Vidya Mani: My Favourite Children’s and Teen Books in 2018

Vidya Mani reads, writes, edits, reviews, recommends and sells Indian children’s books. 

I believe reading is like biting into an éclair– it shows you there’s a whole world of chocolate out there waiting to be eaten!

Anna’s Extraordinary Experiments with Weather
by Nandita Jayraj
Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan
Age group: 6+

This delightful picture book tells the story of the life and times of Anna Mani, a pioneering Indian physicist and meteorologist whom we know so little about. Anna is an ordinary little extraordinary girl. Books make her world go round, and what’s not to love about a curious, reading girl! Anna eventually goes on to become a scientist who invents nearly 100 weather gadgets, making India self-reliant in measuring weather. On cloud nine – that’s where you’ll be after reading this book!

 Shabana and the Baby Goat
by Samina Mishra
Illustrated by Roshini Pochont
Age group: 4+

Shabana loves Kajri and Kajri loves Shabana and they are best friends forever! The problem begins when Kajri the baby goat starts to chew everything in sight – Dadi’s palak, Masterji’s book and even Phuppo Jammo’s burkha! Now Shabana must come up with a plan to put Kajri’s chewing skills to good use. And she does, just like every good friend would.  Visual text and expressive illustrations combine to make you smile as you turn every page. Not to mention, gladden the heart to see diverse people and cultures represented in our books for young readers.

Nani’s Walk to the Park
by Deepa Balsavar
Age group: 5+

Nani sets off on her weekly walk to the park and her grandson Venki decides to accompany her. Venki has no idea of the twists and turns in Nani’s route – and neither does the reader. The Lane of Treasures, the Lane of Friendship, the Lane of Magic and the Lane of Mischief… each of them opens up a world of wonder and joy for grandmother and grandchild. Filled with resplendent detail of the things we see in the lanes and bylanes of India, Deepa Balsavar’s spectacular picture book is Ali Baba’s cave for anyone who opens it!

Mother Steals a Bicycle and Other Stories
by Shuti Buddhavarapu, Salai Selvam
Illustrated by Tejubehan
Age group: 9+

In the first story, a mother steals a bicycle even if she doesn’t know how to ride it; she and her friends take the more adventurous forest route to school in the next; in yet another story she teaches herself how to swim so she can get from one shore to the other without breaking an egg wrapped on her head in a towel! And there are no punishments for doing the things that she is not supposed to! Narrated by her 11-year-old daughter, who believes her mother’s tales are way better than any of the 27 fantasy novels in her school library, this exuberant collection of stories makes growing up in a village in South India seem like the coolest thing under the sun!

Ahimsa
by Supriya Kelkar
Age group: 10+

Set in 1942 against the backdrop of the Quit India Movement, Ahimsa tells the powerful story of India’s freedom struggle through 10-year-old Anjali’s eyes. Anjali’s privileged world comes apart when her mother decides to quit her cushy job to join the fight for independence. Issues of caste, religion and gender are deftly introduced into the narrative, most of which are relevant even today. From being in a communal riot to the arrest of a parent, from seeing a best friend on the ‘other’ side of the divide to understanding the power of non-violent resistance, this tightly-plotted coming-of-age story engages, enthuses and empowers its readers.

A Brush with Indian Art
by Mamta Nainy
Age group: 
10+ 

A delightful little book that introduces children to the evolution of Indian art from prehistoric paintings to contemporary canvases. Replete with stories and anecdotes about various artistic traditions of India – the first cave paintings, Mughal miniatures, the religious depictions at Tanjore, different schools of art and significant movements in art history – Mamta Nainy demystifies art and makes readers think about how and why they respond to it.

Year of the Weeds
by Siddhartha Sarma
Age group: 13+

Korok, a young, gentle Gond boy, tends the garden in the forest officer’s bungalow in Deogan village in western Odisha. He often lingers around the sacred hill under which his mother is buried. He journeys by bus to the prison where his father has been wrongly jailed. One day, the government tells the Gonds that they have to leave their village because a company wants to mine their sacred hill for bauxite. The Gonds resist. This is when Korok join hands with Anchita, the forest officer’s privileged daughter, to come up with a plan to prevent the community from being displaced. Can the two youngsters take on the might of the government, the bureaucracy, the police and the private corporation? Based on the landmark Niyamgiri movement in Odisha, this compelling young adult novel by Siddhartha Sarma will definitely open readers’ eyes to injustices in society and perhaps act as a catalyst for change.

