Sanya Podar fell in love with books as a child. So, when she grew up, she decided to set up a platform that would inspire young people to read. “I wasn’t merely interested in writing and publishing,” says the 28-year-old on the phone from Mumbai, where she is based. “I wanted to create a ‘think tank’ for children, a spring board for ideas.”
The result is Daffodil Lane Books, the newest entrant into the already crowded market for children’s publishing in India. Two weeks before it was due to launch, India went into the lockdown, throwing businesses into a tizzy. Yet, ironically, the weeks that followed proved to be a boon for children’s publishers. Stuck at home, attending school on video conference, cut off from the rough and tumble of playgrounds, children had to be weaned off screens. Could there be any better antidote than beautiful books?
Daffodil Lane Books, with its launch list of four gorgeous picture books, may be just the gift you want to send a toddler’s way this festive season—and not least as a welcome distraction from the pandemic of screen addiction. Adult readers, too, may find themselves susceptible to the charms of Urvashi Dubey’s illustrations and the poignant simplicity of David Howlett’s stories. There’s even an “adventure sticker book” in the catalogue to keep little hands and minds busy.
Daffodil Lane Books is a boutique indie project in every sense—even the name is inspired by Podar’s nickname, given to her by her father, “Little Daffodil”. Run by a small team and owned by the parent company Podar Education Network, its aim is to promote storytelling with a difference. “We give close attention to each manuscript we work with,” Podar says, “and we are open to working with a wide pool of young illustrators, upcoming talent, as well as established writers.” The paper used for production is ethically sourced and recycled. By making such choices Daffodil Lane Books hopes to stand out in the melee of big corporate competitors.
All four books have animals as their protagonists, though the issues and concerns they raise are intimately tied to all our lives. An endearing chicken called Patrick suffers from low self-esteem, in spite of the love and reassurance of his mother and friends. It takes a peculiar turn of events for Patrick to learn to value himself. In another story, Lana the rabbit tries her best to hammer in the virtues of upcycling into a wicked wolf’s head. But the latter doesn’t realize his folly until he has managed to cut off all the trees of in his wood. In spite of this sorry state of affairs, the tale comes to a satisfying close.
“We want to talk about the environment, climate change, and big ideas to children,” says Podar. “While we appreciate the importance of setting the stories in a context that is local and easily relatable, we also believe in exposing children to ideas that are universal.” In the next few weeks, Chiki Sarkar’s Juggernaut Books is also launching its children’s imprint. With so much exciting new reading material coming their way, children have much to look forward to in the coming days. As do their parents and minders, at their wits’ end to keep their wards entertained.