The Indian publishing scene has evolved a lot since we were children. Most Indian books I remember reading in my childhood were on Indian mythology or laden with morals. But India has rich storytelling traditions, history spanning millennia, innumerable art styles and no dearth of diversity. These precious culture artefacts were waiting to be turned into quality literature for children, that can be enjoyed across the world. Thanks to the tireless efforts of homegrown publishers like Karadi Tales, Pratham and Tulika in the last couple of decades, our children can read about characters who look like themselves in contexts they can relate to. Here are some Indian publishing houses who are committed to exposing our children to diverse and excellent storytelling.
- Pickle Yolk Books: A Delhi-based independent publishing house that publishes mostly picture books, Pickle Yolk’s books are known for their underlying humour and relatable themes in Indian settings, tackling familiar dilemmas in early childhood. Some well-loved books from the presses of Pickle Yolk include topics and themes such as a child’s embarrassment of a dhoti-clad grandparent coming to school, fighting against gender stereotypes and a young protagonist with a visual disability, who navigates the busy streets of Kolkata to get his grandmother to cook his sick father’s favourite fish curry.
- Ektara: This Bhopal-based publishing house is part of a larger centre for children’s literature and art, dedicated to publishing unique books in Hindi in topics as diverse as nature, art and science. The founders of Ektara believe very strongly in speaking to children as equals and shunning instruction-based narratives. Some of their award-winning books use creative literary techniques like poetry and dialogue.
- Tara books: Founded 25 years ago, this small Chennai-based publishing house has made it its trademark to create mind blowingly aesthetic and beautiful looking books. While it publishes books for adults as well, its children’s books are special creations, always incorporating indigenous art traditions including Patachitra, Patua and Warli. Remote artisan communities are involved in the illustration and design of the books. But the illustrations are also complemented by sensitive and deep storytelling, even for the youngest children. Tara is also very creative about the book as a material itself- experimenting with books opening like maps or spreading them out around the reader. Some of its most evocative books include an account of a young girl’s visit to the market, a number book with gond tribal art, a narrative about a tiger who wanders into a village and a joyfully told tale that touches upon themes like adoption, loss and integration.
- Young Zubaan: The children’s wing of a Delhi-based independent feminist publishing house, Zubaan, Young Zubaan publishes picture books as well as middle-grade fiction, using contemporary, thought provoking narratives helping the youngest readers to be cognizant of gender inequality in society, while regaling them with entertaining storylines. In the past few years, it has made its mark by producing excellent chapter books for the pre-teen and teen age group. A few of its titles that you’d love to read include Dear Mrs. Naidu, The Misfits and picture books like The Poori that ran away.