5 Significant Special Needs Books

Children at some point will encounter people with disabilities. In such situations, they may be inclined to stare, heckle, laugh or make inappropriate comments. They may even be scared sometimes. Siblings of children with disabilities also face a myriad of ambivalent emotions, where they love their sibling but simultaneously feel resentment, and embarrassment about the way their sibling looks or behaves. From another perspective, children with a disability should be helped to accept themselves and celebrate their uniqueness. Hippocampus has identified a few books that are ideal to explore questions about developmental delays and physical and intellectual disabilities that can help sensitize children, and introduce them to world of special needs in a gentle way.

Ian’s walk – A Story about Autism

Writer: Laurie Lears | Illustrator: Karen Ritz

Julie is excited to go to the park with her big sister Tara. She is however, unsure if she wants to take her little brother Ian, who has autism. When Ian insists by whining, she rushes and tugs him along. Tara and Julie feed cereal to the ducks at the park, when Ian lies on the ground with his cheeks pressed against hard stones. Ian does not have the same sensory reactions as his sisters’, and this makes Julie feel angry and embarrassed. When Ian goes missing in the park, her feelings instantly change; she knows that she loves her brother and that she must find him. Julie discovers that the best way to find Ian is to think like him and she therefore, attempts to see the world through Ian’s eyes. A heart-warming book, that can help teach patience and compassion towards children with autism. A book more specifically appropriate for siblings of children with autism, as it highlights the complexities of their relationship.

Catch that Cat

Writer: Tharini Viswanath | Pictures: Nancy Raj

A lovely book about a spirited girl who is determined to find her friend’s missing cat Kaapi. Dip Dip is the naughtiest child in school; she whizzes through the corridors, starts most of the food fights during break time, and plays with the monkeys through the window. One morning, Dip Dip’s friend Meemo cries that her cat has gone missing. Dip Dip decides to help. She begins her search by looking behind houses, inside dustbins and under the bushes. During her forage, she thinks about how grateful she is for her wheelchair that makes her faster than her friends.  After a lot of searching, Dip Dip finally discovers that Kaapi has climbed up a tree and settled himself comfortably on a high branch. Dip Dip wheels herself close to the trunk of the tree and lifts herself up the branches to help him. How do they both get down safe?  This wonderful book with bright detailed illustrations may help sensitize children and break all stereotypes associated to disabilities in a subtle but matter-of-fact way.

Kanna Panna

Writer: Zai Whitaker | Illustrator: Niloufer Wadia

Kanna is a happy child who has a way with words, or the words rather seem to have a way with Kanna “The teacher asked me my name and I said, ‘Kanna’. Then before I could stop my voice, it said, ‘Kanna Panna’.” “When Amma said, ‘Don’t play with dirt,’ my mind said, ‘and tuck in your shirt.’” His parents seem be a little impatient with him, always telling him what to do. Kanna likes it better at his cousin’s house where there aren’t too many rules. One day, Kanna along with his aunt’s family visit the dark cave temples. When they are inside, the faint light suddenly goes out, and the whole cave is engulfed in darkness. Everyone panics, except Kanna. Darkness isn’t new to Kanna, as he is visually impaired. He calmly retraces his steps and leads his family out of the cave into daylight. For the first time in life, Kanna realises his strengths. Kanna Panna is a poignant, thought-provoking story which is certain to leave the reader with a fresh perspective, questioning the limitations of being normal.  A great book to read aloud to children with disabilities, as it may help them relate to Kanna, and celebrate their uniqueness. An apt book to introduce awareness in classrooms.

My Name is Brain Brian

Author: Jeanne Betancourt

My name is Brain Brian is a delicate portrayal of the difficulties faced by a dyslexic child, who doesn’t know that he’s dyslexic. He thinks of himself as dull, his parents think he’s lazy, and his classmates make fun of him because he struggles to read and write. This makes Brian dread going to school. One of his teachers observes Brian’s writing patterns; discovers his condition and helps Brian by taking extra effort in nurturing his learning. Brian is embarrassed by all the attention that he gets but he also realizes that the attention is necessary because he ‘learns differently’. My Name is Brain Brian is a great book to read to children with learning disabilities and also to those without.


