7 Delicious Books to celebrate World Friendship Day

World Friendship Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of August each year. This year, It will be celebrated on the 3rd of August, 2014. With August being a month that celebrates friendship, grab this opportunity to help children develop positive social skills through books and stories. Books are a great way to gently instill compassion and kindness in children. It  helps them understand how to resolve arguments, be empathetic, and also conveys the importance of good communication.

In time for World Friendship Day, here is a list of 7 delicious books that explore friendship in interesting and fun ways.

  1. ‘My Friend is Sad’ by Mo Willems (ages 0-3)

‘My Friend is Sad’ is a book that talks about all the things you can do to cheer up your friend when he or she is feeling low. Like most other Willems books, the Elephant and Piggie series is known for its charming illustrations that speak directly to children. This series typically addresses issues of friendship.

  1. ‘Little Beaver and the Echo’ by Amy MacDonald (ages 3-5)

This is a lovely, heartwarming story about a lonely little beaver that has neither family nor friends. One day, when the beaver cries by the pond, he hears his own echo and thinks that there might be someone else at the other side of the pond who is perhaps just as lonely as he is. Thus begins this little beaver’s touching quest in search of company. This book is perfect for children who feel lonely and a gentle reminder that they might not be so alone after all. ‘Little Beaver and the Echo’ is a great book to read aloud to young children.

  1. ‘Best Friends’ by Nina Sabnani (ages 3-5)

This bilingual book is about a little girl named Tamanna and a tree called Kutchi. Tamanna loves spending time and sharing stories with Kutchi, until one day when a few girls make fun of her for being friends with a tree. Eventually, Tamanna understands that her friendship with Kutchi is inexplicable, but the one she values the most.  ‘Best Friends’ is a touching story that explores the relationship between human beings and nature.

  1. ‘A Sick Day for Amos McGee’ by Philip C. Stead and Erin Stead (ages 5-7)

This wonderful book is about the friendship between Amos – a zookeeper – and all the zoo animals he looks after. This Caledecott-winner carries the message of how important it is to care for friends when they most need you.

  1. ‘Bink and Gollie’ by Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee (ages 7-9)

This is a quick-witted book about two little girls who are best friends – one tiny and one tall. Apart from including fun things such as roller-skating, sock shopping and pancake making, this book is a great way to understand the dynamics of friendship and its potentially minor glitches. Fortunately, Bink and Gollie eventually work out their differences and come to the realization that they are each other’s ‘marvellous’ companions. This book is a Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner and you can surely see why.

  1. ‘My Facebook Friends’ by Kavita Singh Kale (ages 9-12)

Children are bound to make an instant connection with this Tulika book that portrays diverse ways of staying in touch with friends from around the world and understanding their culture without necessarily having to cross geographical borders. A young monk who likes playing football, a professor who studies earthworms, a designer with a passion for tap dancing… Hold on to your seats as you visit the author’s friends from across the world.

  1. ‘Wonder’ by R.J Palacio (ages 12 & above)

August was born with distorted facial features. Having been home-schooled for most of his life, August was dreading having to attend a real school. In his new school, all he wants is acceptance. But will he be able to convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite his appearance? A warm and uplifting book with a sweeping finale, this bestseller is a must-read for all middle school children.

We would love to hear from you if you know of any other wonderful children’s books that explore friendship. If you do have recommendations, leave a comment on this post or write to us at hippocampus.librarian@gmail.com

Does Your School Library Have These 5 Books That Celebrate the Joys of Reading?

One of our favourite books at Hippocampus is ‘Biblioburro’ by Jeanette Winterson. This book is precious to us not only because it narrates the amazing journey of a passionate teacher, but also because it celebrates the simple yet powerful pleasures of reading. We often read this book aloud during our training sessions with teachers and librarians, and it has always captivated and inspired every one of them.

Every school library must own at least a few children’s books that celebrate libraries, books and reading. Here are five that we strongly recommend:

  1. ‘Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia’ by Jeanette Winter

The inspiring story of a teacher who starts a travelling library to spread his love for reading to children in faraway villages. Complete with an author’s note about the real man in Columbia on whom this story is based.

