Kids & Teens

shares Shamim Padamsee in conversation with Varsha Verma. A seasoned writer of children books, she delves into the status of children literature in India. Shamim Padamsee loves books – to read and to write. Her dream of having a room filled with books is fast becoming reality. Her love for children’s books has been the driving force and led her to set up Young India Books, a website that reviews and promotes Indian books for children. As an author she is constantly concocting new stories to share with her six adorable grand-children. She has had several avatars in her life - globe-trotter, an educationist and a diplomat and has reveled in everyone of them. She is passionately interested in chi ldren’s literature and believes that books are important learning tools. Here, she shares her views on children literature.

Varsha: What have been the changes in the children literature in the last decade?

Shamim PadamseeShamim: The industry is changing, and definitely for the better. From the earlier didactic and moralistic books, today we have books that entertain, and yet, contain a kernel of foodfor- thought. And of course, the print quality is definitely better. Middle-grade fiction, which had been stagnating has in recent years exploded on the scene with a bang. Humour, wit, adventure, school life and realistic fiction, are all there.

Kids today have an amazing choice thanks also to the newer publishers, like Duckbill, who have carved a niche for themselves, and confidently stand by the publishing giants of children’s literature, Puffin, Scholastic and Hachette. In fact most of the titles that have won recent awards are in this category. And yet, we have miles to go! Close on the heels of middle grade fiction is the YA segment. Here too, we see great offerings. Publishers are taking bold steps in exploring today’s reality, issues of child molestation, female infanticide, drug abuse, homosexuality and such, are no longer taboo. Sensitively written, the books are articulate, entertaining and touching at the same time. Younger authors are now breaking new grounds. To name a few are Ranjit Lal, Revathy Suresh, Sowmya Rajendran and Himanjali Sankar.

Varsha: Do you think the Indian children bookpublishing industry is at par with the foreign counterparts, in terms of authors, illustrators, production quality, etc? Why/Why not?

Shamim: Though, our industry is making progress by leaps and bounds, we are yet to reach the finesse and quality of content of international literature for children. The gaps are many.

Varsha: What changes would you like to see in the industry?

Shamim: Sadly, in India we do not have board books for the very young. Which is sad, as this category, introduces children to the joys of reading at a young age, helping them grasp vital concepts and also provide building blocks for literacy.

Today, there is an abundance of picture books available with a wide range of topics, from fantasy to realistic fiction to creative non-fiction, the arts and more. Recently, some titles are more inclusive and have introduced differently-abled children as protagonists. One example is Catch that Cat by Tulika, featuring a feisty girl on a wheelchair. Books such as these enable mainstream children to be more accepting and empathetic. I would love to see more of these.

Another category that I would like to see more of is one that reflects the diversity of the land, peoples from different parts of the country with different lifestyles thus enabling children to experience perspectives other than their own. These would make for a more tolerant society in the future.

Sadly, however, the quality of our picture books, fluctuate from being excellent to downright bad. Too wordy, didactic, preachy, and even boring! Just the right ingredients to put off a young reader from books forever! This needs to change for, if the book does not capture the imagination of the child, we have lost a future reader.

Varsha: Tell us something about the efforts you are making in this direction?

Shamim: Young India Books is striving to place the best-of-India books in the hands of gen-next, to lay some essential building blocks towards a better India. We have a wide range of books reviewed on the site.

In order to further widen the awareness of these books and to applaud and appreciate schools that promote reading of India-centric books we have initiated an award for schools titled, The Leading Reading Schools of India Awards. The theme for last year was Wild About Wildlife. Children read from a recommended list of books (based on Indian fauna) and wrote an autobiography of the animal.

The theme this year is, You Be the Judge, through which kids will read a book, rate it and review it. Thus we get to delve into the minds and see the books through their eyes.

Varsha: What message would you like to give to parents/ teachers to choose the right books for children?

Shamim: Unfortunately, many parents do not see the value that lies hidden within the pages of a book. Books take you to far away worlds, and also enable you to dive deep within. They teach values, without preaching. They help you empathise, and best of all, they make a sensitive adult, one who cares about the world around him. So, my advise to parents would be, instead of getting your children mechanical toys, video games, get them books and see them grow into articulate, thinking adults.

Varsha: Anything else you would like to add...

