Week-end Book Review ~ The Great Race: An Indonesian Trickster Tale by Nathan Kumar Scott and Jagdish Chitara

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Reviewed by Charlotte Richardson:

Retold by Nathan Kumar Scott, illustrated by Jagdish Chitara,
The Great Race: An Indonesian Trickster Tale
Tara Books, 2011.

Ages: 3+

With The Great Race, Tara Books continues its stellar presentation of picture books illustrated by talented indigenous Indian artists. Nathan Kumar Scott retells the simple Indonesian trickster tale, a version of the tortoise and hare story. The traditional craft of illustrator Jagdish Chitara, a Waghari textile artist from Ahmedabad, is painting ritual cloths that celebrate the Mother Goddess in brilliant white, red and black. He uses the same ancient techniques and colors to depict the many stylized animal characters in this endearing folk story, his first secular project…

Read the full review

Poetry Friday: I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail, illustrated by Ramsingh Urveti

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Illustrated by Ramsingh Urveti, designed by Jonathan Yamakami,
I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail
Tara Books, 2011.

Ages: 8+

The glorious blue and intriguing cut-outs on the cover of this truly stunning book just beg you to pick it up and explore its pages.  As you open the book, the feathered (or is it fiery?) eye leaves the peacock’s head behind, and you have to keep on turning until you find the whole bird.  From then on, each page reveals a half-line of the anonymous seventeenth-century English nonsense/puzzle poem that makes up the text.  The clever cut-outs mean you can read the poem in two ways – in its original tricky layout that offers a surreal, perplexing view of all the amazing things that “I saw,” or the more logical sequence created by joining the second half of the former line to the first half of the latter:

I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud… [you can read the whole poem here]

The secret is in the lack of punctuation throughout and the poem would make a fun punctuation task for younger children to work out – but the poem offers much more than a school exercise and is a delight for people of all ages to ponder the essence of poetry.  Joined here with Ramsingh Urveti’s combination of black on white and white on black art influenced by his Gond roots, and Jonathan Yamakami’s imaginative book design, I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tale is a veritable feast for any poetry lover.

This is Urveti’s first solo book but he was a contributor to Tara Books’ much loved The Nightlife of Trees (New Horizons Award 2008).  Here, his artwork is extraordinary in the way it manages to convey all the twists and turns of the poem whether puzzling or logical.  He incorporates the recurring “I saw” inventively throughout.  The ebb and flow of the different scales alluded to, from a mighty oak to a tiny ant, are reflected in the intensity of the patterns that at times seem to froth from the page.  The book’s physical design is full of surprises right to the end: and this is a very physical book.  In the age of the e-book, this is an oasis for anyone who loves the physicality of the book.  If you think you know just the person you’d like to give it to, you might have to get hold of two copies – this is one of those books that would otherwise be impossible to give away!

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Robyn Hood Black at Read, Write, Howl – head on over.

2012 South Asia Book Award Winners Announced!

Friday, August 10th, 2012

The South Asia Book Award, administered by the South Asia National Outreach Consortium, is given annually for up to two outstanding works of literature, from early childhood to secondary reading levels, which accurately and skillfully portrays South Asia or South Asians in the diasporas, that is the experience of individuals living in South Asia, or of South Asians living in other parts of the world. Up to five Honor Books and Highly Commended Books will also be recognized by the award committee for their contribution to this body of literature on the region.

PaperTigers congratulates the recently announced 2012 South Asia Book Award winners:

2012 WinnersBook Cover for Island's End

book cover

Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw (Henry Holt and Company, 2011). Pen Pals Elliot and Kailash discover that even though they live in different countries—America and India—they both love to climb trees, own pets, and ride school buses (Grade 5 & under).

Island’s End by Padma Venkatraman (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2011). A young girl trains to be the new spiritual leader of her remote Andaman Island tribe, while facing increasing threats from the modern world(Grade 6 & above).

2012 Honor Books


Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni, illustrations by Moyna Chitrakar (Groundwood Books, 2011). The  Ramayana, one of the greatest legends of ancient India, is presented in the form of a visually stunning and gripping graphic novel, told from the perspective of the queen, Sita (Grade 6 & above).

Following My Paint Brush by Dulari Devi and Gita Wolf (Tara Books Pvt. Ltd, 2010). Following My Paint Brush is the story of Dulari Devi, a domestic helper who went on to become an artist in the Mithila style of folk painting from Bihar, eastern India (Grade 5 & under).

