Actor Soha Ali Khan launched the Parag Honour List (PHL) 2021, curated by the Parag Initiative of Tata Trusts, on Saturday. The list, which is put together in consultation with experts from across the industry, features the best of fiction, non-fiction and poetry for young readers (children, teenagers and young adults), published between October 2019 and September 2020 in in Hindi and English.
"For us, this is not only a brand-building exercise but also one in advocacy," says Swaha Sahoo, head of Parag Initiative. "It's our attempt to answer that oft-asked question, 'What are the goods book for children in the Indian context?'"
Two years ago, Sahoo was impressed by a visit to Frankfurt Book Fair, especially the buzz that's built to promote and disseminate books for young readers. Last year, Parag launched PHL at the World Book Fair in Delhi to enable easy access to, and visibility of, the best in Indian publishing.
The impact was immediately palpable, as members of Parag began handing out the list. printed in A4 sheets of paper, at the children's pavilion. "I could already see children, parents and educators, for whom this list is intended, ticking off titles, then heading over to the stalls to look for the ones that interest them." Soon after, Parag also sent out 90 PHL book boxes to community libraries and smaller schools, based on need-based applications.
This year, the pandemic has somewhat curbed the outreach programmes but events and promotions on social media are planned ahead. The 35-odd books picked by the jury attest to the diversity and production quality that children's publishing is already seeing in India. "The PHL sets a benchmark for excellence, while pushing the bar," says Sahoo.
Parag also bestows the annual Big Little Book Award, which includes a cash prize of ₹5 lakhs, and recognises outstanding talent among children's writers and illustrators working in different Indian languages. PHL, too, plans to take into account books published in more languages in the future.
The Hindi list
Kya Tum Ho Meri Daadi? by Sonika Deshpande (Jugnoo Prakashan)
Jungle Kiska by Samita Uika (Muskaan)
Taarik ka Suraj by Shashi Sablok (Jugnoo Prakashan)
Mitti by Madhu Dhruve (Muskaan)
School Mein Humne Seekha Aur Sikhaya by Nikeeta Dhruve (Muskaan)
Chaar Cheetiyaan by Shyam Sushil (Eklavya)
Godam by Vinod Kumar Shukl (Jugnoo Prakashan)
Tees ki Murgi Bees Mein by Sankalan (Eklavya)
Bhool Bhulaiya by Sankalan (Eklavya)
Tum Bhi Aana by Naveen Sagar (Jugnoo Prakashan)
Bhai Tu Aisi Kavita Kyun Karta Hai? by Sushil Shukl (Jugnoo Prakashan)
Mera Khachhar Danda Hai by Sankalan (Eklavya)
Ek Chor Ki Chaudah Raatein by Arun Kamal (Jugnoo Prakashan)
Pehli Udaan by Amit Kumar (Jugnoo Prakashan)
Hawa Mithaai by Arun Kamal (Jugnoo Prakashan)
A Saree for Ammi by Mamta Nainy (Tulika Publishers)
Ammachi's Incredible Investigation by Vinayak Varma (Pratham Books)
Bombay Ducks, Bombay Docks by Fleur D’Souza (Pratham Books)
Tail Tale by Anushka Ravishankar (Tara Books)
The Laddoo Code by Saksham Arora (Pratham Books)
The Miracle on Sunderbaag Street by Nandita Da Cunha (Kalpavriksh)
Zakir and His Tabla: Dha Dhin Na by Sandhya Rao (Tulika Publishers)
Friends Behind Walls by Harshikaa Udasi (Puffin Books, Penguin Random House India)
Mini's Questions by Nandini Nayar (HarperCollins Publishers India)
My Daddy and the Well by Jerry Pinto (Duckbill Books, Penguin Random House India)
Nadya by Debasmita Dasgupta (Scholastic India Pvt Ltd)
The Piano: Story of a Friendship by Nandita Basu (Duckbill Books, Penguin Random House India)
Who's There? by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar (Duckbill Books, Penguin Random House India)
Girl Power by Neha J. Hiranandani (Scholastic India Pvt Ltd)
The Swan Car of Nabha and other Unusual Stories from History by Live History India (HarperCollins Publishers India)
Journey to the Forbidden City by Deepa Agarwal (Puffin Books, Penguin Random House India)
Queen of Earth by Devika Rangachari (Duckbill Books, Penguin Random House India)
Candid Tales – India on a Motorcycle by Adithi Rao (HarperCollins Publishers India)
Unearthed – An Environmental History of Independent India by Meghaa Gupta (Puffin Books, Penguin Random House India)
First Katha Book of Haiku, Senryu, Tanka and Haibun by Various Poets (Katha)