Fun Quiz for School Librarians

Librarians, there’s finally a quiz tailored just for you! How much do you know about children’s books? How do you run your school library? Take this fun test to find out where you stand as a school librarian.

Smitten With Words

Suzanne Sangi got her debut novel ‘Facebook Phantom’ published at the age of 17. Read this article in which she reflects on her enduring love for words, reading and writing.

My father often says that as a toddler, I used to crawl to a corner and grabbing a piece of paper and pen, I’d scribble away incessantly. Scrunching my eyebrows with concentration, I’d settle to read the same for a long time until other objects caught my baby-fancies.

And now, at eighteen, I often wonder if I was merely predisposed to write – whatever is in the DNA of those inclined to write or perhaps a whim of the gods. I remember a friend of mine in primary school who first introduced me to novels, under whose influence I graduated from Aesop’s Fables and Jataka Tales to Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. Looking back, I can’t seem to thank her enough; this was what set my course – the dawn of a mind that would revel in the aesthetic pleasure invoked by words weaved together to create webs of the known and the even more alluring unknown.

The first thing I ever wrote was a song. I recall being so excited about my little piece that it soon became an inevitable entertainment number in any family get-together or whenever a guest dropped in at home. And then I wrote more songs and when I couldn’t figure out a tune for them, they became poems. Soon, I was fascinated with the idea of writing short stories like the Folktales I read; I wrote numerous stories about the poor fisherman who lived by the lake and the magic plate of plenty. I made everyone at home read my work and of course, I didn’t spare the guests either.

I grew up with the same ardor for books; I read when I was excited, bored, angry, tired or relaxed. Sometimes, I read from the time I woke up till I dropped asleep with my face still wedged between the pages; the words, still swimming in my sleep, would became real people and places. All this, I reckon, is what you’d call in Psychology a phase of ‘Preparation’ in the process of Creativity; a time of immense learning and acquiring of knowledge to create.

It was in the summer after my tenth board exams that I first attempted a full-fledged novel. I called it Facebook Phantom, owing to the rising popularity of the social networking site and my fascination for the paranormal. I had no solid plot when I began and often felt extremely inadequate as it seemed to me that every other writer had it all figured out from the start. However, the story weaved itself and at sixteen, I had written my first novel. Even at this point, I was hesitant to show my work to people with the notion that they wouldn’t take it seriously. With a little prod from two friends with whom I often discussed my writing and books, I approached certain publishers and the following summer, I was an elated seventeen-year-old with her debut novel published.

It simply appears to me that reading is where it all begins, giving one the ability and tools to express one’s thoughts in the most beautiful form of art – the art of words.

Suzanne Sangi’s debut novel Facebook Phantom was published by Duckbill.  

Meet Rajiv Eipe, Creator of Visual Delights in Children’s Books

It’s always a pleasure to come across Rajiv Eipe’s unique, lively illustrations in children’s books.  If you haven’t yet had the fortune of seeing his work, get your hands on Let’s Go! published by Tulika Books and Dinosaur-Long-as-127-Kids published by Katha. Read a super-short interview with Eipe in which he talks to the HSLS team about finding inspiration to draw, his favourite children’s books and his secret desire to become one of Roger Hargreaves’ whimsical creations!

Your children’s book illustrations are gorgeous and you certainly have a distinct style. What inspires you to draw for children?

Thank you! It’s a good feeling to play a part in the storytelling process, however small, and if a picture I make can light up the characters in a story for the reader, then I can tell myself that I’ve put my skills to some use.

Tell us about a book that you loved as a child. Do you remember what you loved about it?

We had a picture book called The Fox and the Hound – That’s What Friends Are For, a heartwarming story with fun illustrations that I was particularly fond of. Also, a book of Russian folktales with marvellously detailed watercolour illustrations.

Name three contemporary illustrators whose work you admire and feel that children should be introduced to. 

Shaun Tan, Prabha Mallya and Jon Klassen.

