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) ~ Part 2 of 3

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Reader-less Books: Reading Habits of Indian Children ~ by Richa Jha

Part 2 of 3. (Read Part 1 here.)

There can be no one reason for the disinterest or the disconnect. But in most cases, it’s a combination of some of these factors below:

Are these stories for us?

We have consistently failed to write what our teenagers want to read. There is a commendable cultural, historical, socio-political and emotional depth in the kind and range of issues being tackled in the Indian YA books (terrorism, war, riots, child abuse, female infanticide). But unless having lived through these experiences, they are unlikely to grab a young adult’s attention. Where are the real here-and-now YA concerns of first love, sexual awakening, the tempting world of drugs and alcohol, pressures to perform or self discovery? Or, the gripping fantasy tales of good versus evil, written in blood as the adolescent battles the demons within and around? We are yet to create a genuinely pan-India super hero. Samit Basu’s Turbulence is the closest we can get to in this genre. India has just four or five good fantasy writers, and just as many who can write a light entertaining breezer. It’s about time our YA writing started loosening up.

Do we know them?

Reading is a natural progression from one stage to another. A first or second grader is hungry for books. The middle schoolers and young adults of today grew up with very few Indian titles available to them when they were younger, other than the more involved renditions of illustrated mythological tales and folk lore. That’s where the Enid Blyton books and the series like Bailey School Kids, Horrid Henry and Magic Tree House slipped in (and continue to slip in) to fill this natural gap. Before we know it, Geronimo has invaded the book shelves, and soon, there is a deluge of Potter and Wimpy Kid in the house. In the smaller towns, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew almost exclusively continue to hold sway over young minds. Try putting an Indian YA fiction in the teenager’s hand at this stage; you must be kidding if you expected success!

We like one, we want all:

A corollary to the previous point is the lack of series in India. A few do come to mind, like Payal Dhar’s A Shadow in Eternity Trilogy and Subhadra Sengupta’s Adventures of Foxy Four for young adults, or G S Dutt’s Adventures of Nikki for middle schoolers and Roopa Pai’s Taranauts for kids little younger than them. But these are few and far between. A good enough start, yes, but certainly not enough to feed the hunger of a book-devouring generation.

I’ll look like a dork if I read that Indian book while my friends read other cool books:

Did I hear someone say peer pressure? {to be continued on Dec. 5th}

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.

Week-end Book Review: The Burmese Box by Lila Majumdar, translated by Srilata Banerjee

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Lila Majumdar, translated by Srilata Banerjee and with an introduction by Subhadra Sen Gupta,
The Burmese Box: Two Novellas
Puffin Classics (India), 2010.

Ages 9-12

Lila Majumdar is one of India’s best loved children’s authors, and it is clear from reading the glowing introduction by accomplished writer Subhadra Sen Gupta that she has shaped the imaginations of Bengali-speaking children for generations. Translations of her exciting stories are long overdue, and fortunately, her granddaughter and translator Srilata Bannerjee agrees.

Reading The Burmese Box and Goopy’s Secret Diary (the other novella contained in the collection) as an adult is like rediscovering a long lost childhood friend that I never actually met. The stories are fast-paced and exciting with little time wasted on set-up and exposition for, as Banerjee states in a translator’s note, “no child appreciates long-term planning.” These stories take place over no more than a day or two (despite harking back, in the case of The Burmese Box, to a family legend more than a hundred years old) and are filled with plot twists, remarkably eccentric relatives, bungling grown-ups, and the accompanying confusion so natural to childhood.

In both stories, a boy protagonist of about 11 gets pulled into the intrigue of missing jewels and family legends. At first the boys are excited for adventure, but doubt settles in once it is too late to back out and the possibility of real danger looms. What will become of the treasure? Who are the thieves? Why don’t the adults see the obvious? And what exactly is going on here anyway?

The protagonists encounter dream advice from long dead ancestors, secret tunnels in dilapidated mansions, carnivorous cows, and plenty of shifty characters, but everything turns out okay in the end. It would seem that disaster is averted thanks to the innocence and integrity the young heroes retain. Grown-ups who might have mucked up the situation never receive the necessary knowledge to carry out their plans, and justice—no, not justice but something even more important, fairness—prevails.

There will be some challenges for children not familiar with Bengali culture and family relationships as the terms for different relatives are very complicated to those of us used to the English system. Nonetheless, the book kept my eight-year-old son (who preferred Goopy’s Secret Diary) enthralled. I had to wrest it back from him in order to write this review! Fortunately, explanatory notes are included at the end of the book along with biographical data, “Things to Think About”, and a translator’s note that is particularly special considering the translator’s relationship to the author. The Burmese Box is destined to become a classic once again, this time in English.

Abigail Sawyer
August 2011