Scholastic India

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Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Book Uncle and Me

Books. Free.

Give One.

Take One

Read-read-read.

 

Perfect! In all of India could there be

a better corner lending library

than this?

 

Book Uncle’s little lending library at the corner of St. Mary’s Road and 1st Cross Street is Yasmin’s favourite haunt. The nine-year-old is determined to read a book a day for the rest of her life, and so she is Book Uncle’s busiest patron! But something terrible happens, and Book Uncle is forced to close down his library. Yasmin is shattered, but she can’t spend too much time moping if she plans to help her friend. Meanwhile, there are other problems afoot, and Yasmin finds herself diving into a story she read recently for answers to her difficulties.

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Written entirely in free verse and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan, Uma Krishnaswami’s latest offering to the literary world is peopled with delightful, endearing characters and packed with much charm and soul.  Book Uncle and Me won the Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA) in 2011. A joint initiative by Scholastic and the National Book Development Council of Singapore, the award is an attempt to recognise and celebrate children’s writers of Asian origin and books that reflect Asian experiences.

More about SABA in the coming weeks! In the meantime, go pick up Book Uncle and Me.

 

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Music of the Stars and Other Love Stories

Writing love stories for young adults can be a little tricky, what with maintaining just the right quantities of mush and drama and avoiding the cloyingly lyrical approach and still trying to gently creep into the hearts of the readers. (All this while ingeniously reinventing the boy-meets-girl syndrome). But the writers featured in Music of the Stars and Other Love Stories, Scholastic India’s newest anthology, have achieved this with considerable panache and restraint. Trisha Ray uses the epistolatory form to chronicle a rather unusual love affair in ‘Messages from the Alien Invasion’, while Kenny Basumatary places his love story against the backdrop of a character’s stomach problems in the hilarious ‘When Nature Calls for Percussion. Spec-fic writer Payal Dhar steps away from her usual genre to write a teenage romance story, as does Anil Menon.

Spanning a surprising array of genres and styles, and set in different places (from the starkly urban New York City to the campsite of a wandering puppeteer) and time periods, the stories in this collection explore love and its different quirks, moods and shades, sometimes with humour and absurdity, sometimes with wonder and curiosity, and sometimes with good old passion.

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What Happened to Regina That Night?

Antarpur suddenly seemed full of intrigue, though in what way he could not imagine.

Rahul Srivastava’s fast-paced thriller, What Happened to Regina That Night, is set in Antarpur, a small town with a vast, fascinating history. Perched at the edge of a dense, wild forest and connected to the outside world by only a railway track, the region had once been occupied by an ancient forest tribe called the Kands. But constant battles with an invading warrior prince and subsequently the British, through the years, had resulted in the Kands being pushed away to the hills in the corner of the district. The only settlement that remained close to Antarpur now was the one located on Kandoha Hill, a site of great tragedy.

Tragedy is about to strike Antarpur once again, unless Kabir, an inquisitive (and unwelcome) visitor to the town can find out what really happened to Regina, a nun from the local convent, twelve years ago, and stop Regina’s fate from befalling another innocent.

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Here’s an excerpt from the book –

The train raced through the darkness without attracting too
much attention. Except for the repetitive sound of wheels hitting
the joints of tracks—tatak tatak dudum dudum—there was little
else announcing its swift passage through thick forests. Winter
mists dulled the engine’s powerful headlights and its horn was
uncharacteristically restrained.
In the train’s sole air-conditioned coach, a thirteen-year-old
boy lay beneath a woolen blanket. It was 3:30 in the morning
and Kabir was lost somewhere between unfulfilled sleep and
a diligent desire to wake up. His body moved in rhythm with
the gently rocking coach. He nodded to his history teacher Ms
Rahel in a dream, wondering what she was doing there. Her
beautifully shaped mouth, painted crimson, appeared near his
ears, whispering something that sounded either like a plea to
be careful or an instigation to do something really reckless. Or
both. He wasn’t quite sure as the words didn’t make much sense
to him.
‘Danger ahead, kid. Scary moments await you, just around
the corner. Have faith in yourself. Take a chance. Rewrite your
destiny.’
She had a habit of peering over his shoulder in school, usually
to check if he was reading her prescribed book. Her sweet breath
always disconcerted him. It was like the whiff you got when
opening a jar of sugar. It merged with her favourite perfume to
produce a heady cocktail.
How could she smell so intoxicating? And look so fabulous?
And entice him into loving her classes so much?
The memory of her fragrance unsettled him and he struggled
to open his eyes. Where was he?
He saw the familiar plastic blue upholstery and thick curtains
of the railway coach, through a sleepy haze, and returned lovingly
to hug his pillow.
She was waiting for him, with a broad smile. She threw her
head back and laughed, her eyes shining wildly, hair spread
around her face like a halo.
‘So you will tell me something about the past that no one
knows? I know you can do it!’ He nodded meekly, and she laughed
like a maniac.
The sound of her laughter transformed into hiccups which
proceeded to become the clicking and clacking of train wheels—
tatak tatak dudum dudum.

