Be it century-old fables like ‘The Fox & the Crow’ and ‘The Honest Woodcutter’ or contemporary stories like The Rumour, folktales from Indian villages and towns are travelling the world over.
Picture books (storybooks that tell stories primarily through illustrations and contain few words), brought out by Indian publishers like Karadi Tales, Tara Books, Tulika and Pratham Books, are being lapped up by publishers abroad with several of them being translated into local languages by publishers there.
Though the books are set in the Indian milieu, the universality of the stories, the vibrant Indian art and illustration and the variety of stories draw foreign publishers to these picture books.
While picture books are very popular abroad, Indians are still not sold out on them, publishers say.
“But it is essential to start with picture books when a parent wants to introduce a child to reading. Pictures help them relate to the story and also learn words,” says Manisha Chaudhry, who heads content development at Pratham Books, a not-for-profit children’s books publisher.
Pratham Books has also seen good response for its books from foreign publishers, Chaudhry says. Being a philanthropic organization, the company doesn’t sell rights but uploads its books on Creative Commons, a not-for-profit online platform where creative works of various kinds are available for others to build upon legally and to share.
“Since 2010, we have had about 200,000 downloads from 80 countries for our titles,” Chaudhry said.
Working with Creative Commons helps the company reach out to more children than they would otherwise in India. There are very few picture books in India today, and few in local languages, Chaudhry says.