No Ordinary Day by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books, 2011). Valli has always been afraid of the people with leprosy living on the other side of the train tracks in the coal town of Jharia, India, so when aa encounter with a doctor reveals she too has the disease, Valli rejects help and begins a life on the streets. (Grade 6 & above).

Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan (Simon & Schuster, 2011). In 1919, independent-minded Rosalind lives in India with her English parents, and when they fear she has fallen in with some rebellious types who believe in Indian self-government, she is sent “home” to London, where she has never been before and where her older brother died, to stay with her two aunts (Grade 6 & above)

  2012 Highly Commended Books

Beyond Bullets: A Photo Journal of Afghanistan by Rafal Gerszak with Dawn Hunter (Annick Press, 2011). Award-winning photographer Rafal Gerszak spent a year embedded with the American troops in Afghanistan to bear witness to its people, culture, and the impact of war (Grade 6 & above).

The Wise Fool: Fables from the Islamic World by Shahrukh Husain, illustrations by Micha Archer (Barefoot Books, 2011). Meet Mulla Nasruddin, a legendary character whose adventures and misadventures are enjoyed across the Islamic world (Grade 5 & under).

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2011). Eleven-year-old Dini loves movies, and so when she learns that her family is moving to India for two years, her devastation over leaving her best friend in Maryland is tempered by the possibility of meeting her favorite actress, Dolly Singh (Grade 6 & up).

 Karma by Cathy Ostlere (Razorbill, Penguin Group, 2011). Written in free verse poems in a diary format, this novel straddles two countries and the clash of Indian cultures in the tale of 15-year-old Maya (Grade 6 & up).

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy (Scholastic Inc., 2011). Zulaikha, a thirteen-year-old girl in Afghanistan, faces a series of frightening but exhilarating changes in her life as she defies her father and secretly meets with an old woman who teaches her to read, her older sister gets married, and American troops offer her surgery to fix her disfiguring cleft lip (Grade 6 & up).

The 2012 South Asia Book Award Ceremony will be held in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday, October 13, 2012. For more details on the ceremony click here. For additional award information including submission guidelines for 2013, click here.

The Jungle in the Book: an Interactive Art Exhibition for Children ~ Tara Books’ Book Building, South Chennai, India

Monday, July 16th, 2012

A few weeks ago I blogged about Tara Book’s new Book Building. Situated in South Chennai, India, the Book Building not only houses all aspects of Tara Books‘ award winning  publishing business but is a unique cultural space dedicated to exploring the form of the book. Book lovers and visual lovers of all ages are invited to the Book Building to enjoy ongoing exhibitions, watch visual artists at work, participate in workshops, browse though books and art prints in the  bookstore, enjoy specially commissioned wall murals created by a range of Tara Book artists, and more!

A new exhibit has just been launched at the Book Building and we thank Pallavi Vadhia of Tara Books for sending us the details. The Jungle in the Book is an interactive art exhibition which runs until the end of August and aims to promote the joy of  reading, picture books and art to children. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of free events and educational workshops (offered in English and Tamil) for children, their parent and educators. Highlights include:

Saturday, July 21 ~ What is a Picture Book? What can we do with it? An informative workshop showing parents and teachers ways to use picture books. Conducted by Salai Selvam, an education and literacy activist and Tara Books Publisher Gita Wolf,

Saturday, August 11 ~ Look, Read and Think! How pictures communicate ideas – Working with the idea of human rights. Hosted by Salai Selvam.

Saturday, August 18 ~ An Artist at Work: open house event. Watch Sunita an amazing artist from the Meena tribe in Rajasthan.

To see the entire list of events and workshops click here. To see some photos of the exhibit visit Tara Books’ Facebook page.

Exhibit photo courtesy of Tara Books.

Tara Books’ Book Building

Monday, June 11th, 2012

During our time at the recent Bologna Children’s Book Fair Marjorie and I had a lovely visit with Gita Wolf and Maegan Chadwick-Dobson from Tara Books.  Tara Books is an award winning,  independent publisher of picture books for adults and children based in Chennai, South India. Founded by Gita in 1994, Tara Books consists of a dedicated group of writers, designers and artists who remain “fiercely independent” and who strive to publish books with the unique union of fine form and rich content. Tara Books sets itself apart from other publishers by truly offering readers a literary and visual feast and they are especially known for their children’s books created by tribal artists in the Gond, Patua and Mithila styles which are made entirely from hand  – from the paper to the printing and binding! Their book Waterlife by Rambharos Jha won the 2012 New Horizons Mention, BolognaRagazzi Awards and is PaperTigers’ Book of the Month.

