Parvati Sharma: The Best Indian Children’s Book of the Year

We asked some people who we know read a lot of Indian children’s and YA books to tell us about one (or more) really impressive book they read this year. We will be posting their replies over the rest of the month.

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Parvati Sharma is a writer based in Delhi.

The Alphabet of Animals and Birds by Prabha Mallya (Red Turtle)

I chanced upon Prabha Mallya in the Eureka bookstore last month, and am I glad to have discovered both, or what. Eureka, with its vast and quite wonderful collection of children and YA books, I’d have adored a quarter-century ago, and am really glad it exists today. And much the same for Prabha Mallya’s The Alphabet of Animals and Birds, which is a wonderfully drawn book of collective nouns, all the way from A for a shrewdness of Apes to Z for a cohort of Zebras.

There’s whimsy – the murder includes crows sporting the trilbies favoured by British detectives (maybe they should go question the conspiracy of unblinking lemurs?); there’s wit – the ostentation of peacocks looks like it has just stepped out of stretch limos into a sea of flashbulbs; there’s unexpected detail, as in the one member of a raft of otters chewing contentedly upon a crab; and there’s even a slight thrill of horror in the asylum of red-eyed cuckoos. Best of all, though, is how this Alphabet reminds you that language is, in its heart, poetry.


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