Congratulations Anu Kumar on your new middle grade book “A Chola Adventure” which is part of the Girls in India series being published by Penguin India!

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Anu KumarOne of the first people I met at the recent Asian Festival of Children’s Content held in Singapore was author Anu Kumar. Originally from India, Anu now lives in Singapore and writes for children as well as for older readers. Her short stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies have been twice awarded by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and have been short-listed by The Little Magazine. Her third book for older readers  It Takes a Murder  was released last year following  Letters for Paul (Mapin 2006) and The Dollmakers’ Island (Gyaana, 2010) . You can learn more about her books for children and young adults here and do check out her website by clicking here.

Unfortunately Anu and I only had time for a brief chat at AFCC and our paths didn’t cross again. Although I would have loved to attended one of her sessions ( An Author’s Creative JourneyConceptualising and Writing Books for Series, and Writing Non-fiction for Early Teens) the times conflicted with the sessions that I was involved in. Hopefully we can meet again at the 2014 AFCC! In the meantime I will be tracking down a copy of her new book, A Chola Adventure,  which was just released last month. This book for for middle grade readers (9+) is published by Penguin Books India (Puffin imprint)  and is  part of their new Girls of India series which includes the books A Mauryan Adventure by  Subhadra Sen Gupta and A Harappan Adventure by Sunila Gupte.

A Chola Adventure

Sub title: Girls of India

A Chola Adventure by Anu Kumar, Penguin IndiaAuthor: Anu Kumar

990 CE, Tanjore, India Twelve-year-old Raji is growing up during the reign of Rajaraja Chola in the south of India. Raji is a girl of spirit- brave, bright and bold. She is also a dancer, a warrior and a sculptor who models kingdoms in stone. Raji, however, is not happy: She misses her family. Her mother is in exile and her father has left home in grief. On a dark night as a storm rages, Raji rescues a Chinese sailor at sea. This sets off a chain of events with unforeseen consequences. A Shiva statue goes missing, a prince disappears and there is a murder inside a temple. As Raji and her friends, the prince Rajendra Chola and his cousin, Ananta, try to help the Chinese mariner, they realize that he may have some of the answers Raji has been looking for. Will the criminals be brought to justice? Will Rajis family be reunited once again? Will peace be restored to the mighty Chola Kingdom?

For more details click here.

 

PaperTigers’ Global Voices: Richa Jha (India)

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

As our 10th Anniversary celebrations have come to a conclusion we are now back to our regularly scheduled blog programming so to speak. First up we are pleased to welcome Richa Jha  as our new  Global Voices Guest Blogger. Richa will be joining us here on the blog  for three consecutive Wednesdays (today, Nov 28th and Dec. 5th) and has written a wonderful piece for us:

Reader-less Books ~ by Richa Jha

Part 1 of 3.

Roll of Honour, a recent novel by Amandeep Sandhu is a gripping, haunting, disturbing page-turner. In many ways, it is also India’s first boldly written brutally honest crossover fiction. Set against the prominent backdrop of the Sikh militancy in the 1980s, it is a gritty account of a troubled adolescence and split loyalties at a military boarding school. A couple of years ago, I read Siddharth Sarma’s The Grasshopper’s Run in five straight hours, transfixed, glued to the pages. It’s an outstanding read (little surprise that it was picked up by Bloomsbury for international publication), with all the elements of good YA read: it’s fast paced, there’s friendship, deceit, loyalties, war, trauma, revenge, retribution. The depth and detailing – geographical, political and emotional (like in Roll of Honour) – is of an exceptionally high order. Books like these get noticed and talked about in India, for sure; they get rave reviews. And they win awards.

But the copies don’t sell; not the way they should, not to the readers they ought to. The young adults don’t go looking for these titles. So, what’s up with the reading habits of teenagers in India?

The good news: Indian urban children are reading for pleasure, and reading more than ever before. There are dedicated book festivals for children’s books, schools hold their own book weeks with the primary intent of getting kids to develop a lifelong affair with reading, the libraries at schools look well stocked where reading is encouraged as part of the school curriculum even outside those designated book weeks, and parents don’t mind spending on books. Head to any large bookstore in a metro, and you’ll find children’s books and teen fiction occupying a substantial (and impressive) shelf space. Families walk in, browse at leisure over coffee and brownies in the store café and walk out with big shopping bags. So far so good.

And now, we look inside those shopping bags for the bad news. If you’re lucky, you may find a book by an Indian author among a bunch of Gerenimo Stiltons, Wimpy Kids, Percy Jacksons or the Twilights. If this is your day like it’s never been before, you’ll hear that the Indian book is meant for personal consumption, and not as a birthday gift for a friend. Third time lucky? The child grabbed the copy himself and not upon his parents’ insistence.