Besides hearing about the latest Tara Book releases, Marjorie and I also learned more about their exciting new Book Building which just opened off Kuppam Beach Road in Thiruvanmiyur, South Chennai, India. After years of operating out of small rental places and not being able to adequately showcase their books, Tara Books embarked on an ambitious plan to construct a three storey, environmentally friendly building (80% solar powered) that would house all aspects of their business and would become an unique cultural space dedicated to exploring the form of the book.  In February 2012 Book Building opened its doors to much acclaim and fanfare! Book lovers and visual lovers of all ages are invited to come enjoy ongoing exhibitions, watch visual artists at work, participate in workshops, browse though books and art prints in the  bookstore, enjoy specially commissioned wall murals created by a range of Tara Book artists, and more!  Permanent exhibition highlights include Bhajju’s Mural, an original mural by Gond artist Bhajju Shyam (see PaperTigers’ gallery of his work here) on display in the outdoor gallery (images of the mural being painted can be seen here) and The Patua Pillar by Patua artists Manu and Swarna (images of the mural being painted can be seen here).

Book Building is open Monday to Saturday from 10am – 7:30pm and admission is free. To hear about upcoming activities including the launch of an exciting new annual Carnival of Books Festival and the inauguration of the children’s reading corner, visit Tara Books’ website or email your full contact details to mail(at)tarabooks(dot)com.

Week-end Book Review: Waterlife by Rambharos Jha

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Rambharos Jha,
Tara Books, 2011.

Ages 5+

New Horizons Mention, BolognaRagazzi Awards 2012

A wonderful array of sea creatures adorns the pages of this visually stunning book from Tara Books. Intricate patterns in jewel-like colors provide the endlessly changing water backdrop, over which reptiles, birds, fish and crustaceans are placed alongside smaller waterlife motifs. Waterlife brings together the crafts of bookmaking and printing so that reading the book becomes a multi-sensory experience: not only is it a feast for the eyes, but it is a pleasure to feel the texture of the hand-printed pages and even to smell them! This is a book to be cherished and would make a very special gift to a child, as it offers a reading experience that will grow with them through into adulthood.

The book opens vertically with a picture filling the bottom page, such as a sharp-toothed crocodile; a lobster; male sea horses “their pouches heavy with eggs”; four white swans framed by lotus flowers. In the bottom left corner of the creamy-white page above, the book’s artist Rambharos Jha gives a short description of each picture, relating it both to his culture and his own artistic development and curiosity. His art is heavily influenced by the Mithila folk painting of his childhood, from Bihar in Eastern India: however, as an artist he has developed the motifs of the Mithila tradition to generate his own voice. So, for example, a page full of different sized fish comes with the title “Changing Tradition” and Jha explains that he knows all these fish through Mithila art but he doesn’t know their names, and moreover: “Their otherness lies not in their shape, but in the lines that pattern their bodies – these are not traditional Mithila lines”. The sense of freedom of artistic expression that this engenders in a sense also opens the door for readers of Waterlife to find their own artistic voice.

Young children will be attracted to details such as the facial expressions of the fish or the hugely long water snake; and they will enjoy counting and finding things. As well as the art, older readers will absorb Jha’s descriptions, with their inviting headings like “The Trick”, “The Octopus at Home” and “The Food Chain”. There is also excellent back matter encompassing an afterword by Jha, “How I Came to Waterlife”, and a note on Jha’s background by Tara Books’ Gita Wolf, as well as a page showing different motifs from Mithila art that appear and are embellished in the book.

Waterlife is an exquisite book on every level. Adults buying the book for children (and what a beautiful gift it would make) will probably need to acquire another copy for themselves.

Marjorie Coughlan
March 2012

Poetry Friday: Anything But A Grabooberry by Anushka Ravishankar and Rathna Ramanathan

Friday, November 18th, 2011

If you want something for young children that’s full of zing and just a little bit different on the poetry front, then Anything But A Grabooberry is exactly what you’re looking for! First published by the wonderful Tara Books in 1998, it still feels as innovative as it was then.

Anushka Ravishankar’s nonsense poem that fills the book is based on the premise that I’d rather be anything else apart from a Grabooberry… The examples that make up that “anything else” will have young readers laughing aloud, as well as letting imaginations fly with what the dreadful grabooberry might be. And Rathna Ramanathan has incorporated the words into the book’s design, creating a visual treat in red and green through her exuberant combination of the words’ meanings and physical appearance.

