Celebrating International Mother Language Day

United Nations says,

Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and planet. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether. When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression — valuable resources for ensuring a better future — are also lost.

At least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.”

My mother language is Tamil and I never learnt it formally. I learnt Tamil at home – to speak, to read and to write. I read every magazine and book my parents were reading and of course Tamil Cinema had wonderful songs that was full of poetry.

Every year in January, during festivals and holidays, we listened to debates and poetry in Tamil and often went to see plays and movies in Tamil.

My first poem was in Tamil when I read a poem by Poet Suratha. Find out more about how Suratha inspired me here.

I continued to write in Tamil and one of the teachers, who was also our vice principal and was a scholar in Tamil helped me in the library outside school hours. I then wrote a puppet show about Economics in Tamil and wrote a long poem about India’s warrior poet Subramania Bharathi.

But we also learnt English right from kindergarten and slowly, by the time I left primary school I had started to think in English. I read both Tamil and English fiction relentlessly, but with more English than Tamil.

Then when I was in my first year at university I entered a state-wide competition on the state of education in our country and I wrote an article in Tamil for this. I was so worried because I had never written anything formal in Tamil and one of my friends, who knew her grammar and spellings, helped me edit it. I won the first prize in that competition. But sadly that was my last published work in Tamil.

Now I write in English and rarely write in my mother tongue and I agree with the statement from United Nations. Forgetting your language is much more than forgetting the language, we lose the culture, literature and even social norms, proverbs, adages and more.

In Nelson Mandela’s words,

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. 
If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

As an aunt of mixed race nephews, I’m constantly thinking about how I could show them the beauty of their mother language. They listen to music, and hear us talk but they live here. And they don’t often get to explore the language the same way as we did growing up in India.

And it is possible to forget your mother tongue if you don’t use it. This article at Babbel explains the research behind it.

Here is a beautiful poem Jesus Never Understood My Grandmother’s Prayers by Mikeas Sánchez, who writes in the Zoque language.

My grandmother never learned Spanish

was afraid of forgetting her gods

was afraid of waking up in the morning

without the prodigals of her offspring in her memory

My grandmother believed that you could only

talk to the wind in Zoque

but she kneeled before the saints

and prayed with more fervor than anyone

Jesus never heard her

my grandmother’s tongue

smelled like rose apples

and her eyes lit up when she sang

with the brightness of a star

Saint Michael Archangel never heard her

my grandmother’s prayers were sometimes blasphemies

jukis’tyt she said and the pain stopped

patsoke she yelled and time paused beneath her bed

In that same bed she birthed her seven sons

—Translated from the Zoque by David Shook

Check out my bi-lingual books that help many children read both in English and their mother-tongue.

Are you a young person whose mother language is different from the one you speak most of the time? Go and find out more about your language. Learn about poetry, proverbs and stories from your mother language and find ways to listen to it being spoken. You won’t regret it.

Lists, editor’s choice and more

This week has been brilliant so far. I’m recovering from a bout of flu and I need all the good news I can get.

Earlier this week we found out that Pattan’s Pumpkin, published by Candlewick Press in the US has been added to the 2018 Notable Social Studies Book list! It’s an amazing honour and also I’m glad many schools and children will be able to find out more about this wonderful story.

Then a casual glance at last year’s round-ups of books published in the US led me to this wonderful list. The School Library Journal had created a 2017 list of folktales and fairytales and Pattan’s Pumpkin is featured in that too.

And some exciting news about my upcoming title with Lantana Publishing. You’re Safe With Me has won a lot of praise for its wonderful artwork and the stunning design. Fiona Noble has chosen it as her editor’s choice for the 2018 May releases of this year in The Bookseller this week!

You’re Safe With Me is also chosen as an empathy read by Empathy Lab. Find out more here.

And if you have missed this news from before A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice is on the shortlist for the Surrey Libraries Children’s Book Award.

