Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Exclusive Inclusive Book List

Why Are You Afraid To Hold My Hand? by Sheila Dhir was the first book on disability we published in 1999. Since then almost every year we have published disability-themed books, some with a child with a disability as the protagonist and some where the child/children are just present in the story along with other children.

To quote Roshni Subhash, whose very perceptive reviews of three of the books we are carrying in another post, “In these books, disability gains visibility in the storytelling. Through them, one sees children with disabilities in many roles – as part of groups, as individuals at turning points in their lives, as heroes.” (full article here!) The books offer a great way opening a conversation with children about disability, the first step in sensitising them to the issue.

On the occasion of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3rd), we are listing the books and offering them at a special price. Use the code ABLE to get a 15 % discount from now till the 10 December 2017. 

by Lavanya Karthik, pictures by Proiti Roy

by Sandhya Rao, pictures by Tanvi Bhat

by Ken Spillman, pictures by Manjari Chakravarti

by Zai Whitaker, pictures by Niloufer Wadia

by Sowmya Rajendran, pictures by Arun Kaushik

by Tharini Vishwanath, pictures by Nancy Raj

by Anthara Mohan, pictures by Rajiv Eipe

by Shefalee Jain

by Sandhya Rao, pictures by Srividya Natarajan

text and photographs by Melanie Kunz, pictures by Srivi

by Jerry Pinto, pictures by Sayan Mukherjee

by Sheila Dhir

by Urmila Shetty

Some of our books are also being used by Chennai-based Chetana Charitable Trust. They actively work with children with disabilities, particularly those with vision problems, and they have the following books in their library. They find the books work very well with the children in different ways. 

Line and Circle by Radhika Menon, pictures by Trotsky Marudu

My Mother’s Sari by Sandhya Rao, pictures by Nina Sabnani

Gadagada Gudugudu by Jeeva Raghunath, pictures by Jeyanthi Manokaran

Look, the Moon! by Sandhya Rao, pictures by Trotsky Marudu

Aana and Chena by Sowmya Rajendran, pictures by Renuka Rajiv

Here is Dr Namita Jacob, Director of Chetana, the first reader who bought A Walk with Thambi at the Tulika Bookstore. You too can get a copy in English and 8 other Indian languages at the online store

Stay tuned for a guest review of A Walk with Thambi on our Instagram.#tulikasbooksondisability


Repost: Here are three children’s books featuring disability that fared beautifully against my wish list By Roshni Subhash

We came across this wonderful article that perceptively describes our books on children with special needs way back in February. On the occasion of International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd we are reposting the article with permission from the Sexuality and Disability blog. Also lookout for our list of disability-themed books in the next post!

In the last year, I have been collecting children’s books rooted in India with the noble though only partially realised intention of passing them on to the little ones in my life. I devour each one with the pretext of screening it, especially on the basis of how it tackles the themes of gender and class.
One day, Tulika Books popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, announcing an offer on children’s books about disability. This made me think about why I had not organically come across any book featuring disability in any way in the past year. I also wondered what I could expect from children’s books featuring disability. With this in mind, I set out to explore a few of these books.

These are the three that made me think the most.

by Shefalee Jain. Age 2+

Children in ones and twos gather to watch something, their numbers growing by the minute. They are not named, and they appear as you might encounter them on a quiet street.

Walking, cycling, on the way to school, this motley gang is drawn to something. But what are they looking at? This is a counting book and so much more. The text is scant and is set in a lovely rhyme format which makes for a well-paced read-aloud session.

One of the children happens to be a boy who uses crutches. This inclusion is seemingly effortless, and yet how often do you see a child with a disability as part of storytelling, or even the teaching process?

In addition to counting, you can use the illustrations in the book to discuss each character with the child you are reading to. I can visualise my nephew taking off on a tangent about each character and telling me about their life.

Watch for what comes through when children describe the boy on crutches. It will not only tell you what they associate with disability, it can be an opening for a much-needed conversation.

