The hallmark of Parvati Sharma’s writing — be it for adults or for children — is a breeziness of touch that makes even the most mundane of events come alive with a sense of wonder and a gentle humour. Sharma’s first book for children was a delightful biography of Babur, but in Rattu and Poorie’s Adventures in History: 1857 (2019; Puffin Books), this time she turns her attention to the Uprising of 1857 and the people and events central to it. Through the story of two sisters, Rattu and Poorie, Sharma weaves the exploits of the historical personages — from Lakshmibai to the Maratha Peshwa Nana Sahib to the last Mughal Bahadur Shah Zafar — into context. The result is an easy charming read, just right for children aged eight years and above.
Humour is also the strong suit of Mumbai-based writer Natasha Sharma, whose History Mystery series (Duckbill Books, appropriate for: 7+ years) is a treat for even avowed history haters. Sharma taps into childish irreverance (King Ashoka is given to blowing bubbles in the bath; Akbar the Great is capable of the mother of all meltdowns) towards figures of authority, using it as a springboard to dive into different eras and different personages. From Akbar and the Tricky Traitor to Razia and the Pesky Presents, Sharma keeps series fatigue at bay by immersing her readers into mysteries that depend on their knowledge of historical facts to unravel them.
If we are talking about books on history, it’s hard to miss Subhadra Sen Gupta’s prodigious output. From volumes on Indian history to more focussed accounts of reigns of particular kings and queens, Sen Gupta has covered a wide ambit. One of our favourites, though is A Mauryan Adventure (2013, Puffin Books), a mystery set in 3rd century BCE, Pataliputra, when Mauryan king Ashoka is on the throne. Madhura, a 12-year-old palace maid, dreams of a life of adventure and delight, like her brother Kartik, a trader and an aspiring soldier. Part of Puffin’s Girls of India series, this is a period mystery but what makes it an absorbing read is the fact that the series offers a glimpse into the lives of girls and women, offering perspectives on the status of women in the country over a period of time.