Author: R.J Palacio

August Pullman is like any regular ten-year-old kid. August eats ice cream, rides his bike, plays ball and also has his very own Xbox. His parents love him immensely and therefore think that he is extraordinary, his sister Via is very protective of him and gets furious when they stare at him or pass mean comments because of his rare medical facial deformity. The only person who realizes August is ordinary, is himself. After being home schooled for many years, Auggie’s parents finally agree to put him in a regular school where he faces numerous upsetting situations. There are several small moments in the book that force the reader to stop and reflect – The way Auggie feels during Halloween is one such moment. ‘Wonder’ has the power to evoke empathy and respect – an inspiring book to educate children about acceptance.

6 Rib-tickling books


Children’s laughter must simply be the most delightful sound in the world. Hippocampus recommends 6 hilarious books that won’t just make them laugh-out-loud but also help enhance their reading experience.

Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

In this minimalistic, award-winning picture book, the bus driver entrusts the reader with his bus and asks you not to let the pigeon drive it. As the driver leaves, pigeon promptly makes his appearance; begs, pleads and even tries to bribe the reader into letting him drive. The futile efforts of silly pigeon and his goofy expressions are certain to tickle children and get them laughing.

The Monster at the End of this book by Jon Stone

In this story, adorable Grover from Sesame Street begs the reader to stop turning pages, because each page brings us closer to a monster at the end of the book. Grover is afraid of monsters. But somehow, the reader ignores Grover and turns the page. Grover tries to nail the pages shut, he tries to tie the pages down, he even builds a brick wall trying to avoid the inevitable. Who is the monster at the end of the book?? Children will delight in each page they turn.

Max the Brave by Ed Vere

Max is a kitten who is confident of his outstanding mouse-catching abilities, if only he knew what a mouse looked like! Max goes on a quest to find a mouse and meets an array of animals big and small through the pages. Max finally meets a mouse who tricks him into believing that he isn’t one. A fun, interactive book of a fierce cat that is desperate to chase a mouse.

Never Take a Shark to the Dentist by Judi Barret

Never Take a Shark to the Dentist is a clever book filled with hilarious notes. There are many things that you should NEVER do – Like go shopping with a centipede or invite an ant to a picnic. You should definitely not take a giraffe to the movies or our favourite — NEVER go to the bank with a raccoon. A funny and imaginative book that makes you realise the perils of silly situations.

A Silly Story of Bondapalli by Shamim Padamsee

There once was a Prince who hated food. The royal cook one day gave him something new and very special to eat – a hot golden ball, crisp on the outside and soft inside.. A bonda! After that, there was no stopping the prince who took his obsession for bondas to a whole new hysterical level. A bondafully light-hearted book filled with bright and happy illustrations.

Phiss Phuss Boom by Jerry Pinto, Anushka Ravishankar and Sayoni Basu

Can breaking wind at a wrong time change your life forever? Stories of flatulence are a cheerful pass time for summer holidays spent with grandparents.  Everyone has heard a story about loud funny ones or silent stinky ones or the ones that made you dizzy laughing at someone. Similarly, these 3 explosive fart stories from Kerala, Goa and Bengal will most certainly crack you up.

Here are a few other funny book series for you to enjoy – The Diamond Brothers by Anthony Horowitz, Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, Super Zero by Jane De Suza, My Weird School by Dan Gutman and Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. Tell us about some children’s books that you thought were hilarious in the comment section below.


“There’s a little part of us that remains a child forever.” says Payal Kapadia


Payal Kapadia’s debut book, Wisha Wozzariter, won the Crossword Award for Children’s Writing in 2013. It is also on the “101 Indian Children’s Books We Love!” list. After getting a B.A.(Hons.) degree in English Literature from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Payal received a M.S. (Journalism) from Northwestern University in Chicago. She worked with Outlook in Mumbai and The Japan Times in Tokyo because she thought that real life would give her many stories. It did – but then Payal discovered that some of our dearest stories are born in our imagination. Her latest book, Horrid High, is a riotous, rambunctious adventure in the world’s most horrid school. In the interview, Payal tells us what inspired her to write for children and gives school librarians excellent tips to encourage children to read for joy.

  1. What inspires you to write for children?

The wonderful stories my two daughters, twelve and eight, bring home each day. My own vivid memories of being a child. And the niggling knowledge that somewhere inside us, there’s a little part of us that remains a child forever.

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

My original copy of Enid Blyton’s ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ sits on my children’s bookshelf now. It still fills me with wonder, this notion of a changing land at the top of a magical tree. I’ve read it so many times now and it never gets old.

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

One, let kids read what they want to read. It’s OK if they want to read the same book again and again.  Make suggestions, but don’t prescribe. Reading is the last bastion of freedom. Two, don’t wring a moral lesson out of everything a child reads. Three, employ and encourage librarians who are passionate about children’s books. A good librarian can find the perfect book for every child.

