her kind. Betu was contended in her solitary exploration of pine forests, deodars on the lofty mountains, but felt the lack of a close companion. Things took a big turn one dull evening when she received an unexpected phone call from a friend of his father, who agreed to give her a Lhasa Apso pup that was on the way and thus began the true story of the undying friendship between a girl and a selfless doggie. With loads of adventures, nasty tricks and walks in wilderness, bond between Betu and Fluffy grew deeper than imagined as they gradually glided from innocence to maturity. This heart-warming true story takes readers down to the journey full of laughter, fun, fear, and finally tears.

Anita KrishanDogs live short lives! It is pretty sure for readers, in the middle of Fluffy and Me, to worry about Fluffy to be gone leaving Betu behind. Contrary to it, sadness in the story cropped up when Betu got engaged, her marriage date fixed and she finally had to leave Fluffy behind. On a mid-winter morning, Betu’s last day at her home, clouds gathered strength and afternoon became dark, soon snowflakes showered. She knew she would miss Fluffy terribly. She unsuccessfully tried her best effort to swallow the painful lump in her throat. After all, she had no choice but to leave her childhood companion to where he belonged, Shimla, when she got married to a gentleman from Chandigarh.

“Months after marriage I visited my Shimla home often; Fluffy greeted me with the same enthusiasm, but my mother said that he had not been the same ever since I had left home,” said Anita, adding that Fluffy had lost much interest in things, sat listlessly most of the time. Fluffy died one fine morning, in Betu’s absence. Her brother drove down to Chandigarh, to deliver Anita the news of Fluffy’s demise. “When my friend was gone, uncontrolled tears swelled in my eyes, which I swallowed… I was not supposed to cry over a noble and fearless friend,” Anita says. One day Betu took her two babies up the hill where located the resting place of Fluffy. She watched the dying radiance of crimson aura in the sundown horizon in thought of the departed friend.

Sweet narration

Anita’s love of nature is vividly portrayed in Fluffy and Me. Her narration is simple, sweet and moving in a flowing literary style. She has unique storytelling perspective. Born in Shimla in 1955 and brought up reading Enid Blyton, Jane Austen, Rand, among others, Anita worked as an educator for twenty-five years, introducing English literature to young learners, before she settled to devote fulltime to writing, her ultimate passion. Such journey of her on the literary lane led her to write and direct plays, pen down poems, stories and novels.

In the year 2007, after her years of romance with literature, Anita was fully triggered to write her first book Running Up The Hills, followed by Tears of Jhelum in 2014 and Fluffy and Me in 2015. Apart from writing, being an original native of tranquil nature of the Himalayan suburb, she is exceedingly cognizant about environment; she has spearheaded a number of initiatives/workshops that condition children to care and nurture for their future. Her love of nature, mankind and animals is reflected in her writing, whether it could be Fluffy and Me or the others.

A sequel soon

Though it will not be a part continued from where it ended, a sequel of her second book Tears of Jhelum is now in the production process. Tears of Jhelum revolves around the story of the years of social and political turmoil in Kashmir and Wali Mohammad Khan has been a silent spectator to it. Every bit of terrorism unleashed in the valley was as senseless as the people who propagated it with manic intensity, but Wali managed a seemingly normal life for himself and his family, naively believing the terror would never touch him or the ones he loved.

Tears of Jhelum is written in a sensitively poignant narrative, about victims of terrorism whose heartbreaking stories are lost forever behind the smokescreen of apathy and indifference. “All these conflicts, hostility are created only by some chauvinists for their personal and political gains. Otherwise people all over the world love peace,” conveys Anita, who travelled extensively across the globe with her husband, attending conferences and meeting people of diverse nationalities.

For more than 30 years, Dreamland Publications has been delivering outstanding range of valuable books and has earned an international reputation for its quality. Dreamland aims to produce a trove of innovative titles in a variety of genres. From beautiful picture books to famous bedtime stories and educational books & charts, Dreamland Publications has something to suit every age or propensity.

For pre-schoolers or early learners, they have launched “Complete Kit of Pre-Nursery, Nursery & Kindergarten” which are widely trusted. These books feature colourful pictures, age-appropriate knowledgeable content and activities that work as a wonderful medium to encourage young learners towards education.

Also Activity Books have child-friendly information on variety of topics, their new release of “My Activity Series” having 15 different titles make lovely presents and they’re perfect for travelling too.