Which are five books that every school library must own?

Mukund and Riaz by Nina Sabnani

The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

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?

Is that true? Maybe it will help if writers, artists and publishers of children’s books are more open to pushing the boundaries while producing books. Having said that, there’s some wonderful work being done in the children’s book space at present. A wider range of illustration styles, formats and book designs will help, I suppose.

What was your school library like?

The first school I went to had a huge library, but I don’t remember using it much as I wasn’t much of a reader. The second school I went to didn’t have one at all.

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

Mr. Tickle

Rajiv Eipe lives in Bangalore and works on Animation and Illustration projects. He infrequently posts some of his work at


S L Faizal’s Experiments with Reading Innovations in Kendriya Vidyalaya, Pattom

It’s not every day that you come across someone like S L Faizal, a librarian who thrives on reading innovations in the school library. From launching the first library blog in India, to promoting information literacy through fun campaigns such as Face-a-book, this librarian’s initiatives deserve to be in the spotlight. Find out more about his experiments with promoting reading in Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom, Trivandrum.

The tagline of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom library where S L Faizal works is: Where minds meet and ideas pop up. Clearly, Faizal doesn’t take this tagline lightly. Enthusiastic about discovering new possibilities to help the library evolve, Faizal’s always looking for effective ways to motivate children to read more. Although Faizal has plenty of pet projects, we have decided to highlight three of his most promising library initiatives.


The concept was developed from the realization that almost all students between the ages of 11 and 17 are connected on social networks like Facebook, and spend less time reading physical books. So they were told this: If you are bored with Facebook, come to your Library and face a book, a real one. Face-a-book – an encounter with a real book – was started in 2012 as a collaborative project between the library staff and students. Thus emerged where children could post their thoughts after reading books borrowed from the library. Born out of this initiative was another reading program called Book Ambassadors. As a part of this, 50 students were selected to closely read a book each. Each of them then became the ambassador for the book that they had read (e.g., Ambassador of Harry Potter). These ambassadors were expected to face all queries specific to the book that they were representing. They were also honoured with badges and certificates.

Library Junction

Library Junction ( was launched in 2010 as an online Academic Social Network with all the features of a popular social network. The targeted users were the net-generation students. Designed as an online collaborative learning platform, members could ask questions, express views, hold discussions, share information, work on projects together, communicate with others and get to know the world better. The project team consisted of more than 1000 students (between the ages of 6 and 17) and 10 teachers from different subject backgrounds. The project won NCERT’s Best Innovative Project for Schools Award in 2011 and KVS Innovations and Experiments Award in 2010.

The prime objectives of this project were:

  • to create an easily accessible and user-friendly online learning platform which connects the library, teachers and students
  • to support student-teacher collaborative learning practices
  • to facilitate information sharing and knowledge creation
  • to cultivate reading habit and inspire love towards books, reading and libraries
  • to develop information and media literacy skills
  • to encourage critical thinking, innovation and creativity
  • to reach out to new-generation library users at their own space and time
  • to make learning more enjoyable

Library-Social Connect (LSC)

LSC is a social responsibility initiative by Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom to connect students to society through books and reading. The project was kick-started in 2013 through a campaign called ‘Gift a Book and Get a Friend’. This was aimed at providing students with better opportunities to find out more about their community – other learning systems in particular – and to make friends through books. Students of the school’s Readers’ Club collected more than 550 books and gifted it to children from underprivileged backgrounds studying in Govt.U.P.S.,Palkulangara. In the spirit of friendship, students from both schools presented cultural programs together, participated in fun activities, told stories, and shared their food. The support and response from students was overwhelming. Visit for more details.

Do you feel that your school library is awesome and deserves to be in the spotlight? Well, write to us at and and we’ll be excited to feature you. 





‘I Love My Library’ – A Workshop for Librarians this May!

Librarians, beat the heat this summer by participating in HSLS’s popular ‘I Love My Library’ workshop.

