When an author I greatly admire, Merryn Glover, talked about putting together a blog tour around the anniversary of the India/Pakistan partition, I jumped at the chance to be part of it. Some first hand recommendations of India books for kids? Yes please! Here is what she says:
I grew up in Nepal, India and Pakistan, so it was always important to me that my children – brought up in Scotland – had an understanding of that part of the world. Along with my memories, photos, films and two special visits, I shared my love for those countries through books. As August 15th this year marks the 70th Anniversary of India’s Independence, Barbara suggested I write a post about my favourite India books for kids and teens. There are squillions of great titles out there, but these are the much-enjoyed books still on our shelves and available in the UK. Listed roughly in order of reading age.
Mangoes & Bananas, The Sacred Banana Leaf & The Great Race: Nathan Kumar Scott
Nathan Kumar Scott (http://www.nathankumarscott.com/my-books) is an old school friend who has written a series of picture books based on Indian folk tales, each title drawing from a different form of folk art. The results are exquisite books with enchanting stories.
One Grain of Rice: Demi
This book was a gift to my sons from a former teacher of mine and is sub-titled “A Mathematical Folktale”. It’s an adaptation of a traditional Indian story that uses a girl’s clever plan to explore both maths and morals. It’s also beautifully illustrated in a style drawn from Moghul art.
Ancient Civilisations – Indian Myths: Shahrukh Husain & Bee Willey This is a collection of tales from India’s rich store of mythology with vivid pictures and a helpful glossary.
Indian Tales, A Barefoot Collection: Shenaaz Nanji & Christopher Corr “The trip of a lifetime!” the book announces and so it is, with brightly coloured maps, stories and information from eight regions in India and a long list of sources at the back.
The Jungle Books: Rudyard Kipling – We all know the wonderful Disney film, but how many of us have ventured with Mowgli and his animal friends through the pages of Kipling’s books? I can guarantee a wild time!
The Village by the Sea, Anita Desai I taught this poignant story of poverty and courage to my S1 English class in India many moons ago and fell in love with it. By a Booker prize-winning author, it is strong writing that will draw readers close to the characters and the dilemmas of their lives.
The Wheel of Surya, Jamila Gavin This is the first of a trilogy that begins with a brother and sister in India when their lives are splintered by Partition in 1947 and they end up on a boat to England. I read it to my sons on a visit to India when they were 12 and 10, and we were captivated. The other books in the series are The Eye of the Horse and The Track of the Wind
Malgudi Days, R K Narayan I first discovered this glorious little collection of stories when I taught S4 pupils in Kathmandu and have returned to it many times since. Short and deceptively simple, they are full of wisdom, humour and deep humanity.
Narayan said of India that ‘the writer has only to look out of the window to pick up a character and thereby a story.’ Which is good news for us, as we need only to dip into one of the many brilliant books from India to meet those characters and enter their stories. Join me there!
Merryn Glover is a writer of fiction and plays with work widely anthologised and broadcast on Radio Scotland and Radio 4. She has also worked as an English, drama and dance teacher and currently spends two days a week in a high school library, loving the magic of bringing books and kids together.
Her novel for adults (and intelligent older teens), A House Called Askival, is set in north India and spans 70 years of history, including the cataclysmic events of Independence and Partition.