Bookaroo 2014 begins on Saturday

Published on 28 November, 2014 in Mint

Bookaroo 2014 will look beyond the usual storytelling and introduce children to some serious elements of literature.

The seventh edition of Bookaroo, the popular children’s literature festival, will feature 93 speakers from India as well as abroad, and have as many as 99 sessions over the 29-30 November weekend at the grounds of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). Co-founded by Jo Williams, Swati Roy and M Venkatesh, Bookaroo was launched in 2008. Venkatesh and Roy had been running the children’s book store, Eureka! in Alakananda for more than a decade and small events in the bookshop led to the idea that a larger event was possible. Williams, a former organizer of the Red House Children’s Book Award in UK had moved to India at the same time. “It was a perfect match. We started the bookshop to create a space that children could call their own and Bookaroo was the logical extension of that,” says Roy.

Bookaroo has seen six successful years of kids gathering up for storytelling and poetry sessions, quizzes, and creative writing workshops. Last year, the organizers introduced their audience to young adult (YA) writing and this year too they have extended the programme to incorporate more books for young adults reflecting the current trend worldwide. As always, an assorted line-up of authors, illustrators, poets and storytellers is on-board. Fantasy has been a hot favourite among children, but with Indian publishers focusing on books written by contemporary writers on issues that children can relate to, the scope of reading for young minds has only widened. Setting the stage for this will be Himanjali Sankar and Payal Dhar’s combined session titled ‘Keeping Secrets’, where they’ll touch upon the bold topic of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) through their newly published books ‘Talking of Muskan’ and ‘Slightly Burnt’. Aimed for children aged between 14 and 16, the session will cater specially to teens of today who face myriad doubts and questions regarding sexuality.

Dancer, choreographer and author Anuradha Majumdar will introduce the children to themes that are relevant to the present day. Taking cues from her latest novel ‘Infinity Papers’, which is based on environmental pollution, Tibetans and the philosophy of Buddhism, she intends to encourage the kids to see the wrong in the world in a new light. “The young generation is engaged with issues, they want to participate and make things happen. This is why stories that are dark or violent for the sake of being dark, miss a facet of a child’s reality which needs to build on hope, on joy, which needs to find courage or an alternative view, to step beyond things that dehumanize us. YA fiction probably needs to walk the fine thread of a child’s innate integrity that is full of imagination and a liberating sense of fun which allows him/her to reach for something greater and more fulfilling in this life,” says she.

Also, supporting the YA writing initiative will be Kate Darnton’s session titled ‘The Misfits’ named after her novel of the same name. Published by Young Zubaan, it is the first ever Indian children’s book which brings to light the Right to Education (RTE) Act and the inclusion of children belonging to economically weaker sections into mainstream schools.

India is a country where literature festivals for adults have hogged the limelight, for the right and wrong reasons alike. And even though Bookaroo has been a crowd puller since the year of its inception in 2008, the organizers continue to face some challenges. “Sponsorship is a big concern, both from the corporate and the publishing world because budgets are lower for children. The media coverage of children’s literature as a genre is also not as high as it is for adults. Perhaps because there is no celebrity-status attached to children’s authors as with those writing for adults. However, there is no problem when it comes to reaching out to children as an audience. In fact, they are hungry for more,” says Venkatesh. Thanks to festivals like Bookaroo, many literary wings have in the recent times come out in support of promoting reading and writing for children. One such example is Quill Club Writers, a Delhi-based publishing house which is helping primary school students publish fiction. They have till date worked with 17 schools all across India and published six anthologies of short stories.

The main event kicks off tomorrow but the celebrations began two weeks ago. This year, Bookaroo Trust’s annual outreach programme, Bookaroo in the City (BIC) extended support to over a hundred NGO-run homes, care homes, MCD institutions and Kendriya Vidyalayas in and around Delhi. BOOKART, the festival’s exclusive exhibition organized in collaboration with the Vadehra Art Gallery Bookstore witnessed a successful second edition by showcasing the works of 10 of India’s best illustrators at the Open Air Gallery at Triveni Kala Sangam.

Williams, one of the three founders of Bookaroo says, “Picking favourites from a spread of 99 diverse sessions is difficult. There is something for everyone between the ages of 4 and 16 – from storytelling to sleuthing to art to creative writing to mythology to craft to doodling to space to history and fantasy. In terms of sheer numbers the festival has grown five-fold, but what gives us the greatest pleasure is the increased diversity of the audience and the smiles on the children’s faces. Much of it has been largely due to the increased reach of Bookaroo in the City programme which began two weeks preceding the main festival. It is very heartening to receive requests for attending the festival months in advance – both from children and speakers alike.”

The next edition of Bookaroo will be held at Pune in January 2015.

Sessions and book launches to look forward to:

Dragon Doodling with author and illustrator Gabrielle Wang who’s known to blend Chinese folktales with Western culture and fantasy.

Swiggle Takes a Walk with children’s book author Natasha Sharma who’ll make punctuation simpler for kids.

Bhakti Mathur, who started the ‘Amma Tell Me’ story series of Indian festivals and mythology, will have kids act out scenes from her new book ‘Hanuman’ in a session titled How the World’s First Superman Tried to Eat the Sun.

Close Encounters of the Mythic Kind with India’s bestselling mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik where he takes the children on a fascinating mythical adventure to ancient Lanka, Mount Kailash and the forests of Panchvati to find out more about Garuda, Jatayu and Nandi. His new book, ‘Pashu’ (Puffin) will also be launched.

A pre-publication session by storyteller Rituparna Ghosh on Annie Besant’s ‘The Pterodactyl’s Egg’. The book will be released in January 2015.

Bookaroo 2014 is on from 29-30 November at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), 1, C. V. Mess, Janpath, New Delhi. For full schedule, visit




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