The Owliver guide for curious readers9 min readReading Time: 6 minutes
Are you curious about your world?
One of the most powerful ways in which we can access the world around us is through reading. You can travel to a different land, a different culture, a different understanding of something you may already know by simply turning the page.
I am sure you have enjoyed travelling to Neverland with Peter Pan or to Hogwarts with Harry Potter! But, the world we live in is no less exciting and inspiring than what we read in these books. How would you like to use reading to understand your world, its many people, cultures, languages, politics etc?
Books can be the lens through which we look at our diverse world and try to make sense of it, one word at a time.
Here is a list of books for our curious reader-
1. The Earth Carer’s Guide to Climate Change
We all know that the earth needs some love and caring. This book is a collection of stories and poems by noted authors like Emily Dickinson, Falguni Gokhale, Guha Dharamrajan et al that lead us to find compassion for the earth. After all, it is only love that can bring about a change!
2. I See The Promised Land
Authors: Arthur Flowers, Guglielmo Rossi
There are some people in the world who inspire change that is remembered forever. Martin Luther King Jr. was one such person. This graphic novel covers the life of King and the Civil Rights Movement, a movement towards equality beyond skin colour in the United States of America. King’s struggle and message is universal and worth reading across the globe.
The novel has been illustrated in traditional Patua style by noted artist Manu Chitrakar.
3. The Constitution of India for Children
Author: Subhadra Sen Gupta
Have you ever read the Preamble to the Indian Constitution? What do the words sovereign, socialist, democracy, and secular mean? The book by Gupta answers all these questions (and more) for children in India to understand how their country works. This essential handbook, with beautiful illustrations by Tapas Guha, serves as a fine introduction to what is the most important document in the country. You can find more of Subhadra Sen Gupta’s work on history for children, here.
4. Dear Mrs Naidu
Author: Mathangi Subramaniam
Publisher: Young Zubaan
Follow the story of twelve-year old Sarojini to understand the Right to Education. Sarojini misses her friend, Amir, who has taken admission in a private school after leaving the slum they lived in. She tries to reunite with him by using this law, either by improving the conditions of the school they were in or by securing a free seat in Amir’s school.
Fighting for her friendship, Sarojini also ends up fighting for her future.
Also, if you like writing letters, you will like the ones Sarojini writes to her pen pal and namesake, the freedom fighter, Sarojini Naidu.
Author: Srividya Natarajan, S. Anand
Bhimarao Ramaji Ambedkar was one of the first revolutionaries of the country. But, Babasaheb Ambedkar grew up as an untouchable because of which he was subjected to discrimination throughout his life. Battling all odds, he went on to draft the Indian Constitution. Through illustrations in Gond by Subhash Vyam and Durgabai Vyam, the story of Ambedkar’s life is told through a conversation between two people at a bus stop.This graphic novel teaches us to respect all individuals and treat everyone with dignity.
6. Lachmi’s War
Author: Geeta Dharmarajan
Imagine if a monster stopped you from going to school? What would you do?
In this book of fiction, an evil asura (monster), Tobakachi, wants to rule the world by stopping the education of girls but Lachmi has other plans for her life. Follow her story of victory over ignorance to understand the power of education.
7. ChachaJi’s Cup
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Publisher: Children’s Book Press
This is a great book if you want to understand about India’s independence in 1947 and how it influenced the people who lived then. The story traces the bond a boy called Neel shares with his chachaji (paternal uncle)- a bond based on stories. His chachaji experienced the Partition as a child and has an unlikely souvenir of that time- a tea cup. The story set in the present dates back to the Partition for its plot through Chachaji’s memories as a refugee child.
After reading this book, maybe you can ask your grandparents about their experiences of that time?
8. Savitribai- Journey of a Trailblazer
Authors: Leah Verghese, Ranjna, Medha Sundar
Publisher: Azim Premji University
Savitribai Phule was the first female teacher in India. Along with her husband, Jyotirao Phule, she founded the first school for girls in Pune in 1848. This book traces Savitribai’s difficult journey of fighting against injustice based on caste and gender at a time when these evils were rampant. It is an open source book that is freely available. Beautiful illustrations by Patua artist Sumon Chitrakar, from West Bengal, have brought this inspiring story to life before its readers.
Fortunately, there are many women who have led inspiring lives that can teach us in more ways than one. Give a read to Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavello, featuring illustrations by 60 female artists from all over the world. This book offers 100 real life stories of remarkable women (like Malala, Michelle Obama, Ada Lovelace et al) who have assumed remarkable roles (queen, philanthropist, writer, astronaut etc), to take with you as you dream. This book is about real life fairy tales where women assume the centre of their stories!
9. Home Away From Home
Publisher: Mumbai Mobile Creches
Mumbai Mobile Creches (MMC) works to create child friendly construction sites for the children of construction workers who live where their parents work.
This story traces the journey of Biswa who is the newest member of the day care centre. Rabia and Jhimli are curious about him and try to find a reason for his shyness. This leads them to understanding the meaning of home. This story helps us to understand the world of those who construct the buildings you and I call homes.
10. American as Paneer Pie
Author: Supriya Kelkar
The book follows the journey of a young girl, Lekha- the only Indian American in a small town. Between being bullied in school and a desire to be understood, Lekha unravels a complex world of identity, respect and race in present times. The story does not avoid confronting the reality of everyday racism through accents, colour etc but also gives importance to self belief and self respect.
A nice move from Kelkar’s work would be to pre order The Book of Cultures from Worldwide Buddies! This book has exciting stories told through children from different countries about the varied cultures that make our world so colorful and vibrant.
After all, this is the only home we know.
Books guide us.
They help us think and imagine, and allow us to be active participants in the unfolding of the world.
They educate us.
Make friends with them and you will find a whole new world open up before you right from your study table.
Exciting, isn’t it?