A Chatterbox Reading List
Art by Deepty Victor
Five-year old Mini is filled with questions and when she meets the Kabuliwala, she holds no restraint. Unlike the other children in the neighbourhood who are scared of the Kabuliwala because of his unfamiliar appearance characterised by a long beard and a huge bag, Mini goes on to befriend the man without inhibitions. Rabindranath Tagore’s heart-wrenching tale has been adapted multiple times across various languages and mediums as Mini continues to win hearts every time.
Set in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, author Marjane Satrapi records young Marji’s journey into adulthood as she struggles with changing times, the sudden loss of freedom in every aspect of her life ranging from her sartorial choices to her choice in music, her eventual fleeing of the country as a child, her tumultuous adolescence in a foreign country and her subsequent return to Iran. Marji’s story is one of resistance and is dotted with little acts of rebellion as Marji almost blatantly asserts her choices in the face of religious repression and state censorship.
3. Mayil Will Not Be Quiet
This award-winning book features a twelve year old garrulous little Mayil Ganeshan stepping into teenage with her head ripe with questions and confusions that young adolescents are faced with. Mayil questions the gender stereotyping that has permeated the cultural texts ranging from the ancient stories of Ramayana to the rather recent movies of Rajnikant. Mayil’s diary lays bare the mind of a young girl child who pours her heart out as she scribbles in her diary in the absence of any overhauling censorship. The subsequent books in the Mayil series co-authored by Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendra just keep on getting better.
4. The Why-Why Girl
Mahashweta Devi’s book is an insightful comment on the necessity of elementary education and Moyna becomes her mouthpiece raising questions on the right to primary education among marginalised communities. Moyna, who belongs to the community of the Shabars or landless tribals, transgresses societal boundaries both in terms of space and in terms of speech. Much to her mother’s horror, she refuses to move out of the author-narrator’s hut, saying, ‘Why not/ its a big hut. How much space does one old woman need/’ She wonders, ‘Why shouldn’t i study too/’ Moyna’s questions lead her to claim her right to education. She goes to school, claims her right to education and acquires the same.
5. Dear Mrs. Naidu
Twelve year old Sarojini begins to feel alienated from her best friend Amir when the latter moves out of the slum and joins a posh private school. Having learnt about the Right to Education, Sarojini hopes either to secure a seat at Amir’s private school or to convince Amir to come back to her new and improved government school. With the help of a human rights lawyer named Vimala and the long-dead freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu who becomes her pen-pal, the young Sarojini learns to fight for her friendship, her family and her future.
6. Half The Field is Mine
Any discussion on children’s role in reclaiming spaces demands special mention of Swati Sengupta’s book where two girls, Oli and Champa, not only play a contact sport like football during their adolescence, but also respond in their drastic but fiercely individual ways when they are debarred from playing the district football tournament with the boys. Sengupta’s book is a brilliant transgression of class boundaries and gender roles.
7. I Will Save My Land
After considerable pestering, young Mati gets her own plot of land from her father, only to find out that a coal mine is encroaching upon her village to eat her land like it had done in the neighbouring village. The story sheds light upon a problem that continues to plague tribal Chattisgarh. The resilience offered by the powerful female figures, Mati and Ajji, coupled with the gripping narrative by Rinchin and the skilful illustrations by Sagar Kolwankar, promise a delightful reading experience.
8. Today is My Day
Always told what to do by the elders of her family, a young Tala decides to reclaim one day of her life from the parental tyranny that otherwise characterises her everyday life. This little girl plots revenge. In this humorously wicked tale, Anushka Ravishankar allows the good little girl to be deviously naughty for one whole day and, in the process, brings alive a character that every other child would relate to.
9. Mini’s Questions
The second book in the ‘Mini’ series by author Nandini Nayar, centres around a five year old girl who asks questions and is encouraged to do so by her teacher. Initially deemed to be a child’s blabber, these questions take on a life of their own and that is when the family realizes the significance of these questions.
10. No. 9 On The Shade Card
In a country where skin colour continues to define the standards of beauty, Kavitha Mandana’s book comes as an entertaining read. The unnamed narrator is caught between her passion for sports and her grandmother’s obsessive fear of the narrator getting darker from all that running under the sun. The narrator decides to forgo all fears of getting tan and makes a decisive choice of working to win the Sports Federation scholarship.
Author: Sampriti Bhattacharya
Artist: Deepty Victor
Sampriti Bhattacharya is currently a final year postgraduate student in the Department of English, Presidency University.
Born and brought up in Patna, Bihar, Deepty Victor completed her graduate studies from Patna Women’s College and is an M.A in English (IGNOU), Education (Ambedkar University Delhi) and Fine Arts Painting (Pracheen Kala Kendra). Her interests lie in education, research, illustration, storytelling (national and international) and creative writing. She is an artist, teacher, storyteller, researcher, lecturer and has published several research papers and articles in the field of literature and education. She is also a part of the First Readers Group initiated by the students of Ambedkar University, Delhi. She founded 'Colourful Story Mind', where she performed as a storyteller. She has also published several story books for children