Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mukand and Riaz at Mumbai Mobile Creches

Here is the note sent by the lovely Team MMC:

MMC’s day care centers are probably the most unique day care centers in Mumbai. Mumbai Mobile Creches is the only NGO that runs day care centers for children of construction workers in the city of dreams. The parents of these children migrate from all over India in a desperate attempt to find livelihood, and get employed as skilled and unskilled workers at the booming construction industry of the city. Such sudden and short term moves from the native village to the city, and from one construction site to another, impacts the tender mind the most. The children are often deprived of affection of their grandparents and siblings, whom they had to leave behind in their natal places, and hence they try to find solace in the company of their friends at the day care centers. Although coming from 21 different states and from various different castes and religious backgrounds, they all share the same experience of being a migrant and living on a construction site. Friendship brings some sort of coherence in their ever-changing lives.

The library program plays a very important role in MMC’s comprehensive day care program, and one entire week is set aside as the Book Week. It is one such week (annually) when a lot of activities are planned around books and reading. During the Book Week, both children and community members engage in multiple fun events that kindles their love for reading books.

Tying friendship bands

From November 16 to 21, 2015, the children at MMC’s daycare centers celebrated this year’s Book Week, and the theme of the 6th MMC Book Week was “Friendship”, or “AdbhootDostiKeAnokhe Rang”. During this event the children professed their unconditional love for their friends through books.  Story books depicting unique and unconditional friendships were selected for children of different age groups. One such story was that of “Mukund aur Riaz” by Tulika publications which shares a message of magnanimous bonding between two friends. It was a perfect selection which migrant children could easily relate to as they too go through similar feelings of separation when they move back to their villages or other construction sites.

Telling the story
Before narrating the story, the teacher initiated with an introduction activity where children tied friendship bands to each other and celebrated friendship. It was followed by the “Read Aloud Session” of the book “Mukund and Riaz”. All the children were fascinated by the Red colour cap which Mukund gives to Riaz as his last friendship gift. As a follow up activity, the children then made caps and some of them spoke about their best friends and their names. One of the child prompted “Maine bhimeri saheli ko goan jate samay chudiyan diyithi”. (“I had also given my friend bangles while going back to my village.”)

The fabulous caps

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tulika in 2015


1. The House That Sonabai Built by Vishakha Chanchani and photographs by Stephen P. Huyler

This sensitive telling of Sonabai's story follows her transformative artistic journey from the tactile experience of her first creations in clay, innovative experiments with colours and light, and unfettered play with pattern and design to being embraced by the art world.

Excellence in Book Production, Federation of Indian Publishers, and Darsana National Awards 2015

Vishakha Chanchani at a telling of Sonabai's story

2. Being Boys edited by Deeya Nayar & Radhika Menon with illustrations by Niveditha Subramaniam

"...while Being Boys presents itself as an anthology of short stories with young male protagonists, what stood out for me was its inclusion of narratives that one would be hard pressed to find in mainstream Indian publishing... Being Boys brings together a diverse range of authors, and an interesting mix of narratives - fables, memoirs, diary entries, historical fiction..." - Saffron Tree

Writer-filmmaker Devashish Makhija tells the story he contributed at the launch at Bookaroo Pune

3. A Bhil Story by Nina Sabnani and Sher Singh Bhil

"Each page is beautifully composed and packed with colourful detail... making each page a stunning visual experience." - Saffron Tree

Nina Sabnani and Sher Singh Bhil at the launch at the Kala Ghoda Festival 2015


1. The Talking Bird by Swati Sengupta and pictures by Sayan Mukherjee

"When I opened the book, the first thing I noticed was the colour palette. These were strong Indian hues of bright blue and garish orange; deep emerald and snazzy purple. Sayan Mukherjee clearly understands that we Indians like our colours to be eye-catching... The author, Swati Sengupta, understands that, for a picture book for a five-year-old, you need a good read-aloud style."  - Goodbooks,in

Swati Sengupta at the launch of the book


1. Wings To Fly by Sowmya Rajendran and pictures by Arun Kumar

"Short, sweet narration of the story of Malathi, stirring young guns to start looking at great people's lives and to tell them there is an interesting story in everybody's life. The visuals imprint Malathi's journey in the young reader's mind, and create a lasting impression..." - Plusminusnmore

Storyteller Ameen Haque and para-athlete Malathi Holla 

2. Girls To The Rescue by Sowmya Rajendren and pictures by Ashok Rajagopalan

"The stories, as they are narrated, have a timeless feel to them, equally enjoyable to young readers, and to older ones - teenagers, young adults, and adults. Simple enough that a 6 year old might enjoy the narration, yet profound enough that older readers might find layers that mean different things to them." - Saffron Tree

A spread from the book


1. Gender Talk: Big Hero, Size Zero by Anusha Hariharan & Sowmya Rajendran with pictures by Niveditha Subramaniam

"This book states a lot of facts without hiding anything. The truth is not morphed to make it sound better. That way it is different and more effective than textbooks, because, how much ever text books are supposed to tell the truth, they only touch the basics and in the process not touch upon a lot of things." - Saralya P Narayan, 15 years old, Chennai

