2017 – A Year in Children’s Books

Over the last few years we have seen a noticeable shift in Indian publishing for children – an enormous wave of new writing and illustration. Thanks to the launch of new publishers for children as well as some exciting fare from existing publishers, 2017 saw a huge list for children emerge from India with great and varied styles of writing and brilliant illustrations. We were impressed! We decided to put a list together of the books we had read and enjoyed this year. We would like to add a disclaimer that though we tried to, we couldn’t read each and every book that was published and apologise for inadvertent omissions. Please let us know if we missed something really special!

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Ammachi’s Glasses, Priya Kuriyan, Tulika (Age 0+)

This book needs little introduction, what with it being one of the runaway bestsellers this year! A wordless picture book about an Ammachi who can’t find her glasses and the hilarious outcomes.

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Where Shall We Go, Big Black Crow? Arielle North Olson and Christy North Olson Kennedy, Illustrated by Caity Kennedy, Little Latitude (Age 1+)

This lift-the-flap board book takes young children on a journey with a little crow to find clues leading to her scrumptious dinner. It is a treat to look at, with vibrant illustrations of common Indian birds like crows, parakeets, red jungle fowl, peacocks, pelicans, orioles and a wise old hornbill.

The Birdie Post, Bhavna Jain Bhuta, Illustrated by Jaikar Marur, Translated by Sushmaa Roshan, Tulika (Age 2+)

Welcome to the Birdie Post – one lazy bird doesn’t want to fly faraway to give a message to her aunt so instead she tells her friend Mili, the kingfisher to pass it on, who in turn passes it on to the pigeon, Brahminy kite, parakeet, flamingo and so it goes.

Maharani the Cow, Christy Shoba Sudhir, Illustrated by Nancy Raj, Tulika (Age 3+)

Now this is a scene we have all seen many times – a crowded noisy street, full of people rushing to be somewhere important and an enormous cow sitting serenely in the middle of it. This story will give your little ones much to find, make sounds with, giggle and be generally amused.

HIC! Anushka Ravishankar, Illustrated by Christianne Pieper, Tara (Age 4+)

This book is printed on a Risograph that combines the technology of screen printing with a photocopier machine. It uses three colours: black, blue and mustard and the natural white of the paper. And what a gorgeous book this is! It shows a girl trying many imaginative ways to cure her hiccups, of course they do not work and sometimes have hilarious consequences.

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Abba’s Day, Sunaina Ali, Illustrated by Debasmita Dasgupta, Katha (Age 4+)

A Sunday in the life of little Aaisha – on this special day Abba and Aaisha make masala chai, give Ammi a break and go grocery shopping. A great book with bright illustrations and a simple, heart-warming story, it is part of Katha’s gender series giving a positive message about the dignity of labour and breaking down gender stereotypes.

Dive, Rajiv Eipe, Pratham Books (Level 3)

A simple book about a deep sea dive deserves special mention for the gorgeous illustrations that capture the underwater world so beautifully.

Jadav and the Tree-Place, Vinayak Varma, Pratham Books (Level 3)

Distressed to see dying snakes on a hot treeless sandbar, Jadav decides to take matters into his own hands. Over many years he grows a vast forest on this sandbar next to the Brahmaputra River. This is an inspiring true-story based on the life of Jadav ‘Mulai’ Payeng that leaves you with a feeling of empathy and empowerment.

Salim Mamoo and Me, Zai Whittaker, Illustrated by Prabha Mallya, Tulika (Age 5+)

The young protagonist Zai, a niece to none other than the famous ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali, is trying to hide that she has no interest in birds from her entire bird-loving family. When she can’t escape the endless bird-watching weekends, she devises a strategy: she simply pretends not to see them. This book makes for a funny read and ends on an optimistic note with Zai overcoming her anxiety.

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How old is Muttajji? Roopa Pai, Illustrated by Kaveri Gopalakrishnan, Pratham Books (Level 4)

Putta and Putti do some excellent detective work to find out how old Muttajji, their great grandmother, could be. She helpfully gives them multiple clues in the form of interesting historical events and how old she was then. A fun read with warm illustrations.

The Secret God in the Forest, Anuradha Kumar, Illustrated by Piyush Verma, Tulika (Age 6+)

Part of the ‘Our Myths’ series from Tulika, this book encourages different ways of seeing and understanding and incorporates the forgotten story of a tribe called the Sabaras and their secret god, living in the forests of Odisha, into the modern day story of Jagannatha from Puri. This unique book shows the dynamic nature of myths while telling an absorbing story with contemporary illustrations.

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Mama, What is the Night? Manjula Padmanabhan, Tulika (Age 6+)

We are exposed to the habits of the creatures of the night as each one explains to us what the night means to them. Earthworms, jellyfish, night-blooming plant, cat, octopus and many others reveal their unique perception of the night, leaving us with a richer and deeper understanding. Set in darkness, the illustrations are striking and draw you into this ‘other’ world.

Twins, Dhwani Shah, Bhaddu Hamir and Gita Wolf, Tara Books (Age 6+)

Twins is a large format, unusual activity book which comes with a paper stencil that you can flip forwards and backwards to create two images of the same animal. You can then go wild and use your creativity to make them interact, modify their landscape and make your own story. This is an absolutely gorgeous book and we cannot recommend it enough.

One’s Own, Yet Different, Meena Kakodkar, Illustrated by Charutha Reghunath, Katha (Age 6+)

Another book that is part of Katha’s gender series the book questions gender stereotyping and brings up equality between male and female offspring. Banu and her grandmother share a special bond and tell each other stories from their lives. Through Banu’s many questions, the grandmother sees her views on life changing.

