The kids’ bookshelf: Here’s how to keep young minds engaged

By: |
November 15, 2020 12:15 AM

From books aiming to help kids make healthier food choices to reimagined tales from the Mahabharata and more, these enchanting reads will help break that boredom spiral and keep children engaged and informed

A love of books, of language, of life, an observant eye and a good memory along with enthusiasm, optimism and persistence.A love of books, of language, of life, an observant eye and a good memory along with enthusiasm, optimism and persistence.

Children’s Day may have just gone by, but it’s never too late to introduce young minds to books that entertain as well as educate. From books aiming to help kids make healthier food choices to reimagined tales from the Mahabharata and more, these enchanting reads will help break that boredom spiral and keep children engaged and informed…

The Ickabog
JK Rowling
Pp 288, Rs 1,299
The kingdom of Cornucopia was once the happiest in the world. It had plenty of gold, a king with the finest moustaches you could possibly imagine, and butchers, bakers and cheesemongers whose exquisite foods made a person dance with delight when they ate them. Everything was perfect—except for the misty Marshlands to the north which, according to legend, were home to the monstrous Ickabog. Anyone sensible knew that the Ickabog was just a myth, to scare children into behaving. But the funny thing about myths is that sometimes they take on a life of their own. Could a myth unseat a beloved king? Could a myth bring a once happy country to its knees? Could a myth thrust two children into an adventure they didn’t ask for and never expected? This original fairytale by JK Rowling is about the power of hope and friendship to triumph against all odds.

CG Salamander
Penguin Random House
Pp40, Rs 175
The vegetables from Ammu’s parents’ cart have disappeared. Who could have stolen them? Amma and Appa are sure the thief must have come in a helicopter. But Ammu, following a trail left by the thief, finds some very strange clues.

The Grand Chapati Contest
Asha Nehemiah
Penguin Random House
Pp40, Rs 175
When the royal chapati cook quits, there is no one to make the fluffy-puffy chapatis that the king loves. Can they find another champion chapati maker at the grand chapati contest?

Mystery of the School on Fire (The SMS Detective Agency)
Ravi Subramanian
Pp 148, Rs 250
Meet the Super Mystery Solvers or the SMS gang of Aditya and Akriti, nine-year-old twins, and their close friend Kabir. Together, they solve the mysteries that have baffled the police and authorities of Solan. In this first mystery in the newly-launched SMS Detective Agency series, the SMS gang solves the perplexing case of how and why their school catches fire, not once but twice.

The Secret Life of Debbie G
Vibha Batra & Kalyani Ganapathy
Pp 296, Rs 499
The Secret Life of Debbie G is the story of a 16-year-old who becomes an online sensation overnight. Set in contemporary times, where the number of likes, comments, shares, DMs and followers determine a teenager’s sense of self-worth, the story takes a close look at how social media influences their behaviour and affects their emotional health.

How to Be a Writer
Ruskin Bond
Pp 126, Rs 299
How to be a Writer is peppered with nuggets of practical advice for those aspiring to write and be published, all told in Ruskin Bond’s characteristic understated, tongue-in-cheek, humourous style. So what is it that a person requires the most to become a writer? A love of books, of language, of life, an observant eye and a good memory along with enthusiasm, optimism and persistence.

Bena’s Summer
Shibal Bhartiya
Pp 268, Rs 299
Eight-year-old Benazir, Bena to friends and family, is perhaps the happiest child you know, fond of jalebis, limericks and raw mangoes. She is surrounded by friends and family, and her life is everything an idyllic childhood should be: protected, loved and edged with rainbow-gold. One summer that bubble bursts when Bena is witness to riots, death, destruction and abuse, in a setting that explains little, and expects children to forget it all. But Bena, defined by her grit and audacity, is different.

Superfoods for Superheroes
Namita Mehra
Pp 72, Rs 399
Superfoods for Superheroes features 10 fun stories about a little boy who loves superheroes and discovers the surprising superpowers of everyday foods. Each illustrated story is followed by fun facts about the superfood and a kid-friendly recipe. The book aims to help children make healthier food choices, educate families about the power of kid-friendly superfoods, create a positive and meaningful dialogue around healthy eating, break out of the typical informational nature of the health-food category and create an interesting narrative that puts the child at the centre.

Learned Men and Women of Ancient India
Sreelata Menon
Pp 260, Rs 250
In this book, children can discover the lives of the great learned men and women of ancient India who could control their minds to achieve anything they desired. From pioneering surgical techniques to solving mathematical puzzles and even attempting to turn metal into gold, they can read about the incredible contributions of Vyasa, Sushruta, Valmiki, Surya Savitri, Chanakya and others.

