There’s a lot of wonderful writing available in Indian literature for children (preteens and teens), including the evergreen Ruskin Bond, the delightful Anushka Ravishankar, Roopa Pai who informs as she entertains and several others. Here’s a reading list that your child—and you—can try out, ranging from science fiction to folk tales and crazy adventures. And remember, there’s lots more where this came from!
OUR NANA WAS A NUTCASE
By Ranjit Lal
Published by Rupa / Rs. 295
A heart-warming story about an ex-Army surgeon grandfather, who brings up his four grandkids while their parents are busy saving the world by pursuing their important careers, it has more twists than any onscreen entertainer. Nana is helped by his partner Shabby Aunty, who also works in his clinic, as he tends to the kids with discipline and love, making sure his grand-daughters know how to take a car apart and fix tyres. When he starts showing signs of Alzheimer’s, it’s their turn to care of the ageing patriarch by hiding him away before he’s packed off to an old age home by their parents. A story that talks about love, heartbreak, truths about ageing and family bonding. An absolute must for any family’s bookshelf.
THE MYSTERY OF THE SECRET HAIR OIL FORMULA
By Asha Nehemiah
Published by Scholastic / Rs. 125
Scheming scientists have hatched a diabolical plot to steal Malu Paati’s secret formula for Wondergro Supersonic Hair Tonic, left to her by her father. Riding wild hill ponies, whizzing past Porcupine Cactus that shoot you with well-aimed needle-like thorns, Singing Grasses and Tarzan Vines, the feisty grandmother takes off for a high-profile conference with her oddball team that includes her lazy grandson and bossy grand-daughter. As they walk into a well laid trap, they only have each other and some unique homegrown weapons to save them and their formula. All we can ask for is a sequel to this imaginative, madcap adventure!
WATCHA GONNA DO, ROSIE SINGH?
By Rasil Ahuja
Published by Puffin Books / Rs. 199
Eight-year-old Rosie Singh has a wardrobe malfunction (twice!), exposing her bloomers before her giggling classmates and stern Sister Constance. Going back to school is no longer an option. Rosie enlists her best-friend Momo’s help and together, they explore the merits of home-schooling. Welcome to Rosie’s world, which consists of her 13-year-old sister Gun Gun, who’s usually stuck on the phone; her mother, a paediatrician whose career is on pause because of the frequent postings of her husband and Rosie’s father, who’s in the Army; and Dadu, her grandfather, who has gone through life only remembering the pet-names of his own children, besides a host of other characters. Ultimately, as they reveal their own embarrassing skirmishes, they gently lead Rosie to face her problems.
THE STUPENDOUS TIME TELLING SUPERDOG
By Himanjali Sankar
Published by Duckbill / Rs. 199
Rousseau may be a badly behaved canine, but he has one superpower. With his paw raised precisely, accompanied by smart barks and thumps of the tail, he gets it right every time. When the Orange Marmalades from the Black Hole of Time, upset that earthlings don’t notice them anymore, bring a stop to all time telling devices, it’s up to Rousseau’s owners Anya and Kavya to save the world with their time-telling superdog.
BOOKASURA, THE ADVENTURES OF BALA AND THE BOOK-EATING MONSTER
By Arundhati Venkatesh
Published by Scholastic / Rs. 125
Bala has a problem. First, it’s his newborn baby sister who chews up his precious book and when he heads to his grandparents’ home with his valuable stash, his peace of mind is threatened by a book-eating monster. As Bookasura (based on the mythological Bakasura) chomps his way through some popular titles, Bala thinks of a way to outwit him…read the book to find out how he does it!
HOT CHOCOLATE IS THICKER THAN BLOOD
By Rupa Gulab
Published by Duckbill / Rs. 175
Anu is already under a lot of stress, with everybody already giving her grief for the Boards next year, her fear of dissecting cockroaches in the lab and her unruly curls, which threaten to play spoiler as she crushes on a boy at the swimming pool. Her sister Diya, five years older, is perfect in contrast, with straight glossy hair and a favourite of the teachers. While Anu is wondering if she is adopted, a nasty aunt drops in one evening and announces that Diya is not her real sister. Over steaming mugs of hot chocolate, the sisters come to terms with the news and negotiate the road ahead.
By Roopa Pai
Published by Hachette / Rs. 875 (for the 8-book box set)
Meet the Taranauts or Mithyakins, special beings who have been made aware of their powers by the wise Shuk Tee, Emperaza’s trusted advisor. While Zvala, the child of Fire, can burn anything to cinders, Zarpa, the child of SuperSerpent Shay Sha, can twist her body into any shape, Tufan, the child of the Wind, can create stormy hurricanes. Together, can they solve 32 riddles in time to save their Tarasuns from super-villain Shaap Azur? Pick up this fantasy-adventure series of eight books to enter the world of Taranauts!
ADVENTURES WITH HANUMAN
By Arshia Sattar
Published by Red Turtle (Rupa) / Rs. 195
As Raghu lies in bed, the ceiling fan whirring above him, he realised he is bored…bored, bored, bored! And then something exciting happens. Hanuman walks off the poster on his wall with a yawn, with a mission to rescue Sita and save Lord Ram’s brother Lakshmana from death. When Raghu reminds the monkey god that he has already been there, done that, it turns out that’s not how it works. With each retelling, Hanuman is pressed into service again, since there’s no single way of telling the story of the Ramayana. So, off they fly into the land of demons and warrior monkeys, with Raghu playing navigator. A great way to bring mythology alive for kids.
THE MERRY ADVENTURES OF HARSHABARDHAN AND GOBARDHAN
By Shibram Chakraborty; Translated by Arunava Sinha
Published by Hachette / Rs. 250
An anecdote that introduces us to the delightfully eccentric author, tells us about how when a fan followed him home, he was presented with tablets to cure headaches. When the visitor protested that he wasn’t suffering from one, Chakraborty assured him, “You will soon, now that you’ve come to see me.” Sinha’s translation has deftly made room for puns that are an inherent part of the story-telling that focuses on the lives of two eccentric Assamese brothers who find themselves in quirky situations. Follow them as they embark on a train journey to Mumbai (then Bombay), but wonder why they bothered when the destination looks so much like their very own Calcutta (no prizes for guessing why!). Or how they escape being conscripted into the Army. The book of short stories is a treasure for any age and a great way to introduce children to classic Bengali literature.
SPINNING YARNS: THE BEST CHILDREN’S STORIES FROM INDIA
Edited by Deepa Agarwal
Published by Red Turtle (Rupa) / Rs. 250
This anthology introduces contemporary and classic authors, including Sudha Murthy, Satyajit Ray, Jim Corbett, RK Narayan, Ruskin Bond, Vikram Seth and others. In Portrait of a Lady, we learn about Khushwant Singh’s friendship with his grandmother and hers, in turn, with the sparrows that collect outside the home to be fed. In Rabindranath Tagore’s The Parrot’s Tale, we mourn the fate of a bird who is ordered by the king to be educated. Premchand’s Big Brother tells us that you may be an overachiever, but respect for elders remains sacrosanct. Again, a must read for all ages.
(The writer is an editorial consultant and co-founder of The Goodwill Project. She tweets @anuvee) Views expressed are personal.