As you read, you find yourself having to slow down over each page to savour the design. This in turn encourages deeper pondering of the meaning – thereby intensifying the enjoyment of reading nonsense! Choosing favorite bits is difficult, but here goes:

i want to be an elephant or a packing trunk

– I love the juxtaposition of elephant and trunk, and you can see these pages on this post from a Japanese blog, which also reproduces the book’s blurb in English;

i think i’d like to be sneeze
flying through the sky

– where “sneeze” and “flying” fizz across the pages and some of the letters are spun at angles – the “i” in “flying” becoming, appropriately enough, an exclamation mark; and

the sun, the moon or sixteen stars
any planet, even ours

Anything But A Grabooberry is perfect for getting children chuckling aloud, and both they and the adults they share it with will appreciate the book’s visual wit and sophistication. Do read this article by Rathna Ramanathan for some fascinating insight into the book’s creation – I especially liked what she said about children’s feedback on early drafts, and Gita Wolf’s comments:

I tested the pages out on several friends’ kids – their reading aloud of the typographic text on the page was an invaluable input. It gave the bee many more ‘e’s, and the grabooberry more ‘ooo’s… […] As Gita Wolf, publisher at Tara Books explains, ‘We found that children enjoy figuring out words like puzzles, since they have no pre-conceptions about this. Adults are not necessarily faster at comprehending it.’

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Tabitha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference – head on over…

Read and Do with Playing by the Book

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I already had a post earmarked to share with you from the wonderful Playing by the Book, and today she has another one – so here they both are:

Firstly, this great focus on children’s books from Norway, part of Zoe’s Read Around Europe – so we can look forward to more great country round-ups.

And today this wonderful post about last year’s New Horizons winner at the Bologna Book Fair, Do! by Ramesh Hengadi, Rasika Hengadi, Shantaram Dhadpe, and Kusam Dhadpe, with Gita Wolf (Tara Books, 2010). What makes this post extra special is that Zoe and her children have created a beautiful pillowcase using Warli techniques using the video of Do! from Tara Books, included in the post. Watch, read and be inspired – yes, Do!

Gita Wolf of Tara Books blogs about her recent presentation at the 2010 IBBY Congress

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Gita Wolf, publisher and director at Tara Books,  has posted a wonderful entry on the Tara Books Blog entitled The Politics of Voice: Folk and Tribal Art in Children’s Literature in which she talks about her presentation at the recent IBBY Congress:

“It may seem, at first glance, that the majority is the dominant force in every society, but those who dramatically change their world, now and throughout history, always belong to the minority.”  With this motto, the International Board on Books for Young People – IBBY – organized their Congress this year in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The theme was The Strength of Minorities. Given Tara’s work with folk and tribal art communities, I was invited to contribute, to talk about how these ‘outsider’ artists could change the course of children’s literature.

The fundamental question for me had to do with how we can re-imagine children’s literature. What possibilities are there in a publishing world that is increasingly dominated by big business, bestsellers, and a certain sameness in what we think is suitable for children?

When we started publishing in 1995, there were very few picture books for children in India. Ours has been a largely oral tradition, and the notion of children’s literature came from abroad. So Indian children’s books tended to be derivative. To create something that was original, we looked around for Indian illustrators, and what excited us most was the potential we saw in traditional artists.

To read the rest of the article (which contains some lovely illustrations and images!) click here .

Note: The image above is by Gond artist Bhajju Shyam and is from the book The Flight of the Mermaid, text by Gita Wolf and Sirish Rao (Tara Books, 2009).  Bhajju is currently featured in our PaperTigers Illustrator Gallery.

Tara Books at 2010 ALA Annual Conference, in D.C.

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

We are posting this reminder on behalf of our friends at Tara Books:


Tara Books in D.C.

Just a reminder (especially for our librarian and educator friends) that Tara Books will be in D.C. this coming weekend for the American Library Association Annual Conference, at booth #2883. Exhibit Hours are: Friday, June 25, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, Saturday-Sunday, June 26-27, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday, June 28, 9:00 am- 4:00 pm.

We’re excited to share our forthcoming titles for Fall 2010, including new artwork by renowned Gond artist Durga Bai and a graphic novel on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

For more information, please contact Tara Books’s US publicist, Jennifer Abel.