Little pitcher books

Allude was recently asked by a bright young person why he owns so many children's books though he has no children. But anyone who still has his Ukranian tales and Alyonshka and Ivanushka books (from the days of the Indo-Rus brother-brother) is my friend! In the posh but accurate words of Lemony Snicket, "You never love a book the way you love a book when you're 10. No matter how much I admire the work of Nabokov or Murakami, I'm not going to reread 'Lolita' or 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' nearly as many times as I reread 'Harriet the Spy' in third grade."

Bottle imp and I are currently engaged in the noble task of turning two monsters we are newly in love with into a children's book. Sunday morning was much hilarity and satisfaction because the story seemed to fall into place neatly with possibilities for the most insane illustrations. This week the megalomaniacal study of the children's book market is proving to be just as fascinating. The Tulika website is full of juicy writing about children's literature in India. And Suniti Namjoshi writes for them!

It's a mixed pleasure to see Tara and Tulika's pretty and looney books. Who can resist a book called Eecha Poocha? Or a book called All free Mazoo Mazoo? But I am jealous of the kids in Navrachna School, Vadodara; Springdale School and Vasant Valley, New Delhi; Vairam's Matriculation, Pudukkottai because these are their cool textbooks. I feel most deprived. Most children's textbooks are full of examples of the most obnoxious adult behaviour. Does the Gulmohar reader and the Ekalavya episode ring any bells? I know I was puzzled for years because Dronacharya I knew was supposed to be one of the good guys so how could he do something so cruel? The other inexplicable feature of adults writing for children is the nausea inducing pomposity. And here I shouldn't even start on NCERT hindi textbooks. In std X in exasperation I told dear Mr Dubey that I could see no reason for Hindi being our national language if its best exponents were so incredibly dull.

Some children's books publishers have this "here's-your-hat-whats-your-hurry" air to their websites.

"Unfortunately, due to the enormous volume of material sent in to our Children's department, Bloomsbury can no longer accept unsolicited children's manuscripts."

Giggle. Who can blame them? Everyone thinks they have not just a novel but a best-seller in them.
"The typed letter came from Cochin, deep in South India, and was peremptory in tone. The writer was a teacher in a local college. Having informed us that she had written a novel, she wanted to know how much we were willing to pay her as an advance. She also made it clear that she wanted her book to be nominated for the Commonwealth prize, the Booker, and any other literary awards available. She wanted all this written down in a fail-safe contract. These assurances given, she would mail us the manuscript. " This is Tarun Tejpal in 1999 reeling under unsolicited manuscripts after the God of Small Things made Booker gold.

Under most circumstances in most worlds, adults think they are incredibly fascinating to children and that there is nothing better than foisting your view-points on captive babies. (Apparently Isabelle Allende's children's lit attempt stank....may I schadenblog?) Not everyone is so discriminating. With Rowlings and Bloomsbury's success there is shiny money in the mix as well to make sure that there are all kinds of ghastly books out there. And all kinds of earnest frowning adults siccing them on their poor trailing children. So of course I'd like our little monster book to be something I would have chortled and smeared grimy fingers over as a ten year old. Yes, yes, I am sorry I did not put little newspaper covers and read my children's books with tweezers when I was a small maggu. Thats why so few of the books are still around. I read them up amd covet Allude's.


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