Frontlist | Indian books for children on food, art, travel, even business
Authors say they’re aiming at kids with special interests, and looking to help broaden horizons.
It’s been a while since books for children made the shift from fairytales to stories of divorce, diversity, loss. There are books, often story based, that will help your child understand gender fluidity, the loss of a grandparent, the concept of adoption.
Lately, there’s been another turn in the road — books written by Indians to cater to the Indian child with an evolving special interest, whether in food or art, travel, heritage or commerce. Here’s a look at five unusual publications to check out:
Breakfasts of India (2019) features morning meals from 14 states across the country — from pink noon chai, lavasa and harissa in Kashmir to siddu in Himachal Pradesh, misal pav in Maharashtra and luchi and aloo tarkari in West Bengal.
“We saw a lack of inclusivity in content for children in India and decided to create and publish books on different aspects of culture and heritage of the country,” said Sneha Sundaram, founder of Bengaluru-based Kutuki Publishers, founded in 2019.
The book, aimed at children aged three to six, unfolds as a story, with the protagonist, a little boy, wondering what his friends across India are having for breakfast. It goes on to describe the colours and flavours of each dish. Siddu, it tells the reader, is a type of bread that can be sweet or savoury, is made with wheat and spices and eaten with ghee. Puttu kadala are rice dumplings eaten with a black chana gravy. The noon chai is salted, turned pink by the addition of baking soda.
Breakfasts of India is part of Kutuki’s heritage series. A previous release, also in 2019, explored the many New Years celebrated by different communities in India.
From the Great Wall of China to India’s Taj Mahal and Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa, writer Ambica Gulati has written a series of six travel books, aimed at children aged three to 10. All six were published in 2019 as cutout books made to resemble the monument explored within.
The books are part of a series called Monuments of the World, published by Om Books International. There’s one on America’s Statue of Liberty, another on the pyramids of Egypt, and a little volume on the Eiffel Tower in France. In each one, a family explores an iconic piece of built heritage in their own country.
Details are offered in the form of conversations between the family members, framed in short, simple sentences. “I think our children must be exposed to different subjects and to content that is both fun and educative,” said Gulati. “This travel series with great illustrations aims to do just that.”
A Brush with Indian Art (2018) by Mamta Nainy offers an overview of art in India that stretches from the ancient cave paintings of Bhimbetka and Ajanta and Ellora to the works of Modernist masters such as MF Husain and SH Raza and contemporary artists such as Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta. There’s a chapter on folk and tribal art forms as Madhubani, Gond, Pattachitra and Kalamkari.
The content is conversational, broken down into boxes of trivia. Reproductions of the art works are accompanied by detailed descriptions and pointers to online resources and museum and galleries where young readers can seek out more works from a genre or time period.
“It’s really a book for readers of all ages, though it’s primarily aimed at children,” Nainy said. “Most children do not know about our rich visual arts heritage or about Indian artists and their inspiring life stories. I felt there was a compelling need to liberate the thought process of children by exposing them to these stories and offering a comprehensive and inclusive idea of art in general. It was also important to show them how any art form or idea changes and evolves over time — thereby encouraging them to think up ideas, explore them visually and bring their dreams, imaginations, and stories to life,” added Nainy.
The US-based global consultancy firm McKinsey & Company uploads content on its website aimed at children. McKinsey for Kids: Hungry Fish, Baffled Farmers, and What Happened Next, uploaded in October, for instance, draws on images, animation and slides to explains how a fish farming project changed lives in Latin America. It offers information on kinds of fish, what they eat, life cycles and what it took to revive a dying fish farm project. The case study teaches the importance of research, optimal use of resources and efficient management in running a business.