Bangalore now has a “big little book club”, named Bookalore, created by the people responsible for some of the more interesting children’s literature in the country. “Bookalore is a collective enterprise and the people behind it have several years experience in writing for children, illustrating children’s books and editing children’s fiction,” said author Asha Nehemiah. Members of the club will participate in monthly activities that will be held in different venues. Asha Nehemiah discussed the idea with Time Out Bangalore in an email interview.
Tell us about Bookalore.
A group of us – authors, illustrators, editors of children’s books and magazines – decided we wanted to do something more than just create books for children. We wanted to become part of the process of actually reaching out and taking books to children in a way that is exciting and interactive. We’d been talking about things which concerned us all deeply: are children getting to read the works of Indian authors? Why is it that Indian children stick with reading the usual bestselling books when there’s a world of fantastic new books that they’ve never tried or explored? To our delight, librarians and educationists became a part of our mission and that is how Bookalore was born. Bookalore hopes to partner with performers, storytellers and other artistes to hold monthly events for children and young adults. These will be held across Bangalore at libraries, schools, bookshops, art galleries, museums and theatres.
What can we expect to see over the next few months?
Our launch event gives you a flavour of the sort of things children can expect from Bookalore. We have a dramatised story-reading of The Story of the Road by author Poile Sengupta for children in the three to five years age group. For slightly older children, we have a wonderful performance by the kids from theatre group Natakvalas; they will be reading from two of my books: Meddling Mooli and the Blue- Legged Alien and Meddling Mooli and the Bully-on-Wheels. For kids aged eight to 12 years, there’s “Magazine Mazaa” where they actually write and put-together their own magazine.
Children will get an opportunity to meet authors and illustrators and buy books. In the next few months, we are planning a Bookalore Folklore Festival, celebrating folk tales which have been retold with a contemporary flavour. Author Roopa Pai will conduct an exciting quiz type of activity with children based on her Taranauts series.
What are the age groups that you are looking at?
We will basically be catering to kids aged three-12 years. We will also have events for young adults and will be introducing them to a genre that is fairly new in children’s publishing in India – young adult fiction, that is.
What prompted you to start a book club in the city?
The fact that all of us live in Bangalore made this city the venue for our early activities. Already, we’ve received requests to have events in other cities and we will consider it at some point if it’s viable. But for the moment, we want to take our events to every part of Bangalore. Bookalore is not a traditional book club. It’s more of a travelling book carnival offering different types of events and activities based around children’s books.
Who else is involved?
There’s writer/poet/theatreperson Poile Sengupta, who has been writing fiction, plays and magazine and newspaper columns for children for many years – decades actually. Roopa Pai is young and dynamic and involved with children in so many ways. She’s written an amazing series of fantasy-adventure books for kids: Taranauts. She also conducts history and nature walks for children. Aditi De has written books for kids and also edited children’s pages in newspapers and a children’s magazine, Junior Quest. Vidya Mani and Shyam Madhavan Sarada have edited and designed children’s magazines for over 15 years – Chatterbox earlier and now Hoot and Toot.
Vimala Malhotra has been something of a pioneer in setting up a dedicated library and activity centre for children (Hippocampus) and is a library consultant working on helping government and private schools set up libraries. Vijayalakshmi Nagaraj – storyteller and author – worked with children in areas such as Jammu & Kashmir and the North-East.
I have been writing for children of all age groups for several years. Apart from these people, there are so many writers and illustrators who’ve come forward to offer time, space, talent to us.
At a time when literary fests are everywhere, conversely book spaces are dwindling. Do you think such initiatives will help bring visibility to the right books?
Literary festivals (with the exception of children’s book festivals like Bookaroo in Delhi and Junior Bug in Bombay) do not give much space or attention to children. I think initiatives such as Bookalore will definitely bring visibility to children’s books.
The Bookalore Launch will be held on Sat Feb 9.
By Bijal Vachharajani on February 01 2013