A dynamic school library deserves an equally dynamic school librarian, one who is constantly looking to evolve. In collaboration with Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, HSLS has designed the ‘I Love My Library’ workshop – an activity-filled session which equips librarians with the tools to infuse fun and excitement in their school libraries through the year.

This workshop will:

  • Empower the librarian with practical student engagement tools
  • Equip the librarian with techniques to support and extend the school curriculum
  • Inspire the librarian to infuse fun and excitement in the library throughout the year
  • Address challenges librarians encounter with the help of practical ideas and solutions
  • Enable librarians to identify the stakeholders of the school library and learn how best they can be serviced

The workshop is scheduled for May 2014 in Bangalore. If you’re interested, please call us right away at 080 25630206 or write to us at


Add Shades of Green to Your Library on World Earth Day (April 22)

How often do we tell children that their actions can make a difference? On World Earth Day this year, raise awareness around environmental issues. Here are eight awesome ways in which you can inspire your students to be more environmentally-friendly.

1. Bring plants into the library.

Are there plants in your library? If there aren’t, bring in plants that will flourish indoors. A little greenery will do wonders for the atmosphere of the library, making it more inviting. Keeping in spirit with World Earth Day celebrations, it will be fantastic if you could plant a seed in the library. As you do this, gather children around you and talk to them about the importance of plants and trees. How about narrating the inspiring stories of Wangari Mathai or the Chipko Movement? You could even invite a science teacher to initiate a discussion.

2. Read aloud a captivating story related to the environment.

Pick a book from the library that will help set the mood for World Earth Day.  You could even read selected portions of it. Hopefully, this will evoke their curiosity and motivate them to complete the book. Want to take a look at our recommended books? Click here to see it.

3. The Go Green Contest: Hold a contest that raises awareness around important environmental issues.

School-wide contests are a great way of drawing attention to any cause. For younger grades (Grades 2-5), hold a bookmark contest in which they have to make bookmarks that promote ways in which to be environmentally friendly. For older grades (Grades 6-8), organize a poster competition in which they have to make posters that promote the need to be more environmentally friendly. You could even pick more specific themes such as endangered animals, global warming, etc. Make sure the winning bookmarks and posters are displayed in the school library.

4. Invite an expert who works toward protecting the environment.

The school library should ideally be a hub for information – a place where children can ask all sorts of questions and find answers. You’ll be surprised at the number of people in your city/town whose work is aimed primarily at protecting nature. Invite an expert to your library and ask them to talk to your students about the work they do.

5. Keep a nature’s basket.

Take children from younger grades for a short nature walk. Ask them to collect any one thing that they find in nature – a seed, a leaf, bird’s feather, and so on. Keep all that they’ve collected in a basket in the library. There, your nature basket is ready. It’ll be great if you can keep a magnifying glass along with the basket, in case anyone wants to zoom into any of these objects.

6. Draw attention to the environmental books in your library.

This is a great opportunity to draw attention to the best books related to environmental themes in your library. Wipe the dust off these books and put them on display. Avoid putting books that are not likely to interest children.

7. Screen a film that will spark off discussions about nature.

Have you noticed how children are invariably drawn to books that are adapted to the screen, or vice versa? Pick a film – that also exists in the form of a book – which throws light on important environmental issues and is likely to capture the imagination of children. A film followed by a discussion is always a great idea. How about Dr Seuss’ ‘The Lorax’?

8. Pin up our latest BookSmarts question in your library and challenge students.

BookSmarts is our monthly book quiz for booklovers. This month, our question is linked to the environment and your students will have fun trying to answer it. Click here to download and print it. Oh, we can’t wait to see how your students will respond!

Do email us at to let us know how your students responded to any of these activities. We would love to hear from you!

World Earth Day: Read to Protect Our Planet

Do you take your own bag to the supermarket? Have you been recycling? Switch off the lights! Why don’t you cycle to work?

