Interview with Nandini Nayar, Author of “Mini's Money"Dive into the world of children's literature with Nandini Nayar, author of 'Mini's Money.' Discover the magic and lessons in this exclusive Frontlist interview.
on Nov 23, 2023
Frontlist: Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind the "Mini" series of chapter books? What motivated you to create a series focused on a young character like Mini?
Nandini: In India, giving children money for their birthdays or on special days is very common. And I was thinking about this one day, wondering what children understand when they are given. Do they understand its value? What if a child grew attached to her money because it was hers and laid down conditions about it? And Mini leaped to life in my head. I saw this young girl who was untouched by what the world expected her to do and simply followed her logic and heart. That's how I came to up with the character of Mini, who I always think of as Mighty Mini! I wanted to contrast Mini's innocence with a more worldly view and so, I came up with the character of her brother, Manoj. HarperCollins accepted the story, but I couldn't stop thinking of Mini and all the things that she would do. And that's how I ended up writing more stories about Mini.
Frontlist: In "Mini's Questions," Mini's curiosity leads to intriguing adventures. How can encouraging curiosity and questioning benefit young children's learning and development?
Nandini: The best gift you can give a child is curiosity. But most adults have no time to answer questions and instead of encouraging a child to ask questions, they are always trying to shut them up. This creates individuals who are willing to accept whatever information is doled out to them placidly. They are never filled with an urge to ask- What if? Or Why not? As a result, they rarely come up with innovative ways of solving problems or interesting ways of looking at the world. I am a firm believer in encouraging children to ask questions and ensured that I answered all my son's questions. Once you get them into the habit of asking questions, children remain forever curious. When they grow older, they learn to seek answers and solutions on their own and this makes them self-reliant individuals. If you look at the titles of my picture books, you will find that more than a dozen are questions!
Frontlist: "Mini's Money" touches upon the theme of spending and choices. Can you share more about how Mini's decisions and adventures reflect the themes of this book?
Nandini: When Mini's Chitra Maushi gives her money for Dusshera, she has no real understanding of what this money translates into. Her parents and brother help her by telling her what money means in the physical world. Despite this, Mini uses her money to help someone in need. Mini gets nothing out of this, and her parents understand that she has learned the best use of money- helping others. I wanted to emphasize how we convert money into physical goods, but there is a better way of spending money, by helping others.
Frontlist: "Mini's Books" centers around the love for stories and the friendships they can create. What do you believe young readers can learn from Mini's journey in this book?
Nandini: Mini falls in love with reading and, like any child of her age, is addicted to a series of books. But her love for these books is not restricted to merely reading and enjoying them. She also wants to enjoy all the things that the characters in the books enjoy. These characters are Big Little Monsters, and in particular, Mini wants to eat the food they eat. She hopes her family can help her cook up this stuff, but eventually, Mini learns to cook it herself. My story brings out the magic of books and how they can influence you if you choose to go beyond the story. Mini, who has never paid attention to cooking, learns to make stuff because of her love for books. These books also help her find a new friend. This friendship is built on a shared love for the Big Little Monsters and illustrates how friendships can transcend barriers of age.
Frontlist: Each book in the "Mini" series seems to revolve around a unique theme and adventure. How do you come up with these imaginative ideas for Mini's adventures, and what's your creative process like when developing the stories?
Nandini: The idea for any book always comes from the world around. All it needs is for you to keep your eyes and ears open and stay alert. Since I write books for children of different ages, I first decide which age group my idea is best suited for. Some ideas are perfect for younger children, so I write them as picture books. Others require a larger canvas, so I write these for older children. With Mini, I look for the things that a young girl will look around and notice as she grows older. So, my ideas are based on the actual experiences a child of this age will have. When Mini starts school, she goes through the phase that all children go through, where their teachers heavily influence them and begin every sentence with – My teacher says that… Mini's Books focuses on how children react to the magic of books and allows us to see how reading can impact a child. In the new book, Mini's Friend, I focus on the way children bond with someone and the influence these friends can have on them.
Frontlist: Writing for young children often requires a special approach. What unique challenges and rewards do you find in creating books for this age group?
Nandini: I have been writing for over twenty years for children, and the biggest challenge is finding a way to make every story exciting and, fresh and new. I use different strategies to ensure that each story is different and unique. Sometimes, I change the narrators; sometimes, I change the point of view I use. It is challenging to ensure that each story is exciting and presents characters who are not similar to any that you have already written about. But at the end of the day, when I know that I have created a character and written a fresh new story, the satisfaction is immense!