Bookaroo Kohima

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This was one crazy lit fest. The madness that results when you throw assorted illustrators, performers, writers and musicians into one Tempo Traveller and shake them up really well — as in, for 5 hours non-stop, over crazy roads, between Imphal and Kohima. We emerged at the other end — shaken, stirred, ravenously hungry and somehow all friends. This first trip of mine to the North East was great. Mainly thanks to Swati and Venky who’ve turned Bookaroo into a fine art of arranging non-stop sequences of pure fun.

The kids and volunteers we interacted with were a delight… gentle, warm and once the ice was broken, totally into the spirit of things.

We’ve all returned, and are behaving like we were born and bred in Kohima, endlessly sharing new pictures from the trip and over-analysing the few days we spent there.

Was really lucky to unwrap my new book, ‘The Emperor who vanished’ before an audience for the first time, at Kohima. Also got to share ‘Trapped’ (YA) and Pratham’s ‘Maths at the Mela’ and Karadi Tales’ ‘A Pair of Twins’ with younger readers.

 

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Weird things our ancestors did

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History has somehow gotten more interesting to me as I’ve grown older. I’d wanted to work on a new history/non-fiction title and my editor at Talking Cub, Sudeshna had some cool ideas about what this could be. And last month, the book came out… with the most inviting cover design. A BIG thank you to illustrator Sandhya Prabhat for that.

Emperor_Op2

 

The added flavours of an inter-racial wedding

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Signing on to a writing project like this was a new experience altogether. The occasion was the upcoming wedding in an Indian family settled in the US. And it was not any ordinary wedding. The bride was Gujarati and the groom an American. And the family thought this marrige  would make a good kids story about acceptance and integration in multi-racial America.

mena back cover z

mena cover z

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bride and groom decided they wanted their experience to be pitched to kids aged 8 to 12. So my brief was to turn this real life love story into a book that would interest young readers.

In the process I got to know two families via e-mail as siblings and parents shared their stories with me. I enjoyed the writing and illustrating process thoroughly because the family were completely open to experimenting, giving me total freedom to choose how to tell their story.

So the wedding was on the 28th of April. And this book was shared with guests, somewhat as the ‘return gift’. And now, it is available on Kindle, and soon on Amazon USA. Since the family has been a long-term supporter of Pratham, all proceeds from the sale of this book will go to this NGO working with disadvantaged kids across India.

mena barbeque

mena dance

 

 

‘Twist & Turn, Rock & Roll’ at Bookaroo in Mumbai

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trapped school session, aloo gobi

Doing school visits last year when ‘Trapped’ was launched in Bangalore, was a huge eye-opener. I’d roll up a large plastic sheet and trot off to schools with coloured markers. After reading from chapters in the book, where the teen protagonists Anandita, Arjun and Amit turn all their hassles and worries into songs, I’d invite kids to share their worries on the ‘wall’.

This year, ‘Bookaroo in Mumbai’ has invited me to do just that!

In Bangalore, I’d expected kids to be shy, particularly when the groups involved more than one class, with ‘seniors’ being present. But it turned out quite the opposite! They loved it. And jostled for space in front of the plastic sheet, seniors often being shoved aside by confident juniors who were in no mood to ‘hurry up’ because of those waiting behind them.

kids at trapped wall

Peer pressure, exam-fever, being compared to siblings… all these featured on the wall. Now and then I’d spot a gem like ‘I feel trapped by aloo gobi’ tucked away somewhere! When I asked that young author what she meant, she said, “That’s all that’s ever packed for my lunch…I don’t know how to say that I want something else, once in a way…’ It got a laugh from the crowd, but was sad, too.

The few times I did sessions on two consecutive days, I had to battle Muffin while trying to wipe the plastic sheet clean for the next day’s event. It seemed a lovely game for her, having me on all-fours on the sheet rolled out on the floor.

muffin and wall trappedAnd having used a wet sponge to begin with, meant ‘the wall’ soon had Muffin’s paw prints on it too. Using the curtain rod to clip the sheet on to to try and clean it, was a temporary solution that Muffin felt was ‘cheating’! She protested quite a bit, guarding her ‘wall’ from unnecessary cleaning.

At Bookaroo in Mumbai, this session of inviting kids to attempt verse is called, ‘ Twist & Turn, Rock & Roll’! And I’m looking forward to what kids come up with.

Check out the ‘Bookaroo in Mumbai’ action packed calendar at:  http://www.bookaroo.in/year/

Doodle Walls at ‘Bookaroo in Mumbai’

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There’s nothing like being given a blank canvas to fool around on — for someone who loves doodling. And when that ‘blank canvas’ is an ENTIRE WALL that I get to invite about 70 kids to scribble on, it sounds like a delicious mess! Just hope that’s a sturdy wall… it’s not often that kids are told, ‘Go ahead, sweetie, write on the wall! I will clean up after you…’ It’s usually the other way around.

Thinking about whaeyebrowst quick little tricks I could teach kids, that they could try out immediately, I remembered a comic strip I’d done some years back for a newspaper… it featured an eye-brow-less pair of characters… a tiger and a rat. The speech bubbles were also empty. So kids were invited to write their own dialogues, based on which animals they cast as the hero and villain.  And to add on the eyebrows in ways that matched the character’s mood or what it had said.

I thought I could combine ‘eyebrows’, that are a super-easy way to add expressions to a face, with something tougher — kids often struggle with drawing the limbs of animals. They tend to visualise those four legs like human legs, straight and long. So I thought I’d add a few tips on ‘joints’. My two sessions ‘Eyebrows afriends or enemiesnd Elbows’ on the 22nd of February will start off with a reading from my short story ‘Friends or Enemies’ illustrated by Lavanya Naidu, in the ‘Prankenstein’ (Speaking Tiger) anthology.

Really looking forward to some craziness from the kids.

Check out the action-packed schedule Bookaroo has planned for Mumbai kids at:  http://www.bookaroo.in/year/Funny%20Bunny%20Tales/mumbai/

 

A potential Manual for Mischief-makers?

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Prankenstein_Book of Mischief_Front CoverSpeaking Tiger, a fairly new

publishing house, has just launched

their children’s imprint, Talking

Cub. And they’ve announcing their

arrival, quite fittingly on Childrens’

Day, along with an anthology of

stories picked by Ruskin Bond and

Jerry Pinto. Kids will be pleased that

the theme of the book is pranks!

And the blurb promises a wide

variety of  pranksters.

 

The prankster in my short story  ‘Friends or Enemies?’ is a cat! There she is… above the book title, guarding a big bone.