Writers Anusha Hariharan and Sowmya Rajendran, and Schools of Equality's Gulika Reddy at the launch


1. Flutterfly by Niveditha Subramaniam

"The uses for this book are as limitless as your imagination... Bold pencil strokes bring the characters to life, and Niveditha Subramaniam has a knack of infusing her drawings with movement and humour..." -

Raksha Bandhan special


1. Kanna Panna by Zai Whitaker and pictures by Niloufer Wadia

"The beauty of this story is that it works at many levels. It creates an awareness about blindness in young children, both its outward appearance and inner abilities. Kanna is normal in all ways and his parents and companions come to discover that in the course of the story. Like all good stories, it is left to the reader to reflect on what is left unsaid... The greatest attraction of the book is the visual impact that Niloufer Wadia manages to convey with her beautiful illustrations..." -

Writer Zai Whitaker at the launch of the book

2. Mara And The Clay Cows by Parismita Singh

"Mara and the Clay Cows combines two things that Indian publishing still doesn' see enough of one, an original graphic narrative... and two, a story set in the North- eastern regions of the country. Mara.. is a layered story and I found myself discovering facets to the book long after I had finished it. It is, of course, a story of magic and adventure, and a child's quest for family. It also humorously questions gender stereotypes, asserts the need for non violence and environmental preservation..." - Saffron Tree

A spread from the book


1. Our Incredible Cow by Mahasweta Devi and illustrations by Ruchi Shah

"Ruchi Shah takes Nyadosh the cow to a surreal level, visualizing Nyadosh as one who becomes what she eats!... Thinking about the life and times of the story's context (it was written in Bengali in the late 1960s) asks of the reader a pause for reflection." -

After making an incredible edible cow at the launch

2. Follow The Ants by Amrutha Satish and pictures by Soumya Menon

"The book is a delightful way to introduce toddlers to everyday words and make them observe things around us... The words are simple and in each page we learn a new word which is what we see everyday and yet never make an effort to tell our kids about it. The book is a great way to teach a young child new words and trigger a discussion about things around the house." - IndianMomsConnect

Illustrator Soumya Menon at a telling of the book


1. Dungi Dance by Bhavna Jain Bhuta and pictures by Kavita Singh Kale

"...the drum and beat sounds are bound to be a great hit with storytellers and read-aloud-ers as well as young children between the ages of three and five." -

Author Bhavna Jain Bhuta at a telling of the story

2. Neelu's Big Box by Nandini Nayar and pictures by Shreya Sen

A big box, her grandparents’ walking sticks, Amma’s long red dupatta… Neelu has everything she needs for her big, strong fort. But – oh no – she trips and falls, and the box becomes flat! Whacky pictures take us on a colourful ride into a child’s imagination.

Author Nandini Nayar telling the story

3. Bhimrao Ambedkar: The Boy Who Asked Why by Sowmya Rajendran and pictures by Satwik Gade

"I greatly enjoyed this book, and if it were up to me, I would gladly place a copy in every child's hand."-

Illustrator Satwik Gade at the launch of the book


1. Salim The Knife-Sharpener by R Amarendran and pictures by Ashok Rajagopalan

Kutak-katak… zoing-zoing… bzzzt-bzzzt… zzzk-zzzk… Salim goes from village to village sharpening knives. But who needs knives sharpened every day? Some days he hardly makes enough money for a good meal. Now, with Eid coming, he decides to try his luck on the other side of the jungle. Does he get enough work? Does he get a good meal?

Author R Amarendran and illustrator Ashok Rajagopalan at the launch

This handbook helps educators to create awareness about child rights among children. Featuring landmark laws and treaties, real stories and statistics, ideas for discussion, worksheets and questionnaires, it delves into the history of the child rights movement to show how young people can themselves be empowered to usher in social change.

A spread from the book


1. Sultan's Forest by Kamla Bhasin and photographs by Bina Kak

Tiger cub Sultan and his Ammi have a special friend they call Junglee Bina. “Bina is bold. She’s not afraid of the forest or the animals,” says little Sultan. Bina loves the jungle, and wanders there on her own for hours, taking photographs. It is these stunning photos that show us Sultan’s life in the Ranthambore forest, even as he tells us the story of a warm relationship between a woman and the wild.

A spread from the book


1. The Boy And Dragon Stories And Other Tales by Suniti Namjoshi and pictures by Krishna Bala Shenoi

Sweeping through spans of fantasy, reality and time, the author of the popular Aditi Adventures gives us a set of stories that once again take children on a ride through magic realism. And with confused dragons, cricket playing giants, mirror books and little girls who don’t see why they should cry, they once again say as much between the lines as through the light, lively text.