That, in a nutshell, is what happens with most of our own books. So, our kids are devouring books, but the bulk of it is pretty much the reigning fads from the West. Much as I would love to be proved wrong, I’ll be surprised if we find our teenagers buying and reading a brilliant book like Roll of Honour. Out of choice. {to be continued on Nov. 28th}

 

 Richa Jha is a writer and editor and, like many of us, nurtures an intense love for picture books. In her words:

I love picture books, and want the world to fall in love with them as well. My blog  Snuggle With Picture Books is a natural extension of this madness. The Indian parents, teachers and kids are warming up to loads and loads of Indian picture books beginning to fill up the shelves in bookshops. It’s about time we had a dedicated platform to it. The idea behind the website is to try and feature every picture book (in English) out there in the Indian market. Usually, only a few titles end up getting talked about everywhere, be it because of their true merit, or some very good promotion, or some well-known names associated with them. There are many other deserving titles that get left out in the visibility-race. This website views every single book out there as being deserving of being ‘seen’ and celebrated.

 

The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan

Monday, September 24th, 2012

A few months ago while at my local library I came across a copy of the children’s book The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan. I was running late and didn’t have time to read the book flap but because I was so intrigued by the cover I checked the book out. Later that night I began to read The Tiffin and was instantly hooked! Set in India the book tells the story of the rare time when a tiffin (a box lunch delivered by a dabbawalla) goes astray. The tiffin contained an important note which when lost results in devastating consequences. The Tiffin is a book that can be judged by it’s intriguing cover and I was up until the wee hours of the morning reading it from start to finish.

The next day, a wee bit sleep deprived, I spent some time on the computer researching the book and learning more about author Mahtab Narsimhan. Originally from Mumbai,  India, Narsimhan  now resides in Toronto, Canada.  The catalyst that started her writing career was a tragic one. In 2003, devasted by her father’s death she began to write down her thoughts and memories of their life in India.  These scribblings, along with her love for fantasy, morphed into the idea of writing a novel and her first book The Third Eye was published in 2007. Sequels The Silver Anklet followed in 2009 and The Deadly Conch in 2011. Narsimhan has also published two anthologies Piece by Piece: Stories About Fitting Into Canada (Penguin Canada, 2010) and Her Mother’s Ashes Part 3 (TSAR Publications, 2009).

The Tiffin  has been nominated for several  awards and is shortlisted by the Canadian Library Association for the 2012 Book of the Year for Children Award.  If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend you add it to your “Must Read” list.  Check out this wonderful review of the book by West Vancouver librarian  Shannon Ozirny (who you may remember was the MC at the VCLR Serendipity Conference that Marj and I presented at in Vancouver early this year). Shannon’s review was printed in the November 2011 issue of Quill and Quire and is partially reprinted here with Quill and Quire’s permission.

The Tiffin
by Mahtab Narsimhan
(Dancing Cat Books, 2011)
Reviewed by Shannon Ozirny

In the context of children’s literature, the term “other worlds” often connotes places that are purely imaginary and only reachable by an enchanted cabinet or peculiarly numbered train platform. But Toronto-based, Silver Birch Award–winning author Mahtab Narsimhan (the Tara Trilogy) introduces children to the “other world” of the dabbawallas of her native Mumbai. Despite being very real and accessible by traditional modes of transport, this world will be just as awe-inspiring for North American young people as any fantasy realm could hope to be (click here to read more!)

And here is the book trailer

 

Week-end Book Review: The Land of Cards by Rabindranath Tagor

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Radha Chakravarty,
The Land of Cards: Stories, Poems and Plays for Children
Puffin Classics, Penguin Books India, 2010.

Ages: 10+

Puffin Classics’ anthology of Rabindranath Tagore‘s work for children takes its title from his famous play. The Land of Cards is a country populated by the stiff, unbending cards of a traditional four-suit deck. They believe in and are rigidly ruled by rules. During the course of the play, the cards begin to realize their limitations, break through their bondage to superstitious beliefs, and claim their freedom. “The Land of Cards” exemplifies the humor and satire that make Tagore such a beloved literary figure, but the rest of this collection is also strong.

Radha Chakravarty’s translation begins with a selection of eleven poems. They capture for English readers some of the puns, rhythms and rhyming patterns that Tagore’s poetry is famous for in the original Bengali. The poems also present the themes of his work, including the outsmarting of the pretentious, the abuse of power, the silly wastefulness of bureaucracy, and the restorative power of the natural world.

Following the poems are three plays, “The Post Office” and “A Poetic Mood and Lack of Food” as well as the title play. It’s easy to imagine a talented teacher coaching a middle school class into a rousing performance of any of these. Even the shortest, “A Poetic Mood,” packs a punch, as a wealthy, pious hypocrite advises a penniless man to pay more attention to the beautiful day than to his hunger.