  1. ‘The Incredible Book Eating Boy’ by Oliver Jeffers

Like many children, Henry loves books. But Henry doesn’t like to read books, he likes to eat them. Big books, picture books, reference books . . . if it has pages, Henry chews them up. But one day he feels sick to his stomach. Can Henry find a way to enjoy books without eating them? With stunning illustrations, Oliver Jeffers’ book celebrates the joys of reading in this charming picture book.

  1. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr.Morris Lessmore’ by William Joyce

A story that shows that in today’s world of traditional books, eBooks, and apps, it’s story that we truly celebrate – and this story, no matter how you tell it, begs to be read again and again.

  1. ‘Library Lion’ by Michelle Knudson

Miss Merriweather, the head librarian, is very particular about rules in the library. But when a lion comes to the library one day, no one is sure what to do. There aren’t any rules about lions in the library. And, as it turns out, this lion seems very well suited to library visiting. But when something terrible happens, the lion quickly comes to the rescue. Knudsen’s disarming story, illustrated by the matchless Kevin Hawkes in an expressive timeless style, will win over even the most ardent of rule keepers.An affectionate storybook tribute to that truly wonderful place: the library.

  1. ‘The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq’ by Jeanette Winter

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. But now war has come, and Alia fears that the library will be destroyed forever. In a war-stricken country where civilians -especially women – have little power, this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries.

The image used in this blog post is from Jeanette Winter’s ‘Biblioburro’.





How do you keep preteens and teens hooked to books? ‘Litpert’ Dr. Shailaja Menon offers great solutions

Joseph Colin has to be one of the most eager and enthusiastic school librarians we have come across. He works at Bangalore International School in Bangalore. Here’s a question he had for our ‘Litpert’ Dr. Shailaja Menon:

Q. I feel that children in my school between the ages of 11 and 13 are suddenly losing interest in reading. As a school librarian, I am struggling to keep them hooked to reading. I conducted surveys among this age group to find out what they like to read, and managed to procure all sorts of books of their choice. However, I was disappointed to see that most of them did not even touch those books. How should I approach this situation?

And here’s literacy expert Dr.Shailaja Menon’s response to Joseph Colin’s question:

When we try to cultivate the habit of reading in children, we have to keep in mind that what we’re trying to do is to create a culture and environment around the children that models certain values – in this case, that of valuing reading. Like all other aspects of childrearing, there is often not a direct correlation between input and visible output at a given moment of time. We may model generosity and provide opportunities to our children for being generous, and yet there may be long stretches of time when we’re not sure that we’re seeing any visible signs of their being generous, in turn. Yet, we keep faith with the idea that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree – what is consistently modeled, reinforced and encouraged throughout a child’s growing years, will surely leave an important imprint on the child’s life.

11 to 13-year-olds are in a phase of life where they are no longer very young children, the phase of middle childhood is a new and exciting one for them to be in, filled with new explorations, peer dynamics, and the like. They might well have more “fun” and “interesting” things to explore at this point than what might feel like “same-old, “same-old”, to them. Therefore, one suggestion is to not expect consistency of results in terms of hooking children into reading, but to expect detours that may be a natural part of growing up. At the same time, we should leave no stone unturned in building a strong culture of reading around these children.

How can we build a strong culture of reading around children?
It is wonderful that you have found out what they like to read and brought in these books for them. But, often, it takes more than making books available to children, to turn them into readers. First, consider: is reading being modeled as a valued activity in your school? Do you, or other teachers, take the time to share your own reading habits, tastes, ups and downs with the children? Do you have a school-wide culture that values and models reading (outside of textbooks)? Is the library a central and organically important space of activity in the school? If not, some of these should be taken up at a school-wide level, while there are other aspects that you, as a librarian, can ensure without wider/larger reforms. One thing that you could do as a librarian is to design ways to engage children with the books you’ve brought in for them. There are many different ways in which you could do this; a starter set of ideas is listed here:
1. Book Talks: You could schedule book talks – where children talk about or visually recommend/review books they’ve read to each other. You could give them space also to talk about why certain books DO NOT appeal to them; they may be working out all kinds of responses and reactions to why adults/society expect them to like certain kinds of books – and this should be engaged with, rather than silenced.
2. Title the Book/Design its Cover: You could read aloud a book over a few library sessions without divulging its cover/name/author. You could then ask children to design their own covers for this book and title it appropriately. Children could be encouraged to “guess the author”.
3. Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) time: You could ask the classroom teachers of these children to schedule a Drop Everything and Read time regularly in the time-table. Your role as a librarian would be to ensure that they have enough choices when this time comes around, and that they see the adults around them dropping everything and reading, as well!
4. Read Aloud: None of us is ever too old to be read aloud to. 11 to 13-year-olds will love it if you read aloud regularly to them – with material, themes and content that is age-appropriate for them. Find good selections/short stories to read aloud and discuss with them.
5. Create book clubs/literature circles: Have more than one child read the same book, and create discussion groups around the books read. Always offer children choices in which books they wish to read, while creating these circles.
6. Meet-the-Author/Reader events: Invite local authors to the library to talk to the children about their journeys as readers and writers. Invite adult “bookworms” (e.g., parents, others) to come in and talk about the importance of books in their lives. The best way to do this is not to moralize, but to share – share experiences, books, ideas that convey passion and excitement!