 

 

 

ANNA’S EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIMENTS WITH WEATHER (Pratham Books)

6+ year-olds

This delightful picture book tells the story of the life and times of Anna Mani, a pioneering Indian physicist and meteorologist whom we know so little about. Anna is an ordinary little extraordinary girl. Books make her world go round, and what’s not to love about a curious, reading girl! Anna eventually goes on to become a scientist who invents nearly 100 weather gadgets, making India self-reliant in measuring weather. On cloud nine – that’s where you’ll be after reading this book!

 

SHABANA AND THE BABY GOAT (Tulika)

4+ year-olds

Shabana loves Kajri and Kajri loves Shabana and they are best friends forever! The problem begins when Kajri the baby goat starts to chew everything in sight – Dadi’s palak, Masterji’s book and even Phuppo Jammo’s burkha! Now Shabana must come up with a plan to put Kajri’s chewing skills to good use. And she does, just like every good friend would.  Visual text and expressive illustrations combine to make you smile as you turn every page. Not to mention, gladden the heart to see diverse people and cultures represented in our books for young readers.

 

NANI’S WALK TO THE PARK (Pratham Books)

5+ year-olds

Nani sets off on her weekly walk to the park and her grandson Venki decides to accompany her. Venki has no idea of the twists and turns in Nani’s route – and neither does the reader. The Lane of Treasures, the Lane of Friendship, the Lane of Magic and the Lane of Mischief… each of them opens up a world of wonder and joy for grandmother and grandchild. Filled with resplendent detail of the things we see in the lanes and bylanes of India, Deepa Balsavar’s spectacular picture book is Ali Baba’s cave for anyone who opens it!

 

MOTHER STEALS A BICYCLE AND OTHER STORIES (Tara Books)

9+ year-olds

In the first story, a mother steals a bicycle even if she doesn’t know how to ride it; she and her friends take the more adventurous forest route to school in the next; in yet another story she teaches herself how to swim so she can get from one shore to the other without breaking an egg wrapped on her head in a towel! And there are no punishments for doing the things that she is not supposed to! Narrated by her 11-year-old daughter, who believes her mother’s tales are way better than any of the 27 fantasy novels in her school library, this exuberant collection of stories makes growing up in a village in South India seem like the coolest thing under the sun!

 

AHIMSA (Scholastic)

10+ year-olds

Set in 1942 against the backdrop of the Quit India Movement, Ahimsatells the powerful story of India’s freedom struggle through 10-year-old Anjali’s eyes. Anjali’s privileged world comes apart when her mother decides to quit her cushy job to join the fight for independence. Issues of caste, religion and gender are deftly introduced into the narrative, most of which are relevant even today. From being in a communal riot to the arrest of a parent, from seeing a best friend on the ‘other’ side of the divide to understanding the power of non-violent resistance, this tightly-plotted coming-of-age story engages, enthuses and empowers its readers.

 

A BRUSH WITH INDIAN ART (Penguin)

10+ year-olds

A delightful little book that introduces children to the evolution of Indian art from prehistoric paintings to contemporary canvases. Replete with stories and anecdotes about various artistic traditions of India – the first cave paintings, Mughal miniatures, the religious depictions at Tanjore, different schools of art and significant movements in art history – Mamta Nainy demystifies art and makes readers think about how and why they respond to it.

 

YEAR OF THE WEEDS (Duckbill)

13+ year-olds

Korok, a young, gentle Gond boy, tends the garden in the forest officer’s bungalow in Deogan village in western Odisha. He often lingers around the sacred hill under which his mother is buried. He journeys by bus to the prison where his father has been wrongly jailed. One day, the government tells the Gonds that they have to leave their village because a company wants to mine their sacred hill for bauxite. The Gonds resist. This is when Korok join hands with Anchita, the forest officer’s privileged daughter, to come up with a plan to prevent the community from being displaced. Can the two youngsters take on the might of the government, the bureaucracy, the police and the private corporation? Based on the landmark Niyamgiri movement in Odisha, this compelling young adult novel by Siddhartha Sarma will definitely open readers’ eyes to injustices in society and perhaps act as a catalyst for change.

 

 

 

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