Shamim: In general, books showcase characters and events with which children can identify. Hence, books set in our own milieu are vital to the child’s growth. Alas, as imported books are better known and produced they line the bookshelves of schools, bookstores and even in homes with impunity, thus denying our children the opportunity to see their own lives reflected in a book.

India-centric books have lower visibility and hence, it is quite understandable that children are quite ignorant of their land. For example, when I do story telling sessions in schools of my book, Poachers in Paradise, which talks of poaching of the Red Deer or Hangul, I usually start by asking children to name a few deer species. It is heartbreaking to hear most of them come up with - reindeer! Only an odd child here and there, will mention a Chital or a Sambar. If a child has not read books on our own flora and fauna - their heritage, will they want to protect and denounce the mass scale destruction of its habitat?

Jasco Handicrafts Pvt Ltd is set to launch Purple Turtle baby pillows & cushions in India under a license agreement with Aadarsh Pvt Ltd, an Indiabased IP development company.

Manish Rajoria, director, Aadarsh Pvt Ltd, said, “The Purple Turtle is gender neutral properties that stimulate a child’s mind. This deal permits us to expand the Purple Turtle growing popularity even further. Young audiences will now be able to enjoy many of Purple Turtle adventures through Baby cushions. Jasco Handicrafts Pvt Ltd is a leader in providing children with high quality Plush & Soft toys, a perfect partner to support our growing initiatives for the Purple Turtle brand.”

Aadarsh Pvt Ltd is the owner of brand ‘Purple Turtle’ India’s first and true Indian animated character that has gone global and created success stories in 27 countries and is mainly involved in IP creation, publishing, printing and licensing services of Toons & Characters focused on kid’s genre. Established in 1990, Jasco Handicrafts Pvt Ltd has created a niche for their stuff toys and children accessories designed to cater all age groups.

JetBlue Airways' award-winning Soar with Reading programme is taking off for the fifth consecutive summer, placing age appropriate books into the hands of children in need. Encouraging imaginations to take flight through reading, this year's initiative includes an online #BookBattle which encourages the public to join in the fun at and pick which community should receive 1,00,000 new children's books.

In honour of the fifth anniversary of the Soar with Reading summer reading initiative JetBlue has selected five cities to battle for these books – Detroit, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, and New York City. The city with the most online votes will win. Online voting is open through August 31, 2015 and books will be donated in 2016.

To quench one of the biggest book deserts, JetBlue has also launched a pilot programme as an extension of this year's Soar with Reading initiative. In an effort to make an immediate impact, JetBlue revealed book vending machines in Washington, DC to provide children in the Southeast neighbourhood with free access to books. Washington, DC was chosen to launch this programme after a study commissioned by JetBlue found that the Anacostia section of DC is a large book desert, leaving residents little or no access to purchase age-appropriate children's books.

JetBlue is New York's Hometown Airline, and a leading carrier in Boston, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Los Angeles (Long Beach), Orlando, and San Juan while Random House Children's Books is the world's largest English-language children's trade book publisher

Release of the set of seven different story books titled Indian Joy Series Stories for Kids by Indian Book Depot (Map House) brings a fresh enjoyment of reading moral stories filled with adventures, mysteries and humours, not only for mere pleasure but to boost moral values of children and young people. The stories compiled in abridged forms are predominantly of popular Indian folktales, which have been included in various school curriculums. Panchatantra, Aesop’s Fables, to mention a few, are some of the sources wherefrom these valuable moral stories for children are lifted with an attempt to nurture and culture the young minds.

The set of seven books in the Indian Joy Series Stories for Kids is designed in a calculated manner of one book for each day of the week, right from Monday to Sunday. Retold and complied by Dr SME Aras and Sakthi Aras, each book contains more than dozen of moral stories written in easy language, using simple vocabularies. The Monday Book, first of the set, consists of popular moral stories, namely Two Friends and The Bear, The Milkmaid’s Dream, One Nut and Two Boys, The Fox Without Tail, among others, giving young readers full of exhilaration. The Tuesday Book continues to carry the joy of reading forward with just another string of stories, which includes The Wolf in the Sheep Skin, The Salt Vendor and His Donkey, The Foolish Wolf’s Flute, etc.