The final third of the book comprises eight stories, all both entertaining and morally instructive in Tagore’s witty way. “The Parrot’s Tale,” for example, describes the extravagant efforts of the king’s servants to “educate” a parrot by putting it in a golden cage and stuffing its mouth with textbook paper. The ridiculous situation ends with much money in the pockets of the king’s yes men–and a dead parrot. But since the bird no longer annoys people, no one cares.

The back matter includes a translator’s note and a “classic plus” section with a thoughtful Q&A on Tagore’s work, study questions and a brief glossary of Bengali words. Non-Indian children will need some orientation to the cultural context of Tagore’s writing; this anthology could be an excellent classroom resource or reference book as well as a pleasurable, instructive read for older children.

Charlotte Richardson
April 2012

Celebrate Saffron Tree’s 5th Anniversary During Crocus 2011

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Back in 2006, when book blogging was just starting to take hold and before we had started our PaperTigers blog,  Praba Ram created the blog Saffron Tree. She said in her initial blog post “I know there are lots of book blogs that focus on mainstream American children’s books, but I haven’t been able to find any that focus primarily on children’s books by Indian, Indian American and South East Asian authors. The goal for this blog, to start with, is to provide book reviews and recommendations of titles with a South Asian, particularly Indian flavor”.  Saffron Tree has grown and flourished over the years (there are now 15 contributors!)  and we highly recommend it as one of the kidlit blogs to visit.

Next week is a very special time for Saffron Tree as it celebrates it’s 5th anniversary and hosts it’s  annual book festival celebration Crocus.  Lots of great offerings are in store so head on over and join in (and don’t forget to wish them a very happy 5th birthday!).  Here’s the invitation:

Saffron Tree turns five this year. Five. It has a nice ring to it. Mainly because five is an important number in many traditions. There is of course the ancient pentagram or the five pointed star, incidentally, dating back to the Vedas too, as a symbol of man, the five wounds of Christ, the five times a devout Muslim is called to prayer, the five symbols of Sikhism and not so sacred but oh so important, the five fingers on a hand. We at Saffron Tree however, decided to narrow our focus to Aristotle’s five classical elements, namely, water, fire, earth, air and ether.

As is usual, we bring you a veritable bonanza. Reviews, art and craft, our very popular Crocusword and interviews galore, of arborists, archeologists, environmentalists and more. Even as I type this I wonder if I’ve given you too much of a peek. Perhaps I have. So I’m going to stop here and leave you thirsting for more. What I will share with you, is our lovely banner, designed by the very talented Lavanya Karthik. Feast your eyes on it, folks and brace yourself for the smorgasbord ahead. As ever, spread the joy, share the beauty of the written word and tell the world that CROCUS 2011, is almost here.

Going to School in India

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

It is common knowledge that children who attend school have a better chance of developing into their full potential and bringing about change in their communities. It’s hard to believe that, in this day and age, so many of the world’s children still aren’t given the opportunity of an education.

Dedicated to “all children who dream of going to school”, Going to School in India is a celebration of what school can be and mean to children. It shows and tells about all kinds of kids—from street kids to kids who go to government and community schools—and how they “climb into school buses, sit on each other’s laps in cycle rickshaws, walk along the edges of mountains, cross scorching deserts on rickety bicycles, swing across rivers on dangling swings-just to get to school.” A festive celebration of formal and informal school settings in India—and of the ways children get to them—this book also reminds us that, while millions of children do get to go to school each day, millions of others don’t.

Published by Shakti for Children (now Global Fund for Children Books) in partnership with Charlesbridge, Going to School in India (2005) is written by Lisa Heydlauff, with photos by Nitin Upadhye, and designed by B.M. Kamath. Royalties from the sale of the book support educational initiatives in India. Click here to learn more about author Lisa Heydlauff’s projects and her Going to School non-profit.

On a related note, in her 2009 interview for PaperTigers, Maya Ajmera, founder and president of the Global Fund for Children talked about the “moment of obligation” she experienced, over 20 years ago, when she stepped out onto a bustling train platform in India and came across an open-air classroom where children were being taught how to read and write—a moment that led her to start The Global Fund for Children. This anecdote illustrates what our Pacific Rim Voices executive director, Peter Coughlan, loves to say: “A ripple can become a tidal wave, an acorn an oak tree.” GFC nowadays reaches millions of children and youth around the world, and supports hundreds of educational projects, including mobile boat schools for children in Bangladesh, night classes for women and girls in the red light districts of India, and countless more.

A ripple can indeed turn into a tidal wave of goodness.