Books for Boredom?

IMG_9139

It’s around half way through the summer holidays, and we’ve been getting more and more parents asking us for books that will help keep their children entertained. Activity books are becoming increasingly sophisticated and well-thought out, so we’re sharing a few of our current favourites. With these, you can stay busy by doing anything from colouring and making toys from trash, gazing at the stars to creating your own monsters.

IMG_9125

8 Ways to Draw Fish (Tara Books, Rs 200)

The second in Tara’s 8 Ways to Draw …. series is just as wonderful as the first, 8 Ways to Draw an Elephant. Looking at the ways in which artists from different Indian tribal and folk art traditions render fish enables the book to explain to children what art – in the broadest sense – actually is. Gorgeous end paper is an added bonus.

IMG_9126

Sticker book and Draw It! series (Bloomsbury, Rs 199 upwards)

The Draw It! series encourages and enables young artists to try their hand at all sorts of things – from sketching dinosaurs, to London monuments. And the Bloomsbury sticker books are excellent too: infinitely affordable, and with themes that range from baby animals and sea creatures to princesses and dinosaurs.

IMG_9130

AHA! Activities by Arvind Gupta (Eklavya, Rs 135)

We recently held a workshop based on Arvind Gupta’s ideas, so we can safely say that his toys made primarily from trash are fantastic. Using readily available materials, you can create some really exciting things, while (sneakily) learning some scientific concepts along the way.

IMG_9152

Build Your Own Dinosaurs (Scholastic, Rs 175)

Dinosaur stories are always immensely popular, but this book takes things a step further – with the chance to actually make your own! What’s lovely is that you can not only cut out, fold and assemble these 3D creatures, but also create their habitats, and place them there.

IMG_9132

Escape to Wonderland (Penguin, Rs 299)

A raft of great colouring books arrived at the store recently, but this remains our favourite. Venture into Wonderland, with gorgeous illustrations to colour, interspersed with quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Intricate enough for older children to get stuck into. And we’ve seen quite a few adults buy this for themselves, too!

IMG_8777

Monster Garden (Duckbill, Rs 150)

One of Duckbill’s latest offerings is this wacky monster-filled adventure, where you will encounter creatures as deliciously horrid sounding as a Scrumpeelious. What would such a creature look like? Well, that’s up to you, as there are gaps throughout to fill in. Plus a full-colour pull-out monster poster!

FullSizeRender

Animalium Activity Book (Big Picture Press, Rs 671)

There’s no two ways about it – Big Picture Press’s gorgeously illustrated and produced books are in a league of their own. Animalium and Maps are bestsellers at the store, and this companion book takes you on a whirlwind tour of the animal kingdom – with things to ponder upon, sketch or decipher at every turn.

IMG_9153

Around the World in 80 Puzzles (Scholastic, Rs 275)

Richly illustrated and jam-packed with things to do, Around the World in 80 Puzzles will keep children occupied for hours. And it’s great way to introduce children to far flung places without actually travelling! Activities like deciphering hieroglyphs, working out the height of Mount Rushmore or discovering which museum houses the Mona Lisa were some of our favourites.

IMG_9129

The Great India Activity Book (Scholastic, Rs 195)

Priya Kuriyan’s illustrations can light up any book, but it’s fun to see her take sole authorship here. The book promises puzzles to crack, mazes to solve and pages to colour – all with a distinctive Indian flavour. So you’ll find yourself spotting the odd Bombay cab out, decorating a hand with a mehendi design or working out what doesn’t belong at the fish market.

IMG_9127

Mega Mash Up series (Nosy Crow, Rs 350)

This series from British indie publisher Nosy Crow is absurdly wonderful. What do you get when Romans meet Dinosaurs on Mars? Or when Pirates meet Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum? Fun, fun, fun, that’s what! There’s a story running through each book, as well as spaces which invite the reader to use their imaginations and make their own contributions.

IMG_9133

Find the Constellations (Macmillan, Rs 499)

There are not too many books published in the 1950s which are still going strong today, but this is certainly a classic. The new edition contains updates (even the locations of the planets throughout 2016) but has all of the original charm, and is written by the same author who gave us the Curious George series. A perfect guide to star gazing, with diagrams and factoids on every page.  

IMG_9151

The Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes (Scholastic, Rs 1,120)

Who knew that there was so much to know about making paper airplanes? This is an easy-to-use (and great to gift) spiral bound volume, with instructions for making no fewer than ten distinctive planes from paper. The expected flight speed/time and ease of making is mentioned, so you can challenge yourself accordingly! The steps are simple to follow, and interspersed with bite-sized portions of science.