In short – focus on building a strong reading culture, engage children systematically with books, and don’t expect consistency of visible results at all times!
Good luck!

Have questions related to reading or literacy that you haven’t yet found the answers to? Send in your questions to hippocampus.librarian@gmail.com and have Dr Shailaja Menon respond to it.

Dr. Shailaja Menon currently works as faculty in the area of Language and Literacy, School of Education, Azim Premji University. She has her Ph.D. in language, literacy and culture from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and degrees in human development and psychology from MSU, Baroda, and Delhi University, respectively.

Literacy expert Shailaja Menon

Literacy expert Shailaja Menon

Shailaja has worked in various educational settings in the US and in India. She has an abiding interest in imparting a love for language, literature and literacy to children, teachers and teacher educators and engages in a variety of initiatives that help promote these.





‘Illustrations provide the reader with a window into a new world’

There are certain characters in children’s literature that are unforgettable. For most of us who have read Mahasweta Devi’s ‘The Why-Why Girl’ (published by Tulika), Moyna is certainly one. Perhaps what makes her so memorable is her intense curiosity. But what makes her even harder to forget are her curious, sensitive, half-moon eyes and the white flower that is carefully tucked into her hair. Kanyika Kini’s beautifully detailed illustrations in ‘The Why-Why Girl’ have been cherished by thousands of readers across the world. In 2013, ‘The Rumour’ (published by Karadi Tales) – a wonderful picture book illustrated by Kanyika Kini – won the South Asia Book Award.

Here are excerpts from Hippocampus’ interview with the immensely talented artist Kanyika Kini:

You have done wonderful illustrations for several children’s books. What inspires you to draw for children?

Illustrations provide the reader with a window into a new world by not only visualizing the text but also enhancing the story with visual details that go beyond the text, creating a sort of parallel narrative. As a result, a picture book becomes much more than the sum of its text and illustrations, the creation of which is a magical process that I enjoy being part of.

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

An old favourite of mine is ‘Dr. Bhondoo Dentist and other stories’ by Aroon Purie that I was presented years ago. The protagonist is an amiable but rather clumsy monkey, who attempts various professions, including being a dentist and barber, but always end disastrously. The stories are all situated in a familiar Indian context, with vivid, humorous illustrations that are universally appealing. (This book is now unfortunately out of print!)

Name three contemporary illustrators whose work you admire and feel that children will love and enjoy. 

1. The illustrations of Quentin Blake are an integral part of my childhood-memory-wall. His line drawings are immensely expressive and his ability to evoke emotion in a stick or even the tail of a pig through the use of simple lines is fascinating. Roald Dahl’s quirky children’s stories wouldn’t be the same without the hilarious illustrations by Quentin Blake.

2. Illustrations by Pulak Biswas range in style from more realistic watercolour paintings to bold graphic illustrations, distinctly situated in the Indian context. The colours, textures and dynamic compositions are always a treat.

3. This list wouldn’t be complete without author and illustrator Eric Carle. His wonderfully simple stories illustrated in his unique style using vibrant colours and textures, make his books unforgettable. ‘The Grouchy Ladybug’ is my favourite.

Which are five books that every school library must own?

  1. The Amar Chitra Katha series – A great way for children to get acquainted with vibrant Indian mythological, historical and folk stories.
  2. Roald Dahl’s children’s books – Unforgettable characters with fantastic talents in wonderfully quirky and unpredictable stories.
  3. Dr. Seuss’ children’s books – His wacky rhyming style and unique illustrations make his books a must in any children’s book section
  4. Eric Carle’s children’s books – As mentioned earlier, these classics form a memorable part of learning to read.

