‘When I Write For Kids, I’m Essentially Writing For Myself’

Do you have books by Anushka Ravishankar in your school library? No, she’s not the daughter of Pandit Ravi Shankar! And if you don’t have her books in your library, you don’t know what you’re missing out on.

Known for her versatility and flair to write nonsense verse, Anushka Ravishankar – an award-winning children’s author – has written more than 25 books, many of which have been translated into several languages. Some of her popular books are Moin and the Monster (Duckbill), Excuse Me, Is This India? (Tara Books) and The Rumour (Karadi Tales). She is also the co-founder of Duckbill, a wonderful publishing house for children and young adults.

In a short interview with Hippocampus, she offers ideas on promoting reading, recommends lovely children’s books and fiercely guards her secret cure to a writer’s block. Excerpts from the interview with Anushka Ravishankar:

What inspires you to write for children?

That’s a difficult question to answer. Maybe because I liked being a kid, and never quite gave it up. Maybe because when writing for kids I can be funny, silly and playful. The fact is that when I write for kids, I’m essentially writing for myself!

Tell us about a book that you loved as a child and that you revisit even today.

All the William books by Richmal Crompton!

What are three effective ways in which schools can promote reading for joy? 

Effective promotion of joy is a bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it? As adults, in school or at home or in libraries, all we can do is surround children with lovely books, and hope that they discover the joy for themselves. Give them time to wander among books, do readings from books, perhaps, so that the reluctant readers have a chance to see what fun books can be … most importantly, let them choose. I find half the problem is when children are forced to read books that they’re not excited by.

Name three contemporary authors who you feel children should be introduced to.

Hilary McKay, David Almond, Frances Hardinge!

Which are five books that every school library must own?

Hmm, five are too few, but here you go: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, All the Dr Seusses (more than five, sorry!), Skellig by David Almond, A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge, Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay

What do you usually do when you experience writer’s block?

Stop writing! Really, I’ve never found the solution, and if someone does, they should bottle it and sell it.

If you could become any book character for a day, who would you choose to be?

This one is from a young adult (almost adult) book: Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird. One of my all-time favourite characters from an all-time favourite book.

How do you respond when people ask if you are Pandit Ravi Shankar’s daughter? Don’t tell us people don’t confuse you with musician Anoushka Shankar!

I tell them I forgot to bring my sitar. Yup, it happens all the time.


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