Frontlist | Nandini Nayar’s new book, ‘Sometimes Mama, Sometimes Papa’

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For the last 21 years, Nandini Nayar has been spreading the joy of reading among children. With over 300 short stories and 55 books for children of all ages, the writer’s new picture book Sometimes Mama, Sometimes Papa with illustrations by Upamanyu Bhattacharyya (published by Penguin Random House) addresses the concerns of a little girl Keya, whose parents no longer live together. Keya is fine with the changes with two homes and two schedules, but one situation makes her wonder — if she has to choose between her mama and papa.

Nandini did not want it to be slotted as a book about divorce but rather on how families are different. Without mentioning the D word or even ‘separated’, she delicately tackles the issue and picks relatable instances to talk about a child’s life. “The book addresses the dynamic nature of the family structure and helps children understand that these changes do not necessarily mean a shift in their relationship with their parents,” she says.

Growing concern

She trains her eye on the growing concern among urban parents while juggling different roles. “Sometimes the parents have to stay apart because of the demands of a job, family or simply because they don’t want to stay together. How does this impact a child? It is vital to reassure children that no matter what happens, their parents will always be there with them and for them.”

She had been working on the story for two years to get its tone right in “275 —300 words” for a picture book. The challenges were many — not to romanticise the topic and give an unrealistic picture. While small things matter, she kept away the issues which do not resonate with the little ones. She chose to do it in an aesthetic way to convey reality and make her young readers realise the circumstances behind the tough situation.

Nandini has written about family structures in her earlier books too. In The Curious Case of The Sweet and Spicy Sweet Shop (Penguin Random House), she subtly explains why it is important to follow one’s dreams.“I was sort of questioning the idea of a family. In India, we put a lot of importance on obeying and doing what the family does; I am trying to suggest that you can be respectful of your family, but also need to find what you want to do, else life can become like a prison,” she points out.

Charting her journey with words, she observes children’s literature is now more open to contemporary topics. In a set of four books in The Diary of an Indian Schoolgirl series (Apoorva’s Fat Diary, Meanie.com, Dear Aunty, Laugh Out Loud, published by Mango Books), Nandini discusses issues like body shaming, peer and exam pressure, child sexual abuse, the importance given to passing exams over enjoying learning.

Nandini has also worked on English textbooks for school and university students and facilitates online creative writing workshops for children and adults. She recently won seven prizes in various categories in the Competition for Writers of Children’s Books 2019 (English).

 

Source: The Hindu

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