Kanna Panna
Story by Zai Whitaker, Pictures by Niloufer Wadia. Age 5+

The story is narrated by Kanna, who doesn’t talk much, but does have a lot of words in his head. He goes to his chithi’s (aunt’s) home where he and his cousins have a blast.

During a visit to a cave temple lit by tube lights, the power goes off, and Kanna leads the fearful bunch out of the caves.

Suddenly, he has a lot to say. Kanna starts school, talks in rhymes, and makes a friend. All along, there are subtle hints that Kanna can’t see too well.

Kanna could be any little boy. His eyesight is but one aspect of his larger character.

Whitaker creates a character who is subdued to start with, and who eventually becomes comfortable with his own goofiness. Pausing to study Wadia’s vivid illustrations, you realise that Kanna is never looking at other characters or things.

When he is at the pond, his hands play with the water, when the family is looking around the cave temple in awe, Kanna looks at nothing in specific but is feeling a pillar, and when he leads the family out of the dark cave he isn’t even looking in the direction in which he moves.

Yet all of this is evident only when you sit with the book for a second time and marvel at the layers both in the text and the visuals. My eight-year-old niece read this book. When I asked her to tell me the story, she described everything and seemed to relate to the boy, but didn’t realise that he can’t see well!
I told her of my suspicion about his sight and she was surprised. She skimmed through the book for a second time and agreed with me. We talked about Kanna some more and she told me she had never before read a story about disability. This was a lovely start.

Catch That Cat 
Story by Tharini Viswanath, Pictures by Nancy Raj. Age 4+

Dip Dip, the protagonist, is curious, playful and full of energy. She is a messy little bundle by the end of the day. She uses a wheelchair. Her friend Meemo loses her cat, Kaapi, and is inconsolable.

Dip Dip skips school to look for Kaapi, all over the streets and all the nooks and crevices she can find. When she finally finds Kaapi high up on a tree, bribing, baiting and reprimanding the cat doesn’t work, as Kaapi now is too scared to descend.

Dip Dip pulls herself up onto a branch, Kaapi is rescued and Dip Dip’s family finds both of them on the tree! Dip Dip, Kaapi the cat and Dip Dip’s wheelchair are part of the delightful cover illustration.

She is splayed on the grass laughing loudly (try to listen, and you can hear it) as Kaapi jumps on her tummy, possibly tickling her. The wheelchair stands nearby. Flip to the first page and Viswanath’s words tell you that Dip Dip is the naughtiest child in school. Raj’s illustrations have her seated on a tyre swing, screaming with glee.

The wheelchair is partially visible in the background. In the story that follows, you see Dip Dip doing many things on the wheelchair and off of it. I had to stop to consider how Dip Dip managed some things, for instance moving up a hill, or climbing onto the tyre swing.

For children who are reading, this could be a lovely way to start understanding issues of physical access to spaces, to play and much else. Another aspect of the story that is very nicely done is when Dip Dip is out and about in public, speaking confidently to people she meets on the street. By this point in the story, Dip Dip in the reader’s mind is a spirited and gutsy girl, and one doesn’t worry about her being about the streets alone.

The illustrations show the beautiful streets and hills with glimpses of Dip Dip and/or her wheelchair moving past a backyard, or on a street. She is part of the town and claiming it as her own in search of Kaapi. No fear. No panic. Just moving around her territory looking for a friend’s cat.

My feminist wish list

What is it that I liked about these books? I am a feminist, and I use this lens to the culture that I consume. When I extended a similar ask to books on disability, a wish list of sorts emerged – sensitivity in representation, a shift from stereotypes, characters with disability being significant in the story (which needn’t translate to making their disability a centrepiece), and good storytelling. How did these books fare against my tentative wish list? Beautifully.

These are gorgeous and fun stories, with positive images and very interesting ways of representing disability. The characters are well-rounded and have their own sense of self and agency, which may or may not have anything to do with their disability. The disability is not compensated for with other significant abilities or ‘specialness’. Most importantly, the stories are non-preachy and fun – something you want to share with the children in your life.