Advertisements

Colour Me!

What can you do with one artist, two books, a handful of parents, fifty children and a whole lot of colouring pencils? Have a lot of fun, that’s what!

Last month, artist Prashant Miranda, the illustrator of Little Latitude’s most recent titles What Can You Do with Red, Yellow and Blue? and While I’m Away was at the store. Apart from officially launching the books, Prashant gave a live (and very impressive!) sketching/watercolour painting demonstration, before the kids got to work on their own creations.

Children added their own splashes of colour to one of two Prashant Miranda sketches, which were created especially for the event. Little Latitude publishers Vinay Diddee and Neha Vasant-Diddee documented the event, and the photos are collected together here for this visual blog:

1

2a

3

4

6

7

8

10

11

13

All photos courtesy Neha Vasant-Diddee

A Picture for a Thousand Words

IMG_8898.JPG

Anyone who works with children’s books will have, at one point or another, heard someone explain that a book is not for them because it doesn’t have ‘enough words’. And some of the time that’s certainly valid – getting the right balance between words and pictures is an art form.

Reading with young children, though, is often an exercise in meandering away from the written story. Picking up clues from the pictures, questions follow and independent stories emerge. This visual literacy is something we don’t talk about much, despite the fact that it’s intrinsically tied up with attention to detail and creativity.

So today we’re shouting about wordless (or almost wordless) picture books. And not just the ones for prereaders – also those which are engaging for older children. Here are ten of our current favourites.

FullSizeRender (3)

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman (Houghton Mifflin INR 799)

A fantastical tale in which two children (a girl in what looks like a wintery New York, and a boy on a tropical beach) each find a red book, and discover that they can see one another through its pages. Something about the square format combined with the simple illustrations works perfectly, and this is a wonderful allegory for the potential books have to connect people – especially if you share them.

IMG_8791

Do! by Gita Wolf (Tara Books, INR 150)

Illustrated in the Warli style of folk art from Maharashtra, Do! is not quite wordless – each double page spread has a single word – which could be anything from ‘Farm’ and ‘Grow’ to ‘Dance’ and ‘Play’. A fascinating insight into village life, with plenty of visual stories to discover on every page. Plus, it neatly finishes by encouraging you to try drawing in the Warli style yourself.

IMG_8793

Mr Wuffles! by David Wiesner (Anderson Press, INR 599)

A cat chances upon an alien spaceship in this delightfully absurd picture book, in which Wiesner manages to convey layers of humour and irony through illustration and a single (very well chosen) line of text. Lovely because it mixes the everyday with the fantastical to great effect. We also like the fact that the division between words and pictures is blurred by the ‘alien script’ spoken by the creatures the cat encounters.

FullSizeRender (1)

Flutterfly by Niveditha Subramaniam (Tulika, INR 160)

Black and white pencil drawings are illuminated by a single splash of colour on every page, as a butterfly guides us through a child’s dreams, as he thinks back over his day. A brave foray into wordless territory by Indian publisher Tulika.

FullSizeRender

Time Flies by Eric Rohmann (Dragonfly Books INR 250)

Dusky colours and shadows capture the atmosphere of a natural history museum after closing time, as a small bird flies through the exhibits. That is, until, the bird takes us on a flight of fantasy in which we can see the dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures as they lived.

FullSizeRender (2)

Tuesday by David Wiesner (Random House INR 450)

Tuesday may seem like a rather mundane day, but the Tuesday in this book is anything but ordinary, when toads fly into town on lily pads, looking every bit the part of aliens. There are a few carefully chosen words (in this case times) which manage to convey a great deal. Perhaps the best bit is the closing page: ‘Next Tuesday, 7.58pm’ – but we won’t spoil the surprise about what is flying into town then!

FullSizeRender (4)

Quest by Aaron Becker (Walker, INR 499)

In the sequel to The Journey, two children are given a map and mission by a mysterious king, before he is captured. Armed with coloured pens and the ability to draw themselves out of trouble, so begins their quest. If anything shows that you don’t need words to tell an intricate and moving story, it’s this.

