Friday, January 13, 2017

Tulika in 2016!


We started the year off on a high…

The House That Sonabai Built won The Hindu Young World-GoodBooks Award for Best Book – Non-Fiction, and Gender Talk: Big Hero, Size Zero was announced as an Honour Book in the same category.

Radhika Menon participated in a panel discussion on ‘Inclusion of Specially-abled Children in Children's Literature’, at the New Delhi World Book Fair.


We turned 20 and it was Open House at our office! Our family of authors, illustrators, translators and well-wishers trooped in through the day with warm wishes. 

Bhimrao Ambedkar: The Boy Who Asked Why won the Darsana Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Book Production.

We launched the popular bilingual picture book, Tiji and Cheenu at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.

A Bhil Story went back to the Bhils! Children from Rani Kajal Jeevan Shala school, Kakrana village, Madhya Pradesh were delighted to read a book about their own people! 

Our favourite storyteller, Cathy Spagnoli, visited the Tulika Bookstore! This gentle, smiling, spirited and strong lady embodies a storytelling style that is mesmerising, even when she speaks just above a hush!

Mr Sathyanarayanan of Lohit Libraries dropped in. Chief enthusiast in the making of Hambreelmai’s Loom in Mishmi, he never ceases to amaze us with his zeal for getting good books out to children.

Wildlife photographer Bina Kak took her ‘wild’ story, Sultan’s Forest to Bookaroo Jaipur. 

Art educator Vishakha Chanchani conducted an engaging craft session with the multiple award-winning The House That Sonabai Built.

We celebrated World Storytelling Day at JustBooks library, Anna Nagar, Chennai, with a reading of Wings to Fly. With the year’s theme being ‘Strong Women’, this uplifting story was the perfect choice!

With rhythm and rhyme, writer Sandhya Rao chanted, sang and recited poems on World Poetry Day. The children at Redwood Montessori danced to the beat of the drums of Dum Dum Dho!

Our books went LIVE on Worldreader where they’re continued to be read and top the charts in the ‘most read books’ category.

We said ‘Konichiwa’ to the Japanese edition of Who Will Rule?

Our taste bud tantaliser, A Silly Story of Bondapalli, staged by Gillo Gilehri for the first time in Mumbai, played to an overwhelming response!

The popular stand-up book, Home was reprinted in a new avatar.

We launched two e-books, The Why-Why Girl and A Silly Story of Bondapalli on the Juggernaut app.

Australian writer Ken Spillman launched his latest picture book, Clumsy!

Actor Twinkle Khanna, the ambassador for Vidyanjali Yojana, a government scheme to promote reading habits among children picked A Silly Story of Bondapalli for a rollicking read aloud.

Several popular titles were released as multilingual anibooks on YouTube by BookBox. 

Winner of the first Bal Sahitya Puraskar, Just a Train Ride Away, was published in Punjabi!

We created some fabulous handcrafted puppets based on the hit Gajapati Kulapati series.

Spotted at an exhibition by a discerning eye, a striking piece of Warli art, turned into the brilliant book, My Gandhi Story. The same exhibition, Bapu: A Craftperson’s Vision, travelled to Australia, along with the books!

Stephen Huyler’s spectacular photographs of the self-taught artist, Sonabai, in the four-time award-winning The House that Sonabai Built were on display in Columbus, Ohio, USA.

Our engaging Read and Colour Stories were brought back on the shelves.

Film lyricist and Tulika translator Raj Shekhar took two of his books, Pakdo, Pakdo Us Billi Ko and Ruru Raag to Arushi, an NGO in Bhopal, where he recorded the stories for their library. 

Mr Ravi Arora, an IAS officer currently posted at Navsari, Gujarat, conducted a programme to sensitise children towards differently-abled people using the Gujarati edition of Why Are You Afraid To Hold My Hand? 

Illustrator Proiti Roy and animator-filmmaker Nina Sabnani were nominated for the Big Little Book Awards.

Chie Media’s Fundoodaa train of fun got their first lot of Tulika books on board, and you can choo choo choose them in the language you prefer. More anibooks!

The first in our Illustrated Classics series, Our Incredible Cow was nominated for the Crossword Book Awards – Jury Award.

More of our books were published by Oxford University Press, Pakistan. 

Illustrator Krishna Bala Shenoi’s book trailer for Gone Grandmother has been trailblazing the internet. 

Dum Padam Pappadum from the Oluguti Toluguti book of rhymes was published in the Archa Calendar, by the globally renowned International Youth Library in Munich.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

On Gone Grandmother

Author Chatura Rao writes about the launch of Gone Grandmother.

I took Gone Grandmother to the Peek-a-Book Children's Literature Festival that was held in Bandra, Mumbai, on December 10th, 2016. It was my first public reading of this recently-released picture book for 6+ readers.

It is a story about the passing of a beloved grandmother. I hoped the children might respond to it in their characteristic way - with wisdom, humour and empathy. This is not the first tale of loss that I've explored with children. About Grandfathers and Trees is a starkly beautiful story about losing a grandfather, written by my sister Adithi Rao for our short story collection, Growing Up in Pandupur. I've read this story with children at creative writing workshops. They've received it with wonder.