January 2018 – A quick round-up and peek into February

Well, February is already here and I’ve just lifted my head and looked around to see January gone. I usually like January because after all the quiet during Christmas, things start happening again. But it does get colder here in London and this January has gone past in a flash.

What have I been up to then?

First, the most important part of my job – writing the stories I want to tell. I’m working on a number of interesting projects. I’ll share more when I can actually claim victory over the words. They are all in different stages of development.

Second, I’ve been planning interesting events for the rest of February and spring. Find out more here.

Third, I’ve been travelling and meeting some wonderful writers, old friends in Singapore.

I returned to London’s cold weather a week ago and hard at work getting ready for the madness and joy of World Book celebrations. From a day to a week to a month, it is elastic. But we writers of children’s books are available on other days too. Find out more here about that.

Now to some book news!

You’re Safe With Me, my next book that will be out in the UK in May 2018 has been getting wonderful reviews. Check it out here.




Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip came in 5th place in the January HT-Nielsen Rankings in India. We were always very happy for our optimistic farmer.

Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market is now available in the US and in a bi-lingual version in Germany too.

So that’s a wrap for January. February has rolled in and it seems to be a busy month too. I’ll crawl back to the safety of my blog once all the events are done.

Looking Back at 2017

2017 has been brilliantly busy. I

  • learnt to dance Salsa a little bit, still learning,
  • started to learn photography,
  • finished my Masters,
  • rode a horse
  • lost weight
  • visited California, Spain and Rome.
It was a year of the Great Bucket List.

Notwithstanding the political and natural disasters this year that we all suffered through, on a personal basis, I met many wonderful new people, reconnected with old friends, met children in classrooms and bookshops across the UK and US and wrote a lot of new stories.

Professionally I had multiple milestones this year – I met my agent and they signed me on. I finished my MA in Writing for Children, albeit with a lot of tears, nail-biting trauma, and a lot of drama.

Pattan’s Pumpkin got brilliant reviews in America and got included in the Read Across America calendar for October. A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice has been shortlisted for the Surrey Libraries Children’s Book Award and Farmer Falgu makes new strides in Germany.

Sometimes it felt like I was shuttling between things, or living in train stations and lounging in airport lobbies, but I managed to combine book tours with holidays, squeezed time out of every day and night and I’m still here, unscathed, a little wiser, a lot more childish (I seem to grow down than grow up) and I can’t wait to find out what 2018 will bring.

Thank you to everyone of you who came to my events, talked me through a bad draft of the novel, gave me advice, encouragement and support. Thank you to every teacher, librarian, PTA organiser, parent and literacy activists who brought diverse books into children’s hands. Thank you to all my family who hardly saw me this year as I breezed in and out of family gatherings and celebrations.

I thought just a couple of photos looking back wouldn’t do. So here is a quick recap of the year.


Good News Galore!

I’ve been slow in blogging the last few months due to really hectic schedule. I finished an MA in Writing for Young People, travelled to Rome and wrote a few picture books in  between all that.

So what’s the good news then? Where should I start? As it’s October and Pumpkin season, I’ll start there.

Pattan’s Pumpkin has been making waves here in the UK and in the US of A.

Closer home, CLPE has chosen Pattan’s Pumpkin to be one of the texts for their Power of Reading programme. This is so brilliant because so many more schools and children will get to read a story from a corner of India. And enjoy the illustrations of Frané Lessac.


In the States, Pattan’s Pumpkin has been chosen as a book to Read Across America in October. Find out more here along with wonderful resources created by Reading is Fundamental. Check out their awesome calendar too.

I’m so happy to share the good news that Lantana Publishing will be publishing my next picture book You’re Safe With Me (illustrated by Poonam Mistry) in April 2018. Here is a sneak peak into the cover! The book has been making waves already and I’ll share the good news when I’m allowed to tell. Shh!

And finally, I’m doing a number of events in the UK and in the US over the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for me in your neighbourhood. Check out the details here.