IMG_8895

Welcome to Mamoko by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska (Big Picture Press, INR 935)

Beautifully illustrated in quirky style and produced as a sturdy hardback, Mamoko is wordless apart from the introductory page, which tells you a little about each of the characters you’ll encounter as you read on. We’ve found that you can pour over the book multiple times, following each wacky character in turn.

flotsam2

Flotsam by David Wiesner (Anderson Press, INR 299)

He really is a master wordless storyteller, so we don’t even feel bad that this is the third book by David Wiesner on this list. This is potentially our favourite – though it’s a very close call. When a boy goes to the beach to find flotsam, he discovers a lot more than he bargained for, in the form of an old camera. Again, a bit like The Red Book, we love the way this brings out the connections between children – in this case over time, rather than geographically.

pancakes

Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie De Paola (Voyager Books, INR 350)

A good one for connecting us back to where our food actually comes from! When an old lady wakes up dreaming of pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast, she runs into a few storeroom obstacles. No eggs? Then better visit the chickens. No milk? Then it’s time to milk the cow. Run out of maple syrup? A trip to a neighbour who has maple trees is in order. But even once she has all the ingredients, everything still doesn’t quite go to plan …

Wild about Wildlife

IMG_8634

Some of the best-loved books from Indian publishers have animals featured in them. Perhaps it’s because animals are so integral to our culture. Or maybe it’s because children have an innate ability to empathise with the natural world around them. Whatever the reason, on World Wildlife Day, we decided to round-up of some of most popular ones.

FullSizeRender (1)

Big Cats

Where better to begin than with India’s national animal? Last year, we loved journeying into the Sundarbans with Tiger Boy (Duckbill, Rs 199), a beautifully written chapter book in which two children race to find and rescue a tiger cub before it can be caught by poachers. We’ve always been more than fond of Anushka Ravishankar’s Tiger on a Tree (Tara Books, Rs 200) – with its standout typography, rhyming text and two-colour illustrations by Pulak Biswas, it is perfect for reading out loud. A less well-produced and designed book (but an equally charming story) is Little Bagha (Eklavya, Rs 35), in which a tiger cub tries to find out if he’s able to frighten other animals as much as his mother can. Dorje’s Stripes (Karadi Tales, Rs 175) is a gentle introduction to the subject of tiger poaching, through a fictional story with charming watercolour illustrations.

The tiger is not the only big cat that features in books. One of our all-time favourites is The Ghost of the Mountains (Kalpavriksh & Snow Leopard Conservancy, Rs 100). Get past the underwhelming cover, and you’re straight into the delightful story of a boy from a Himalayan mountain village, who saves a snow leopard from the wrath of his neighbours. Black Panther (Tulika, Rs 150) evokes the patience and courage required to see the stealthy black panther, rarely spotted even by those who live side-by-side with it in the Western Ghats.

Crocodiles

Both Catch that Crocodile (Tara Books, Rs 200) and Cricket for the Crocodile (part of the anthology Ranji’s Wonderful Bat and Other Stories, Puffin, Rs 199), narrate tales of crocodiles straying into urban areas – and both have plucky child heroes who manage to save the day without any harm to man or beast. We’d love to know of a tale of a crocodile in the wild, though, – perhaps we’ve overlooked something?

IMG_8621

Monkeys

And then of course there is the monkey! In When Ali Became Bajrangbali (Tulika, Rs 160) it’s a monkey whose cunning plan saves both his tree – and his neighbourhood from destruction. Five Little Monkeys (Tulika, Rs 135) is a lighthearted counting book in which mischievous monkeys taunt a crocodile, but ultimately suffer themselves. Also worth mentioning is Monkey Photo (Tara Books) which turns the tables on traditional human-animal dynamics when a monkey steals a tourist’s camera, and proceeds to swing around the jungle taking photographs. Based on a story from The Jataka Tales, greedy humans try to drive monkeys away from their mango tree in The Monkey King (Karadi Tales, Rs 195), but kindness and reconciliation ultimately win the day.

FullSizeRender (4)

Elephants

It might not have the status of national animal, but the elephant is even more popular than the tiger as the subject of Indian children’s books. Magnificent Makhna (Tulika, Rs 150) uses stunning, whimsical illustrations to tell the story of a much-feared, tuskless elephant who is able to protect the forest from poachers. An elephant with seven trunks takes the help of a small girl to plant trees and make rain in The Elephant in the Tree (Katha, Rs 175), while in Ambili (Pratham Books, Rs 40) it’s a baby elephant who learns not to be afraid of the rain. The hero of Elephants Never Forget (Tara Books, Rs 200) is also afraid in a storm, but luckily he’s befriended by a herd of buffaloes in a charming tale which is as much about identity as it is about elephants. Both Lai Lai the Baby Elephant (Tulika, Rs 115) and I Am Aan (Katha, Rs 120) take us through a young elephant’s development – the former through photographs and the latter with colourful illustrations. Ashok Rajagopalan’s Gajapati Kulapati and Gajapati Kulapati Kalabalooosh!  (Tulika, Rs 135) need special mention here because though not necessarily wildlife themed, this beloved elephant has brought much laughter to a whole lot of children.

