Renowned author Ranjit Lal has written delightful fiction and non-fiction for both adults and children. Lal, who admits to enjoying writing for children more than for adults, started his writing career in the mid 90s. Since then, he has written a whole gamut of books that have been published by Penguin, Harper Collins, Rupa, Zubaan, Duckbill, Tulika, etc. When he isn’t writing, he is usually conducting writing workshops for students. He also takes great joy in bird-watching and taking children on bird-watching trips in and around Delhi.
In an interview with Hippocampus, author Ranjit Lal talks about a few of his favourite children’s authors, offers great tips on promoting reading for joy and reveals why he would like to be a book character who is a true hero.
What inspires you to write for children?
I enjoy it – certainly more than for writing for adults! It’s also more challenging, fun and entertaining.
Tell us about a book that you loved as a child and that you revisit even today.
It’s not so much about books as it is about authors. I could pick up Richmal Crompton’s William series at any time and it doesn’t matter which book. Other authors I liked include Rumer Godden, James Herriot, Gerald Durrell, Mervyn Peake, etc. (The etc is very important because I’m sure a whole lot have been left out!)
What are three effective ways in which schools can promote reading for joy?
1. Have one or two exclusive library periods a week.
2: Stock the library with fun/lively books which absolutely do not have morals emblazoned all over them
3. Have a library period every week where kids can briefly talk about the books they have read and say why they liked or loathed them.
Name three contemporary authors who you feel children should be exposed/introduced to.
I don’t read much contemporary fiction for children, but one book I did recently finish was ‘We Are Completely Besides Ourselves’ by Karen Joy Fowler, which should be a must read. Another (not very contemporary though) would be all three of The Titus Books, by Mervyn Peake. Of course J K Rowling would be a given…
Which are five books that every school library must own?
Again, it’s not so much about individual books as it is about authors. Some books that come to mind include, ‘The Three Musketeers’, ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’, ‘My Family and Other Animals’, R K Narayan’s Swami series, ‘The Fight of the Phoenix’ (by Elleston Trevor).
If you could become any book character for a day, who would you choose to be?
Any truly heroic one that gets the girl of course!
Lal’s book ‘Faces in the Water’ has won the Vodafone/Crossword Book Award for Children’s Writing in 2010, the Laadli National Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity in 2011-2012 and has been honored by IBBY (International Board on Books for Young people), Switzerland, for contribution to children’s literature in 2012.