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.

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.

Come Read with Me on Empathy Day

Empathy Lab UK along with authors, libraries, Patron of Reading, Society of Authors and other like-minded people is launching Empathy Day on 13th June. This is the first such celebration and the hope is to continue to celebrate empathy and promote mutual understanding in communities and schools across the year.

As a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, I believe empathy starts early and starts at home. How we treat our families on good days and bad days, how we like to be treated when we are down and when we are raring to go is as important as scoring high grades, making money or even winning Gold Medals in competitions.

But how do we build empathy amongst young people? How do we ensure the next generation has a reserve of empathy and shared experiences to tap into? Books are a wonderful way to learn about others, or what we perceive as otherness. We’re often afraid and wary of new and unfamiliar things. By getting to know others – they perhaps are no longer strange to us and hence no longer other.

Who are these others? Where do they live? Why should we care?

In a society like ours, where many politicians are asking us to be afraid of others, defining the other is important. What is this other-ness? Is it a different religion, language or the way we dress? Whether we follow the same religion or not, whether we speak the same language or not, do we all not laugh and cry at similar things? Do we all not want happiness, love, friendships, an ice-cream on a hot day and cute cat pictures on social media?

To celebrate the first Empathy Day, authors are visiting schools and reading books that teach us empathy and to walk in the shoes of others. You can recommend a book, a song, a movie that to you represents empathy, that would show the reader / listener/ viewer what it is to understand the world from another viewpoint. Do you have activities, poems and songs to share? Tell us on twitter with #ReadforEmpathy hashtag.

Want to know more and the science behind Empathy? Check out these resources.

And don’t forget – visit the Empathy Day website on 13th June to get hold of the Read for Empathy Guide.

And to end I want to share this video that was useful to me to understand empathy – do watch if you have a few minutes.

An Irreverent Guide for Patrons of Reading

Originally published on

Don’t worry! This guide will not be serious. This guide is neither full of practical tips nor some amazing ideas. It’s just another writer, avoiding the work-in-progress, hoping to rescue thousands of children from forced learning of subjunctive clauses and modal verbs.

Patron of Reading is a bonkers idea from the three musketeers – Tim Redgrave, Jon Biddle and Helena Pielichaty. And more crazy people like authors, illustrators, school teachers, head-teachers and librarians joined up and made this bonkers idea more brilliant. Who would have thought reading for pleasure was a thing? DoE haven’t heard of it, it seems! But we don’t worry much about them when we have wonderful characters and amazing facts in so many books.

To me, being a Patron of Reading is an adventure. By adventure I mean, I have no idea what I’ve got myself into and I figure out as I go, guided by the children and the teachers who have invited me in.

So how does this adventure start? Like all adventures, it starts with a tall man with a big heart and almost no hair. He checks you out with his twitter thermometer and measures your ability to read for pleasure. You write children’s books? Then don’t worry – most probably you’re already afflicted with this condition.

Then you get listed on the Patron of Reading website. Think except for matching hibernating authors with super-humans like librarians and teachers. Like in any dating profile, just reveal enough of your reading for pleasure tendencies and the general neighbourhood where this affliction affects you – and I mean more than your own room – like a city where people live and schools are run. (At least for now; if you don’t vote, who knows, all parents might have to home-school compulsorily).

See what I did there!

Then the tall man with a big heart tweets out your patron profile to a legion of followers who re-tweet it as if these are cute cat pictures until an eager school spots you and goes Aha! We’ve would like that one please – yes that author with the yellow shirt, long hair, standing next to a stack of books and a pile of laundry. Is that you? Then you’ve been matched.

Once you’re matched, the above-mentioned tall man will approach you with details of your suitor. Where is the school? Who will be in touch with you? Who is this teacher who on top of everything they do, has agreed to be the Patron of Reading coordinator.

Like in any self-respecting matching situation, you get to talk (and by talk I mean, by email or phone or Skype or telepathy, whatever suits) with the potential school you will be patronising.


Here is the thing – this is where you reveal your reading habits – poetry? Ghost stories? Adventures set in abandoned islands? Don’t be shy. You’d be surprised when you listen to their choices.

This is where you find out what does your potential suitor want? What kind of school is it? What motivates the children? Why did they choose you? What could you bring to the table (other than a chair of course)?

You have questions? You are too shy to ask your potential suitor? Shoot it across to the matchmaker. He has weathered every what, why and when.

One too many?

Well – what do you think? Have you agreed the terms and conditions of patronising? Do you have a date setup? Ooh! That’s exciting, isn’t it?

Hold fire! Don’t relax yet. Plan the first visit as you would plan any school visit – except you’re not going to be running creative writing workshops. You’re going to find ways to promote reading for pleasure. The keyword as you might have noticed is PLEASURE!

Like in any first date, take it slow. Don’t overwhelm the school with your enthusiasm. I’ve been there! Both in life and in schools. Figure out what they need from you and in what levels of enthusiasm. You might have time between two book projects and want to run a competition for the children. (Or you just want to procrastinate). Teachers as you might have guessed from teachtwitter, are an overworked bunch. They might not have time to jump into every rabbit-hole the patron wants to. So KEEP CALM and READ FOR PLEASURE.

Then agree frequency of visits. Ask them how they would like to stay in touch when you’ve returned to your cave after inspiring them with the love of reading. Maybe they would want to, maybe they won’t. Maybe the things you initiated on the first visit doesn’t fully pan out. Don’t fret. You get to go back, build relationships and try new things.

That’s it – there is no secret handshake (well, I’m not telling you, if there’s one), there is no heavy manual in all European languages (Brexit means Brexit, didn’t you know?)

And there are no set rules about how you patronise reading. Standing up, sitting down, upside down, reading poetry, non-fiction, stories, picture books, newspapers and cereal boxes – it’s all up for grabs.

Willing to take the plunge? Reach out to the tall man with a big heart (also called @jonnybid) and leave the rest to the universe.

Chitra Soundar is a Patron of Reading at West Earlham Junior School in Norwich, where she brings stories from different countries into the classrooms. She gets on their radio show, teaches them voice modulation and tells them stories from brilliant books. And when she’s not patronising, this is what she’s up to. Find out more here. Have questions, shoot her a tweet at @csoundar.