Finding Your Family

FullSizeRenderWhether you’re welcoming a new child into your family, or would just like to discuss families in all their many forms with your child, these picture books are great starting points for talking about adoption. As well as books from abroad, there’s a fair few Indian offerings. Between them, these books talk about ethnic heritage, nature vs nurture and the unconditional quality of a parent’s love.


Whose Lovely Child Can You Be?

Shobha Viswanath & Christine Tappin (Karadi Tales, Rs 175)

Lyrical and literary, this book tells the tale of a young girl’s adoption from multiple perspectives within the family – with inputs from her parents, grandparents, brother, aunt and uncle. While Gulgul is initially worried that she doesn’t belong, reassurance comes from many quarters and the tale ends with Gulgul having to reassure her relatives that she is a part of all of them, too. Easy to read aloud and to relate to, there’s much to be charmed by here.


A Mother for Choco 

Keiko Kasza (Puffin, Rs 280)

This was first published in 1992, but has absolutely stood the test of time. Baby bird Choco goes in search of a mother, but he just doesn’t seem to be able to find anyone who looks quite like him. Dialogue-driven, deceptively simple yet wonderfully touching, it’s gratifying that Choco discovers that when it comes to love, it doesn’t matter what you look like.


Elephants Never Forget

Anushka Ravishankar & Christiane Pieper (Tara Books, Rs 200)  

One of several books which use animal characters to help explain the concept of adoption, Elephants Never Forget is a beautifully executed picture book. Etchings from Christiane Pieper, loose rhyme from Anushka Ravishankar and typography by Rathna Ramanathan come together to tell the story of a lost elephant who is taken in by a herd of buffalo, and grows up in their midst. The return of the elephant herd leaves the protagonist with a difficult dilemma, touching lightly on a question many adoptive children may face – whether they should reach out to their birth families.


Dragon Loves Penguin

Debi Gliori (Bloomsbury, Rs 199)

This one is heartwarming and nostalgic on multiple levels, and manages to capture the very essence of what it means to be a family. Starting with a young penguin wanting to hear the story of where he and his mother came from, a tale is spun which touches upon the bonds that bind generations together, the strength that can come from being ‘different’, and of course the magic of storytelling. We love the reference to the young penguin being given, “love and time, the greatest gifts of all.” How very true.


The Odd Egg

Emily Gravett (Macmillan, Rs 299)

This is also a tale about a lost egg being taken in, and having surprising contents! A popular fixture in the store over the last few years, this has all of Emily Gravett’s hallmarks: unusual design, beautiful illustration, and a fun twist. Another one to show that looking alike isn’t the most important thing when it comes to family, and that parenthood isn’t just about mothers. Especially great for toddlers.


A Mummy for Owen

Marion Dane Bauer (Simon & Schuster, Rs 250)

Many of these books talk about adoption in the context of babies – what makes this stand out is the fact that Owen the hippo can remember his birth family, and life before he lost them in a flood. While he has happy memories of playing in the river with his mother, when he is separated from her, he finds love in an unexpected place – from a 130-year old tortoise called Mzee. What’s even better is that this is based on a true story.


The Lonely King and Queen

Deepa Balsavar (Tulika Publishing, Rs 120)

When a king and queen start to hear a voice inside their house they can’t work out where the sound is coming from … but they know they want to follow it! Their search leads them to a yellow building, where they find a small baby calling out for Papa and Mamma. Balsavar’s text and illustrations work beautifully together in this little book and the repetitions as the king and queen search high and low make it a great bedtime book. What’s really lovely, though, is the idea of the baby making sure that the right parents hear its voice.

On Our Wish List

As usual, we’re also hankering after more books! Titles currently on order for the store from far flung places include Bringing Asha Home (Uma Krishnaswami, published by Lee & Low), and written by the same author who gave us the wonderfully fun Out of the Way! Out of the Way!, published by Tulika.

Dealing with inter-racial adoptions (but in very different ways), we’re also looking forward to having a closer look at Over the Moon (Karen Katz, published by Macmillan) and Allison (Allen Say, also published by Macmillan). The moving Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born (Jamie Lee Curtis, published by Harper Collins) – guaranteed to make you feel warm inside – is also heading our way.



Sharpen your pencils

It’s that time again! As the start of a new school year creeps up on us, we’ve picked out just a few books that are in store at the moment, which are great for broaching the subject of starting school.IMG_9393

Pranav’s First Day at School  

Nandini Nayar & Dileep Chinchalker (Eklavya, Rs 25)

A simple story about what is possibly the trickiest part of starting school – getting past the front gate, alone, and leaving your parents behind! Pranav has been told all about school, so he is not going to cry … but what about all the other children he meets? Chinchalker’s sensitive pencil sketches are perfect for conveying Pranav’s emotions, and there is much to pore over in the illustrations.

Starting School

Janet & Allen Ahlberg (Puffin, Rs 299)

This one takes us through not just the first day of school, but the first term! It’s based on a British school, but much of what happens has universal relevance. Somehow doing something is always easier if you’ve talked about it – or at least thought about it – first, so there is much reassurance to be gleaned from this run-through of school rituals, with illustrations that will make you nostalgic for your childhood.

While I’m Away

Christy Olson Kennedy & Prashant Miranda (Little Latitude, Rs 375)

In perfectly scanning verse, this is an upbeat yet realistic portrayal of a first day at school – from hopping onto the bus, to making new friends and eating lunch. Part of Little Latitude’s ‘Anahi and Vir’ series of books, this also touches upon sibling relationships – lightly portraying both how a ‘big sister’ might feel as the first in the family to go off to school, as well as how the ‘little brother’ feels about remaining at home alone.

Rani’s First Day at School

Cheryl Rao & Mayur Mistry (Rs 30, or free to download on Storyweaver)

Have we ever mentioned what a fantastic concept Pratham Books’ Storyweaver is? An open source platform, it’s part of Pratham Books’ mission to get a book into every child’s hand, and allows you to read and download content, or even create your own stories. This short tale focuses on the school gate ritual, showing how Rani finds the courage to leave her mother behind, safe in the knowledge that she will see her again at the end of the day! We have physical copies of this little book in Kannada and Hindi. Download the story here

Books for Boredom?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.  


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.

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:











All photos courtesy Neha Vasant-Diddee

A Picture for a Thousand Words


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.

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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.


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.


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.

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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.


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.

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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!

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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.


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.


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 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


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.

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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.


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?



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.

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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.

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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.



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.

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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.

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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.


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.