On November 14, celebrated in India as Children’s Day, Juggernaut launched its new imprint for children’s books with an impressive list of authors. Called Juggernaut Kids, the four titles are picture books - The Big Thoughts of Little Luv (written by Karan Johar and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan) and Hungry Sky Monster (written by Rohini Nilekani and illustrated by Megha Punater), nonfiction Kohinoor: Story of the World’s Infamous Diamond (written by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand with Devika Cariapa), and mythology Mahabharata for Kids (written by Arshia Sattar and illustrated by Sonali Zohra).
Speaking to TNM, Chiki Sarkar, the co-founder and publisher of Juggernaut, says that children’s books sales is possibly the biggest growth area in Indian publishing at present. And not just that, it’s also the one category that has grown through the coronavirus lockdown.
“We are so excited by the list. For young readers-2-5 year olds, we have two wonderful picture books. Rohini Nilekani’s is a magical bedtime story that also teaches the child about the waxing and waning of the moon. Karan Johar’s book is a very cute story about a pair of twins, Luv and Kusha, and looks at the way we impose a lot of gendered expectations on our boys. I have experienced this first hand with my eldest boy. I was told, for example, not to buy him a kitchen set. But remember kids don’t care about themes, parents do! I am hoping the kids will love the beautiful illustrations - by Priya Kuriyan and Megha Punater - and the fun,” says Chiki.
“For the older reader we have an outstanding Mahabharata by the renowned writer and scholar Arshia Sattar. It is the deepest and also most classic version, as close to the Sanskrit original, and infused with beauty. We think Arshia’s mythology for children are the best introduction your child can have to these epics. But they are also books you will love reading. This book has moved me I think more than any book on Juggernaut’s list this year. Lastly we felt it was time kids got a special and fun history book by William Dalrymple and we worked with the brilliant Devika Cariapa to adapt his bestselling Kohinoor written with Anita Anand for 10 years plus kids. It’s just a sparkling, fun book,” she adds.
While there is a wide variety of books being published for children in India today, with many indie publishers consciously bringing in diverse themes, the popular authors on bookshop shelves for children’s literature continue to be Western writers.
Devika Cariapa, who did the adaptation of Kohinoor, says, “There are so many great children’s authors and world class publishers in India and the market for children’s books is enormous. And yet, most parents and children seem unaware of Indian authors while bookshops are flooded with staple titles from the West. Things are changing slowly with more exposure, parenting websites and literary festivals that feature children’s sections. But we do need more awards, good translations of regional literature, reviews and the recognition that children’s literature is an important genre in itself.”
The adult view of children’s books in India continues to be defined by words such as information, knowledge and morals. However, there is so much more that a young reader can take away from literature.
According to Devika, “A good children’s book must be so rich, layered and exciting that the reader will have a hard time putting it down. It should challenge her and change the way she views the world.”
Rohini Nilekani, whose book Hungry Sky Monster was originally written for her grandson, says that writing for children is challenging.
“A good children’s book must make the child come back to the book again and again. It should have something new and fresh for the child to learn and understand. Ideally, it should unleash a child’s imagination too. It is not at all easy to do all this. Writing for children is very tough. In my book I have tried to be creative and create a new fable about the waxing and waning of the moon, which children all over the world are always curious about,” she says.
The pandemic has not been kind to the publishing industry. Chiki says that print sales are down between 30-50% on new titles, and brick and mortar shops are yet to pick up. And though digital sales have gone up, it hasn’t made up for the loss of print sales. However, with their exciting new list, Juggernaut is confident about expanding their reach to younger readers.
In the coming days, Juggernaut Kids will also launch Tony Joseph’s children’s edition of Early Indians, a series of picture books by Nobel Prize winner Esther Dufflo and two new series: Learn about India, illustrated nonfiction titles for children between the ages of 5-10 years, and My Indian Baby Books, which are board books for very young kids.