The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Awards 2018

Goodbooks (www.goodbooks.in) is delighted to announce the shortlists for The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Awards for children’s books from India. The 2018 awards are in four categories. Many congratulations to the authors, illustrators and publishers, whose books have made it to our shortlists! The winners will be announced at The Hindu Lit for Life Festival at Chennai in January 2018.

Shortlist for Best Picture Book: Story

From flying planes to writing Nancy Drew

The first of the ghost writers who wrote as Carolyn Keene was Mildred Wirt Benson, easily ‘one of the most interesting YA writers of all time’. Originally published here

The Original Ghostwriter Behind Nancy Drew Was One of The Most Interesting YA Writers of All Time

By Marissa Martinelli

Going wild

How can urban kids feel closer to nature and wildlife? Easy—through books, of course. Here is a collection of books that are just the ticket. Originally published here.

These books are taking children closer to nature and wildlife. You might want to join them

Kartik Shanker, Prerna Singh Bindra and Vivek Menon are trying to ensure that the wild isn’t invisible to the young.

A spoonful of Enid Blyton

She has been praised and maligned in equal measure, but Eleanor Gordon-Smith now presents a new theory on why a dose of Enid Blyton might be good for all of us. Originally published here.

Reading Enid Blyton's Famous Five might make you a better person

The Great River Magic

Reviewer: 
Revathi Suresh
Review content: 

The Great River Magic left me with mixed feelings. I wanted to like it more than I did (and I did like it well enough for the most part). It is a short storybook of the old-fashioned kind—the ones that used to start with ‘Once upon a time…’ It even has characters with old-fashioned names like Sangeeta and Dutta and Rasika. It can be translated into any Indian language and fit right in. I read it with a sense of deja vu, like I had encountered it in the Hindi Nandan, Chandamama or Champak magazines of my childhood.

A family of sweet-makers from Rajpur village are worried when buyers from all over the country start returning their boxes of sweets with harsh letters of criticism. Then they find out that all the other business people of the industrious little hamlet are having the exact same problem. No one seems to like their products any more—furniture, mattresses, jewellery, all are rejected and sent back with stinkers. The mystery is linked to the (suddenly smelly) river that flows through the village. For long the people have relied on its blessed waters to bring them luck, and when magical good fortune deserts them they don’t know what to do. That’s the story in a nutshell.

In another time, it would have been possible to read the simple, undemanding story fairly superficially and leave it at that, because it is entirely likely that the children it is meant for will not read it judgmentally at all. But this is a predicament that reviewers sometimes face when we read books meant for children—to read from the point of view of the target age-group or that of a deliberately discerning adult? Though I decided to take the plunge and do the latter, I feel almost apologetic about it. Maybe I am looking for depth in the wrong story, but the book confusingly (and unwittingly?) straddles an uneasy place between the fantastical and the all too real, so it might be worth mentioning a few points.

Here is a story that is mostly meant to entertain. The main learning from it (if one absolutely must learn something from everything one reads) is to do with how we treat our natural resources. But there are other ‘issues’ that crop up in the course of the narrative. I found the portrayal of the sweet-maker family to be real enough and relatable at some levels—the father who never speaks up, the good-natured and accommodating mother, the respectful children; and, of course, the cranky, tetchy grandmother around whom the entire household hovers nervously (a nice change from the cuddly, maternal figure who populates many books for this age-group). What is harder to understand is the reaction of the household to her scoldings and endless nagging. Except at the very end, these are met with grins and winks and much tolerance when we know that being around such a person can be traumatic for children and adults alike. The older daughter shows some signs of twitchiness and stress, but the overall tone of the book does not allow this to be brought up as a talking point. Every time her anxiety comes to the fore, it’s quickly dealt with with the aforementioned grins and winks.

The idea that tradition is sacrosanct is challenged, but characters disconcertingly slip into stereotypical gender roles anyway. The father nurtures the garden while the mother stays in the kitchen, for example; all three children seek to break convention, but still end up, at least in one instance, fulfilling roles meant for them—aren’t ‘halwaiees’ (sweet-makers) almost always male?

What bothered me most, however, was young children being burdened with notions of vocations and careers when they have no business thinking about jobs at their age. And yet, even as I nitpick away, I feel the book reflects a certain reality. Too often one comes across children who speak solemnly of ‘having a career’ and ‘finding a good job.’ But this is a simple, fun book sans irony, and shouldn’t have been one to enforce such an idea. No wonder the older daughter runs away to drown in her math textbook every now and then.

The writing is neat and uncomplicated though the humour feels forced in places, and any eight-ten-year-old will follow it comfortably. The passing reference to a fairy and a monster could have been avoided in a book that is so Indian in every other way.

