The Neev Literature Festival, which celebrates writing for children rooted in Indian realities, announced the winners of the Neev Book Award 2021 on Saturday.
The award ceremony was conducted digitally due to the covid-19 pandemic and inaugurated by author Ruskin Bond. The winners this year in the various categories include: Vinitha R for Ammu and the Sparrows (in the Early years category); Nandita da Cunha for The Miracle of Sunderbaag Street (Emerging Readers); Devika Cariapa, William Dalrymple, Anita Anand for The Adventures of the Kohinoor (Junior Readers); and Devashish Makhija for Oonga (Young Adult).
True to the intentions of the award, the jury—consisting of writers, educators, librarians and teachers—have picked a diversity of books that address themes across the board. From parental discord in Vinitha R's story to environmental issues in Nandita da Cunha's work to the wondrous adventures of the world's greatest diamond in Devika Cariapa, William Dalrymple and Anita Anand's book to Devashish Makhija's close look at life in the tribal communities, the choices reflect the diversity that India's children's book publisher are bringing to the table especially since the last few years.
The award includes a cash prize of ₹1 lakh for each of the winners and a citation. “The Neev Book Award began in 2017 to find great Indian children's books, and even in the last four years the stories have rapidly moved beyond the traditional themes of adventure, mythology and nostalgia,” said Kavita Gupta-Sabharwal, the co-founder and curator of the festival.
In its statement, the jury praised the award for aiming to “raise awareness nationally and globally about original, distinguished children’s literature from India and its diaspora”. It is a platform to “discover voices with fresh, different and yet relatable perspectives. It promotes children’s books with Indian characters and settings so that children can see aspects of themselves and their world reflected in the literature they read,” the jury said.
Ruskin Bond, who spoke at the outset, mentioned his abiding love of India stemming from his reading of the works of Rabindranath Tagore. It was one of the catalysts for him to return to live in the country, where he has enjoyed a flourishing writing career spanning over 70 years like no other author.