Goal! Shot! Run!
Pp 252, Rs 399
This book is a collection of illustrated biographies of sportspeople from all over the world. From cricket to hockey, tennis to football and even the Olympics, children can learn about their favourite sports superstars, and maybe even discover some new ones. Featured personalities include Cristiano Ronaldo, Dipa Karmakar, Leander Paes, Lionel Messi, Mary Kom, PV Sindhu, Serena Williams, Virat Kohli and many more.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End
Jeff Kinney
Penguin Random House
Pp 224, Rs 499
In The Deep End, Greg Heffley and his family hit the road for a cross-country camping trip, ready for the adventure of a lifetime. But things take an unexpected turn, and they find themselves stranded at an RV park that’s not exactly a summertime paradise. When the skies open up and the water starts to rise, the Heffleys wonder if they can save their vacation-or if they’re already in too deep.

The Very, Extremely, Most Naughty Asura Tales for Kids
Anand Neelakantan
Penguin Random House
Pp 184, Rs 399
Asura kids are naughty and troublesome, and always up to something. Little will you know when you land in a muddy puddle or your long hair gets chopped off into a bob. They will prod, pull and tug you till you yell—just like the gods in the heavens, especially Vishnu and Shiva who are simply fed up. Children can indulge in some very, extremely, most funny naughty tales of asura twins Kundakka and Mandakka, who hate going to school; clumsy Bhasma and pet pig Nakura, who create trouble in the village; brothers Atapi and Vatapi, who like to eat 96 cartfuls of fruits as dessert; the great Bana who claps with his thousand hands and so many more.

The Incredible History of the Indian Ocean
Sanjeev Sanyal
Penguin Random House
Pp 256, Rs 250
This book is an adaptation of The Ocean of Churn for young readers. When did the first humans arrive in India and how did they get here? What are Roman artefacts from hundreds of years ago doing in a town near Puducherry? How did merchants from Arabia end up near Kochi? From the east coast of Africa to Australia, one big blue body of water has connected diverse peoples and cultures for thousands of years: the incredible Indian Ocean. Children can learn about the fearless travellers and sailors, pirates and conquerors who set out to cross the ocean in search of gold and glory, and discover how geography can shape the course of history.

Mindfulness with Moksha: Calming Exercises for Happy Kids
Ira Trivedi
Penguin Random House
Pp 104, Rs 250
The practice of mindfulness at any age can have profound effect on your life. So why not get your young one to start early? Being mindful brings clarity, mental strength, focus and inner peace. It improves the concentration needed to ace exams, and do better in school and life. In the long run, it boosts happiness and creativity, and lowers stress and anxiety. With this calming read-along book, parents and guardians can help their children work through fun exercises-a great way to spend quality family time.

10 Indian Champions Who are Fighting to Save the Planet
Bijal Vachharajani & Radha Rangarajan
Penguin Random House
Pp 120, Rs 199
This book tells the stories of 10 Indian conservationists—Romulus Whitaker, Parineeta Dandekar, Rohan Arthur, Vidya Athreya, Aparajita Datta, Jay Mazoomdaar, Minal Pathak, Rohan Chakravarti, Kavitha Kuruganti, Lakshmi Kamble—working in diverse ways to save the world from human destructiveness, often facing seemingly insurmountable odds. Bijal Vachharajani and Radha Rangarajan write about the inspiring lives of people who are striving to solve the most pressing problems on this planet—from climate change to habitat degradation, from food insecurity to species loss.

Queen of Earth
Devika Rangachari
Penguin Random House
Pp 200, Rs 299
The daughter of the powerful Somavashi king of Kosala, Prithvimahadevi’s life is circumscribed by the rules that govern the existence of women of her royal family. She can only hope that she will marry a king whose power matches that of her ambitious father. But instead she is married to her father’s enemy, the Bhaumakara ruler, Shubhakaradeva, whose way of life she finds alien and austere, and who worships strange gods. There seems to be no hope for her to fulfil her dreams of being a great queen—until suddenly one day, there is. But is she willing to play the game of sacrifice and betrayal that this will entail?

Nava Durga: The Nine Forms of the Goddess
Nalini Ramachandran
Penguin Random House
Pp 96, Rs 299
Durga, as the powerful warrior goddess is known, has nine special forms—each one unique, not just a clone: Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kaalratri, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri. They are the Nava Durga, worshipped during Navaratri, the festival of nine nights and nine days that’s celebrated across India and the world in myriad ways to praise the goddesses and their glory. This is their story.

Anushka Ravishankar
Penguin Random House
Pp 104, Rs 299
Once upon a time, in the kingdom of ogd, a messiah was born, with her foot in her mouth. This might be her story. Her position of foetal gaffe allows her to eat her toenails, which nourish her and make her toenails grow so that she can eat them. Apart from the practicality of the situation, this also is the basis of her profound teachings. As the messiah travels through many dimensions, her followers learn the importance of Bells, Nirvana, clean feet, Klein bottles and phonetics, among diverse other things.

