With Gandhi Jayanti approaching, we pick out some of our favourite books on the Father of the Nation, for both early and middle readers.
Mahatma Gandhi: The Father of the Nation by Subhadra Sen Gupta (Puffin)
Part of the Puffin Lives series, this is aimed at the 10+ age group. Despite being a lot more text heavy than the other books (there are no internal illustrations), it’s written in such a way that it’s very readable. Sen Gupta invites children to discover what Gandhi was ‘really’ like, and while there’s a lot of focus on his remarkable personality and achievements, some nuances are brought out, which will make children pause. Why was it that Gandhi indulged children generally, but was very strict with his own sons?, for example.
My Gandhi Story by Rajesh Chaitya Vangad, Nina Sabnani and Ankit Chadha (Tulika Books)
Bringing together three different voices (that of a Warli artist, an inquisitive child, and Gandhi himself) this book has a novel approach. The voice of the village artist reflects upon the life of the Mahatma, while the child is able to post the kind of questions young readers might like to know the answers to. Why is it that Gandhi gave up wearing English clothes? Did he work hard in school? Wasn’t he afraid of going to jail? It’s also beautifully illustrated, with a striking combination of black-and-white photographs and Warli art.
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus (Simon & Schuster)
This is a beautiful picture book, offering a new perspective on Gandhi, from the point of view of his Grandson, Arun. A collaboration between Arun Gandhi and American writer Bethany Hegedus, it focuses on Arun’s time as a child in the Sevagram village. The book narrates a very personal incident of Arun losing his temper on the soccer field, and the way in which his grandfather helps him overcome his anger and make him realise that we don’t have to be perfect to be good people, is very moving. The striking mixed-media illustrations by Evan Turk are also stunning, giving an extra depth to the book.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi by Aditi De (Scholastic)
We’re big fans of this series of books from Scholastic India, which take on great personalities, re-telling their lives through well designed and illustrated pages, some of which are laid out in graphic novel format. The book is split into short, easy-to-read chapters, and is full of lovely details which children will relate to – from Gandhi being scared of the dark as a child, to him treasuring the gifts (birthday candles, a tin plate, jelly sweets and a blue pencil) given to him by children from the East End during his 1931 London visit.
Kasturba by Tanaya Vyas (Tulika Books)
A new offering from Tulika, this book is actually very much not a book about Gandhi, and instead focuses on his oft-overlooked wife Kasturba. When Nina is selected to play Kasturba in the October 2 play, she doesn’t know much about Kasturba except that she was Gandhi’s wife. Throughout the simply-narrated story, though, Nina finds out some things about Kasturba that enable her to play her role with strength and courage.
Marching to Freedom by Subhadra Sen Gupta (Pratham Books)
Rather than giving an overview of Gandhi’s character of life, this illustrated book, also by Subhadra Sen Gupta, hones in on one particular event – the Dandi March, recounting events from the point of view of a young boy living in Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram. As well as illuminating the run-up to the Salt Satyagraha, it also gives a sense of what it must have been like to live in this community in the 1930s. Sen Gupta has also included a section on the historical context for children who might want to explore further.
Bapu & the Missing Blue Pencil (Terrapin)
Another book on Gandhi by Subhadra Sen Gupta, Bapu and the Missing Blue Pencil is the story of two fictional children called Rano and Gokul who live at Sabarmati Ashram where there parents work and they themselves help with small chores like watering the garden, weaving khadi and feeding goats. In the story Bapu loses his blue pencil and asks the children to help him search for it. Though at the time no one was talking about it at all, Gandhiji was very aware of consuming consciously, reducing waste and recycling and this book looks at that aspect of him.