We at The Book Review have always prided ourselves on the fact that this is one of the very few fora where serious note is taken of books written for children. When The Book Review was started in 1976, let alone reviews, even publishing of children’s books was a very low priority for most publishers. However, we began as we meant to go along, and focus on children’s books we did, as we did on original works published in the Indian languages, right from the first issue. Happily for the entire fraternity of publishers, authors, illustrators, readers and reviewers of children’s books, we have come a long way from the days of low quality publications. Today, we have major publishers of the world setting up their imprints for this genre. The result, we have an embarrassment of riches every year to review in the November issue. We would like to share with our readers that the archival content of the Children’s special issues published since 1976 are available on the Goodbooks/WIPRO website: http://goodbooks.in/reviews/tbr-reviews/results. Or you can go to: goodbooks.in
Putting together an issue covering more than a 100 books every year has meant that we have been watching the evolving trends in both
the publishing for children and the contents thereof. Amazing changes have been happening, genres overlap in the new millennium where
the internet savvy child reader of today seems to catch up with the young adult much more speedily than ever before. And so the distinction
between levels at which the books are targeted are blurring too. The other interesting feature about children’s literature is the way subjects which in an earlier generation were considered not proper to be shared with children are now being handled, sensitively and imaginatively: adoption, divorce, death, trauma and displacement, and so on are brought in to explain to the young reader as realities of life which they
could learn to cope with, instead of being in a ‘dark hole’ or ‘darkeless’ of fear born out of not knowing.
Every year the special issue brings its own joys: discovering new authors, reaching out to the latest from old favourites, and new reviewers as well as those who write for us every year and without whom we could not sustain this venture. The avalanche of books which the office gets flooded with is an eye-opener too. This year we decided to have only four classifications, as the genre is cutting across disciplines. A children’s issue has to look at the state of the art of the discipline of education. And that has turned about to be particularly meaningful this year with the unprecedented challenges the pandemic has suddenly thrown up. The articles and reviews in the first section highlight how both teachers and students are coping against all odds to ensure that it does not turn out to be a zero year for those in schools, colleges and universities.
While we may talk about changes, some things remain the same, and one of them is the fact that epics, mythology and perennial classics
always provide the frame for much creative writing. So what better way to start that section than with that ‘ocean’ of stories, the
Kathasaritsagar, reviewed by Arshia Sattar who has made the genre peculiarly her own? But we also have a young author ‘tweaking a traditional mythological format for the new millennium’ as Subhadra Sengupta puts it. In the section on Knowledge Variants, fact and fiction mingle with a look at books on science, environment, (even yoga gets a look see) and much more. The Young Adult section brings titles to readers by all-time favourites as well as new authors. The last section is of course pure joy with tales of cats and dogs and even crocodiles marching
alongside mischievous protagonists doing their worst, ‘silly or funny or pointless but still excellent reads’, as one of our reviewers puts it.
It must be mentioned here that in the list of established publishers like Tulika, Tara, Eklavya and Pratham, we have a splendid new
entrant, the Ektaara Foundation from Bhopal.
So who says children don’t read any more? This issue will tell you that on the contrary, when you have a young lad reaching out to
Tharoorosaurus! to review it, or a class seven student comments on the concerns the young feel towards global warming and climate change, a little girl puts down her thoughts on how she read up Greek mythology during her enforced lockdown period, you know that the book is a thing of joy which will be forever with us. And the beautiful art on the cover by another teenager crowns it all.
So like Sudha Murty, we dedicate this issue to ‘To all weavers who have spun magical tales over the course of time.’