Saffron Tree’s annual blog festival CROCUS
We, at Saffron Tree, bring to you this CROCUS, a few of these handpicked books on Pre-History and Ancient Civilizations, along with interviews of notable children’s writers of historical fiction/ non-fiction.
Arthi Anand from Saffron Tree catches up with our editor (and author) Mala Kumar to find out more about her books as well as the work we do.
Tell us more about your journey with Pratham Books so far? Did you start off as an editor or a writer? What do your roles entail?
I started off as a consulting editor at Pratham Books. Since I had conducted recreational maths workshops in schools earlier, Pratham Books suggested I write a set of books on maths. ‘Happy Maths was thus born. Very soon I was working full-time as an editor. As a small team then, we all multi-tasked. And loved it. We still multi-task. As one of the editors, I plan our list, commission authors, select illustrators, give them briefs on each book, and then send it out for translations. We also talk to potential authors, illustrators, translators, storytellers and champions to take our mission forward. And a whole lot of other things too, of course.
How did you come up with the wonderful idea for the money series and the really cool Indian take on seasons?
When we see our books being used in distant and remote parts of the country and in the poorest of homes, we see the power of books as a tool to change lives. Money is a word all children know. As innovators in the field of children’s publishing in India, at Pratham Books we saw an opportunity to touch upon subjects that children needed to know but could not find anywhere. Rather than wait for children to become competent readers and then tell them about finance, we decided to make financial literacy so simple and clear that young children would learn to read, find the joy of reading AND get some money sense all at once.
For the Rupaiya Paisa series, we had a workshop with some excellent participants. I wore my ‘journalist’ hat, digested all the information, did a lot of research, and then wrote the books, even though I have no foundation in finance. Then, I edited it along with my colleagues.
There is so much one can write about the seasons! Our aim was clear – to keep it simple and clearly rooted in India. I decided to start with a child planting a sapling in spring. Then, with my colleague and co-author Manisha Chaudhry, the books just took off. The Rituchakra series looks at the seasons as they change, one book at a time, and the tree features in each with its own development.
Since Pratham Books offerings are multilingual and have to connect with multiple strata of children-are there guidelines/constraints you need to work within?
We do have to keep several points in mind. A story in verse does not translate well in all languages. So we avoid them, or in some cases, do them only in a few languages. Word-based stories and puns fall flat when translated. Idioms add style to stories, but since they do not translate well either, we are aware that each translator has to use idioms in places appropriate to their language. We do have to retain an inherent sensitivity when we look at stories to ensure that we’re making every child, whichever strata she may be from, feel comfortable while reading our books.
Tell us your favourite picture books from the Pratham Books stable and why?
Oh, there are too many! And each for a different reason – good storyline, great illustrations, personal quirk, the story behind the genesis of the book and so on. But here are some ; The Royal Toothache for its universal child-like appeal, Can & Can’t for its simplicity, City of Stories for the late Bindiya’s illustrations, Bishnu the Dhobi Singer for the character, Daddy’s Mo and My Two Great-grandmothersfor their story and art, and so on. Of my books, I love Ruchi Shah’s artwork forPaper Play, and am really proud of our team at PB and the illustrators and designers for getting out the Rupaiya Paisa series.