The Puffin Mahabharata
Namita Gokhale
Penguin Random House
Pp 196, Rs 499
Namita Gokhale retells this timeless tale of mortals and immortals and stories within stories of valour, deceit, glory and despair for today’s young readers in a clear, contemporary style. A brilliant series of evocative and thoughtful illustrations by painter and animator Suddhasattwa Basu brings the epic to life in a vibrant visual feast.

Become a Junior Entrepreneur
Vrunda Bansode
Penguin Random House
Pp 176, Rs 399
What do you want to be when you grow up? Doctor, engineer, chef, musician, IAS officer? That’s a question adults never tire of asking kids. Perhaps it’s time to recognise a profession where people invent, innovate, sell, barter and build: entrepreneurship. Vrunda Bansode gives every kid a hands-on crash course in entrepreneurship. From sifting through ideas to running a business, Become a Junior Entrepreneur accompanies the reader through every stage of turning a nascent dream into a commercially viable start-up.

Rasil Ahuja
Penguin Random House
Pp 192, Rs 250
Auditions are on for the seventh grade annual play. Lina sets her heart and sights on the lead role, but the drama teacher seems to think Lina isn’t the right shade for the part. All Lina wants is a fair chance to try out for the role. Will narrow-minded Miss Deepa derail Lina’s dream? Meher finds math far more interesting, and less dramatic, than Macbeth. When her extroverted BFF Lina suddenly becomes distraught and withdrawn, Meher tries to figure out what she may have done wrong, but things just don’t seem to add up. Will their friendship fade or will Meher find a solution to this problem?

Grandparents’ Bag of Stories
Sudha Murty
Penguin Random House
Pp 240, Rs 250
It’s 2020 and children are stuck indoors because of coronavirus. A nationwide lockdown is announced and amidst the growing crisis, Ajja and Ajji welcome their grandchildren and Kamlu Ajji into their house in Shiggaon. From stitching masks, sharing household chores, preparing food for workers to losing themselves in timeless tales, the lockdown turns into a memorable time for the children as they enter the enchanting world of goddesses, kings, princesses, serpents, magical beanstalks, thieves, kingdoms and palaces, among others.

When Adil Speaks
Lavanya Karthik
Penguin Random House
Pp 32, Rs 199
Everyone wants to be friends with Adil. But how do you start a conversation with someone when their words dance to music you cannot hear? When Adil Speaks is a heart-warming tale of empathy, inclusivity and the surprising superpowers of friendship.

Bim And the Town of Falling Fruit
Arjun Talwar
Penguin Random House
Pp 168, Rs 250
In Poondy, the fruit always falls, from the jackfruit, coconut and toddy trees, causing many injuries to its inhabitants. That’s why they all wear fruit helmets. For Bim, who has lived all his life in Poona, it is an odd and a magical place. Then one day, Bim’s mother decides to move away from Poondy. Bim’s last two weeks in his hometown are full of strange and exciting adventures.

The Wild Wisdom Quiz Book Volume 3
WWF India
Penguin Random House
Pp 400, Rs 250
Which colour cannot be seen by bees? How many hearts does an octopus have? What are fossilised dinosaur droppings called? Children can delve deeper into the world of animals and plants with this indispensable quiz book that will help them explore our planet’s natural beauty and myriad facets.

The Big Thoughts of Little Luv
Karan Johar
Pp 36, Rs 450
Luv is exactly like his twin sister Kusha. They have the same coloured hair and eyes. They are as tall as each other. Even their poo-poo looks the same. But they are also different because Luv is a boy and Kusha is a girl. Sometimes this makes Luv feel just a little bit confused.

The Adventures of the Kohinoor
William Dalrymple & Anita Anand with Devika Cariapa
Pp 168, Rs 299
Children can read about the Kohinoor, history’s most famous diamond. Legend says it carries a curse that brings bad luck to all its owners. Some of India’s most powerful kings possessed it and lost it before it was grabbed by the British and sent as a gift to Queen Victoria.

The Hungry Little
Sky Monster
Rohini Nilekani
Pp 32, Rs 399
Mama, why does the moon get small and then so big? Could there be a naughty little sky monster who gobbles it up? This is a wonderful poem to read to your little ones and send them to sleep with sweet dreams, from acclaimed children’s writer Rohini Nilekani.

Mahabharata for Children
Arshia Sattar
Pp 272, Rs 599
Arshia Sattar’s Mahabharata for Children is one of the most outstanding retellings of this epic ever written. Sattar, an acclaimed translator of the Ramayana, has gone deep into the original and written an account that is so rich, so observant and so moving that it will enthral both you and your child.

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