YA literature Posts

Citation by the Jury for the Crossword Award 2013 for Children’s Books

Citation by the Jury for the Crossword Award 2013 for Children’s Books

I was on the jury for the Crossword Book Prize for children’s and young adult literature in 2013. We read over 90+ books to decide the winner. The award was split between two authors — Payal Kapadia and Uma Krishnaswami. Here is the citation read out at the ceremony on 6 Dec 2013 in Mumbai.) 

Wisha WozzariterCitation by the Jury for the Crossword Award 2013 for Children’s Books
7 December 2013 at 07:46
The Crossword Book Award 2013 for Children’s Books goes to:

Wisha Wozzawriter by Payal Kapadia

And

Book Uncle & Me by Uma KrishnaswamiBookUncle and Me
As seasoned readers who pore through books on a routine basis, it isn’t often that we sit up and gasp and exclaim, WOW! This year while perusing the collection submitted to us by the Crossword team it was the books ‘Wisha Wozzariter‘ & ‘Book Uncle and Me’ that triggered this rare flash of exuberant surprise.

Wisha Wozzawriter

The drudgery, complexity and rigour of creative writing are not exactly the ingredients of a story. Rather than the basis of a storybook, and a children’s book at that, this material belongs squarely in the realm of textbooks. The genius of author Payal Kapadia and her pocket-sized creative writing storybook, Wisha Wozzariter, is the manner in which she has transformed such a drab subject into a wonderful, colourful, absorbing book.

Payal’s book is imaginative, creative and witty. It is one of those uncommon books that work at multiple levels. Unfolding as it does at a captivating pace, it weaves in sentences and references that open up myriad worlds of books and ideas. It is a book that a young reader can enjoy for its wackiness and inventiveness, and constantly return to over the years, growing old with it. Not only is it technically sound but above all it is a good, enjoyable read.

Book Uncle & Me

One of the continuing struggles in Indian writing in English is the quest for a self-confident voice writing in a language given to us by colonialism. Indian children’s books are still finding a voice that reflects our particularities and yet transcends those to speak of universal ideas, a voice that is neither didactic nor exotic, a voice that can both spark the child’s imagination and lead it towards action. Book Uncle and Me is that rare book.

It weaves a simple story in a voice that is strongly rooted in an Indian context and yet speaks of childhood experiences that cross cultural borders. A broken pavement, a library and a girl who has decided to read one book a day come together in an inspirational story about forging a community to create change. Uma Krishnaswami’s skill in experimenting with form by telling the story entirely in free verse is matched with her nuanced understanding of the child’s world. She recognises that children are capable of negotiating complexity in their everyday lives and refuses to talk down to them. Priya Kurien’s illustrations add another layer of resonance, making Book Uncle and Me a truly unforgettable book.

 Samina Mishra, Deepak Dalal, Jaya Bhattacharji Rose

 12 Feb 2014

UPDATE

I uploaded this note on my Facebook page last week. Since then the authors and other jury members have also commented on the post.I am reproducing their comments below.

Uma Krishnaswami I was unable to make it for the awards ceremony last year, so I missed the reading of the citation. Jaya, I’m getting misty-eyed reading it now. So much of a writer’s life and heart goes into a book, and sometimes (OK, I’ll say it–often) it can seem as if no one is paying any attention at all. I’ll treasure what you had to say about my book. It will bolster me when the writing on the next book gets tough (which it will) or the reviews and sales iffy (things I have no control over). Thank you again to Samina Mishra, Deepak Dalal, and you, Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, for your perfect and instinctive understanding of both intention and craft in Book Uncle and Me.

Samina Mishra Uma, I’m delighted that you think the citation reflects a “perfect and instinctive understanding of both intention and craft in Book Uncle and Me

Deepak Dalal Speaking about misty eyes, that’s what happens to me when I read great books. ‘Book Uncle & me’ did all kinds of things to my eyes. It was a pleasure and a privilege selecting your book, Uma.

Payal Kapadia Dear Jaya, Deepak and Samina: Wisha had something weighty and worthwhile to say in the face of such a generous tribute! Does a thank-you sufficiently express the gratitude I feel for the warm welcome I’ve received when I’m just the new kid on the block? I was at the awards and I don’t remember the citation being read out — probably because my heart was thumping so fast I could barely think (and still is). Haven’t gotten over the flush of the award, and I’m sure that “the drudgery, complexity and rigor of creative writing” will not appear to be so with your kind words ringing in my ears. I wrote “Wisha Wozzariter” to see if I had it in me to be a writer. Thank you for believing in me — and for showing me that I can take life one book at a time.

Deepak Dalal What a wonderful book, Payal! Deserves all its plaudits and more. Now you have to keep those creative juices flowing…

20 Feb 2014 

hOle Books, Duckbill Books

hOle Books, Duckbill Books

hOle books, off Facebook page

In April 2013, Duckbill Books launched a new chapter book series in India called hOle books. ( Duckbill books was launched in 2012. It has been established by Anushka Ravishankar and Sayoni Basu. Two names that are very well known in children and YA literature in India and worldwide.) There are four inaugural titles, with one seasoned author, Asha Nehemiah, and three new authors. Each book has a balance between text and illustration. Short chapters, with text laid out well enough for a new reader to understand the text. These books work well for reading out aloud or for a little child to trace their fingers on the text and read slowly and clearly. At the same time, without being tied down to too many technicalities, the stories do have a zany imaginative aspect to them. My particular favourite is Asha Nehemiah’s Trouble with Magic. It has magic, imagination, taking off from an extremely ordinary situation at home. Plus a lot of colourful descriptions in the text. I read out some of the stories to my three-year-old daughter, Sarah. She loved them. The black and white illustrations are simple with bold strokes. Easy to match with the text. In 99% of the cases it works well, except for p.36 of Meera Nair’s Maya Saves the Day. I would not have noticed the discrepancy in the illustration, if it were not for the fuss being made in the story about Maya throwing a tantrum and her mother remarking upon the cost of the t-shirt that she was wearing. In the illustration though she is wearing a frock. Minor detail, but literal minded tiddlers can get quite annoying with their questions about these lapses.