FullSizeRender (1)

Birds

Khari – journeys through Kachchh (Kalpavriksh, Rs 100) really stands out. Kalpavriksh is an environmental NGO, and its wildlife books are spot on. Let yourself be guided though Kachchh by a demoiselle crane, with puzzles, activities and facts for entertainment and enlightenment along the way. Affectionate observations of birds delight in Birds from My Window (Scholastic, Rs 125) – a collection of anecdotes about some of the common birds that the author, Ranjit Lal sees from his window.

IMG_8624

Insects

Often neglected but no less important! Ranjit Lal’s Dancing Bees (Tulika, Rs 75) is a fun collection of creep crawly trivia, while Circle of Life (Kalpavriksh, Rs 100) delves deeper, specifically into the lifecycle of the honeybee. Here, the balance between a fun story and well-narrated factual information is perfect, and there’s enough to keep even middle school readers interested. Similarly engaging (but for a slightly younger audience) is The Spider’s Web (Tulika, Rs 100), which offers glimpses into a spider’s lair – through the lens of a camera.

FullSizeRender (2)

Sea creatures

Riddle of the Ridley (Tulika, Rs 150) is a factual but lightly-told tale about sea turtles. Odisha is one of only three places in the world where sea turtles come ashore to nest en masse, and wildlife film-maker Shekar Dattatri perfectly captures the sheer magic of the event. Equally special is Putul and the Dolphins (Tulika, Rs 135), a fictional story which manages to tease out the delicate relationship fisherfolk have with the river, and its creatures. Also featuring a dolphin protagonist is Ira The Little Dolphin (Tulika, Rs 135) brought to life by photographs of the Irrawaddy dolphins of Chilika lake.

FullSizeRender (3)

Deer, Rhinoceros & Bear

While deer, rhinoceroses and bear are all native animals, books about them were harder to find. U Sier Lapalang (Katha, Rs 80) is a heartbreaking but powerful book –which doesn’t shy away from showing the harsh reality of what happens when a young stag migrates close to an area populated by the Khasi tribe, in Meghalaya. Less hard-hitting and with a happier ending (but ultimately with the same message) is Run Ranga Run (Katha, Rs 95) – in which a rhinoceros is taught to charge by his mother, so that he can escape from human predators. We were also extremely moved by Dancing Bear (Karadi Tales, Rs 175), in which a young bear trainer realises that the animal whom he loves can never be truly happy unless he is allowed to be free.

IMG_8628

All together now …

Then there are of course some favourites which star more than one creature! The inaugural Hindu Young World-Goodbooks award was won by Dead As a Dodo (Hachette, Rs 350) – a fast-paced novel in which the Animal Intelligence Agency (which comprises a tiger, a langur and a human boy) must save the last remaining dodo in the world. Aimed at readers from the age of ten upwards, it touches upon issues like poaching, hunting, and of course extinction.

With a hornbill as your guide, you’ll also find an assortment of animals in Walk the Rainforest with Niwupah (Katha, Rs 175) – from swinging monkeys and flying squirrels to small dung beetles. Written by wildlife biologists, it’s fact-based but also fun and closes by encouraging children to take up wildlife activism. The companion book Walk the Grasslands with Takuri (Katha, Rs 195) is similarly informative, and has a pygmy hog as its guide!

In Shero to the Rescue (Kalpavriksh, Rs 100) we meet animals from the grasslands, wetlands and desserts of Kachchh. While the illustrations are somewhat ‘cartoon-y’, the story of the impact of human activity on animal habitats is well-told. Finally, we can’t finish without a nod to the Grandfather of India children’s books – Ruskin Bond is known for his masterful forays into the animal kingdom, and Panther’s Moon (Puffin, Rs 199) is quite rightly a classic. There are ten collected tales of human encounters with animals and birds. While the reading age makes it appropriate for middle school, it can be enjoyed aloud with younger enthusiasts.

We may have missed your favourites! Do write in, or comment with your suggestions

 

The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award

GoodBooksBlog22015 was a fantastic year for Indian children’s books, and it was especially encouraging to see the inauguration of an award to recognize and encourage talented children’s book authors and illustrators.

Whittled down from an extremely strong short list, the winners of The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Awards across the categories were as follows:

Best Picture Book (Story): Bumboo…The Donkey Who Would Not Budge. Written by Sujatha Padmanabhan and illustrated by Madhuvanti Ananatharajan. Published by Eklavya.

