With winter setting in in the city, Saturday saw hordes of children descend on the National Rail Museum for the Delhi edition of the annual Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival. The two-day festival, which travels across several cities in India, will see 48 speakers from nine countries — writers, illustrators, storytellers and publishers — hold sessions for children between 4 and 14 years of age in the Capital.
While the return to a physical format last year had seen serpentine queues on the festival weekend, this year, the online booking facility of the National Rail Museum has cut through the waiting time considerably.
On Saturday, spread across seven different venues, storytelling, art, craft and science workshops were in progress. The Doodle Wall and the Crafty Corner were the busiest hubs, even as older children made a beeline for the Auditorium, where sessions were being held by writers Deepak Dalal, Ashwita Jayakumar, Archana Garodia Gupta and Shruti Garodia on themes as diverse as history and ecology and environment.
“I wouldn’t call Bookaroo a festival, it’s really a vibe. There’s always a lot happening at its many different venues. The thing that I particularly like about it is the fact that there is no sermonising to children. From recognising and accepting emotions to speaking of the environment, everything is storyfied and done in a way that ensures that it becomes a safe space for children to express themselves. As a storyteller, one of my favourite things is to attend other sessions. There’s so much scope for exchanging ideas, interacting with each other, it’s a revelation for us adults, too,” said Kanpur-based storyteller Rohini Vij, whose session in Hindi on Saturday saw fun discussions on the true meaning of azadi.
The Delhi leg of the festival, now in its 14th edition, comes after the event in Vadodara earlier this month. History and science feature prominently in the sessions this year; there are also poetry and puppetry workshops for the artistically inclined.
While a lot of the Capital’s marquee names are missing this year from the festival lineup, there is a sizeable contingent of international authors, as well as outstation ones. This includes the French illustrator Estelle Billon-Spagnol, known for her artwork in Elisabeth Brami’s Declaration of the Rights of Girls; Swedish picture-book maker, Emma Virke, Naga illustrator Canato Jimo and writer Likla Lall, known for her art biographies, among others.
“One of the highlights of the Delhi leg is the return of international participation to the festival and the wide range of genres and voices. Bookaroo, as a platform, believes in showcasing the variety of talent available instead of going in for only marquee names. There is a lot happening in the world of children’s books and what better way to showcase that than Bookaroo,” said Swati Roy, festival director and co-organiser.
Ahead of his season on Sunday, centred around his translation of Sukumar Roy’s children’s classic Hajabarala (Habber-Jabber-Law, Talking Cub), translator Arunava Sinha said the festival has the feel of an event “by children for children”. “I really hope literature in translation will make them go back to their mother tongues and read in them,” he said.
At a glance:
* The festival timings are from 11 am till 4.30 pm
* While the festival is free for all, entry into the National Rail Museum is ticketed at Rs 20 for a child and Rs 100 for an adult
* To avoid queues, you can also book your tickets online on the National Rail Museum website (https://www.nrmindia.org/)
* The nearest Metro stations are M Vishweshwaraiah Moti Bagh (Pink Line) and Lok Kalyan Marg (Yellow Line)
* Sunday’s programme includes Arti Sonthalia’s session for 10-12 year olds on bullying, Rohini Vij’s vicarious journey into Masai Mara and hands-on science activity with Pratika Gupta. Vij and Gupta’s sessions, for eight-10-year olds and 12-14-year olds respectively, will be in Hindi