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

I’ll give you three, though I could probably name a hundred. Eva Ibbotson, Roald Dahl, Paro Anand.

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

Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’; Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy; Norton Juster’s ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’; Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’;   Eoin Colfer’s ‘Artemis Fowl’ series.

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

I’d be Moon-Face and live inside the Faraway Tree and slide down the Slippery Slip and suck on Pop Biscuits!

Vishaka Chanchani is a well-loved illustrator with a Masters in illustration from MS University, Vadodhara. She has written and illustrated many books for children and is also an art educator and workshop facilitator in Bangalore. Her book – The House that Sonabai Built published by Tulika, won the Darsana National Award for Excellence in Book Production. In an interview with Hippocampus, Vishaka tells us about what inspired her to write for children instead of adults and also names a few of her favourite books among the ones she has written.

What inspired you to write for children rather than adults?

Difficult to say. Didn’t do this consciously.

Maybe I have a knack for it, it’s because the kind of writing that comes to me is really simple, direct, and has generally been inspired by things around me. Characters and situations that have struck or stirred me in some way, real or fictitious. There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve written for schools, and for my nieces and nephews as they were growing up, mostly unpublished. Some of them are reinventions of stories I heard from my mother when I was young, oral folklore handed down to me with song and rhyme. Gujarat has a lot of that. So though I did not really grow up in the land, I inherited some of the folklore passed down to us.

Also, I grew up with my older sisters and cousins who directed a lot of plays during holidays all within the family with props and costumes, and invited all the neighboring children to watch.
All this might have become part of my mirch masala of writing which became writing for children!
And now, even as an almost 60 year old ‘adult’ I still collect and like to read children’s books, especially of the pictorial kind.

How ‘Stones Lost their Hearts’ was the first book that you had written and illustrated. Could you tell us what led you to it?

Simple, an assignment in college, which was the Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU, Vadodara.
I had taken up illustration for my Masters, and we were supposed to come up with books. Of course in those days, making books wasn’t based on technological inputs.

There were no laptops, no computers, everything was executed by hand. We had to create ‘dummies’ and then rework them and make final illustrations. Mostly, I couldn’t do that, as often when the breakthrough happened, my illustrations were not copied from my dummy pictures, but came straight from the heart and the hand on to the page, at one go. However, I did take some time developing the character, in this case a witch, and remember vividly detailing her hair! All this was in pencil, which is still one of my favorite tools for drawing.
I happened to show the artwork to the editor at Children’s Book Trust, and he okayed it and it became a real book, much to my surprise!

Could you name a few contemporary authors who you feel children should be exposed to?

Well, my reading for children now is mostly limited to varied picture books, or stories that have been illustrated.  I could recommend ~
Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories; the later edition has astounding illustrations. It’s a contemporary fable, with characteristic Indian elements, not very sweet and pretty, but full of life, wit, and fantasy and fun.

Then there is the already popular and touching little novel, The Little Prince, or books by Gerald Durrell many of which are illustrated by Quentin Blake.
My all time favorite has also been Dr. Seuss, not the beginners’ books, but stories like Bartholomew Cubbins and his 500 Hats, King on Stilts, the verse of ~ Mc Elligot’s Pool.

Amidst Indian ‘picture’ books, there are some that do not grow old, some of CBT or NBT classics include Mother, Maya of Mohenjo-Daro, both with rich and subdued illustrations by the late Pulak Biswas; I like some of the Puffin old time tales like the Crab and the Crane, for its tiny format, and especially the way it has been affectionately picturized by Taposhi Ghoshal. Then, for a collection of short stories there is the Twist in the Tale, by Aditi De, selective folk lore retold in refreshing ways with Black and White illustrations by Uma Krishnaswamy.
Today there is lots of great mixes happening, and many contemporary Indian publishers have broken conventional formats to make exciting forays into children’s book publishing; for me it’s also Tara Publishing that really made the gallant leap in India…braving challenging scripts, new approaches, and daring to make books valuable, aesthetic and a treat to handle.

What are some effective ways in which you think schools can promote reading for joy?