To further expand their horizon they have published adult colouring books Rejuvenate Yourself and Refreshing Mandala Colouring Books that offer an escape to a world of inspiration and artistic fulfilment.

They are recently participating in Bologna Book Fair (4th – 7th April, 2016) - Stand No. B – 58, Pavilion 26 and London Book Fair (12th – 14th April 2016) - Stand No. 1E – 11 (Level 1).

Indian readers have grown up reading the likes of Amar Chitra Katha and Indrajal Comics…the mythology still rules the roost when it comes to graphic novels, shares Shabari Choudhury, editor, Campfire Graphic Novels. No longer living an uncertain existence on the fringes of the publishing world, the Graphic Novel has truly come a long way. Viewed as a niche genre ever since its inception, graphic novels were often thought to be the same as comics. The creation and subsequent publishing of graphic novels like Will Eisner’s Contract with God, Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman saw a shift in the popular perception regarding the medium. The evolution of the graphic novel in India has, in some ways, mirrored its trajectory in the West. Starting in the 60s, the Indian publishing industry had a rich repository of comics that were being published by publishers like Raj Comics, Amar Chitra Katha and Indrajal Comics. So, although readers were familiar with a format that was similar—images with panel and text—the content and subject were poles apart.

Changing content

The advent of independent graphic novel creators in the early 90s created a ripple whose effects can be felt even today. One of the earliest Indian graphic novels was Orijit Sen’s River of Stories, a take on the socio-political and environmental issues surrounding the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Another early instance of an Indian graphic novel that is semi-fictional in mode is Sarnath Banerjee’s Corridor. Based in modern Delhi, the novel looks at people and their everyday interactions in an urban setting. Books like these made publishers sit up and take notice of the graphic novel, opening up the possibility of using it to create content for mature readers. Manta Ray Comic’s Hush and Phantomville’s Kashmir Pending that dealt with complex and sensitive issues like child abuse and post-partition aftermath further cemented the position of the graphic novel as a medium for serious storytelling.

The last decade has seen many Indian publishers explore the medium of the graphic novel for the medium’s sake. The combination of visuals and text create endless possibilities of telling and re-telling stories across genres. While publishers like Vimanika and Pop Culture Publishing have used it to create cult-fiction series like I am Kalki and Odayan, Campfire Graphic Novels has used the medium to tell the life stories of great leaders and unforgettable personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs and more recently, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

Mythology and the graphic novel

In spite of novel attempts to create original stories, the one source that most Indian publishers seem to fall back upon, time and again, for inspiration is mythology. Titles like Campfire’s Ravana: Roar of the Demon King, Draupadi: The Fire-born Princess, Krishna: Defender of Dharma and Vimanika’s Shiva: The Legends of the Immortal have created a strong reader base for this genre in the Indian market.

Fresh adaptation of stories from the Mahabharata, Ramayana and other popular mythological tales continue to make it to shelves in bookstores. Retellings of Indian mythology seem to draw maximum readers, especially in the case of the graphic novel. Ingrained in our subconscious since childhood, stories of gods and goddesses are an inherent part of our cultural idiom. An immediacy of association with these tales of superhuman men and women, perhaps allows the reader to explore a world that forms an escape from reality, much like any good film. Therefore, for every original work like Delhi Calm, Kari or Munnu: A Boy from Kashmir, there are three to four mythological stories that are being published.

Even in the case of popular cult-fiction work like Holy Cow Entertainment’s Aghori where the protagonist embraces a terrible sect of ascetics, the source of inspiration is Indian mythology. The story traces the character’s journey that brings him face-to-face with beings out of Hindu mythology, ultimately making a deal with the Devas or gods.

The way ahead

Of late, subjects of horror and fantasy have also seen a rising popularity in graphic novels. On the lines of From Dusk Till Dawn, Shamik Dasgupta’s Caravan is the story of a centuries old vampire coven that travels through the deserts of Rajasthan disguised as a caravan of gypsies.

Besides these, there are a few novel, but short-lived attempts at stylized renditions like Sita’s Ramayana and I see Promised Land that have been illustrated by Patua scroll artists Moyna and Manu Chitrakar, respectively.

Although some seasoned writers and artists believe that the Indian graphic novel needs to let go of genre classification, and look beyond mythology for inspiration, the fact that mythology sells more in India is somewhere reflective of the people’s taste and choice. Is it then possible for mainline publishers to not cater to this wide market?

Whether tales from Indian mythology continue to be made into graphic novels or not remains to be seen, but for the time being mythology is here to stay.