Hot Keys Books Posts

F. R. Hitchcock

F. R. Hitchcock

The Trouble with Mummies‘Someone should do something about it,’ says Henry. ‘Like the army – perhaps we should call the army?’

‘I dare you to make the call,’ says Ursula. ‘ “Hello, my dad thinks he’s Genghis Khan, and he’s wearing a lampshade on his head and attaching the neighbour with a bicycle pump, and my friend’s dad is building a pyramid.” ‘ Ursula stares at him. ‘Well – go on, then.’

Henry flushes. 

‘Anyway,’ I say, ignoring Ursula. ‘I tried the police. My mum ended up imprisoning the policeman. She’s turning him into a slave.’ 

( p.71 The Trouble with Mummies)

What a delightful set of books I have discovered. Fleur Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Mummies and Shrunk!, published by Hot Key Books. Both the books are imaginative, delightful and make one giggle on more than one occasion. The stories move fast, never dull and crisply written. You can read them to yourself or read them out aloud — both methods work very well. Read the books, share them and enjoy. Shrunk

Here is a short clip of Fleur Hitchcock reading out an extract from The Trouble with Mummies

Fleur Hitchcock The Trouble with Mummies Hot Key Books, London, 2013. Pb. pp. 170. Rs. 250

Literati: “Catch them young”

Literati: “Catch them young”

From this month  I begin a new column in the Hindu Literary Review called “Literati”. It will be about the world of books, publishing and writers from around the world. Here is the url to the first column. It was published online on 3 May 2014 and will be in the print edition on 4 May 2014. I am c&p the text below. 

Ghost BrideA friend called this morning expressing her delight that her 11-year-old son had finished the pile of books I had lent him. Now he was back to reading Calvin and Hobbes. A father worried about his tennis- and cricket-mad 10-year-old son says the kid only wants to buy sports almanacs.

The parents’ bewilderment is incomprehensible given the explosion of children and young adult literature. The focus is so intense that it has generated a lively intense debate along gendered lines. Should books meant for girls have pink covers? Dame Jacqueline Wilson says it is ‘pigeonholing’ and it is putting boys off reading. Of late, there have been articles wondering whether boys are not reading because they are simply unable to discover books that appeal to them.

An international imprint I have become quite fond of is Hot Keys, established by Sarah Odedin, formerly J.K. Rowling’s editor. Hot Keys is synonymous with variety, fresh and sensitively told stories and is not afraid of experimenting nor can it be accused of gender biases in content and design. Sally Gardner’s award-winning Maggot Moon, Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride and Tom Easton’s hilariousBoys Don’t Knit belong to this list.

Other recently released YA titles available in India are Andaleeb Wajid’s No Time for Goodbyes, which uses the time travel formula to contrast contemporary life with that of the previous generation; Ranjit Lal’s blog Tall Stories, a collection of 100 stories about 10-year-old Sudha and 12 1/2-year-old Lalit, being uploaded weekly; and Joy Bhattacharjya’s delightful Junior Premier League ( co-authored with his son, Vivek) about a bunch of 12-year-olds eager to join the Delhi team of the first ever Junior Premier League tournament.

Some imprints that publish books for children and young adults in India are Puffin, Red Turtle, Duckbill, Pratham, Walker Books, Macmillan and Hachette.

Creating cultural wealth for children ensures there is little or no loss of cultural confidence, and creates a reading community in the long term. Pratham Books in partnership with Ignus ERG with funding support from Bernard van Leer Foundation is launching a new imprint called Adhikani. These books for young children will be published in four tribal languages of Odisha-Munda, Saura, Kui and Juang.

The idea is to make literature in print available in an otherwise oral culture whose stories are not normally visible in “mainstream” publications. They have already brought out 10 books and four song cards with Saura mural art based illustrations. Bi-lingual editions are also being considered in English with Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Urdu and Tamil.

The Pratham-IGNUS ERG experiment is not uncommon. The Good Books Guide: How to Select a Good Book for Children (published by NBT and PAG-E) cites other examples and introduces 800 titles from English, in translation and available in other Indian languages.

Today there are so many choices/distractions and readers are increasingly used to personalising their environment to their tastes and interests. Increasingly it is being done in classrooms, so why not in trade literature as well?

Readers versus writers?

Eighty per cent of readers ‘discover’ a book through word of mouth and 20 per cent through social media. The Malayalam edition of Benyamin’s award-winning novel Aadujeevitham (Goat Days) has gone into the 75th edition (it was first published in 2008) and Anurag Mathur’s Inscrutable Americans has gone into the 50th edition (first published in 1991).

