Do you know what a geomyth is? Or that the first story in the world was written in a place called Ur, and was called the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’? Can you name all the rockets that ISRO has sent into space? This winter, as the evenings turn long and grey, spend your time with these new books that help you broaden your mind. This list contains suggestions for kids of all ages, ranging from four to young adults. Much-loved authors like Subhadra Sen Gupta, J.K. Rowling and Ruskin Bond make an appearance, as do those like Divya Thomas, who encourage kids to think beyond prejudices around physical attributes. From picture books to fantasies with delightful illustrations, this selection has it all.
The Story of the First Civilizations: From Mesopotamia to the Aztecs
This book by Subhadra Sen Gupta, who died of covid-19 earlier this year, covers time and geography to make complex histories accessible, from the Indus Valley to Mesopotamia, Greece, Africa and the Americas. Accompanied by maps and illustrations by Devashish Verma, this must-read answers a host of questions, from how a civilisation is defined, who was the first emperor in the world to what was the first story ever written, and how we evolved from the Big Bang to big cities. Talking Cub, for 10 years and above, 264 pages, ₹499.
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India's Adventures in Space
Did you know a rocket takes 10 minutes to get to space? Or what life in a space capsule is like? This board book has been written by Spoorthy Raman and illustrated by Nirupama Vishwanath. Through the voices of Kailasavadivoo Sivan, ISRO’s chairman, U.R. Rao, ‘the satellite man of India’, and other Indian space heroes, the book takes you on a ride through the satellites and rockets that the country has produced over the years. Especially interesting is the section on life in a space capsule. Juggernaut Books, for 5 years and above, 20 pages, ₹499.
The Little Handbook of Cool Technology
No other period has brought kids in such close touch with technology. And children have taken to it like fish to water. But while they might be using tech for school work or recreation, do they really know how it works? Now, here is a book that demystifies everyday technology for kids. Two young learners, Alia and Copa, take children through the world of Internet, search engines, artificial intelligence and internet of things in a fun, conversational style. The Little Handbook of Cool Technology also touches upon the perils of online exposure. HarperCollins Children’s Books, for 6-12 years, 120 pages, ₹299.
Last Night I Saw a Dream
This beautifully illustrated book offers a great entry point into the works of Rabindranath Tagore. In the poem, the bard paints a topsy-turvy picture of a dancing, swinging and moving Kolkata. This picture book, illustrated by Adrija Ghosh and featuring a translation by Sudeshna Shome Ghosh, will ignite the imagination. Talking Cub, for 6 years and above, 16 pages, ₹250.
The book by Ruskin Bond, illustrated by Priya Dali, takes you back to a simpler time, when people would derive happiness from the smallest of things. A puffing steam engine, a curious young boy and lurking leopards make an appearance. The book carries forward Bond’s enduring fascination with rail journeys, the vibrant characters that populate the train, and the many adventures such sojourns entail. Puffin Books, for 6 years and above, 48 pages, ₹199.
The Christmas Pig
After The Ickabog, published last year, J.K. Rowling is back with another heartwarming tale. This time, it’s about a young boy and his lost toy, Dur Pig. The book takes you on a whirlwind adventure with live toys, a talking lunchbox and brave compass aiding Jack and the fantastical Christmas Pig to find the lost toy pig. The vibrant and vivid text is accompanied by detailed black and white illustrations by Jim Field. Hachette India, fiction for 10 years and above, 320 pages, ₹599.
Tughlaq and the Stolen Sweets
Delhi sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq is furious. Someone has stolen his favourite sugared melons, and there seems to be no way of finding the culprit. Until traveller Ibn Battuta enters the picture. This detective comedy by Natasha Sharma, illustrated by Adrija Ghosh, is part of The History Mysteries series and has been inspired by references to the horse-and-foot postal system in Rihla, Battuta’s travelogue. Duckbill, fiction for 8 years and above, 80 pages, ₹199.
Gods, Giants and the Geography of India
When myths and legends shed light on the geography of a place, they become “geomyths”, a term popularised by geologist Dorothy B. Vitaliano in 1968. So each legend in Nalini Ramachandran’s book, illustrated by Sharanya Kunnath, is accompanied by geographical details: be it of the giant Jambu tree of Jambudvipa, the meteor strike in Lonar, the water kingdom of Loktak, or the land between two rivers in Majuli. “[These stories] also present the diverse landscape of the country. These stories are a unique record of human evolution and cultural beliefs. Most importantly, they call attention to climate change and how the world is slowly disintegrating,” Ramachandran writes in the author’s note. Hachette India, non-fiction for young adults, 280 pages, ₹399.
This is Where We Live
Conceptualised and illustrated by Manjari Chakravarti, this wordless, slow picture book about a day in the lives of two felines, Jugnu and Noori, in Santiniketan shows them observing children going to school, women at work, birds in flight... Then kal baisakhi, a sudden spring storm, turns the day grey and wet. The illustrations are bound to inspire children to create a wordless book of their own. Pratham Books, for 8-12 years, 11 pages, available on Storyweaver.org.in and the estore, ₹55.
I Am So Much More Than The Colour of My Skin
In a country that continues to be obsessed with skin colour, this book is about looking beyond physical attributes. “Whether you’re white, brown or pink, what matters is how you think,” is the premise. Authored by Divya Thomas, who writes on issues that shape young minds, and illustrated by Ruchi Shah, this one is also for the adults who pass on stereotypes and prejudices. HarperCollins Children’s Books, picture book for 4-8 years, 32 pages, ₹299.
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up
It’s a question that has dogged children since time immemorial, with adults waiting to hear the usual answers: doctor, engineer, civil servant. But in this joyous poem by Jerry Pinto, illustrated by Ashok Rajagopalan, the child thinks of the most incredible professions, ranging from a taxi driver, cave explorer and ballet dancer to cabbage farmer, watchmaker and book binder. The book ends with the child saying, “Whatever I’ll be, let me tell you chappy, I plan to be ext-urr-emely happy.” We hear you, kid! (PS: mandatory reading for adults too). Talking Cub, picture book for 6 years and above, 16 pages, ₹ 50.
A young girl, Ammini, wakes up to the sounds of birds and worries that she hasn’t kept her uniform ready. But then she realises that due to the pandemic, she doesn’t have to go to school. As Ammini and her younger brother, Unni, settle down to a breakfast of idlis, they remember their favourite aunt, a nurse, who hasn’t come home for weeks now. They miss walks, playing in the park and going to school. This book by Shweta Ganesh Kumar, illustrated by Annada Menon, looks at the life of two children in the time of lockdowns and social distancing. Pratham Books, fiction for 10 years and above, 16 pages, available on Storyweaver.org.in and the estore, ₹50.