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Amma, Take me to the Golden Temple, Bhakti Mathur, Puffin Books (Age 7+)

This time Amma takes her boys on a trip to Amritsar and to the Golden Temple, where in the course of a morning spent there she narrates the stories of the ten gurus and of how Sikhism came into being – well researched and written, the book is full of interesting facts and anecdotes and made us want to pack our bags and travel to Amritsar immediatey!

Watcha Gonna Do, Rosie Singh?, Rasil Ahuja, Puffin Books (Age 8+)

Rosie Singh is an 8-year old girl who has an embarrassing moment in front of her entire class! She discovers that everyone in her family has a tale to tell about being in a muddle where they had to choose how to act. How she deals with the incident makes for some fun reading!

Manya Learns To Roar, Shruthi Rao, Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan, Duckbill Books (8+)

This book ticks so many boxes for little readers – overcoming fear, bullying and accepting oneself with the help of supportive teachers, friends and parents. A spunky Manya auditions for the school play, ‘The Jungle Book’ to be Shere Khan. He is her favourite character and she knows all the lines by heart. But when her classmates tease her incessantly about her stammering and doubt her, she finds it hard to go on. Find out how she prevails in this book with a lot of heart.

The A to Z Detective Agency, Parinita Shetty, Illustrated by Jit Chowdhury, Puffin Books (Age 9+)

The adorable, mystery reading, 10-year old protagonist Ashwin keeps trying to think of ways to earn money for a class trip to Gujarat, which his single, working mother cannot afford. He stumbles on a book on Djinnis at a bookstore and manages to summon one in the form of Zubeida, a girl his own age and not a brilliant djinn by her own admission. The two begin a new venture – the A to Z Detective Agency and enter a murky underworld! We really enjoyed the crisp writing, the well thought out characters and the element of fantasy.

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Wingless, Paro Anand, Illustrated by Atanu Roy, India Ink (Age 9+)

Though not a new book, Wingless was reprinted in 2017 and we were keen to include it!

When Princess Chutki, the daughter of the King and Queen of Angels, is born without wings all hell breaks loose in heaven! The King and Queen do not want to part with her, but when left with no choice they find a loving home for her on earth with the help of a wonderful cat family and a myna. Find out if Chutki overcomes hate and brings the two worlds closer together. Intricate black and white illustrations by Atanu Roy really add to this lovely imaginative tale.

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The Boy with 2 Grandfathers, Mini Shrinivasan, Tulika (Age 10+)

Appa and Ajoba, Amol’s maternal and paternal grandfathers are outwardly two completely different people. But inside, where it matters most, they are wonderfully alike: interested, unafraid and capable, also they dote on Amol. This tender story approaches the difficult topic of loss with compassion and empathy as Amol copes with his mother’s death with the help of his supportive family.

India through Archaeology, Excavating History, Devika Cariapa, Illustrated by Ashok Rajagopalan, Tulika (Age 10+)

Did you know why the Harappan civilization was almost not discovered or why coins are called the little superstars of the world of archaeology? Journey through India’s ancient history, with this fascinating book, chock-a-block with information seen through the eyes of an archaeologist. It is almost like a fast-paced detective novel as you find out what archaeologists do and how they uncovered mysteries through the ages. We also love that there are helpful notes on what the rest of the world was experiencing during the same time periods for context. A great introduction to India’s diverse history for children as well as adults.

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Alone and Secrets, A Coven, Duckbill (Age 11+)

The first two books of The Hill School Girls series written by A Coven (we couldn’t help but try and uncover the identity of its mystery author!) We grew up on a healthy staple of school stories and were excited about this one being set in an Indian boarding school, that too one with progressive ideas on education. Both books are filled with a delicious familiarity and wonderful mix of humour, mystery, angst and friendship – we lapped them up on two consecutive afternoons.

Set in a fictional hill town, the four protagonists – Elizabeth, Ayesha, Mahrukh and Maitreyi get together despite their differences. The first book is narrated by Elizabeth who feels apprehensive about returning to school after the holidays because her best friend has moved to another school thanks to the new ideas on education adopted by the school – the book tells us how she copes with the changes and attempts new friendships while solving a mystery along with her friends. The second book, Secrets is told through Ayesha’s perspective – her adjustment to the new school and what the foursome do when a girl they know is harassed by boys from their town.

Needless to say we cannot wait to read the other two books in the series!

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So You Want to Know About the Environment, Bijal Vachharajani, illustrated by Sayan Mukherjee, Red Turtle (Age 11+)

Easy to read and filled with facts as well as stories, jokes and activities, So You Want to Know About the Environment is a comprehensive look at climate change, food, waste, wildlife and water. Despite the seriousness of the content, the author manages to make it simple to read and follow. Essential reading to get children to start thinking about these things.

The Ooze Books, Trupti Godbole, Govind Mukundan and Poonam Bir Kasturi, Illustrated by Ishan Ghosh and Girish T.S, Daily Dump (Ages 4-80)

This is a set of two books: Junior Ooze and Senior Ooze. Junior Ooze is an activity book for children of 4-8 years. It asks questions to clarify the role of batteries in our lives and the potential danger if not disposed properly. The Senior Ooze book is a fact-filled, clearly illustrated story of a little boy with his fancy remote car. It gives a lot of information on the Lithium ion battery and even has ideas about power sources in the future. Overall essential books in children’s literature filling a lacuna on e-waste management.

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