Lavanya Karthik’s plentiful illustrations are delightful, particularly where there is detailing, as in a drawing of a saree, a chair, a rooftop, a river bank, etc. The pictures of characters I found a little cartoonish, but perhaps it is in keeping with the light-hearted tone of the book.

Review Year: 
2017
Review thumbnail: 
Reviewer Profile Note: 

Revathi Suresh doesn't really like to read or write but feels weirdly compelled to do both. Her novel for young adults, Jobless Clueless Reckless, was published in 2013

Book1: 

The Great River Magic

The Great River Magic.jpg
The Great River Magic
Author:
Nandini Nayar
Illustrator:
Lavanya Karthik
96 pages
English
Rs 175.00
ISBN: 9789386106483
Scholastic, 
2016
Story Rating: 
3
Illustrations Rating: 
4
Language Rating: 
3
Design Rating: 
4
Overall Rating: 
8

The Great River Magic

The Great River Magic.jpg
The Great River Magic
Author:
Nandini Nayar
Illustrator:
Lavanya Karthik
96 pages
English
Rs 175.00
ISBN: 9789386106483
Scholastic, 
2016

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India through Archaeology: Excavating History
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Devika Rangachari
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In a scenario where the word ‘history’ is viewed as largely synonymous with mind-numbing boredom, Devika Cariapa’s labour of love is a welcome entrant. It is a study of how humans lived, filling gaping holes in our knowledge of the past.

Ravana Refuses to Die

Reviewer: 
Sandhya Rao
Review content: 

Children will enjoy this book, especially those with an above-average vocabulary. It’s obvious the author has had a grand time spinning out the four yarns in this collection featuring four intrepid young adventurers resident in the town of Babubari. He’s freaked out with the language, using it to absurd (happily) dramatic effect and that, undoubtedly, will delight the readers. It’s racy and irreverent and exclamatory.

Muru, Chippa, Jitu and little Chipkili are fast friends and they have pretty awesome fun together. In Ravana Refuses to Die, the eponymous first story in the book, that’s literally what happens at the Ram Leela production: there’s Rama desperately prompting Ravana to die, and to stay dead, and Ravana plain refusing until his long-pending dues are cleared. In A Vimana Lands in Babubari, Muru’s on a mission to build a pushpaka vimana with the somewhat reluctant assistance of his friends, all save Chipkili who cannot keep anything secret and this mission is top secret. Tyres and other stuff go missing from the local shops and there’s consternation all around. In Hanuman’s Army, people don monkey costumes a la Delhi 6 to catch some thieving real-life monkeys. Chipkili is kidnapped by a rather wicked monkey in costume and how she’s rescued is the plot. The last story is On Ravana’s Belly, where the famous four help Bhollu divine water so he can farm and earn his keep. There’s an oily (literally) villain of great girth and no mirth, and an unnecessarily loquacious barber to spills the beans. However, all’s well and everything ends well too.

The illustrations are equally kinky, in true Priya Kuriyan style. In any case, the character of Ravana is a wonderful springboard for storytelling and visual narration. Both author and illustrator make good on this advantage.

However, there are a few false-ish notes that adults would or could stumble over. While the title story, which opens the collection, has a certain sense of completeness to it, the second starts off more tentatively, giving the impression that it should actually have been the first story. There’s a lack of character consistency that can throw the reader off, which leads to the observation that even in a collection of short stories featuring the same characters, the ‘growth’ chart of the characters and their relationship to each other must reveal integrity. The rule doesn’t apply just to novels, but to short stories of this nature too.

Then again, that old bogey, stereotyping. While I do believe that sometimes this PC-thing is taken too far, there’s also a limit to finding fat funny or mean or stupid. There are some bits where the telling palls, or the narrative gets on an information trajectory. This is where the editors needed to have intervened more vigorously. For instance, at the end of Hanuman’s Army, you have SSP Ricky Singh giving a long spiel about the how and why of the stealing of a necklace, which is plain boring to read; it even sounds like the author got bored. It freezes the energy of the storytelling.

Still and all, the book’s a ‘funtastical’ read, even as it makes pertinent points about this, that and some other things.

Review Year: 
2017
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Reviewer Profile Note: 

Sandhya Rao is primarily a reader who can’t thank her stars enough that there are so many stories and so many wonderful writers to bring them home to us. She is also a journalist and writer of children’s books.

Story Rating: 
3
Illustrations Rating: 
4
Language Rating: 
4
Design Rating: 
3
Overall Rating: 
8

Rustom Dadachanji

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Rustom Dadachanji
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