Now that’s a real question. In one of the Schools I was working in, many years ago, and one I still fondly revisit, an enterprising and genuine librarian completely changed the way one looked at libraries and books. She made it very child friendly, opened it up by taking books out of the shelves and relocating them in fun ways, made it more dynamic, with book talks, and book auctions…and took a personal interest in children, offering them books that were not typical, yet that seemed to resonate with the child’s interests.
I think even today, we lack a perspective on what constitutes good books for children. Is it about a cute story, heavy literature, a nice plot, being a best seller? And to address the larger questions, don’t we need to even seriously think about why we should find interesting books only in the library?
Do we need the divide between the academic book, recommended for the curriculum, and the book as entertainment, past time, for lighter reading? I have seen many children enter the regular school library only pouring over coffee table kind of encyclopedias, despite the shelves being full of all kinds of children’s literature. Does reading become synonymous today with boredom, especially as there are so many sensational ways to attract us, and as visuals and sounds become louder than words?

To break out of some of these moulds, all the teachers of the school, and not just librarians, need to look at what constitutes good reading, what is the current material available today, how can diverse and different books enter the classroom, or how can storytelling or even theatre become part of many more subjects, and not just for an end of the term cultural event.
Can students participate in the act of reading and writing without being marked or assessed in harsh ways? Schools can also become hubs for celebrating stories, enriched with workshops; interactions with writers, illustrators can bring in fresh perspectives as they work with both teachers and students.

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

I liked Heidi, perhaps because it was connected to a girl who found herself in the mountains with a lovable gruff grandfather and animals around her. I liked to pour over a picture book called Chendru, an adivasi boy who made friends with a tiger cub he found in the forest. This book was full of real lavish photographs.
I liked Leo Tolstoy’s unusual stories for children, poignant tales with black and white graphite drawings.
I still have a copy of the book…and read and share it when the need arises.


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

Maybe a character from Haroun, the Hoopoe who carries the protagonist on his feathery back, across the skies to unpredictable landscapes.
I might even venture into the kingdom of cards, Tagore’s absurdly relevant Tasher Desh, or don one of the extraordinary hats of Seuss’s Bartholomew Cubbins.

Do you have a favorite from among all the books that you have written? Why?

I have quite a few, but not all have been published! But I like all my vendor stories, be it Chashmuddin Chashmewalle, the spectacular spectacle man or Beeju, the vendor of seeds.

Perhaps this is because, as a person on the streets or around the railway scene in India one cannot but help being confounded by the vendors around, stoically displaying their wares and advertising them in absurd and playful ways, making language and picture come alive.  Men and women sell stylish spectacles, false moustaches, a pile of brooms on heads; vendors with carts or without them, they arrest us with their calls, and we stop right in our tracks.

I particularly like Beeju, I think the Hindi verse has worked well, and because here’s a whimsical guy who sells seeds and his stories of seeds ~ without charging any fees!

6 Unique Alphabet Books

There are several wonderful alphabet books that have been published over the years to help children learn the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Here are some of our favourites that are absolutely distinctive and off-beat.

Go ahead and grab these books to make learning ABC a lot more fun.

Alphabetics by Suse MacDonald

In this wonderfully creative book, letters are pulled, curled, twisted and turned till they become a part of an illustration they represent. ‘A’ becomes an ark, ‘d’ becomes a dragon and ‘g’ becomes a giraffe. A visually appealing book that is sure to be read time and again. Read this book and rest assured you will never see alphabets the same way again. Alphabetics is Suse MacDonald’s first book and it won her the Caledecott Honor.

Harold’s ABC by Crockett Johnson

A unique and original ABC book where Harold picks up his purple crayon and draws himself adventures through the alphabets. The story unravels as Harold creatively draws over each letter he encounters with the narrative brilliantly connecting each alphabet in sequence. This book is not only a great read but can also encourage creativity to inquisitive minds while teaching basics of the alphabet to little children.

Alphabets are Amazing Animals by Anushka Ravishankar and Christiane Pieper

A clever and quirky book in which each page tells you a silly story. Careless Crocodiles Catch Cold, Fat Fish Frighten Funny Frogs and Huge Hippos Have Happy Holidays. The best features about this book are the amusing alliterations, and the catchy rhythm that each line creates. The playful illustrations match the text perfectly, making it a delightful book to read.

The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly

Two children sneak out of their house with a treasure map in their hand into a world beneath the city where eerie, unfathomable, mysterious things lurk. Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly have combined their expertise in this genre and have unleashed the most grisly, spine-chilling alphabetic adventure. Definitely not a typical alphabet book.

Picture A Letter by Brad Sneed

Feast your eyes on this exquisite wordless picture book that skillfully hides and reveals illustrations. A quick glimpse of the page ‘F’ for instance, immediately reveals a fisherman and a fish, take a closer look and you will see a Ferris wheel, firewood, frog, fawn, fly, flashlight, feather, etc. This exceptional work of art will be enjoyed at different levels by all age groups. A must-have for every picture book collector. And a must-read for adults!

Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet by David McLimans

David McLiman’s  big and bold illustrations transform each letter into a work of art, graphically rendered with endangered animal characteristics. Spots, beaks, horns, wings, etc transform the alphabet into animals. The Moth for example spreads out its patterned wings to cleverly create the letter ‘M’. McLimans includes details of the endangered animals in a small red box at the bottom of each page and also provides information at the end of the book on how to protect and save them from extinction. Gone Wild is a Caldecott Honor Book.

10 Terrific books on Tigers

International Tiger’s day is observed on 29th July and is celebrated annually to raise public awareness of Tiger conservation and protection of Tiger habitats. On this day, let’s read some brilliant books to children written about Tigers and also read books that are dedicated to these magnificent creatures.

Mr. Tiger goes Wild

By Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger was bored with the proper life he was living. He decided that he wanted to loosen up and have some fun. He begins by starting to walk on all fours, but each day he gets wilder. All his sepia tinted friends are appalled by his behaviour and ask him to leave to the wilderness. Mr. Tiger is thrilled to do so. For how long can Mr. Tiger survive in the wild without any friends?

The Tiger-Skin Rug    

By Gerarld Rose | Kate Greenaway                                                                                                      

Sad and thin Tiger has had enough of his hard life at the jungle. At night, he would sit by the edge of the jungle and gaze at the palace wondering how lovely it would be to eat royal food and enjoy the Rajah’s warm company. The next morning Tiger gets a brilliant idea when he lays his eyes on the Tiger-skin rug that was aired outside the palace. Tiger swaps places with the rug and begins to thoroughly enjoy the life of luxury, feast leftovers and parties at Rajah’s abode. But will a Tiger always be left unnoticed in the royal palace?

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

By Judith Kerr

Little Sophie and her mummy are joined to tea by an unexpected visitor – A big, furry, stripy tiger with a voracious appetite. Tiger eats and drinks everything in Sophie’s house including the tap water which leaves Sophie with no water to even have her bath. This is a well-liked children’s book with captivating illustrations that has been enjoyed for over 30 years.

Tiger Trouble

By Diane Goode

Jack and his Tiger, Lily, lived in an apartment building. Everything that Jack did, Lily copied and everything that Lily did, Jack copied. Life was good for the duo and they did not have a care in the world. When Mr. Mud and his bulldog Fifi move into the apartment building, he exclaims that he hates cats and wanted Lily out of the building by the next morning. Will Jack let Lily go?

Talking to Tigers

By Nick Arnold

Talking to Tigers is a fantastic book about Tara’s journal which holds various factual details of her many tiger encounters. Meet Twiggy the tiger cub and join the jungle battle to save her from the horrible poachers. Also, find out fiercely kept Tiger secrets such as how to talk to a tiger, why a tiger can lick your hair off, which tigers eat frogs and snails and how to put a tiger of its dinner.

Here are a few other books that older children and adults can enjoy.

– Tigers for Dinner by Ruskin Bond | Sunaina Coelho

– The Man-Eating Tigers of Sunderbans by Sy Montgomery

– Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett

Do add in your favourite books on Tigers in the comment section below.

The Smart Librarian – Joseph Colin

Hippocampus in conversation with the enthusiastic and committed librarian – Joseph Colin of Bangalore International School, Yelahanka.

  1. What inspired you to become a librarian?

I have always loved books and children, ergo wanted to be a library teacher. But if I have to name a person who inspired me, it would be my college librarian – Mr Tom. Our college library is a huge building and I was looking for “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald and I did not know where to begin looking for it. I  had just asked him once, and he instantly ran to the second floor took a right, ran few more meters, reached a shelf and pulled the book out. I was fascinated that knew a lot about books.

  1. What motivates you each day?

My students and their happy faces.

  1. What do you enjoy most about being a librarian?

Reading and telling African folk tales. Especially to children of Grades 2 to 5.

  1. What are the challenges you face and how do you tackle them?

Handling grades 7 and grade 8. (Bursts into laughter) Don’t publish this, I am still figuring ways to tackle them.

  1. How do you choose books for your library and how often?

I do surveys, take feed back and books recommendations from students and teachers.  I also do a little research online about new books. This is an ongoing, through-the year process.

  1. What is your favourite area/section in the library?

That small room where I read and tell stories with walls embellished with children’s artwork and writings.