There are several Indian publishers such as Tulika, Tara and Karadi Tales to name a few, that bring out fantastic books each year, that are situated in the contemporary Indian context and cater to children of all ages.

While exploring books with children, we often tend to focus more on the text while not tapping fully into the potential of pictures. What are ways in which we can explore the visual narrative with children more effectively?

I think children are extremely receptive to visuals, these actually forming their entry point to stories and reading. Activities that focus on the visuals in a book can help children develop language skills as well as inspire them to think creatively and interpret the story in their own way. Books offer great stimulus to children to embark on their own creative adventures.

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

There are far too many entertaining characters out there with exotic capabilities or fantastical forms that make that choice easy! But somehow I have always been partial to witches (mostly the bad ones with warty noses) – perhaps it has to do with their phenomenal ability to fly around on a broomstick at night and scare the living daylights out of children!

Kanyika Kini graduated in Communication Design from Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in Bangalore, India. She has illustrated ‘The Why-Why Girl’, written by Mahasweta Devi, published by Tulika Publishers and translated into several Indian languages. She has also illustrated ‘The Rumour’, written by Anushka Ravishankar and published by Karadi Tales, which received the South Asia Book Award in 2013, administered by the South Asia National Outreach Consortium. She currently works at a web design agency in Munich.


Librarians, We Need Your Help!

Hippocampus is compiling a list of librarians’ favourite children’s books. Help us create it by taking a photograph of yourself posing with your favourite children’s book and grinning from ear to ear! Send your picture to hippocampus.librarian@gmail.com before June 25th and we will be delighted to share it on our blog: www.hippocampusschoolservices.com

How Can We Encourage Children to Read Across Genres? Litpert Dr. Shailaja Menon Has the Answers

Do young readers in your school stick to a few popular series and show reluctance in exploring new genres? Check out Dr. Shailaja Menon’s terrific suggestions on how to inspire children to read across genres.

Q. How can we encourage children to read across genres without being too pushy?

A. When they start reading independently, many children tend to “hook” onto a particular genre, or style/type of book.  Even more specifically, they may hook onto a single author or a very small set of authors. For example, many urban, middle-class young readers can be spied these days hanging onto Geronimo Stilton books.

Our first aim, as educators and as parents, is to invite children into the world of reading. Therefore, if you have students or children who are hooked onto one kind of book/author, the first thing to do is to celebrate the fact that you have a reader in the classroom/family!

However, if literature is food for thought, then, then we must work towards providing a balanced diet. It is fine if your child has a packet of potato chips once in a while. But, if you notice that potato chips is all she eats, you would want to work towards (a) replacing junk food with good food as a habit; and (b) encouraging your child to eat a wide variety of good foods. Likewise, with reading, we have to work towards building both discerning reading habits and wide reading habits in our children.

There is no better way to do this, than through modeling. If you are able to demonstrate to children that you, yourself, read a wide variety of books and texts for different purposes, then it is likely that children will pick up on this from you. Consider – do you share your own reading habits with children in your classroom/home? Do you discuss with them an interesting news item that you have read in the paper? Do you share a favorite poem that you read when you’re feeling sad? Do you share the range of authors you read, and why? Remember – you cannot make children love literature, books and texts, if you yourself are not able to model this for them.

In addition to modeling, you need to “scaffold” or hand-hold children as they acquire the habit to read across genres. You need to ensure that you bring in a wide variety of books for children to examine and explore; and you should also ensure that you play a skillful role in introducing those books to children. One way to do this is by starting with children’s authentic questions about different aspects of life around them. Children are always brimming with interesting questions.

