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This is not your usual summer reading list

This summer, why not give a mix of the old and the new reads to your kids? When you pass on old books to children, you don’t just gift a story but a memory, a piece of family history as well

You can organise reading playdates for children with a mix of old and new books. Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO
You can organise reading playdates for children with a mix of old and new books. Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO

I was around 12, and insanely bored during the summer break. So, I decided to scurry around the house and scrummage through trunks that had been lying under the bed. That’s when I stumbled upon treasure—my father’s books from his childhood, all neatly wrapped, with not a page sticking out. Clearly, over the years, he had taken them out, aired them and lovingly put them back.

This often happens with family—since you live with them 24x7, there are aspects you get used to, qualities that you glaze over, and some things you just never bother finding out about. These books gave me a chance to connect the dots between my father’s childhood and adulthood. There were a couple of Archies’ comics tucked away. As someone who devoured the Jughead, Betty and Veronica double digests, I was pleasantly surprised. Was my dad ever cool like us?

There was a much thumbed copy of Alice In Wonderland, with gorgeous illustrations by John Tenniel. Just beneath it was a 1960, all-colour My Book Of Snow-White And The Seven Dwarfs, published by Fratelli Fabbri, Milan, with text by Odhams Press Ltd, London. Besides the lovely pictures by Nardini, I found a stray paper with a sketch by my father. I had no idea he used to sketch and draw from childhood to his early 20s.

The other half of the trunk was full of mystery books, with several old Agatha Christie titles. Right on top was Ten Little Niggers, now retitled (rightly so) as And Then There Were None. I was overjoyed to know he was an avid enthusiast of mysteries like me. I had been looking to graduate from Enid Blyton detective stories to something else and Agatha Christie seemed like the perfect choice.

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Armed with these books, I marched up to my father, interrogating him about their reading choices and why he had never shared them with me. Together, we pored over the books, with my father recounting old memories and I making new ones. Today, this two-generation-old love for mysteries has passed on to my daughter, with these books now part of her library. The three of us discuss Agatha Christie and Lewis Carroll together.

This summer, why not give a mix of the old and new to your children? When you pass on old books to children, you don’t just gift a story but a memory, a piece of family history. While my daughter gets her love for detective novels from my father, the interest in mythology and history perhaps comes from me. My childhood collection of the Mahabharata series by Dreamland Publications and the 1988-impression of Tales Of Akbar And Birbal by Hemkunt Press now stand proudly on her bookshelf. She brings a new element to the library in the form of fantasy and dystopia—ranging from the pre-teen staple of Percy Jackson to Keeper Of The Lost Cities, The Hobbit, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, the Wings Of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland.

Let children scrummage through any of your old books, be it science journals, comics, old magazine snippets, atlases, Russian fairy tales or folk tales in regional scripts. The vacations can be a great period of discovery, of reconnecting the past with the present.

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The ‘Lounge’ list comprises a mix of adventures, thrillers, mysteries, and more
The ‘Lounge’ list comprises a mix of adventures, thrillers, mysteries, and more

I have often heard parents complain that their children don’t read the classics—both Indian and international. Why not rummage through your books to find an old copy or, if you don’t have one, borrow from friends or from a community library? Talk to your children about how you felt when you first read those books. Or even how you got the book—did you have a favourite second- hand bookshop, a public library, or did you buy it while travelling on a train or plane? There is no better way to create family time around reading than sharing stories about stories.

And if you want to throw in a mix of contemporary titles, you may want to go through this list Lounge has curated for you.

The Sun And The Star:

This is the latest by Rick Riordian, the man behind the popular Percy Jackson series, co-authored by Mark Oshiro. Published by Puffin, this book takes readers, aged 9-17, into the world of Olympians yet again, complete with ominous prophecies, an exciting quest and dark secrets.

