As another children’s publishing house launches, a look at how the industry is growing
Sanya Podar, 29, prefers reading Roald Dahl, Joan Aiken and Enid Blyton to other “age-appropriate” literature. “I also love the Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans and listening to my mother’s version of Akbar and Birbal stories. There is something comforting about re-reading the books of our childhood,” says the founder of Daffodil Lane, a new Mumbai-based children’s book publisher.
The young imprint, with four titles out, joins a growing kid lit market in India (reports from 2019 indicated a 14% to 18% growth in the segment). Digital classes and pandemic screen time have meant that parents have been looking for ways to engage their children. And publishers are delivering. We will see The Big Thoughts of Little Luv by filmmaker Karan Johar and a series of picture books by Nobel Prize winner Esther Dufflo, both from Juggernaut. Anand Neelakantan’s debut novel, Asura: Tale of the Vanquished (2012), has been reimagined as The Very Extremely, Most Naughty Asura Tales for Kids (Puffin). Indie publishers such as Tara Books have been promoting cross-cultural stories under their Travelling Titles collection, while Tulika has a multilingual podcast with Spotify, with stories and songs every Friday.
Illustrator Priya Kurian adapted part of Perumal Murugan’s novel, Poonachi, as a picture book, for Westland’s Red Panda imprint. And parent company Amazon has tied up with Pratham Books for a festive ‘Gift a Story’ initiative that features more than 200 stories in six languages. Children’s author and Editor Scissorhands at Pratham, Bijal Vachharajani says, “Ever since the pandemic hit, we saw a spike of interest in our online platform, Storyweaver. Publishers have been a busy lot as festivals and activities went virtual.” Across the board, work continued on existing projects, she adds.
Podar and her team also used the lockdown to fine-tune their work. Aimed at ages four and above, — “It should also hold the interest of the adults who will be reading to the child” — the books are designed to be relatable to children across the country. “We wanted to talk about the world around them without getting preachy, and so we looked for nuanced and layered messaging,” she says.
To this end, they have gone with animal protagonists and picture books that are more relatable. Just in time for the festive season, Cat’s Diwali is a reminder of what furry family members experience during our human celebrations. The storylines in One More Does Matter, Lana (a rabbit with a penchant for upcycling) and Try Your Best, Patrick (a chicken struggling in school) are simple, with art by in-house illustrator Urvashi Dubey. For a sticker activity book, they collaborated with freelance illustrator Letisha Fernandes.
Even as there is an increase in e-reading, one might wonder if this is a good time to launch a line of books. Kavita Gupta Sabharwal, co-founder of Bengaluru-based Neev Literature Festival, says yes. “They are an antidote to the ennui brought by too much time spent online. As a wise child once told me, ‘Reading on the web distracts me, but reading a book makes me slow down and think’.”
₹299 onwards on daffodillanebooks.com