A spread from the book


1. Dum Dum Dho: Rhymes And Rhythms edited by Radhika Menon & Deeya Nayar with pictures by Anjora Noronha

The drums beat in a swirly whirl of rhythms and rhymes for little ones – a colourful kaleidoscope of originals from well known writers, familiar favourites from the Oluguti Toluguti collection, sounds and resonances from a world familiar to children.

Image of the book cover

Friday, December 4, 2015

Bal Sahitya Puraskar 2015 for Mayil Will Not Be Quiet!

A flower shower for the award-winning Mayil Will Not Be Quiet!, Sowmya Rajendran, who co-authored the book with Niveditha Subramaniam – collected the award from Sahitya Akademi on Children’s Day at a ceremony held in Mumbai. Here is Sowmya's speech:

It is a pleasure to be here today in such distinguished company. Needless to say, I’m honored that the Sahitya Akademi has bestowed this award upon us, Niveditha and I, for our book Mayil Will Not Be Quiet! A book that was rejected by almost every publisher we approached.

Our journey with Mayil began many years ago. Niveditha and I met in Stella Maris College, Chennai, in the year 2003. We were in the same undergrad English class. We became great friends and discovered that we also worked well together professionally. We turned to each other for honest and critical feedback on our writing and fortunately, this only cemented our friendship further. During our undergrad years, we were exposed to some brilliant literary and philosophical texts that revolutionized the way in which we looked at the world. From naïve school children, we grew into young women with a healthy appetite for questioning the status quo. Our training in literary criticism made us go back to the texts we’d grown up reading as children and look at them again with fresh eyes. Many of these texts – Indian and Western - were riddled with clichés, stereotypes and prejudices. Ugly people were evil; stepmothers were cruel; princesses waited to be rescued; princes were always brave; boys led, girls followed…and so much more. Without a doubt, we’d thoroughly enjoyed reading these texts as children, but we had to work doubly hard as adults to rid our minds of the bias and conditioning that we’d inherited with this literature, among other influences.

After graduation, Niveditha went on to do an internship with Tulika Publishers, an independent children’s publisher, while I traveled to the UK to do my Masters’ in Gender Studies at the University of Sussex. At a certain point, when we both had sufficient experience in writing and publishing, we decided to collaborate on a children’s book that would talk about the growing up experiences of an Indian child with honesty. Back then, there were hardly any Indian children’s books in English that were of this genre. We wanted to create a character, a girl, who asks the sort of questions that we wished we’d grown up asking. Not a precocious, annoying child but someone with natural curiosity and a kind of courage that only children are capable of. And Mayil was born. We initially planned on creating a resource book for children with Mayil as the protagonist. We put down the various issues that a young girl, on the cusp of adolescence, faces and thinks about – but we were determined to keep the tone light and non-judgmental. Each chapter ended with a list of open-ended questions for the readers to answer. Or even just mull over.

We approached educators, people in NGOs, people in government organizations, and publishers alike to bring this book out but we were turned down by all of them. Finally, Tulika Publishers responded. They liked what they saw, they said. But would we consider changing the form of the book to a diary? We thought about this and agreed that this made sense – in a diary, Mayil could speak for herself. She would become all the more real and accessible to a reader. And so, the process of rewriting the book began. Since we have a similar wavelength and writing style, we managed to get a consistent tone and voice for Mayil. As we wrote more and more, she became her own person.

We launched Mayil Will Not Be Quiet on March 8th, 2011. To say that we were nervous would be an understatement. Would adults appreciate the frank depiction of childhood in it? Would the uncomfortable questions we’d raised in the book make parents too uncomfortable? Mayil’s world was unapologetically located in Tamil Nadu – would people from other parts of the country relate to her? Had we been too political correct? Or too politically incorrect? And most importantly, would a child like this book? To our immense relief, the children who came to the book launch took to the book immediately. Boys and girls alike. And in the months that followed, we got great reviews from adults, too. This was all very new and unexpected and Niveditha and I were thrilled. The CBSE even put the book on its recommended reading list! In 2013, we brought out Mostly Madly Mayil, the sequel. I’m not going to lie – ever since Mini Shrinivasan, also a Tulika author, won the first Bal Sahitya Puraskar in 2010, Niveditha and I have been wanting to win it! Not because authors write to win prizes but because an award brings with it validation, recognition, and new audiences who might have never read you if not for it. And then, of course, there is the satisfaction of becoming a part of a distinguished literary tradition. We were both, therefore, speechless with delight when we received the news from the Sahitya Akademi, four years after Mayil Will Not Be Quiet had been published, that our book had been chosen as the winner for this year’s award. It is, beyond doubt, the second greatest honour that we could have received, the first being a child’s unvarnished enthusiasm and acceptance of the book.

Today, I’m very glad that we did not give up on Mayil when we received all those rejection letters. I’m very glad that we persisted, believed, and followed our heart. We’re no longer in a world where children can afford to be silent. They must speak, they must ask, and they must never be quiet. Here’s hoping that more children will get to know Mayil and inherit her spirit to question. We thank the Sahitya Akademi, Tulika Publishers, our supportive families and friends for making this possible.