It’s that time of the year when we are all reminded of the importance of being environmentally-friendly. Across the world, April 22 is celebrated as Earth Day. But is it enough to go green for just a day and forget about it soon after? Absolutely not! For decades now, books have been used to introduce children to different environmental themes. Have a look at eight incredible books that will inspire your students to be green citizens for life.

1.Let’s Plant Trees by Vinod Lal Heera Eshwer (3 to 5 years)

Imagine finding a seed (pongamia) inside a book! Here’s the perfect book to celebrate trees and inspire a generation of tree-huggers. Let’s Catch the Rain, Eshwer’s book on saving rainwater, is also a thoughtful, important book recommended to schools by the CBSE.

2. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (5 to 8 years)

Published in 1971, this environmental fable has been considered as one of the ‘Top 100 Picture Books’ of all time in a 2012 poll by the American Library Association. A book every school library must own!

3. Polar Bear, Why is Your World Melting? by Robert E Wells (7 to 9 years)

Using the example of the Arctic ice melting and polar bears struggling to cope, this book explains the phenomenon of global warming in a simple, engaging manner.

4. The New 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth by The EarthWorks Group (9 to 12)

A wonderful book that shows children simple ways in which to make a difference to the environment. A slightly expensive book that is worth buying!

5. Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (10 and above)

An unusual ecological mystery involving endangered owls, a Pancake House scheduled to be built over their burrows and three middle-school kids on a mission to protect the owls’ home.

[Note: The image used in this blog post has been illustrated by Mike Gordon for ‘Why Should I Save Energy?’ published by Hodder Children’s Books.]

‘These days, I delight in the hope that I might help children discover how amazing and exciting history is’

Meet Natasha Sharma, the author of Rooster Raga, Bonkers! and Icky! Yucky! Mucky! who possesses a secret spell for making children howl with laughter. In this interview with HSLS, she talks about finding inspiration for stories, using humour as a writing tool, and smart ways in which to promote reading in schools.

Excerpts from the interview:

What inspires you to write for children?

It’s a rather selfish reason! I get to think up scenes and plots with my characters licking curry from hand to elbow. I can relive and recreate my childhood doggy chronicles with a lot more exaggeration. I can put historical characters into the craziest of situations even as I tell children facts from history. These days, I delight in the hope that I might help children discover how amazing and exciting history is.

I enjoy using humour as a tool in my writing. Luckily, children love humour! Which isn’t to say that adults don’t enjoy it. Of course they do, behind all their grumpiness! It isn’t also to say that humour is the only way to write for children. It is what works for me. I get to spend my work time often smiling to myself as I write. I giggle as I brainstorm. I rub my hands with glee as I think up a prank to put into a story. I gain entry into a world where a rooster can say Kukaa-mooo and be perfectly acceptable to the reader.

It is also a rather special feeling to know that a child is reading my story and hopefully getting transported to a different world. I never spell out moral messages but I like to think that my stories work on multiple levels. My recent book Rooster Raga might be a story of a rooster getting confused about his crowing as he tries to fix his own kukaroo-kuroo, but it is as much about a child realising that it is great to be your own special self. Icky, Yucky, Mucky! speaks of terrible table manners and nail biting. Things end on a rather disgusting note but most kids react with an ‘ewwww’ as they promise not to behave in the same way.

Inspiration for a story itself can be found everywhere. These are some of the things that have inspired me: A loud burp, a sock, childhood escapades with my dogs, a doodle.

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

I loved the Enchanted Wood series as a child and have loved reading them to my children. There is something about a gigantic tree with a different land on top each day, branches growing different fruits, a character called Moonface with sweets that enlarge and go pop in your mouth that appeals to me till date. All Roald Dahl books have been favourites. I read a few much later but I love to revisit them all the time. I’ve discovered some fabulous books for kids in recent years and find myself often picking one up as I curl into my reading corner.