I noticed recently that my 9 year old daughter was asking me questions like, “Who invented maths? How did the world begin? How did we all get here? What did people look like before they looked like people? How did mountains come to be? Why do you have to dig to find things from the past, why are they not just lying around?” I noticed a theme here – an interest in the origin of things, people, places. So, I brought in a variety of books for her – origin myths from around the world; books on early people; on geology and archeology; on evolution; on history; and so on. Some of these were mythological fiction. Others were simple readers. Still others were children’s encyclopedias. Had I simply brought these in and left them lying around, the odds are that she would have thought that they were far too challenging and/or boring for her to handle, and might have reverted to her favorite Enid Blytons. Instead, we spent time discussing the questions of significance to her. I helped her to look through the books and decide which ones seemed to answer some of her questions. I spent regular time reading small portions of these books aloud to her, and helping her deal with the difficult vocabulary and syntax, but most importantly – to help her see the relevance of these books to answering her own questions! After a fair amount of hand-holding and modeling, she is now off exploring some of these books on her own.

As a teacher or a librarian, you might consider setting aside regular time where students advertise books they’ve read to each other. This might spark off an interest in another student who might otherwise not have considered reading a book of that genre. You might consider organizing research projects that would necessarily require that students to dip into different genres of texts. You might consider taking up systematic genre study in your class/library, where you spend a sustained period of time exploring different genres with the students.

Having said all this, it is also important to give students space to have a decided preference for one genre over another. Some children will take more naturally to poetry than to prose. Others might favor fantasy stories over all others. Still others may prefer non-fiction. Give sufficient opportunities and sufficient space for children to grow.

Have questions related to reading or literacy that you haven’t yet found the answers to? Send in your questions to hippocampus.librarian@gmail.com and have Dr Shailaja Menon respond to it.

Dr. Shailaja Menon currently works as faculty in the area of Language and Literacy, School of Education, Azim Premji University. She has her Ph.D. in language, literacy and culture from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and degrees in human development and psychology from MSU, Baroda, and Delhi University, respectively.

Literacy expert Shailaja Menon

Literacy expert Shailaja Menon

Shailaja has worked in various educational settings in the US and in India. She has an abiding interest in imparting a love for language, literature and literacy to children, teachers and teacher educators and engages in a variety of initiatives that help promote these.




5 Books That Are Perfect for Bibliotherapy

As parents and educators, we often struggle with responding to certain complex situations in a child’s life. For instance, what do we say to a child when she/he loses a loved one? Or, how do we sensitize our students to a child with special needs? Using books in these kinds of difficult situations have proven to be surprisingly effective. Through these stories – both real and fictional – children tend to realize that these are common challenges faced by others and that they aren’t alone in their experiences. It also helps widen their perspectives on a range of issues. At Hippocampus, we have actively been promoting ‘Bibliotherapy’ – the act of healing through books – and found that it works wonders.

Here are 5 incredible books that will sensitize children to what may commonly be perceived as different, and also help them through rough times.

1. Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus (ages 3-5)

Typically, late bloomers experience some amount of insecurity. Here’s a moving tale that will bring comfort and joy to all of them.

2. The Lonely King and Queen by Deepa Balsavar (ages 5-7)

In India, we tend to bury facts around a child’s adoption, which we know now is not the best approach. This important book leads the reader to discover what ‘family’ really means without mystifying adoption. It also reaffirms the right of every child to be loved and to have a home.

3. The Tenth Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst (ages 5-9)

What do you say to a child who has just lost a pet? Here’s a touching story of how a little boy copes with the death of his pet cat with the support of his family. This is a great book to initiate a discussion on loss.

4. Ian’s Walk by Laurie Lears (ages 7-9)

This is a beautifully illustrated book that portrays the nature of autism in a realistic and sensitive manner. A fantastic read-aloud book that should find a prominent place in your library!

5. Wonder by R J Palacio (ages 9-12)

All 10-year-old August wishes for is to be treated normally. With facial deformities that don’t allow him to blend into the crowd, August faces a lot of difficulties in his first year of being enrolled into a private school. A brave book that will give strength to any child who seeks acceptance.


‘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.


Election Carnival in Your School Library

Are your students aware of the 2014 General Elections and what it means to vote in a democracy? Bring in a bit of the election-mania into your library through our 5 easy-to-implement ideas.

1. Read-Aloud Elections (Grades 1-2)

Get into the spirit of democracy by allowing your students to vote on which books they want you to read-aloud at the end of the week. Share two or three books with the children by reading them the titles and authors, showing them the cover pages, and reading the back blurbs. If any of the students have strong opinions about a particular book, ask them to come in front of the class and “campaign” for it by talking about why others should vote for the book. Keep the books on display all week, and an empty ‘ballot’ box nearby with chits of paper and pencils. Students must vote at any point during the week. At the end of the week (or at your next library session), tally up all the votes and share the winner. The winning book will be read aloud!