Internationally, India is a dream destination for publishers. The overall market in physical books was up 11 per cent by volume and 23 per cent by value in 2013 over 2012 (Nielsen, London Book Fair, 2014). Production of books is increasing, but is there a corresponding increase in readers too?

Rahul Saini — whose Paperback Dreams is a tongue-in-cheek fictional account of publishing in India — discovered to his dismay that an author friend wanted the synopsis told. Apparently he did not have the time to go through the whole book.Rahul Saini

Saini says, “Everyone wants to write but no one wants to read. I think this is a dangerous phenomenon. If we don’t want to read then is it really fair to write and expect others to read our books?” Writing takes time and effort and for it to be recognised it has to be of high calibre.

Translation award

The inaugural V. Abdulla Award for translation from Malayalam into English will be given on May 10, 2014 in Kozhikode by writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair. V. Abdulla was the first translator of Basheer.


3 May 2014 


“Boys don’t knit” by Tom Easton

“Boys don’t knit” by Tom Easton

Boys Don't Knit

Ben Fletcher is in a bit of a soup. He was with a bunch of his friends when he was nabbed after an unfortunate incident at the supermarket. It involved a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso and a lollipop lady. Anyway the upshot of it is that Ben Fletcher has to do community service. According to Claudia Gunter of the West Meon Probation Service, Ben Fletcher has to maintain a personal journal, “giving as full an account as possible of the events of each day and recording, in detail, your thoughts, concerns and feelings.” He is also asked to take up a hobby to keep him on the straight and narrow. Of the few classes being offered at school, he wishes to join the one being offered by the  “hot teacher”, Jessica Swallow. Unfortunately it is knitting. So knitting class is what he signs up for.

Ben lives with his parents and six-year-old sister, Megan. His father claims to be dyslexic and is a car mechanic who thinks that Jeremy Clarkson is god. “I suppose he’s all right, my dad, except he just talks about nothing but football and Top Gear. On and the Second World War. ” Ben’s mother is a “state magician, which sounds quite cool but it’s not really, because it isn’t like David Copperfield with a huge stage and special effects. It’s just little clubs and pubs with dodgy PAs, unappreciative audiences and nowhere she can keep her white doves. She’s always off ‘on the circuit’. My relationship with  my mum is OK, when she’s around. On the one hand she never cooks or cleans or does any of the stuff mums are supposed to do, on the other hand she can make Pringles come out of my ear.”

He is a normal boy, Ben is. When he manages to find himself in this incredible situation of learning how to knit, tying himself up in knots wondering what people would think of him, especially the girls. Once in knitting class he discovers the joys of knitting patterns, being creative with colours and experimenting with designs. He slowly discovers he has a talent for it, likes it, begins to take orders and is competitive too. All the while he is trying to knit quietly and secretly in his room, hiding his knitting pattern sheets and balls of wool under the bed. Even Claudia Gunter is interested in his progress.

Boys Don’t Knit is a delightful, laugh-out-loud funny book by Tom Easton.  (In his “spare time” he is the Production Manager for Hachette UK.) It is devoid of vampires and ghouls–creatures about whom Tom Easton also loves to write–but it has all the ingredients of a crackling good read. It has the angst of a young boy, just stepping into his teens, who to his dismay has to take up knitting classes, thus upturning the preconceived notions of gendered roles in society.  At the same time he discovers how to handle competitiveness with grace and remain focused on the goal of winning the prestigious knitting competition. And more importantly, discovering that the girl of his dreams, Megan Hopper, may just have a thing for him. Life could not get any better.

hkblogoThe imprint, Hot Keys Books, will be releasing Boys Don’t Knit on 14 Jan 2014. It is an imprint worth watching out for. After a long time I am discovering the joys of being familiar with a list that is producing magnificent titles, with a range of issues and very well written. So far any book that I have picked out of their pile has been worth reading. Hot Keys Books was begun by Sarah Odedin who in her previous avatar was an editor at Bloomsbury. Hot Key Books, a brand new division of Bonnier Publishing, publishes books for 9 – 19 year olds and was established in 2011. They are focused on developing this as a brand and so far doing it well. In the couple of years of existence they have already got a winner with Sally Gardener’s Maggot Moon. It won the 2012 Children’s Costa Book Award and the 2013 Carnegie Medal. From 2014, it seems Hot Keys Books will increase their number of titles from 40 to 60 per year.

Tom Easton Boys Don’t Knit Hot Keys Books, London, 2014. Pb. pp. 278 £6.99 ( Age range: 12+)

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