Please welcome author Uma Krishnaswami who shares her favorite Indian children’s books. Uma’s latest books include:
Book Uncle and Me
- Winner, Scholastic Asian Book Award, 2011
- 2012, Scholastic India, Scholastic Singapore
2013, Scholastic Australia
- Winner, 2013 Crossword (India) Book award in the children’s category
Bright Sky, Starry City
“A gentle tale of a shared father/daughter enterprise, and Sicuro’s mixed-media illustrations, with their gauzy chalk and translucent watercolor touches, convey both the objective and emotive pleasures of stargazing.”Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Bright Sky, Starry City is an enchanting way to introduce youngsters to stargazing as well as to the issue of light pollution that makes it such a challenge in urban areas.” Canadian Review of Materials (4 stars)
Girl of the Wish Garden
“Text that sings like poetry narrates a gorgeous re-envisioning of Thumbelina….A must.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Krishnaswami successfully utilizes elements from the original tale to weave a fresh and invigorating story that even purists will enjoy.” Canadian Review of Materials (4 stars)
Two years ago I spoke at a book festival in Delhi, India. Bookaroo runs in five cities and brings thousands of Indian kids together with writers and illustrators. I didn’t make it to Bookaroo this year but the notice about the festival reminded me that I should take a look at books from Indian publishers that have struck a chord with me over the years. These are all published in English. Some, but not all, have been published in North American editions as well. Some of the older titles are still in print. Others, alas, are not, but they’re still worth searching for.
Tiger on a Tree by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Pulak Biswas
Tiger and humans come together in an encounter that is at once dramatic and funny. Spare, sure text that lends itself to reading and rereading.
The Mahabharata: A Child’s View by Samhita Arni, Tara Books, 1996, 2002.
In two volumes, a young writer’s version of India’s great epic tale of warring families. Arni began this project when she was 8. It’s really quite a remarkable book.
Barefoot Husain by Anjali Raghbeer. Tulika Books, 2010.
I was lucky enough to see this book in manuscript form. It’s the story of painter M.F.Husain in terms accessible to children. Young Jai helps Husain find his missing sandals, in a journey that takes us in and out of several of his iconic paintings. Sadly, Husain died in exile from his native India, but this book renders his work and life for young readers everywhere. Part of the publisher’s series about Indian artists–other titles include A Trail of Paint (about Jamini Roy) and My Name is Amrita (about Amrita Sher-Gil).
Hina in the Old City by Samina Mishra. Tulika Books, 2000
10-year old Hina lives in the old walled city of Delhi, and comes from a family of traditional embroiderers. She loves her world, and both the text and the photographs take us right along into the history, present, lives, and concerns of the old city.
Wisha Wozzawriter by Payal Kapadia. Penguin India, 2012.
A girl who wishes to be a writer is yanked into an alternate reality that leads her to start writing. Echoes of The Phantom Tollbooth in this whimsical, fast-paced chapter book.
Dear Mrs. Naidu by Mathangi Subramanian. Young Zubaan, 2014.
Activism, friendship, family, community—they all come together when young Sarojini begins to write letters to her long-dead heroine, poet and freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu. Touching, sweet, perfectly middle grade.
Younguncle Comes to Town by Vandana Singh. Young Zubaan, 2005.
A zany uncle spices up the lives of three siblings in small-town north India. A groundbreaking book when it first came out and it still holds up in its quietly eccentric way.
The Blue Umbrella by Ruskin Bond. Rupa Publications, 2013 (originally published in 1980)
Binya lives in the mountains and when she acquires a blue umbrella in exchange for her lucky leopard’s claw pendant, she becomes the envy of the village. Ram Bharose the shopkeeper is especially jealous. A perfectly crafted little gem in which the place is depicted as lovingly as the characters. Bond is something of an iconic figure in Indian children’s writing.
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins. Duckbill Books, 2015.
It seems fitting to begin and end with tigers. By my friend and colleague Mitali Perkins, here is the story of a tiger cub and a boy who is deeply connected to his home in the marshy Sunderbans of eastern India. First published in the US by Charlesbridge but I much prefer the look and feel of the Indian edition.
And if you want more subjective opinion from two lively and very opinionated women, here’s a lovely compendium of titles that includes both classics and more contemporary books, at least as of 2013. I hope there’s an update in the works!
101 Indian Children’s Books We Love by Anita Roy and Samina Mishra. Zubaan, 2013
Uma Krishnaswami was born in India. She now lives and writes in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. She is the author of more than twenty books for young readers. She teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
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