Arundhati Venkatesh is an award-winning children’s writer.
Her chapter book, Petu Pumpkin Tooth Troubles, won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award 2015 for India, Middle East and Asia. Petu Pumpkin Tiffin Thief was also voted to the top 3 in the RivoKids Hindustan Times Parents and Kids Choice Award 2015 in the 5-10 years category. Her latest book, Bookasura – The Adventures of Bala and the Book-eating Monster won the Best Publication for Children award at Comic Con India 2015. Her picture book, Junior Kumbhakarna, won the RivoKids Hindustan Times Parents and Kids Choice Award 2014 for the best book by an Indian author for ages 0-5 years.
In an interview with Hippocampus, Arundhati reveals a few of her favourite children’s books and gives excellent tips on how schools can promote reading for joy.
- What inspires you to write for children?
Writing for the very young is a huge responsibility and extremely challenging, but it’s also deeply fulfilling. It’s what I love doing the most.
I think there’s a part of me that never really grew up, which is why I love children’s books – both reading and writing them. I get to relive the rollicking times and swashbuckling adventures I had as a kid; what can be more fun than that?
- Tell us about a book that you loved as a child and that you revisit even today
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Every time I read it, I find that it tells me more about people – both children and adults, their feelings, and how we deal with one another. Each time, I am uplifted.
- What are the three effective ways in which schools can promote reading for joy?
1) Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) is classroom time set aside on a daily or weekly basis for independent silent reading. Everyone reads, including the teacher! These twenty minutes are to be treated as sacred, and not sacrificed to complete lessons or prepare for exams. Students bring books from home or pick them from the library before DEAR time begins.
2) Read-aloud time designated in the timetable. The teacher shares the excitement, the emotion, the suspense, and the sheer fun of the story with the class, getting through an entire book (or two) during the course of the year.
3) A crowd-sourced class library of sorts (apart from a school library with a well-curated collection, of course). Each student brings one book from home and places it in the classroom bookshelf, where it remains for the rest of the term, to be read and enjoyed by anyone in class.
- Name three contemporary authors you feel children should be exposed to
I’m going to pick authors who have written for all reading levels – Neil Gaiman, Kate DiCamillo, Louis Sachar, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson.
- Which are 5 books which every school library should own?
The Duckbill hOle books – a chapter book series with delightful stories and hilarious illustrations, for kids just graduating from being read to, to reading by themselves.
Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami – an utterly charming book about a young girl on a mission to save a pavement library.
Unprincess by Manjula Padmanabhan – Three bold stories about feisty “unprincesses”. My favourite is the one about Urmila whose looks are so revolting that nurses faint and flowers wilt. I wish it had written a few decades ago; I might have seen myself as a rather cool Agent of Mass Horrification instead of plain ugly!
Harsha Vardhana by Devika Rangachari – Makes history come alive.
Dear Mrs. Naidu by Mathangi Subramanian – An inspirational story of twelve-year-old Sarojini, a student at a government school, who takes on the system. Told through the letters she writes to her namesake, the famous freedom fighter and poetess, the situations in the book introduce a young reader to what the world may look like through the eyes of the less privileged.
- If you could become any book character for a day, who would you choose to be?
Max or Maddy, the cool sleuths from Alexander McCall Smith’s mystery series for young readers. Their parents, ex-detectives mind you, own an ice cream parlour and make ice cream in thirty-seven different flavours!