There are so many stories from India capable of delighting children – stories of princesses and Maharajas and mythic gods and beasts – enough to fill several volumes and to last an entire childhood of storytelling. But the key word is capable. Kids these days are used to books with gorgeous illustrations and age-appropriate text – 2 features that many books about Indian and Hindu mythology are seriously devoid of. (Some books have such poor grammar, I’ve had to unwittingly improvise and basically re-tell the story in my own words…)
But the future of Indian stories for children is looking hopeful. Lately, we’ve been reading from Indian Children’s Favourite Stories – a collection of 8 stories as retold by Rosemarie Somaiah (Tuttle Publishing). The stories include The Birth of Krishna, No Ordinary Lad (accounts of Krishna’s childhood), The Story of Rama, and Journey to Heaven (about Akbar and Birbal), among others. The text reads very smoothly and the illustrations, which remind me of those Kondapalli dolls from Andhra Pradesh, are captivating and whimsical.
My son’s favourite seems to be Tenali Raman – an account of an episode from the famous court-poet’s childhood that features Goddess Kali (his latest interest – she’s a Goddess, but wait, she looks kind of scary…an interesting combination indeed). It’s told in a way that has just the right amount of silliness – a rarity when it comes to “Indian” stories!
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