Children’s Books from India – A Parent’s View

I met  Dr. TanuShree Singh on Facebook when she mentioned my Bookaroo visit in Delhi. Then I found out she’s one of the biggest fan of books, especially children’s books tanuand a super-mom. Tanu lives in Faridabad, India and teaches psychology and writes a wonderful blog at

When I started talking about Indian books on world stage, Tanu was an obvious expert I wanted to talk to. She has a front-seat view of children’s books in India and recommends a host of books to many friends via her Facebook Group The Reading Raccoons.

So I asked Tanu about Indian books and their place in today’s world publishing – in terms of the content.

1.     Compared to when you were a child, do you think there are more interesting Indian books on offer? What do you like about today’s bookshops and what do you not like?

Oh, absolutely! When I was a child, my access to books was limited to the library at mum’s college and a rare visit to a bookstore in Delhi. The library visit meant that I read P G Wodehouse, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and the likes. The bookstore lead us mostly to Hardy Boys, Famous five, and Nancy Drew. Picture books were unheard of. The very first ones were the translated Russian books. And Indian books were unheard of barring Feluda. So we weren’t spoilt for choices like the children of today. You have books for all age/reading levels now. 

I love visiting bookstores despite everything being cheaper online. The thing I love is the wider representation that children’s books are getting as compared to the past. There are even stores dedicated solely to children’s books!

The thing that saddens me, however, is the way Indian authors languish in a corner at most stores. Very few of them display them prominently or stock them. 

2.     Do you buy books from US and the UK for your kids? If so, what do you think are the big differences between a western book and Indian? Do we have books that engage as much as Wimpy Kid and Harry Potter?

We buy books from world over! The big difference is getting smaller by the day. Till even a few years back there was a certain amount of seriousness in whatever little children’s books that were being written here. Thankfully, there is a tremendous shift now. There is no conscious attempt to ‘preserve our culture’ via children’s books. And the experimentation in terms of genre is narrowing down the difference further. from historical fiction to horror to issues like homosexuality – everything is being tackled in children’s books here. So yes, we have books that engage.

To compare with big franchises like Harry Potter would be unfair!

3.     On an average do you think Indian books have more of a moralistic attitude to children’s reading?

Not anymore. They did – yes. But with the newer age writers and publishers, that doesn’t seem to be true anymore. The books that we have read recently have broken away from that attitude. There are some wonderful books like flat-trackFlat Track Bullies, and Talking of Muskaan, which can not be called moralistic though they do address issues of the times. 

4.    Do you think Indian kids want to read for pleasure? Do all parents allow their kids to read for pleasure?

Yes they do. A big YES. And no not all parents allow their kids to read for pleasure. Quite a few parents look for life-lessons in books.Kids do not – Indian or elsewhere. And then there is the worry over appropriateness of content. Ultimately all we end up doing is pushing the child away from books. 

5.    Can you recommend three Indian books that any child in any part of the world should read?

There are many good ones out there, but these three from recent times are bound tobe loved everywhere: 

muskaanTalkingof Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar

stoob The Adventures of Stoob – Testing Times by Samit Basu

bigbullyBig Bully and M-me by Arti Sonthalia

Talking of Muskaan touches upon Homosexuality, Stoob is our average exam-hating school child, and Big Bully and M-me centres around a boy who stammers and hence is bullied. These three books transcend cultural boundaries. Stoob could be sitting in any classroom across the continent. Muskaan is every person trying to form a clear sexual identity. And Little Krish from Big Bully and M-Me could be slinking away to the corner of a classroom in any country.

 I feel that these three books distinctly break away from the constraints that make it difficult for a book to reach out to children from other countries. 

Thank you Tanu, that gives a wonderful view into contemporary Indian books and as someone who grew up reading more western books than Indian I’m so happy that is changing fast now.

If you want to join us on a twitter chat about Indian books, join me on Twitter on 24th Apr 2015 (Friday) at 6 pm GMT with hashtag #storiesfromIndia. Find out more here. 

Twitter Chat about Indian Books

Books set in India, protagonists of Indian origin, books published in India for the children there, books that are niche and multi-cultural and the power of universal stories – a lot of things to talk about.

I have been published in Singapore, US, UK and India. I was published in India after I had moved to the UK – primarily for two reasons. I wasn’t having much luck placing my Indian stories in the UK or US publishing market and I wanted to be published in my home-country.

After almost two years in the slush pile, my first book was published in India in 2006 – the year I moved to the UK. Then after 6 years of trying and getting rejected in more than 3 continents, I finally placed 4 books in India in the same year – which have been coming out since 2013 to 2016.

When I wrote and sold the stories to Indian publishers, I thought these stories were niche – they won’t be even considered by western publishers. And then I went into schools with my books and the reception was amazing. P1020965Kids from all backgrounds loved it and had great fun with all of the books I thought were Indian by nature.

image descriptionNow there is excitement in the air about the possibility that two of my Indian books might have been sold to Europe and other parts of Asia at Bologna. (More on that when it turns into reality).

So they are universal and they were not niche at all. But I am not sure I could still place them in the UK by submitting to a mainstream publisher. I once received a rejection letter that said the story is great. But they are a more mainstream publisher and I should try a multi-cultural publisher. I was taken aback. That was 6 years ago. I am not sure that has changed much now – although Walker gave me an opportunity to write Indian stories for their Racing Reads.


With the LBF happening this week and some recent discussions on diversity and the report that was published yesterday by SpreadtheWord – I ask myself – has anything changed in the last six years.

It is not all bad news I think – as I said I have a book out with Walker in 2010 and another one contracted and written to be published soon. There are brilliant writers from Asian backgrounds who are doing great work here – Sarwat Chadda, Sita Brahmachari, Jamila Gavin, Bali Ray and so many more. Indian writers for adults regularly appear in award shortlists.

I was talking about this to friends on Facebook who had just come out of a diversity seminar at the LBF – we need more editors, agents and publishers who are from ethnic backgrounds who would champion the cause. We need the industry to actively seek out books in translation and books from other countries that could bring a new perspective to the children here in the UK.

So this is what I suggested on Twitter that garnered immediate support from many UK authors. Let’s have a twitter chat. Tell me what you think – as a writer from Indian background – are you able to write the book you want? As an Indian publisher do you get western publishers to look at your bookshelf seriously? As a parent, teacher and a reader what do you think you want to read about – just how arranged marriage works? or how we are influenced by the colonial raj? What do you think about contemporary Indian books? Where can you find them? If you can find books from other cultures in your bookshop would you pick them up? Would you recommend your children and students read them? Would an average reader do the same?

The list is very long – there are so many things to talk about. If you  have a view and you want to discuss, join me on Twitter on 24th Apr 2015 (Friday) at 6 pm GMT with hashtag #storiesfromIndia.