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

  1. Give children as wide a range of authors and titles as one can to choose from in the school library. Children need to try all kinds of books to discover what they really enjoy. Their taste keeps changing as they grow, so it is important to have variety in the library. Alongside, it is important for the teachers and librarians to know the books themselves so that they can make interesting recommendations to the children.
  2. Give them many chances to speak about books that they’ve read and enjoyed. This needs to be in a relaxed environment where they can have free-wheeling discussions, make connections and share their excitement around books.
  3. Invite authors and illustrators into schools! I have so many questions thrown at me by children who are curious about the creation of a book. They often want to know how the idea came about for my story, right down to how it gets printed and sold. It can create additional interest in reading and encourage them to explore different genres.
  4. I’m going to add a fourth one which is actually something followed in my kid’s school. A child gets to give a birthday book to the library each year. The book has the child’s name and class written in and some part of it is read out in class as the child’s choice. It’s lovely to create a bond with books on every possible ocassion.

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

Anushka Ravishankar, Oliver Jeffers, Emily Gravett.

Which are five books that every school library must own?

It is impossible to name just five! This is off the top of my head. Few books that I have read recently and highly recommend – The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, Wisha Wozzariter by Payal Kapadia, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Book series like Horrible Histories and Horrible Science that make facts incredible fun. Books by the following authors in addition to the ones mentioned in the earlier point (I am really trying to limit myself here!): Roald Dahl, David Walliams, Philip Ardagh, Shel Silverstein.

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

Eeks! Each one I think of goes through some pretty terrible stuff before he or she emerges victorious – which is quite the mark of a great book, but makes me a bit nervous to be them. I am going to say Squiggle from my upcoming book Squiggle Takes a Walk. Squiggle is a doodle who is having an existential crisis in a book, trying to understand who she is and what is her place and purpose. She goes on a wild ride through the book as she meets punctuation before emerging happy in her wildly creative corner. No, it’s not autobiographical!

Watch out for Squiggle Takes a Walk, Natasha Sharma’s latest book due to release in June this year.

Five Most Effective Ways to Keep Children Out of Your School Library

1. Keep the best books locked away in a cupboard, especially the ones that are likely to make children laugh. Laughter in the library is more dangerous than it appears to be.

2. Choose books for children every single time. Don’t dare allow them to make their own selections.

3. The school library needs to be a genuinely child-unfriendly space. Let in very little sunlight and keep the walls as bare as possible. Children are drawn to bright and colourful spaces, so don’t ever make the mistake of creating an inviting space. Imagine the horror of children flocking to the library!

4. The best librarians are stern and unfriendly souls. This way, children are hesitant to approach them and avoid making conversation. Bliss.

5. Reading must always be graded. Frequent tests must be conducted in the library to assess children’s reading skills. Why would we want children to read for pleasure alone? That’s utter nonsense!

(Note: The image used in this post is from ‘The Librarian From the Black Lagoon’ and has been illustrated by Jared Lee.)

Author Ben Okri’s ‘Ten and a Half Inclinations’

In ‘Ten and a Half Inclinations’, author Ben Okri makes a compelling case for reading. Every child must read this powerful piece of advice from Ben Okri – an acclaimed Nigerian novelist and poet – best known for his novel ‘The Famished Road’. Put this up in your school library for all children to see, or read it out to them.

1. There is a secret trail of books meant to inspire and enlighten you. Find that trail.
2. Read outside your own nations, colour, class and gender.
3. Read the books your parents hate.
4. Read the books your parents love.
5. Have one or two authors that are important, that speak to you; and make their works your secret passion.
6. Read widely, for fun, stimulation and escape.
7. Don’t read what everyone else is reading. Check them out later, cautiously.
8. Read what you’re not supposed to read.
9. Read for your own liberation and mental freedom.
10. Books are like mirrors. Don’t just read the words. Go into the mirror. That is where the real secrets are. Inside. Behind. That’s where the gods dream, where are realities are born.
10 1/2. Read the world. It is the most mysterious book of all.