I read out Gone Grandmother at the Peek-a-Book fest, only a little nervous. About forty adults and children had assembled. The children ranged from under-tens to 14-year-olds, the latter from the Allana English School in Kurla.

While I read, a volunteer projected slides showing Krishna Bala Shenoi's vibrant illustrations. The children listened quietly, almost sorrowfully, when I told them how Nina's grandmother - her Nani - had left suddenly one day. They seemed to understand how lonely Nina felt while skipping now that Nani, who used to count her skips, was gone. They giggled at the lists Nina made - Ways to Get to the Stars and Ways to Find God's Home. They appreciated Krishna Shenoi's simple line drawings that accompanied these lists, drawings that they might have made themselves, had they been Nina!

As the story drew to a close, I explained that in nature everything comes to an end: trees wither, rivers empty and dry up, even mountains crumble to dust. True? The children nodded wisely. I was aware that although we were of various religious faiths there in that room, and each religion explains death a little differently from the other, natural science is common to us all.

I explained how I came to write this story: when my grandmother passed away last February, a child in the family had asked her mother where Nani had gone. To the stars, her mother had replied. The little girl wanted to know how that was even possible, given that Nani was no featherweight!

If I could make a story based on a loved one and an incident, couldn't my young readers do it too? Immediately five or six children raised their hands, eager to tell about a favourite person in their lives and what happened ''one time'' with that person.

A little girl called Misha told about her turtle, Mitch, who eats a lot.

Ananya told about her best friend who once drew random circles that Ananya laughed at, but which, surprisingly, grew into a piece of art that their teacher put up for all to see.

One tiny girl took the mic and simply stated that her grandma had died in a car accident before she ever knew her and that her mother hadn't told her any stories about her yet.

Then, bespectacled, shyly smiling Fauzia from Allana English School, stood up. ''I was very close to my grandfather,'' she said slowly. ''He would drink cold water although the doctor had said he should not. I knew about this, though nobody else did. A few hours before he had the heart attack that took him, he drank cold water. I didn't tell anyone...'' A shadow darted across her face.

Are you sorry or glad you didn't tell? I prodded gently.

''A bit of both,'' she replied, smiling a little sadly. ''It was our secret till the end.''

With that line Fauzia's incident became a story for us, her listeners. And perhaps a story to help her begin to make sense of the feelings all mixed up in her.

In the face of loss all we can really do is gather the memories, spread them out and play with them for a time. We reinvent them as stories in the glow of love remembered. The children I met made the shift from memory to story quite easily. Discussing Gone Grandmother with them was truly a special experience, a generous sharing.

I hope Gone Grandmother reaches plenty of small ears, and the pages of this book are marked by many sets of little fingerprints in time to come!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Crow Chronicles 2: Our Cathy Story

Post by Radhika Menon

Cathy Spagnoli and Manu with the team
Cathy Spagnoli’s visit to Tulika a few days ago brought back memories of her wonderful storytelling. I first heard her at The School, KFI, Chennai, probably in the early 80s when I was teaching there. The setting was perfect – Cathy sitting on a chair with a guitar under a banyan tree, with children and teachers on the ground all around her. She started her story in a quiet voice strumming the guitar softly. The audience listened in rapt attention – children, adults and birds alike!

But her toddler son Manu had had enough of sitting quietly while his mother paid no attention to him, so he let out a loud cry. Cathy, without missing a beat, put aside her guitar, put him on her hip and continued with the story! Manu was soon as engrossed as the rest of us.

That was the first time I had listened to a professional storyteller. These days storytelling has become so popular that they have become part of every children’s book event and book festival. Storytellers use every trick from props to movements to songs to dramatisations, much to the delight of children. While I admire the creativity and the energy of these storytellers I also wonder what the children remember at the end of it – the funny sounds, the fun movements, the catchy songs?  After listening to Cathy, it is the story that you carry with you. As she says, for storytelling “all you need is a story, a teller and a listener”. 

Priya's Day
After starting Tulika, I always talked about Cathy’s magical storytelling to Sandhya (Rao). About a year later, in 1997, I think, we heard that Cathy was performing in Dakshinachitra. I couldn't go for some reason but Sandhya did with her six-year-old son Tejas. Both came away enthralled. 

The story Cathy told that day was Priya’s Day, using a sheet of newspaper that seamlessly became a mat, a pestle, a broom, a paper cone with peanuts, grass, butterflies, a string of jasmine, a dosa and a happy face! Sandhya and I had no doubt that Priya’s Day would be our next book.

At the release of that book at the lovely store Manasthala, it was Jeeva (Raghunath) who told the story.  Adapting it in her inimitable style she told Priya’s Day using a newspaper, Cathy-style, and punctuating the story with Tamil film songs, Jeeva-style. 

And that is the story of how Jeeva became Jeeva Aunty the storyteller!

Cathy Spagnoli at the Tulika Bookstore, Chennai