He woke up, looked around nervously, and was half-relieved
not to find her anywhere, though one confused part of him could
have gone on with the dream. It felt so real. And nice. Like half
his class, he had a thing going for stunning Ms Rahel.
Groggy-headed, he switched on the light and stared at his
watch. The compartment was still nearly empty. He tied his shoelaces, yawned again, and stared out of the tinted window listlessly. By now, he had lost all enthusiasm for Antarpur.

About the author

Rahul Srivastava has always been intrigued by unusual places and the people rahulsrivastava who live in them. Along with Matias Echanove, he writes about them on airoots.org and has co-founded Urbanology – an initiative that wants to make places even more interesting and special.

He lives in Goa and works in cities and inhabited forests all over the world. His formal training is in anthropology.

Saleem on Earth and Other Stories

There is something almost magical about the festivals in India. Not only do they break the monotony of our weary lives with loud explosions of light and colour and music, but they also somehow erase those invisible barriers between people of different faiths and backgrounds, bringing them together in a common spirt of celebration.

Our forthcoming title, Saleem on Earth, is an anthology of festival stories set in different parts of the country. Each tale evokes the spirit of the festival it focuses on in a unique way. Some stories are distressingly poignant, some laugh-out-loud funny, and some are tinged with sepia-toned nostalgia. And all of them will warm your heart like a cup of hot chocolate.

 saleem

 

Saleem on Earth is among the first books to be published in the Scholastic Nova category.

Introducing Scholastic Nova

For the last fifteen years, Scholastic India has been publishing essentially for children. We now plan to publish books in the Young Adult category under a fresh endeavour called Scholastic Nova.

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The Young Adult category is unique as the audience it caters to is caught between two worlds—one of children and the other of adults, so it spans the age group of 12 to 18 years and sometimes even beyond up to 25 years of age.  Quite naturally, the genre is often characterised by ‘coming of age’ themes. Fantasy, science-fiction and teenage romance are some of the more popular sub-genres in this category.

Stay tuned for more news and updates about Scholastic Nova.

This Book Makes No Sense!

Oh yes, you heard right! This Book Makes No Sense: Nonsense Rhymes and Worse has been finally unleashed on the world by Michael Heyman and his fellow nonsense crusaders, and they were aided in this mission by none other than ace illustrator Priya Kuriyan. ThisBookMakesNoSense.Cover

This book is the only place where you will find the suzerains of nonsense literature  joining forces with a bunch of extremely talented contemporary writers  to rid the world of sense (yes, that evil thing) and fill it with the daffiest, goofiest, dippiest and dottiest of characters and creatures that only get curiouser and curiouser with each page. Sukumar Ray’s duckupine, Samit Basu’s contemplative super-dog, Kaushik Vishwanath’s runaway pants, Edward Lear’s monstrous cummerbund and Sampurna Chattarji’s enigmatic Bong Tree are only a few of the oddities you will encounter as you sing and dance (pausing every now and then to exclaim with delight at Ms. Kuriyan’s illustrations) through the book.

Here’s what Michael Heyman, the mastermind behind This Book Makes No Sense, has to say about the genre of literary nonsense –

 

Do you solemnly swear that This Book Makes No Sense makes absolutely no sense whatsoever? Not even a shred of it? 

Michael: This book makes no sense in the same way that its title makes no sense.  Of course, it does and it doesn’t. And the moral of the story is never, never trust authors.

Nonsense literature is actually a careful balance between sense and non-sense, which is what makes it artful, and technical, and hilarious, and trenchant, and silly, and subversive—none of which would be possible with gibberish, or pure non-sense.

Why does the world need a book that makes no sense? 

Michael: The world made no sense long before the book did.  What does a person mean, exactly?  How about a giraffe?  Things just are, and that “areness” is quite absurd if looked at in terms of our trying to have meaning and purpose for everything.  Alan Watts, the great Zen philosopher, writes, “What do you think the universe is doing, anyway? What are trees all about?  What are giraffes about, what are rhinoceroses about, what are cats about?  Is theirs a serious purpose?”

Now, the absurdist looks at this absurdity and weeps—but the nonsense artists sees the same things—and laughs, dances, sings.

When and how did you get interested in literary nonsense?

Michael: In the early 90s I was doing an MPhil in English Romantic Studies at Oxford, and while I wandered lost in Xanadu I came across Edward Lear as an almost-kinda-Romantic, associated with the genre of literary nonsense. I thought how amazing and rebellious it would be to be the very first scholar of nonsense literature, and while such lofty visions danced like pluperfect sugar plums in my big plumperfect head, I realized rather quickly, after a quick library search, that there was already a significant field of nonsense scholarship dating back to the 19th century.  Still—it seemed so rich and so silly a field that I couldn’t resist.  To the consternation of Oxford, I bent my MPhil towards Lear and haven’t looked back since.

