Children’s Day Special: Seven books set in South India that are a must on young adult book shelves

Here's a list of vibrant and wide-ranging childhood experiences from Penguin that make for an impactful read.

BySF Features Desk

Published Nov 14, 2023 | 11:00 AMUpdatedNov 14, 2023 | 11:00 AM

Children's Day is the perfect time to add some educative and empowering books to the shelves of young readers

Children’s Day is the perfect time to add some educative and empowering books to the shelves of young readers. Children’s books are doorways to delight, information, engagement, and empathy.

Addressing class disparity and friendship to gender identity and bullying, here’s a list of vibrant and wide-ranging childhood experiences from Penguin India that make for an impactful read.

1. Wet Paint by Asha Nehemiah; Ages 5-7 years

Dr Nesamani is getting a mural painted in her newly constructed hospital, in a small town in Nilgiris.

Aman is to paint the wall. Sevana has been hired to smoothen it before he can work on it. What transpires in between makes up for the story of this winning read.

Chetan Sharma’s illustrations and comic touches are guaranteed to draw laughter on every page as parent and child bond over the book.

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2. The Big Bad Fight by Yamini Vijayan; Ages 5+ years

Drop by the scenic town in Kerala created by Kruttika Susarla to meet Anna and Kichu — two best friends who had a big bad fight.

When Anna upsets the snakes and ladders board after losing badly, Kichu takes off on her resulting in pinching and other mean things that kids say and do when they fight. How do Anna and Kichu make up? Find out with Yamini Vijayan’s debut book.

Also Read: Reading communities in Kochi redefine ‘silent reading

3. Chitti’s Travelling Book Box by Kavitha Punniyamurthi; Ages 7+ years

This is the story of Chitti who realises that the old junk tractor that her father has abandoned is the perfect place to set up her library of books. These are book that she received from her Madras mama-maami.

Her friends–Muthu, Chokka and Lachu–aren’t too enthused about this new library, but they too get bit by the reading bug thanks to Chitti’s efforts. When news of a potential buyer reaches her ears, Chitti must quickly rally her friends to keep the library running.

Also Read: These six books echo the freedom struggle in South India

4. Kolam Kanna by Vibha Batra; Age 8+ years

What happens when a young boy, an ‘outsider’, wishes to participate in a ‘ladies only’ Kolam Kondattam contest?

Drama and more drama! This chapter book captures the adventures of Bharathi when he decides to participate in a contest organised only for the residents of Pravin Paradiso Apartments.

This story sheds light on the existing class disparity within our society.

Through Bharathi’s journey, children will witness the power of embracing diversity, cultivating empathy towards individuals from different backgrounds, supporting their friends, and standing up for what is just and fair.

Also Read: The renaissance of India’s regional cuisines via community cookbooks

5. Dakshin: South Indian Myths and Fables Retold by Nitin Kushalappa MP; Ages 9+ years

Passed down through several generations in south of India, Dakshin is a collection of 15 oral folktales. If you grew up on stories from Amar Chitra Katha, then these stories will also also tickle your nostalgia!

There are hunters and animals that speak, there are kings and cunning wizards –– all imbued with hidden proverbs that makes these tales immortal.

Nitin recounts the more popular ones such as ‘The tale of Bala Nagamma and the Evil Sorcerer’. Then there are the more obscure ones such as ‘The Giant Red Kangaroo, The Queen and the Hunter’ about a kangaroo that could jump to the moon and back.

Five of the stories were originally written in Kodava, an endangered Dravidian language. There are also stories with roots in Tamizh, Malayalam, Telugu, and one from the region of Odisha, since it borders Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

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6. The Misadventures of a Diamond Thief by Lubaina Bandukwala; Ages 9 and above

15th-Century Hyderabad, a clan of time-travelling thieving djinns and the Shah-i-noor. What do they have in common? This light-hearted and breezy read will take you to Haiderabad. The story is set in a time when the Char Minar was being built.

Meet Sahabzada Hawa Singh Rafu Chakkar (Rafu), a descendant of the legendary Time-Travelling, Thieving Djinns. Rafu wants to abandon the family tradition of stealing jewels to pursue his true passion—cooking. The king of djinns tasks him with a mission to steal the Shah-i-Noor diamond in the newly built city of Haiderabad. Rafu has no choice but to reluctantly accept.

His secret agenda? The diamond is his ticket to his dream.

Also Read: ‘Namma Bangalore’ is a handy guidebook if you have just moved into Bengaluru

7. Bipathu and a Very Big Dream by Anita Nair; Ages 9+ years

The book is set in the same village as Anita Nair’s classic The Better Man, Bipathu and The Very Big Dream. It introduces you to a girl, who stands up for herself and those around her. She does this without losing sight of her responsibilities and limitations.

If there’s anything Bipathu wants is to fulfil her dream of playing football. Despite the discouragement from her immediate surroundings, she finds allies along her way and her fears of rejection unfounded.

Despite addressing themes like gender stereotypes, bullying, economic disparity, the novel carries the unsullied innocence of Malgudi Days.

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