Those forgotten stories

It was perhaps 2003 or 2004. I wrote a story about perspectives. About looking at things in a new way or perhaps for the first time. It was a funny story about a tortoise and how he had never seen the sky.

It was one of those stories that I had thrown away into the virtual drawer and had forgotten about it. When I registered on TES website to upload some stories for classroom use, I dusted this one out, added some free clipart and published it for teachers to use in classrooms.

The story took off. It got featured in the main pages as a popular story and many teachers downloaded it. When TES then moved everyone to their new site and wanted us to reevaluate our content, I decided to take down the story and submit it again to publishers.

The fact that the story was popular in classrooms, because it was short, it was easy to read, it had animal characters and it gave an important message – perspectives differ. When you see something for the first time, do evaluate whether you’re overreacting or not. So I decided to submit it to OUP, Pakistan who had just published one of my earlier stories too. (Read about that here).

In less than a month, OUP Pakistan came back with a Yes! And it also got included in their 70th anniversary celebrations this year as editor’s choice. The book is out now and the story of Upside Down seems all upside down to me and all about perspectives too.

Goodbye 2020!

It’s been a weird year in some many ways. However, instead of counting my anxiety chickens, I want to count my calming blessings.

I had a number of new books for trade and education come out! Obviously my absolute favourite book I wrote, set in our family home, has warmed the hearts of many families, I’ve been told.

I’m grateful for the joys of this year, spending more time with my family, not having to see a dentist or find an excuse to eat ice-cream. I went through a range of emotions from loneliness to despair to joy. I wrote a number of new books under lockdown conditions, preferring to stay inside my head than read the news. I focussed on the detail, ironed everything possible in my closet and organised my ear-rings into pairs. All those little things helped me focus on the big picture.

I miss meeting friends and family, miss school visits which gave me the inspiration and energy to keep being creative and the festival circuit that always comes with a new book. Nevertheless, I did try and do most of that virtually – through the help of technology. Ironic that the large scale urban growth driven by technology caused the pandemic and we relied on tech us to keep us distracted from that chaos.

I really hope that this changes our collective humanity and we strive to work smarter to protect our planet. In my own little ways, I’ve been brave this year, spreading my wings, getting a new agent, writing new and different things.

Here’s my from writing desk to your reading chair,

Happy Holidays and a wonderful new year.

Sona Sharma is coming soon!

I wrote my first story for Sona Sharma in 2015 – she came fully formed on the page along with her Grandfather whom she calls Thatha (Grandpa in Tamil) and Elephant, best friend and imaginary friend all rolled into one.

Published by Walker Books,
Illustrated by Jen Khatun

Although I loved Sona in her first story I wasn’t sure a quietly funny family story will appeal. My first confidence in the story came later that year when I was doing my MA at Bath Spa University. I had a 1-1 session with our Professor – the most amazing David Almond. I had sent in the first few pages of Sona for him to read and he loved it.

It gave me the boost of confidence I required to send the story to my editor at Walker Books, Mara Bergman. Mara loved Sona – but we decided she needed a bigger story, a story that shows off her charm, her humour and also her love for her family.

That story became SONA SHARMA – VERY BEST BIG SISTER. Loosely based on my growing up in Chennai, and set in a contemporary Chennai in a loving family like mine and a fun cast of characters in Sona’s world – her school friends, teacher, her auto-rickshaw driver and Mum’s best friend Mullai – they all help Sona become the VERY BEST BIG SISTER to her baby sister.

Illustrated by Jen Khatun

Sona Sharma is currently available to pre-order and will be out in the world on 3rd September. Beautifully illustrated by Jen Khatun, the stories showcase one family in Chennai and a little girl who has the fears of any first-born child like me – will my family love me less when the new baby comes?

Illustrated by Jen Khatun

Amma, Sona’s mum explains to her that families have loads of love to go around and Appa, her dad explains that they will be poor only when they run out of love.

With the help of Elephant, gentle proverbs of Paatti, her grandmother and the wisdom and stories of her grandfather and the no-nonsense street smart of their auto-rickshaw driver, Sona learns to love her little baby sister.

Illustrated by Jen Khatun

Get hold of a copy now and find out who the President is, who Miss Rao is and how Sona finds a name for her little baby sister.

Illustrated by Jen Khatun

Sona Sharma will be visiting a number of UK blog sites during the month of September. Don’t forget to follow the bloggers to find out more about her mission to becoming the Very Best Big Sister.

SONA SHARMA – Very Best Big Sister – Blog Tour

Here is a little peek into the book!

The Empathy of Friends

When I started writing Tiger Troubles (soon to be out in bookshops, so brilliantly illustrated by Hannah Marks and wonderfully produced by Bloomsbury Education), I first of all wanted to write a circular story. I had listened to my grandmother tell stories that formed a chain – the story went from one character to another and coming back a full circle.

Then that story slowly transformed into a story of friendship – especially about friends who don’t let down each other.

When Sloth Bear falls on Tiger in this story, he blames the Elephant. But Elephant needn’t have shown his face or accepted his mistake. But he did, because he didn’t want his friend to get into trouble.

As the story unravels, we find that every friend in this forest has the courage to own up, not to let their friends down and look at the situation from their friend’s point of view.

They not only felt bad about what had happened, but also acted on their feelings and owned their mistake despite knowing that Tiger loved to eat.

For me, this story is about unconscious empathy that children have – they know what they are feeling and they don’t want their friends to be in trouble. But the story doesn’t teach a lesson by schooling the kids, but by hilarious accidents, alliterative food and the little tiger solving the puzzle one step at a time!

Empathy is the jam inside this story doughnut. Empathy is the jam that makes us all sweet. If we can’t be filled with jam, what kind of doughnuts are we really?

June is the month of Jungle!

In the deep dark jungles in India, daytime is naptime. Animals were resting, napping and sleeping. But like most young children Sloth Bear didn’t want to sleep. Sloth Bear sets off a series of events that disturb Porcupine, confuse Crocodile, and scare Elephant.

But when Tiger arrives on the scene, things get worse! Because Tiger loves to eat.

Tiger Troubles is a circular story of friendship, taking responsibility, the power of truth and the power of play.

From nap time to play time to yawn time, it’s a story recognisable in all our homes. It’s a great story to read-aloud! Young readers would love to have a go!

The illustrations by Hannah Marks will make you laugh, Tiger’s love for food will make you gasp and how the story unfolds will tie you up in knots!!