Set in the hills of Ladakh, this is the story of Padma, a young girl who dotes on her family’s donkey, Bumboo. When it looks like Bumboo might have to be sold, it’s up to Padma to come up with a solution.

Best Picture Book (Illustrations): The Alphabet of Animals and Birds. Written and illustrated by Prabha Mallya. Published by Red Turtle.

You may have heard of a Murder of Crows, but what about a Conspiracy of Lemurs? In these delightfully quirky representations of collective nouns, there’s much for children and adults to pore over. The typography and hand lettering add an extra element to this distinctive alphabet book.

Best Book (Fiction): Dead as a Dodo. Written by Venita Coelho and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan. Published by Hachette.

A tiger, a langur and a young boy come together to try and save the planet – using their combined forces to tackle everything from mass extinction to high-school bullying. Plot twists, engaging dialogue and a racy pace make for an an adventure which is hard to put down.

Best Book (Non-Fiction): The House that Sonabai Built. Written by Vishakha Chanchani and illustrated by Stephen P. Huyler. Published by Tulika Books.

Simple yet powerful text and photographic images come together to tell the remarkable story of Sonabai Rajawar, a self-taught artist whose creative journey began by creating clay figures for her young son, and ended with international recognition.

 

We, The Children of India

photo

As something to read on Republic Day, we can’t think of anything better than Leila Seth’s We, The Children of India. An introduction to the Constitution written by India’s first female Chief Justice (with a little help from her grandchildren), it’s perfectly pitched at a young audience.

Starting by breaking down and explaining each part of the Constitution’s preamble, Leila Seth encourages children to think about the meaning of words like secular, democratic, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Difficult concepts are explained in simple terms and are visually explored through colourful illustrations by (the late) Bindia Thapar, while photos set the historical context.

Adults might enjoy the trivia as much as children (and perhaps find out a few things that they didn’t know). The book also chalks out a brief introduction to key figures on the constitution’s drafting committee.

Perhaps the greatest strength of this important book is the section at the end, which encourages children to think about what still needs to be done. The Constitution gives every Indian child the right to food, health and education. However, we have children in India who are poor and hungry. A wonderful way for children to start thinking about both the privileges and responsibilities which come with citizenship.

Published by Penguin India (Rs 150) 

An Abundance of Alices

To mark 150 years since its first publication, this is a blog post we hope you’ll help us add to, charting the incredible print history of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Alices

If you’ve ever exclaimed ‘curiouser and curiouser!’, told someone that they are grinning ‘like a Cheshire cat’, or that they are as ‘mad as a hatter’, then you are, of course, influenced by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Often cited as the origin of modern children’s literature, few books have captured the imagination as much as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Pop Up, Walker Books, 2015. Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the book’s first publication by Alexander Macmillan in 1865. Since then, the book has never been out of print, and has been published in around 176 languages. Without even delving into its film and television adaptations, its print history is fascinating, with different illustrations and formats over the years.

IMG_3493
Spanish language edition (Nordica Libros, S.L, 2010)

The first edition was published with engraved illustrations by John Tenniel. The edition sitting in front of me in the bookstore today is a gorgeous copy illustrated by Tove Jannsson, the Swedish illustrator behind the Moomin series. We’ve just ordered what looks like a stunning pop-up edition from design-led publisher Tango Books. Everyone we spoke to about the book seemed to have a different story to tell, connected to their copy of the book.

store1
Tate, 2011. Illustrated by Tove Jansson

So here, we open things out. We’ve collected together pictures of some of the editions we could lay our hands on, with just a brief description of each. Please share yours! If you email a photo, plus the name of the publisher and year in which it was published, we will share it here, and continue to update this blog for as long as you send us things. Bonus points for foreign language editions, interesting illustrations and unusual formats. For what is the use of a book, without pictures or conversations?

You can reach us on: lightroombookstore (at) gmail.com

Walker Books, 2015. Illustrated by Anthony Browne
Walker Books, 2015. Illustrated by Anthony Browne
XXXX
Pop-up. Little Simon, 2003
XXXX
Quality Paperback Bookclub, 1994
XXXXX
Heirloom Library, 1949
Piccolo Pan Books, 1977. Cover illustration by Peter Richardson
Piccolo Pan Books, 1977. Cover illustration by Peter Richardson
alice2
Grosset and Dunlap, New York, 1963
alice1
Puffin, 1994
photo 2
Penguin Classics, 2012. Illustrated by Yayoi Kusama.