In the last few years, children’s publishing in India has witnessed a sea change – narratives have moved away from the prosaic ‘happily ever after’ fairy tale genre and the moralistic mythological tales to themes that are engaging yet intellectually stimulating.
Stories that draw heavily from real life experiences and tales that teach problem-solving and life skills are slowly finding more space on the bookshelves of Indian children. Thanks to the experiments of authors of children’s books, young readers have a myriad of options beyond Ruskin Bind, Enid Blyton and R K Narayan.
Many women writers have been instrumental in bringing about these changes in the arena of children’s writing. Here are some women whose works can keep your children occupied during the lockdown:
The chairperson of the Infosys foundation is one of the most prolific writer of children’s books in the country. She has penned numerous travelogues, novels, technical books and, short –stories and non-fiction pieces as well in English and Kannada. Her most popular children’s books include How I Taught My Grandmother to Read and Other Stories, The Magic Drum, The Serpent’s Revenge, The Bird With Golden Wings, and The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk.
The charm of her stories transcends age as they reflect a zest for life, that typically characterizes childhood. She has been the recipient of the R.K. Narayan Award for Literature and the Attimabbe Award from the government of Karnataka for excellence in Kannada literature. Her latest children’s book How the Onion Got Its Layers has recently been released in an e-book and audio format.
If an author can spin an engaging tale on how to eat mangoes, she surely can capture the attention of young readers. Natasha Sharma, an MBA who quit her job as brand manager for Pizza Hut, is among the best-known children’s authors in the country today. Her first book Icky Yucky Mucky (2012) was centered around the bad habits of children and adults.
Natasha’s stories draw heavily from her personal experiences - a colourful, boisterous childhood thanks to a household which had 40 animals. A member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, her most popular books include Squiggle Takes a Walk – All About Punctuation, Rooster Raga, Anaya’s Thumb, and Kaka and Munni which is on the CBSE recommended reading list. Her other book Bonkers! had won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for 2014 for Asia and Middle East.
Anushka Ravishankar, a mathematics graduate, has written more than 20 children’s books and is the co-founder of Duckbill Books publishing house. She had worked as a systems analyst for several years before joining Tara Books as an editor. She also used to freelance with children’s comic magazine Tinkle. She wrote 18 picture books during her stint at Tara Books including the famous Tiger on a Tree which was translated into Korean, Japanese, and French, and was a huge hit in the US. The book also won the Star of Excellence Award from France’s National Union of Culture and Libraries in 1999.
Anushka has also worked as a publishing director at Scholastic India and her other famous works include Catch That Crocodile, Phiss Phuss Boom, Elephants Never Forget, and the Zain and Ana series, the first book of which was shortlisted for the Vodafone Crossword Book Award in 2010.
The engineer-turned-author-and-journalist is the brains behind Taranauts, India’s first fantasy adventure series for children. Based in Bengaluru, Roopa delved into the world of children’s writing with the well-known children’s magazine, Target. Her repertoire boasts of more than 25 children’s books in variants such as picture books, chapter books on a wide range of topics like science, history, mythology, economics and life skills. Some of her famous works include So You Want to Know About Economics, and The Gita for Children, The Vedas and Upanishads for Children.
A recipient of the Children’s Book Trust Award for Science Writing, she has also earned acclaim for her journalistic writings that have been published in including Business Today, Travel & Leisure South Asia, The Times of India, Deccan Herald, The Pioneer, and the Asian Age.
Bengaluru-based Arundhati Venkatesh was drawn into the world of children’s literature during a work trip to London. She was introduced to the magical world of picture books at London’s public libraries and that became the stepping stone to a career in children’s writing.
In 2015, Arundhati’s book Petu Pumpkin Tooth Troubles won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for India, Middle East and Asia in addition to her other book Bookasura winning the Comic Con India Best Publication for Children in the same year. Petu Pumpkin Tiffin Thief won the RivoKids Hindustan Times Parents and Kids Choice Award. Her books have unique yet relatable plots that are relevant in the Indian context and are also inspired by her childhood.
(Edited by Athira Nair)