2. Letter to the Prime Minister (Grades 3-5)

Election results are about to be announced! While some of your students will be happy with the outcome, others may not support the winning party. Because we live in a democracy with freedom of speech, citizens are allowed to speak in favor of or against their government. Once the Prime Minister is officially revealed, ask students to write him/her a letter, in which they can share their thoughts about how to improve India during his/her time in office! Older children can address very specific issues and make suggestions on how to fix them (i.e. Education, Health, Economy, Social Equality, etc.). Younger children can focus their letters on the simpler concept of “If I could change one thing in the world, it would be…” Teach your students how to put their letter in the proper format by giving them an example.

3. Clicks From the Election (Grades 3-5)

Ask children to scan recent newspapers and magazines which have covered the voting process across India. Tell them to bring one photograph -along with the caption – of the voting process that they really like from any newspaper/ magazine that they get at home. Collect all the photographs (with captions) and paste them in a blank notebook. There you go, your class has their own visual record of the 2014 General Elections. Ask them for an appropriate title for the book and add it to your collection of books in the library.

4. Take a Stand! (Grades 6 & above)

Write the following terms on four different posters (one on each): Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, Strongly Agree. Hang each poster in a different corner of the library before class. During your library session, talk to students about the importance of sharing opinions, discussion and debate in a democracy and tell them today they are going to get a chance to do all of those things. Then read a statement out loud, and tell students to go to the corner of the room that best describes how they feel about that statement. Here are some examples of statements:

  • People should be fined for littering in public spaces.
  • Political parties that promote a certain religious faith must be banned.
  • Schools should not have uniforms.

Students within each of the four groups can take the next 5 minutes to discuss why they feel that way about the statement. Each group can then nominate one student as a ‘Spokesperson’ who will share their thoughts with the rest of the class. Once all ideas have been shared, read another statement and repeat the exercise. Take this activity further by allowing students to politely challenge what other groups say during the sharing portion. Hopefully this will lead to some exciting debates!

5. Library Party Politics (Grades 6 & Above)

Tell students that political parties consist of groups of people that have similar views about how a government should run. Each political party has its own name, symbol, and set of beliefs, which are all linked. Ask students to name as many political parties as they can think of in India. Discuss what their symbols are and why those were selected. For example, Indian National Congress (known as the Congress party) has a symbol of a palm-facing hand with its fingers pressed together in front of an India flag. It is meant to stand for strength, energy and unity. The Congress party believes it puts energy and effort into working with the masses (it is the largest political party in the country) to unite a diverse India, which is why they chose their symbol [see http://www.elections.in/political-parties-in-india/ for more information about Indian political parties and their symbols].

Once you share some examples of political parties, symbols and beliefs, tell students that today they are going to start their own library political parties. Organize students in groups of four and provide each group with poster board and colored pencils/markers. Each group must first list 3 beliefs they have about the library OR things about the library they would like to change. Once they decide on at least 3, they must then pick a name. Finally, they will create a symbol for their political party. Ask them to try to tie their name and symbol to the beliefs of their party. Before the end of the session, students should write the party name and beliefs on their posters, as well as draw their symbol. Display the political party posters around the library. Hopefully they will give you some good ideas for how to improve the library space!

Book Recommendation for Election Theme: We, The Children of India: The Preamble to Our Constitution by Leila Seth; the image used for this blog post is from the same book and has been illustrated by Bindia Thapar.

15 Amazing Indian Books Recommended by Top Editors

Hippocampus School Library Services is delighted to reveal a list of 15 Indian books which have been declared as favourites by 5 top editors from Tulika Books, Pratham Books, Duckbill and Karadi Tales.

The last decade has been exciting as well as challenging for children’s book publishing houses in India. Moving away from stories that dealt with safe themes in safe ways, publishers have consciously taken steps toward being more honest, whimsical, meaningful and bold in their narrative styles. Today, there is a much wider range of themes being explored in Indian books, and boundaries are certainly being pushed with far more enthusiasm.

