Making reading child’s play

Saturday, 12 January 2013 - 10:05am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Author and publisher Anushka Ravishankar discusses her new book and children’s writing in India.

Anushka Ravishankar started writing for kids, simply because she couldn’t find a suitable book for her daughter. But that was about two decades ago. Now she’s busy juggling two hats as a a writer and a publisher. She strongly believes reading for children should be a fun activity and not necessarily a learning experience. Excerpts from the interview:

What is your latest book about?
The two books: Moin and the Monster and Moin the Monster Songster are about a boy, Moin, who finds a monster under his bed. It’s a slightly mad monster, which sings all the time and likes bananas and makes Moin’s life very difficult.

What’s the response like?
When I read it to kids, they laugh. I think they find it funny.

How difficult is it writing for kids?
It’s no easier or difficult than writing for anyone else, I think. It’s only a question of how easily you can slip into your childhood.

What defines children’s literature in India?
Until now it’s been a lot of mythology, folk tales and didactic stuff, but this is changing. Children’s literature in India is in a state of flux — there are new voices and new genres emerging, and there are exciting times ahead.

How is the market of children’s lit in the country?
It’s still a difficult market — overtly price sensitive, and very westward looking, but we hope this is changing too. There’s a growing breed of discerning parents, teachers and kids looking for good Indian books.

Do writers have a writing schedule, do you follow one?
Some do, some don’t. I don’t. I’m a moody, erratic writer and schedules don’t work well for me. I write furiously when I’m in the mood — otherwise not at all.

What is the best kid’s book you have ever read and why?
There are many, so I should warn you that this answer will vary every time you ask me. Right now I want to say: My Dad’s a Birdman by David Almond. It deals with loss, but it’s funny, poignant and powerful, it tells an unusual story and it has the most wonderful illustrations by Polly Dunbar.

What are some common mistakes writers make while writing for kids?
Writing down — it’s the cardinal sin that writers for children commit. While writing for kids, don’t try to ‘write for kids’. Write for yourself, and if you are enough of a child, it’ll be good for children. If you aren’t maybe you shouldn’t be writing for kids.


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