Sherlock Holmes: Escape Room Puzzles:

If your children are in the 8-13 age group, you must have been plagued with requests to take them to mystery rooms, which seem to be the latest fad. Now, they can exercise those grey cells at home with this book of interactive cases, which allows them to puzzle their way out of 10 rooms or challenges. A part of the Welbeck Publishing Group, London, and brought to readers here by HarperCollins Publishers India, this engaging book has been authored by James Hamer-Horton, creator of Deadlocked Escape Rooms.

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When The Sea Turned To Silver:

This is a slightly older book, first published in 2016. But I strongly recommend this fantasy adventure for middle-graders. Published by Hachette Book Group, this story by Grace Lin is partly inspired by her travels to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei. It revolves around Pinmei’s journey to rescue her grandmother, an avid storyteller, who has been kidnapped by the emperor’s soldiers.

The ‘Explorer Academy’ series:

If you haven’t introduced your children to this set of seven books—the latest, The Forbidden Island, published last October —this summer break would be an ideal time. The fiction series aimed at children aged 8-12 is inspired by the real adventures and explorations of the National Geographic Society. The books offer a hearty dose of adventure and knowledge.

The ‘All About’ series:

Published by Pratham Books and authored by Rohan Dahotre, a Pune, Maharashtra-based illustrator and wildlife enthusiast, this series offers a beautiful glimpse into the world of birds and animals such as snow leopards, Kodiak bears and crab-eater seals. Aimed at very young children, who can read new words with help, this set of three books—All About Beaks, All About Teeth and All About Claws is a perfect family read.

Akbar And Birbal—The Finest Stories Of The Emperor And His Wise Wazir:

If you have grown up on the humorous stories of Akbar and Birbal and wish to introduce your children to these, then try this one by Delshad Karanjia. Published by Rupa Publications’ children’s imprint, Moonstone, for those aged 8-12, this book features a delightful retelling of 39 of the best tales featuring the duo.

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Our Beautiful World:

We live in a beautiful world and yet we are bent on destroying it. This exquisite book, authored by my Lounge colleague, Bibek Bhattacharya, and illustrated by Joanna Davala looks at the monster humans have created in the last 250 years—climate change. This level 4 read by Pratham Books—for those who can read with confidence—takes on a complex topic and makes it engaging for young readers.

A Day With Exceptional Visionaries:

Published by Moonstone, this is an inspiring read that offers a rendezvous with inspiring individuals who have had a deep impact on the world and continue to inspire generations—be it Bill Gates, The Beatles or Walt Disney.

Goldiboy And The Three Apes:

This book, authored by Ashiish V. Patil and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, turns a popular fairy tale on its head. This one is about Goldiboy, an “isspeshal” child, and his three friends—Papa Ape, Mama Ape and Baby Ape. This heartwarming tale, aimed at readers four years and above, creates awareness about neurodiversity and autism.

Nikhil Out Loud:

The book by Maulik Pancholy, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, addresses a lot of the fears children feel but find it hard to articulate—taking care of a sick grandparent, moving to a new town. The book is about 13-year-old Nikhil Shah, the voice actor for the animated character, Raj Reddy, who has to move to a new town. He lands up as a lead in the school musical but realises he has stage fright. “And when a group of conservative parents start to protest against having an openly gay actor in the starring role, Nikhil feels like his life would be easier if only he could be Raj Reddy full-time,” states the publisher’s note.

Trunk Call For Ajju:

This sensitive story revolves around Ajay Kumaraswamy, or Ajju, who keeps getting into trouble with his parents and Kini Maasi. However, things change when his Maasi shares a story about Molly, a hurt baby elephant in Zimbabwe, and Ajju helps raise funds for her. This book by Anjana Nagabhushana, published by Puffin India, and aimed at readers aged seven and above, is based on a true story and offers a heartwarming take on animal-human connections.

The Treasure Of The Khasi Hills:

This thrilling adventure, written decades ago in Bengali by Hemendra Kumar Roy, has now been translated for the first time by Jashodhara Chakraborti. This juvenile fiction book by Talking Cub is a classic treasure hunt, full of ciphers and clues, set in the Khasi Hills. It all starts when Kumar finds a skull with carvings in his late grandfather’s possessions.

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