The branding of hOle Books is delightful with a big fat hole punched straight through the top right hand corner of every book. The moment Sarah spotted it, she was ecstatic. She immediately poked her finger through it and danced around the house singing, “its mine, its mine”. Hmm! Not sure if that is what meant to be done to books, but if it helps inculcate a love for books, for reading, beginning with the tactile sense, then I am all for it!

hOle Books, published by Duckbill Books, India. Distributed by Westland books. Here is their Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/hOlebooks?fref=ts

My lead article on children and YA literature in German Book Office Tuesday newsletter, 17 July 2012

My lead article on children and YA literature in German Book Office Tuesday newsletter, 17 July 2012

Greetings

Today, we want to further introduce you to the world of children’s books. Our GBO friend Jaya Bhattacharji Rose who is an international publishing consultant will tell us more about Children’s and Young adult fiction. How do these genres work in India, what are the challenges the publisher faces?

Above that, we are very excited to announce the final programme for our Jumpstart conference 2012! And we are publishing the second part of Manasi Subramaniam’s report on children’s Book publishing in South Asia.

So again come join us in learning more about the children’s Book Industry!

Enjoy the read!
Best wishes from the GBO Team

Children’s and YA literature
50% of India’s population is below twenty-five. Yet, children’s literature defined as predominantly trade literature meant for children and young adults as a distinct genre is a recent phenomenon in India. (Although non-fiction sells well too.) Traditionally, children have been brought up on a vast repertoire of storytelling based upon oral tales, folk tales and mythology. So, to have access to literature in the written form is a relatively new concept. Having said this, publishing for children and young adults is booming. It is estimated that it is worth Rs 400 crores or nearly US$ 90 million per annum.

The variety in the lists is commendable, given that India is multi-lingual though the lingua franca continues to be English. The market is not homogenous. Readers are comfortable with reading in more than one language. Publishers are competing with each other for a miniscule space, though translated into numbers it may seem attractive—the population is large and even a small percentage would mean substantial unit sales. The consumer profile varies from a family that has to survive on less than US$ 1 per day to millionaires. For most Indians, the emphasis is on education and not on reading for pleasure. Changing this mindset is taking time, but it is now perceptible. Another factor that has contributed to the growth and interest in children’s literature is the transition from joint families to nuclear families, so parents need books for their children, to fill in the vacuum of elders who would normally have told children stories. Also, more families are double-income which means that there is some disposable income available for books. Children and teenagers too have greater exposure to books through various platforms—book exhibitions and direct marketing initiatives in schools like those by Scholastic; book clubs that circulate regular newsletters; book weeks that are organised by schools where authors are invited, there are regular interactions like Q&A, storytelling sessions, dramatizations of the stories and author-in-residence programmes; and storytelling nights that are organised in all cities and towns or initiatives like Paro Anand’s Literature in Action. Within this context, it is no surprise then that the sale of children’s books in brick and mortar bookstores is estimated to be 35% of total book sales. Surprisingly, this genre contributes only 5% or less towards sales in online retail stores. Most publishers are recording annual leaps in sales. Much of this behaviour can be attributed to a fashionable trend or a bestseller, but there is no doubt that readers are creating and behaving like a community.

Online social communities like Facebook, Twitter, blogging, fan fiction sites are creating a demand as “friends”, cutting across geographical boundaries, young readers discuss and post links, join discussion groups or follow their favourite authors and engage in impulse buying. This generation wants their demands met immediately and with easy and immediate access to information, they do not have much patience. According to authors, publishers, editors, distributors and importers, reading has definitely increased in the past few years. E-books are available but nothing can beat the sensuous appeal of reading a book, touching the pages, experiencing the thrill of holding a book, turning the pages, smelling the ink on paper, caressing the illustrations, fiddling with the dust jackets or admiring the cover design. Even parents admit that their children are reading much more than they did five years ago. Last year at Bookaroo, I saw 10 and 11-year-olds showing off manuscripts that they had written. It is exactly for these reasons that a forum like Jumpstart is significant where there is a cross pollination of ideas and experiences to foster and nurture the future of this genre amongst professionals. Paro Anand sums it up well. “Networking opportunities for creators of children’s and YA literature for themselves, is what makes Jumpstart unique.”

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose is an international publishing consultant.

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose is an independent international publishing consultant. She has a column on publishing in Businessworld online and a literary column in Books & More. Associated with Indian publishing since the early 1990s, her responsibilities have included guest editing the special Children’s and YA Literature of The Book Review, and producing the first comprehensive report on the Indian Book Market for the Publisher’s Association, UK. Her articles, interviews and book reviews have also appeared in Bookbrunch, Frontline, The Book Review, DNA, Outlook, The Hindu, Hindustan Times, LOGOS, Businessworld, Brunch, and The Muse. As a Literary Director with Siyahi, she helps identify and guide the next generation of writing talent.

Email id: jayabhattacharjirose@gmail.com
Twitter: @Jbhattacharji
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jaya-bhattacharji-rose/1/b51/a57