Do they cover everything that needs to be said about the issue? Of course not. They didn’t set out to do that in the first place. In these books, disability gains visibility in the storytelling. Through them, one sees children with disabilities in many roles – as part of groups, as individuals at turning points in their lives, as heroes. That’s a very good spectrum to cover, and I am looking forward to many more such stories.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Q and A with Lavanya Karthik

A Walk with Thambi is our latest book which will be released on Sunday 19 November (11 am to 12.30 pm) at the Anna Centenary Library (Gandhi Mandapam Road, Kottur Gardens, Kotturpuram, Chennai) in partnership with Chetana Charitable Trust, which is celebrating the first anniversary of the Chetana Accessible Reading Material Library. Do come if you are in town!

Here is what Lavanya Karthik has to say about the book, and writing and illustrating.

Tell us the story behind A Walk with Thambi. What inspired you to write it?

I had been thinking for a while about a story with a boy and a dog in a small Indian town, with that little twist in the end. But, despite several rewrites, it never quite fell into place; I always felt something was missing. When Duckbill and the Vidyasagar Trust announced the Children First contest for books featuring positive representations of children with disabilities, the missing piece in the puzzle clicked into place. I decided to make the boy visually challenged, which at once changed the dynamic between him and his dog, the way he experienced his environment,  and added a lot of layers to the story. It eventually lost out – to my other entry in the picture book category, Neel on Wheels.

From 'A Walk with Thambi'

Thambi has very minimal text but conveys so much. How did this come about?

From the outset, I intended it to be a story conveyed largely through the illustrations. In fact, I submitted a manuscript with spare text and detailed descriptions of each spread which explained how the plot was moving forward. You experience the day the dog and the boy are having, by actually seeing them enjoy themselves, see how they negotiate their way through the town, and deal with the problem that pops up towards the end. I pared the text down; my editors at Tulika pared it down even more!

Thambi is an everyday story about a boy and a dog and also a sensitive comment on disability. The fact that the boy is blind comes through subtly. The reader has to infer it from the pictures and sensory descriptions. Do you ever think that this subtlety might not be picked up by every reader? Especially when the story also works well without it.

Not at all. I think young readers will see that he is blind, and also that that is just one aspect of his life. It’s also a book about friendship, and friends helping each other in sticky times. The boy is visually challenged, but this is something he takes in his stride. He is an integral part of the larger fabric of the town, his group of friends – just a regular kid.

From 'A Walk with Thambi'

You are an author and illustrator. When a story idea is waiting to make itself known, what comes first – the text or image?

Usually an image, around which I start developing a story. But sometimes a single word or phrase can pop into my head, and trigger off all kinds of ideas and images too.

Which do you enjoy more – writing or illustrating?

I enjoy both for the same reasons – the challenge, the constant revision required, the enormous sense of satisfaction you feel when you know you’re done – and the mountains of chocolate I eat as deadlines draw nearer.

You have written Ninja Nani for older children and you have written several picture books. Which genre do you find more challenging?

Both genres present their own unique challenges. Picture books need to be very precise in their text and to be experienced in terms of both words and pictures.Novels give you lots more pages to develop plot and characters, but that in turn means the writer has to work that much harder to keep their young viewers interested.

What is the most challenging book you have worked on so far as a writer?

Ninja Nani and the Zapped Zombie Kids, published by Duckbill Books.

From 'A Book is a Bee'
Which book do you consider to be your best?

I’m just getting started…ask me after another two decades or so ☺.

Which Indian children’s author and illustrator do you admire? (They need not be the same person.)

There are so many! But right at the very top of my list would be Pulak Biswas, Mario Miranda and Atanu Roy for illustration, and R. K. Narayan for writing.

From 'A Book is a Bee'
Is there a book/story you wish you had told but someone else got to it first?

Pretty much anything by Terry Pratchett.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am writing the third book in the Ninja Nani series, and another middle grade fantasy novel.

When Lavanya Karthik was a little kid, all she wanted to do was make up stories and draw pictures. Now she’s a slightly bigger kid, and that is pretty much all she does. She lives in Mumbai. Apart from ‘A Walk with Thambi’, she has written ‘A Book is a Bee’ for Tulika. 

Her books are available on our website.