Sunday, October 2, 2011

India Children's Books

Oh, how to choose?!  We have a number of picture books about India on our shelf already to reflect The Whirl Girl's half-Indian heritage.  And we've been lucky to collect some from Indian publishers like Tulika Books and Tara Books on our travels to India.

I've managed to limit myself to a top five and a few bonus books.  If you're interested in finding more books, check out author Pooja Makhijani's annotated bibliography of children's literature on South Asia and the South Asian diaspora. 

As a reminder you can find all of the books that we've read (with reviews) on the Whirls and Twirls Goodreads page.  They are shelved by country for quick searches.  (You can also see what's on our current shelf on the right sidebar). 

Here's the top five for India:

written by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib
This is one of my very favorite books and one that The Whirl Girl has loved since she was two.  I initially was surprised that she took to it at such a young age because it is a quiet story.  Then I realized that she loves that it is about a family, and it shows each of them throughout one day, ending with a huge monsoon rainfall.  The prose is a joy to read and the illustrations are lush and evocative.  I'm a big fan in general of Uma Krishnaswami's books.  I couldn't include them all here, but highly recommend that you check them out. 

To Market!  To Market!
written by Anuska Ravishankar, illustrated by Emanuele Scanziani
I really wanted to include a book from an Indian publisher in our list and this was my favorite of the bunch.  Ravishankar is one of the most prolific Indian children's book authors.  It shows a young girl going to an Indian market, filled with all of the colors, commotion and excitement that you would expect to see.  The illustrations are stunning and the word play is fun and memorable.

Mama's Saris
written by Pooja Makhijani, illustrated by Elena Gomez
Not surprisingly, mother-daughter stories are a big hit in our house.  This is a sweet story about a daughter wanting to dress up in her mother's saris.  The illustrations capture the vibrant colors and patterns of Indian women's clothing.  The text is both tender and realistic.

The Rumor: A Jataka Tale from India
written and illustrated by Jan Thornhill
We have to have an animal book!  This features some Indian favorites: tigers, lions, rhinos, hares, deer and boars.  According to the book, Jataka tales have been used for centuries to teach about sharing, compassion and the difference between good and bad.  The story has a great pace and the illustrations animate the scenes taking the reader above and through the jungle.

Elephant Dance: A Journey to India
written by Theresa Heine, illustrated by Sheila Moxley
This is kind of like a kid's travelogue to India, as told by a grandfather to his grandchildren.  It takes the reader all over the country, with bright and colorful illustrations.  It also has good information pages at the back.  

And the bonus books:

Anklet for a Princess: A Cinderella Story from India
story by Lila Mehta, adapted by Meredith Brucker, illustrated by Youshan Tang
A couple of months ago, The Whirl Girl entered the princess phase and she asked for a princess book.  I felt much better checking out this Indian version from the library than the Disney ones.  We read it every day for a month and finally bought a copy for ourselves.  It's a bit old for her (lots of text), but I abridge it and she loves it.

by Sandhya Rao
This is one of the handful of bilingual (English-Hindi) books that we have.  It has very simple text with photos of kids playing cricket all over India.  A tour of India is not complete without a look at the national sport, especially since India just recently won the Cricket World Cup.  

Aani and the Tree Huggers
written by Jeannine Atkins, illustrated by Venantius J. Pinto
This is a story of a village girl who bravely saves the trees in her area from being cut down.  It's a good continuation of themes that we read in books about Wangari Maathai and her environmental work in Kenya.  

Lily's Garden of India
written by Jeremey Smith, illustrated by Rob Hefferan
This book will be a nice compliment to planned projects with Indian flowers like marigolds and jasmine.  It is a story about a little girl who goes into the Indian section of her mother's garden and is transported amongst the plants and flowers of India. 

Lighting a Lamp: A Diwali Story
written by Jonny Zucker, illustrated by Jan Bargar Cohen
I wanted to include a book about Diwali since we will be celebrating the festival at the end of the month.  This is the best (and maybe the only) that I could find for The Whirl Girl's age group.  It gives a simple understanding of the main rituals associated with the holiday. 

Baya, Baya. Lulla-by-a
written by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Vera Rosenberry
This is a bedtime story featuring a mother and her baby, set in an Indian village.  Hindi words are intertwined throughout the text, which is almost more of a poem than a story.  The illustrations are evocative of rural Indian life. 

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