Tulika Books, Duckbill, Pratham Books and Karadi Tales are some of the publishing houses that have contributed significantly to improving the quality of children’s books in India. We asked a few editors from these publishing houses to answer the following questions:

1. Which are 2 books from other Indian publishers that you absolutely love?

2. Could you name a book from your own publishing house that fills you with pride every time you look at it?

Scroll down to see their answers.

Librarians, here, there and everywhere, do you have these books in your school?


Pratham Books

Counting on Moru by Rukmini Banerji (Pratham Books)

I like this book because the protagonist is like many of the kids you’d find in every school in every classroom. It should definitely be part of every school library, and hopefully some teachers will read it too.

Other Publishers

Cobra in my Kitchen by Zai Whitaker (Rupa & Co)

The humorous way of bringing in animals and humans makes one think of Gerald Durrell. Such books do more for sensitizing children to the animals and birds around them than textbooks and moralistic articles on how to save our environment.

The World of Anahi and Vir by Kalpana Subramanian, Illustrated by Prashant Miranda (Little Latitude)

This set of three books is delightful for little readers.


Pratham Books

Kallu Series by Subhadra Sengupta, Illustrated by Tapas Guha (Pratham Books)

I really like the Kallu series titles: In Big Trouble Again and Monkey Business on Stage. These books introduce a bunch of children from a village in a fast, urbanising India in a most credible way. The children are instantly identifiable, likeable and their adventures are engaging. These books give a face to the ‘demographic dividend’ that is being bandied about by economists and tug at our heart to say that every child everywhere in India is important. Because they are so Indian, they are a delight to translate into Indian languages and their usage of English is also very Indian.

Other Publishers

The Mountain of the Moon by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay (Katha)

I absolutely love The Mountain of the Moon. It is a translation of ‘Chander Pahad’ by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay from Bangla. Set in Africa, it is a feat of imagination and the translation is lovely.

Ekki Dokki by Sandhya Rao, Illustrated by Ranjan De (Tulika)

This is also a perennial favourite. I used to read it out to my kids and I recently read it out to another kid from the next generation and she loved its quirkiness. The illustrations are arresting visually and the timelessness of the folk style narration has a power of its own.



Vanamala and the Cephalopod by Shalini Srinivasan (Duckbill)

Other Publishers

Grasshopper’s Run by Siddhartha Sarma (Scholastic)

Catch that Crocodile! by Anushka Ravishankar, Illustrated by Pulak Biswas (Tara Books)



The Why-Why Girl by Mahasweta Devi, Illustrated by Kanyika Kini (Tulika)

Other Publishers

Rupa the Elephant by Mickey Patel (National Book Trust)

Tiger on a Tree by Anushka Ravishankar, Illustrated by Pulak Biswas (Tara Books)


Karadi Tales

The Rumour by Anushka Ravishankar, Illustrated by Kanyika Kini (Karadi Tales)

Other Publishers

Ismat’s Eid by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, Illustrated by Proiti Roy (Tulika)

Wish You Were Here by Anushka Ravishankar (Tara Books)


  1. Grasshopper’s Run by Siddhartha Sarma (Scholastic)
  2. Catch that Crocodile! by Anushka Ravishankar, Illustrated by Pulak Biswas (Tara Books)
  3. Vanamala and the Cephalopod by Shalini Srinivasan (Duckbill)
  4. Cobra in my Kitchen by Zai Whitaker (Rupa & Co)
  5. The World of Anahi and Vir by Kalpana Subramanian, Illustrated by Prashant Miranda (Little Latitude)
  6. Counting on Moru by Rukmini Banerji (Pratham Books)
  7. The Mountain of the Moon by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay (Katha)
  8. Ekki Dokki by Sandhya Rao, Illustrated by Ranjan De (Tulika)
  1. Kallu Series by Subhadra Sengupta, Illustrated by Tapas Guha (Pratham Books)
  2. Rupa the Elephant by Mickey Patel (National Book Trust)
  3. Tiger on a Tree by Anushka Ravishankar, Illustrated by Pulak Biswas (Tara Books)
  4. The Why-Why Girl by Mahasweta Devi, Illustrated by Kanyika Kini (Tulika)
  5. Ismat’s Eid by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, Illustrated by Proiti Roy (Tulika)
  6. Wish You Were Here by Anushka Ravishankar (Tara Books)
  7. The Rumour by Anushka Ravishankar, Illustrated by Kanyika Kini (Karadi Tales)