 How is nonsense different from gibberish or parody? 

Michael: Gibberish, or something with little or no meaning, may be a small element of the genre, but it’s clear from any nonsense text you might choose that there is much that does make sense, though which elements do or do not make sense depends on the piece.  Pure parody is sense, and while most nonsense has a parodic element, it tends to go beyond parody.  Take Lewis Carroll’s “parodies” in Alice books for instance, such as “You are Old Father William” or the White Knight’s song, “A-Sitting on a Gate.”  Carroll makes nonsense out of both Southey and Wordsworth (the two poets he “parodies” here), but I’d say that his nonsense goes beyond mere parodic commentary on the originals.  It becomes something in itself, a new nonsense creature.  Of course, we can never forget the originals, and so there will always be an ambiguous (and thus incompletely meaningful) relationship.

Do you have an all-time favourite verse? 

Michael: Nope.  But be careful with the question.  Nonsense is not just verse—it can be prose (and some of the best is), and thus stories, novels—but also songs, games, recipes, alphabets, and much more.  Nonsense is a kind of parasite that inhabits other forms.  It thrives on form and can accommodate itself to many.  My favourite nonsense writers (aside from the obvious) are Edward Gorey, Sukumar Ray, Carl Sandburg, and Mervyn Peake.

How difficult was your quest for Indian nonsense literature? Did you find many people stoutly denying the existence of such a genre? 

Michael: Ha!  I did indeed.  To this day, there are those who deny “nonsense” in their tradition (and not just in India).  But this is usually because they don’t understand that nonsense literature is not non-sense, that it has a respectable pedigree, that it comes from  rigorous traditions, and that it functions in significant ways, ways that change the world.  As Shelley said, “Nonsense poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Or something like that (remember what I said about trusting authors).  And when Vinda Karandikar, the great, recently-departed Marathi poet, denied that he wrote nonsense, his wife leaned in and said of course he did.  And, with a little explanation, he admitted it too–and was proud.

The quest for nonsense in India, which spanned primarily from 2001-2007, was a huge challenge—and something that I could never have done alone.  I relied on the expertise of generous nonsensical souls whose love for this kind of literature was the only thing that sustained them through the ups and downs of the project.  Anushka Ravishankar, Sampurna Chattarji, Anita Vaccharajani and many more…

What kind of nefarious activities do you like to engage in when you’re not writing or editing nonsense?

Michael: Felonious flower-flopping.

Arb-straching in the mungalay (now, with more arb!)

Parching

Long walks on the beach

 

Read more about Michael’s exploits here – http://tenthrasa.blogspot.com.

Bookaroo!

‘Twas a November weekend. The sun was out, but there was a slight nip in the air – a gentle reminder that winter (yes, Delhi’s infamous one) was just around the corner. Gurgaon’s Anand Gram was the perfect setting for what was easily one of the city’s most exciting events in 2012 – the fifth annual Bookaroo Children’s Festival. This time, around 70 authors, illustrators, storytellers, theatre personalities and other book people from all over the world came together to meet, interact and celebrate books with Delhi’s young readers and their families. Since many of the sessions took place simultaneously, the children were often spoilt for choice. There were stories to listen to under the Kahani Tree, things to invent in the Think Tank, masterpieces to create at the Crafty Corner and the Doodle Wall … you get the picture.

Scholastic sponsored a number of events on the two days of the festival, from storytelling sessions to writing workshops. Our authors had a marvellous time hobnobbing with their enthusiastic readers, sharing their writing secrets, and reading from their recent books.

Sampurna Chattarji read from her upcoming YA novel Ela, to an enthralled audience. The novel’s about a 13-year-old happy urban child whose world comes crashing down when she discovers that she’s adopted. Sampurna also read from the wonderfully quirky This Book Makes No Sense, a collection of nonsense verse and stories, along with Michael Heyman, who has compiled this anthology. Michael’s  funny musical performances had everyone in splits. He also made the audience come up with quick and original nonsense words.

Ovidia Yu shared plotting techniques and writing tips with a bunch of budding writers, as did Maria Denjongpa, while Aniruddha Sen Gupta, author of the Fundoo 4 series had his audience suitably entertained with his Fundoo Fundas about our world.

Asha Nehemiah conducted a creative writing workshop in which she let out the secret of drawing and fixing the attention of the reader from the first paragraph. Author Jerry Pinto and illustrator Garima Gupta, who have worked together on the gorgeous When Crows Are White, held a graphic-novel-making workshop.

Here are a few moments from the festival.

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Already looking forward to next November!

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