For Some or All?

I write mainly stories that touch upon India in some way. Putting aside why that’s so, my stories bring tales from all parts of India.

Illustrated by Kanika Nair, Farmer Falgu series are great stories about positive thinking and making the most out of difficult situations.

Varsha’s Varanasi introduces the beautiful city of Varanasi.
Pattan’s Pumpkin brings a previously untold story of the Irular tribe. Illustrated by Frané Lessac
Prince Veera stories reimagine ancient trickster tales from India. Illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy

These stories are definitely for the Indians who live everywhere in the world. I witness the joy of children from Indian backgrounds in schools across the world when I bring these stories to them. They are undoubtedly a joy to the parents and grandparents who can relate to them and enrich the reading session with their own stories and tales from their own lives.

But is that all? Surely these stories appeal to everyone else? For a child who has no connections to India, these stories are exotic, magical and from a place where they had never been to. Perhaps they’d travel to India, inspired by these books. Perhaps they’d relate to their neighbour from India better.

Stories about someone other than our lived experience is a window to the outside world. It is a door to walk through and make friends, shake hands and embrace someone new. It’s a mirror that reflects how similar we are to others in this world, however far we seem.

“When the only images children see are white ones…as
long as children are brought up on gentle doses of racism
through their books… there seems to be little chance of
developing the humility so urgently needed for world
cooperation.”
-Nancy Larrick, 1965
Sliding Doors for all…

Schools, libraries, parents, grandparents, booksellers, publishers and reviewers must therefore not brand these books as “Great for South Asian Kids”. Because they are universal in their appeal – both to South Asians and to the rest of the world. How else will a child find out about life outside their town, city and country?

Read about why we need public libraries and these must be curated by professionals who understand Equity in the Library.

Schools, libraries, parents, grandparents, booksellers, publishers and reviewers must not only embrace if they want diversity in their reading – but also if they don’t want it. What if your community or school or customer base is monochrome? Then how would you show your world that the universe is a bigger place than what they can see and perceive?

Absolutely make it available in communities where South Asian readers live. But don’t forget it to bring it to readers who have not ventured beyond safe reading choices.

As the fabulous John Burningham once said, 
"Children are not less intelligent, they’re just less experienced."

So let’s give our children a varied, rich and wide experience of things around the world. So they grow up to be citizens of the world embracing people from all backgrounds.

Elli Woollard wrote a poem to go with this post and she has given me permission to reproduce it here.

Diversity by Elli Woolard

Prayag Kumbh Mela 2019

The Kumbh Mela is a confluence of people, beliefs, stories and rivers. The Prayag Kumbh Mela is the special one where people come to seek blessings at the confluence of three rivers.

Find out more about Kumbh Mela here.

This year, on the day of Makara Sankaranthi, 15th Jan 2019, the festival of harvest and the day when the sun enters the next astrological sign, marks a day of charity.

To mark this occasion, and to introduce conversations at home and schools about this festival, get your hands on this story about Farmer Falgu.

Illustrated by Kanika Nair and published by Karadi Tales in India & Red Robin Books in the UK, this is a story about rivers, fortitude and charity. Just like the festival.

 

A Month in a Writer’s Life

The last month has been hectic for so many reasons. Through March I was still doing school visits as part of the World Book Day celebrations which have started to extend into the month.

Through snow and rain, I’ve been to 11 schools during March and April, to meet with children to work with them on storytelling and creative writing. It’s always a joy to meet children who have read my books, and my website and have interesting questions to ask.

 

All school events are different – in some the classes are small and in some I talk to a whole year group or key stage. This year I had the opportunity to talk to children about both my picture books and stories from my chapter books.

I visited West Earlham Junior too, where I’m the patron of reading and we wrote poems and riddles in each class and the children enjoyed their time making what would be on their imaginary’s teacher’s table.

Alongside the school events, I was also at the Bexley Half-term festivals to tell stories at the Bexley libraries, which was super fun because I  met a lot of parents and their young children who had come to listen to Farmer Falgu stories.

The summer term is here now and I’ll be visiting more schools. I’ll be at more schools across England and Wales in May and June. I’ll also be doing public events in the summer. You can find out more about my events here.

But here’s the conundrum of an author and a writer who writes stories for children. I love meeting my readers and I go into schools and libraries just to do that. So when do I write my next stories? Every week I set aside time to write, whether it’s the weekend or early mornings before I head out – so that I’ll be writing new stories all the time. Find out more about my new books here.

So that’s a wrap so far. More exciting news to follow. If you’re not already subscribing to this blog, please do so you can get all of these news before anyone else.

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.

https://youtu.be/cDxoVsYKH7g