Third in the series, Wednesday Book introduces young readers to a handful of interesting tales from Panchatantra and others: The Evil Minded Servant, The Illusions of a Brahmin, The Free Coconut, The Pompous Merchant, among the 11. The Thursday Book contains 14 stories among which are some timeless tales like Silly Little Mariam, The Dreaming Astrologer, The Farmer and His Lazy Sons, The Poor Man’s Wealth, etc. Kids are given the chance to experience a mix of interesting reads in Friday Book, which compiles The Wise Turtle, The Thoughtful Horse, The Big and The Small, The Grateful Mouse, The Wicket Servants, The Hasty Rabbit, in the collection.

Moreover, it turns out to be Saturday Book and Sunday Book which children can enjoy in a dif ferent mood as both are designed for reading on holidays. In these two, wonderful tales including The Grateful Eagle, The Undeserving Monkey, The Greedy Minister as well as ever popular fables like The Thirsty Crow, The Sour Grapes, The Ant and The Grasshopper, The Hare and The Tortoise, The Farmer and Magic Goose, The Curious Monkey, make the list. This set of seven story books is a perfect compilation to serve as an introductory passage for kids to moral lessons and values.

–Jyaneswar Laishram

Purple Turtle lands in Sri Lanka

Sarasavi Bookshop, Colombo has launched Purple Turtle story books in Sinhala and these stories have won the hearts of Sri Lankan children. Originally introduced in 2012, the Purple Turtle books have been published in 27 countries including USA, U K , C h i n a , Russia, in six regional languages in India with over one million copies published to date. The Purple Turtle (78 X 7 min, 3D HD) animation featuring the world’s cutest turtle, a little guy who stands out of the normal crowd because he tends to think differently than others, better yet, a bit ‘out of his shell’ is in development.

Sarasavi Bookshop (Pvt) Ltd is a division of the Sarasavi Group of Companies in Sri Lanka. The bookshop first commenced business over 65 years ago in the rural township of Padukka. Today they have more than 14 branches including bookstores in some of the major cities in Sri Lanka such as Kandy, Matara, Gampaha and Colombo.

While, Aadarsh Pvt Ltd is the owner of brand “Purple Turtle,” India’s first & true Indian animated character that has gone global and created success stories in 27 countries and is mainly involved in IP creation, publishing, printing and licensing services of toons & Characters focused on school genre.

Get set for Jumpstart 2015

Two cities, three days, four master-classes, eight speakers, insight talks, presentations, slamathon, transmedia mixer, panel discussions...what more can you expect?

Jumpstart 2015, an annual conference for children’s content, is back with a dynamic, new theme and international experts. Organised by German Book Office (GBO), it is a must-attend event for writers and illustrators. The conference will take place on August 18 at India International Centre, New Delhi and from August 21-22 at Max Mueller Bhavan, Bengaluru.

At New Delhi, there will be a panel discussion – STORYDUST, where the panellists will explore the elements of a good story. The panellists will include Nicki Greenberg, Leonie Norrington, Julia Regul Singh and Motti Aviram, while moderator will be Sayoni Basu. At Bengaluru, there will be a panel on WINDOWS: Open up your imagination, panelists will open up a flight of fantasy, a dance of creativity. The panellists - Nicki Greenberg (Illustration); Arundathi Venkatesh (Writing); Aruna Ganesh Ram (Theatre) and Motti Aviram (Film) - are experts in world-building. Through effective storytelling, whether it is writing, illustration, theatre or film, they play with the ways in which history, mythology and stories are relayed to children, how these ways are enriching and, invariably, a lot of fun. It will be moderated by Manasi Subramaniam.

The session on MIRRORS: A reflection of reality, is all about providing specific insights into specific fields. This will be broken up into three simultaneous sessions. Each participant can choose one session to attend- Reflections: Leonie Norrington on books (conversation managed by Manasi); Through the Looking Glass: Anand Ramachandran on interactive digital narratives (conversation managed by Prashasti) and Prism of Ideas: Deeptha Vivekanand on story-based learning (conversation managed by Ameen). Another session on KALEIDOSCOPES will focus on successfully managing a brand in important children’s content industries, and bringing out some valuable insights when it comes to building a financially viable property.

A glimpse of Jumpstart 2014.

Stories are memory and magic, escape and entertainment, language and learning; and at Jumpstart this year, attendees can present their story to the panel of experts, who will give their feedback and critique at Slamathon, JUMPSTART in Bengaluru on August 21.

At both venues, the conference will feature Writers' Masterclass with Leonie Norrington, Illustrators' Masterclass with Nicki Greenberg, Masterclass on Storytelling Techniques by Ameen Haque and Masterclass on Screenwriting for Children by Motti Aviram.