Conversation with Khyrunnisa

Khyrunnisa A., prize-winning author of children’s fiction, created the popular comic character Butterfingers for the children’s magazine, Tinkle. Her books in the Butterfingers series published by Puffin include the novels Howzzat Butterfingers! (2010), Goal, Butterfingers! (2012), Clean Bowled, Butterfingers! (2015) and the recently published collection of short stories, The Misadventures of Butterfingers. In an interview with Hippocampus, Khyrunnisa tells us all about how Mukesh evolved to become Amar aka Butterfingers and much more.

  1. When was the first time you, as an adult, discovered a love for children’s literature?

I’ve always enjoyed children’s literature and re-discovered my love for it when my son was growing up.

  1. How did you come up with the character Butterfingers aka Amar?

The story titled Butterfingers was my entry for a short story contest for adult writers of children’s fiction. I come from a large family and we are pretty clumsy; so we sisters often call one another Butterfingers. Since the story I had thought up was cricket-based, I decided to centre it around a clumsy character with the nickname Butterfingers –having a Butterfingers on the cricket field had the potential for spills and laughter. The original name I’d given for Butterfingers in the story was Mukesh, but when Tinkle requested me to create a regular character for the magazine some years later, I went back to Butterfingers who was my personal favourite and re-christened him Amar, the name of my son.

  1. At book reading sessions what questions are you frequently asked?

I’m often asked the same question you asked me – ‘how did you come up with the character Butterfingers?’ Other questions constantly asked are: ‘Why did you choose to write sports-based novels?’ ‘Who is your inspiration?’ ‘When did you want to become a writer?’ ‘Who is your favourite author?’

  1. What inspires you to write for children?

I love children and want them to enjoy reading books. There aren’t too many books that are humorous and I believe children are too stressed out these days; they need to laugh more. I write to make children laugh and bring fun into their lives and if I achieve that through my books it would give me the greatest joy.

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

Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. I love it.

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

By having a library period every week and allowing students to use the library whenever they wish, by making story-telling and discussion of books a part of school life, thereby getting them interested in stories and books, and by emphasizing that reading for fun is as important as studying their text books.

  1. Name three contemporary authors which you feel children should be exposed to.

Roald Dahl (though he died in 1990, I think we can call him contemporary and every child should be exposed to his books), David Walliams (Walliams, not Williams) and Ruskin Bond. I hope they are exposed to Khyrunnisa’s books too J

  1. Which are 5 books which every school library should own?

That’s a difficult question for there are at least 500 books every school library should own. My choice narrows down to, in chronological order, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird and Andy Mulligan’s Trash.

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

Difficult again. Jennings (Anthony Buckeridge’s creation) or William (Richmal Crompton’s)


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