  1. Do you involve children in the running of the library?

Not much. However children’s recommendations are taken into consideration while procuring books.

  1. What are your thoughts about guided reading programs?

I leave that to the English teachers.

  1. Which are the 5 most popular titles/series in your library.

All Dr.Seuss and Geronimo Stilton Books  among the younger age group.

The Harry Porter series, The Hunger Games Series, and all books by John Green among middle and high school children.

  1. What are your favourite children’s books?

It is difficult to name just a few. However, I really like all  Dr.Seuss books, all Eric Carle books, And books about African Folk tales.

Award-Winning Children’s Author Arundhati Venkatesh

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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

5 Marvellous Books on Monsoon

At Hippocampus we believe that reading books indoors is the best way to enjoy the monsoon. Here are 5 books that are perfect for reading-aloud on rainy days.

Listen to the Rain  

Author: Bill Martin Jr. & John Archbamault | Illustrator: James Endicott

Listen to the Rain is an evocative picture book that describes the various moods and sounds of the rain. The soft illustrations and rhythmic words merge together in a thoroughly delightful manner which is certain to leave any reader spell-bound.


Author: Vaishali Shroff | Illustrator: Ruchi Mhasane

If you like the familiar scenes of a rainy day, you will love this book. When it pours rain, little Anju looks outside her window and sees black clouds that crowded the sky and streets dotted with colourful umbrellas. The story unfolds by describing what Anju observes and the illustrations take you through the wet streets of India on a rainy day. The dreamy watercolour illustrations and scenes where she makes patterns on her window leave you feeling nostalgic.

Come On, Rain!

Author: Karen Hesse | Illustrator: Jon J Muth

“Come on, rain!” are the desperate words of Tess, as she squints towards sky with hope. This splendid book depicts the sweltering heat and difficulty of life without rain in an urban society. The illustrations match the words brilliantly, absorbing you into each page. As the downpour approaches, Tess and her friends come together and celebrate the rain by dancing on the streets.

Peacocks and Pakodas!

Author: Mala Kumar & Manisha Chaudhry | Illustrator: Priya Kuriyan

Badaboom! Meenu hears the roll of thunder and knows that monsoon is here after a long hot summer. Listening to the melodious Kajari, watching how rain water is conserved in drums, the smell of moist soil and Amma’s pakodas makes Meenu realize that she loves every bit about monsoon. Peacocks and Pakodas is a delightful book with bright colourful illustrations.

Mushroom in the Rain

Author: Mirra Ginsburg | Illustrator: Joyce Aruego & Ariana Dewey

Caught in the rain, an ant takes shelter under a tiny mushroom. But soon he finds many others with the same idea trying to find their way into the tiny space, and surprisingly enough, they all fit in! When the sun finally comes out, the ant discovers a magical secret! The illustrations hilariously capture the various stages through which each new visitor is force-fitted into the tiny space.  A well-paced, wonderful book for an interactive rainy day read-aloud session.

My Vibrant Library – Simple tips to make your library a fun and interesting space.


Book art is made from carefully folding the pages of recycled books to create various designs. You can create almost anything with a little effort – from hearts to houses, words, symbols and objects. This is an absolutely fun thing to do – an amazing way to reuse old books and give them another purpose. You can create as many as you like and decorate your library by placing them at interesting spots.


Celebrate reading by embellishing your library with paper garlands or book buntings! Take old damaged comic books that are no longer used and cut them into even triangles. Take a length of twine and tie a loop on one end. Fold the top edge of a triangle over the twine, and use tape to stick it down. Repeat taping on the same side as you go along. Leave some space between the triangles so that you can adjust them. Once you’ve run out of pages, tie your length of twine off with another loop and suspend them around your school library.


Nothing tickles the curiouscity of children quite like that of a fun visual. Take old A3 posters, turn them over, grab your art material and give your creativity a go. Use colourful pens to write quotes that encourage reading. You can also write some fun facts and draw basic images to go with it. Children typically learn from quotes and enjoy reading fun facts.


Ensure that your bulletin board has material that get children to interact. Create a long scroll using paper and attach it to your bulletin board. You can then ask children to write down the name of the book(s) in the library that they are thankful for.  You can alternately create a ‘wishing tree’ – All you have to do is cut out brown chart paper to look like the trunk of a tree and attach it to a wall in your library. Later, cut out many colourful chart papers to look like leaves. Hand out the leaves to the children and ask them to write a title of a book that they wish the library had. Finally, stick the leaves around the trunk of the wishing tree.