Ayeshe Sadr and Ishaan Dasgupta created a colourful world for Talon Wrestles An Anaconda, a book about a boy who visits the zoo and decides he wants to be like one of the zoo’s powerful, mammal-chomping snakes.(Courtesy 211 Studio)
Ayeshe Sadr and Ishaan Dasgupta created a colourful world for Talon Wrestles An Anaconda, a book about a boy who visits the zoo and decides he wants to be like one of the zoo’s powerful, mammal-chomping snakes.(Courtesy 211 Studio)

A for art. C for change. Kids’ books are getting darker, cooler, nuttier

The boom in children’s publishing means muralists, animators and graphic designers are signing on. The result? Crazy, unusual illustrations that defy convention.
By Rachel Lopez | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JUL 22, 2017 07:13 PM IST

No pigtails. No Aadarsh Balaks. No preachy grownups. No morals at the end of the story. As children’s books in India get a makeover, their illustrations are brightening up too. Over the last five years, animation artists, muralists, graphic designers and doodlers have been lending heir skills to books for kids, redrawing the lines of what constitutes art for India’s young people.

Some of the work is almost cinematic - moody vampire landscapes, grandmas that swing up coconut trees. Others are clearly tongue in cheek - jokes about poo, gags sneaked in for parents. But each is a step towards a new visual language for kids, one where the rules are elastic - and a new adventure is just around the corner. Take a look:

Rajiv Eipe

Ammachi’s Amazing Machines (authored by the illustrator); Pratham Books

“As a child, I was always drawn more to the pictures than the story,” says Eipe. He trained as an animation filmmaker and jumped at the chance to work on children’s books. “The publishers wanted physics-related content, but in a way that was fun, not preachy,” Eipe says. He dreamed up a grandmother who invented simple machines using household objects, to make coconut barfi with her grandson. “Grandparents are resourceful, they are from a DIY generation,” Eipe says. “I captured some of the spunk of my own grandparents, and details of their home, in the book.”

Ruchi Shah

The Cat In The Ghat (authored by Ambika Rao); Pratham Books

Inspired by a real-life expedition of explorer Sandesh Kadur, this story follows a photographer‘s attempts to document a little-known wild cat in the Western Ghats. Shah says the book was originally conceived to feature the photographer’s work. “But a children’s book is a lot more fun when it’s illustrated,” she says. Unlike most books, the drawings take up only half the page, so she knew her work needed to stand out. “I had to select what could be highlighted in the pictures and I knew I wanted the feel of the rainy, lush, damp forests,” she says. “I wanted the colours to burst out of the page.” She worked with photo-inks and splotches and didn’t care about staying within the lines. “When kids draw they spill, yaar. Why shouldn’t you?”

Harshvardhan Kadam

Moon, Ramu and I (authored by Geeta Dharmarajan); Katha

This tale of a little girl, her dog and her wizened grandpa stacking up furniture and trying to get to the moon could be from anywhere in the world. As could Kadam’s style. Kadam has worked on murals, books, even skin, but was clear he wanted his work to look like an animated sci-fi film. “As a kid, I would want to hold a book up any which way and still get the story out of it,” he says. The minimal text and unusual angles mean you can read it any way up too. Kadam’s heroine is no goodie-goodie. She’s weird and edgy. His moon doesn’t resemble cheese but an idli. “I wanted every page to be a surprise, so you could to go back to it and rewatch it like a cartoon.”

Kavita Singh Kale and Santosh Kale

17 Seen Unseen (authored by the illustrators) ; UNESCO MGIEP

How do you get young adults to understand Unesco’s concept of sustainable goals? You get the duo behind Underground Worm Art & Design to turn the problems into monsters, in a graphic novel for kids over 12. “To work on this book, we had to come down to the kids’ way of thinking,” says Singh Kale. “They like innovation, they like finding solutions through inventions, they collaborate well with different kinds of people.” The novel was in black and white, and the publisher worried that it might be too dark for kids. But children seem to have loved it. “We distributed free copies on the Delhi Metro. The art was also up at the Jor Bagh station,” Singh Kale says. “Everyone responded to the illustrations and the message behind them.”

Nancy Raj

Maharani The Cow (authored by Christy Shoba Sudhir); Tulika Books

Raj discovered the power of art when working with a non-profit that creates books for hearing-impaired children. “They couldn’t hear the narration, so the images had to do the storytelling,” she says. Over the last decade she’s worked on textbooks, magazines and story books, given up a corporate job to illustrate and will soon do artwork for children’s clothes. This book tells a simple tale - a cow decides to park herself in the middle of a busy street, causing complications. “Visuals open a world beyond the two lines of text on the page,” Raj says. “It’s like drawing a poem – there’s meaning, memory, energy, flavour and smell. There are little stories unfolding even in my traffic jam scenes.”

Kunal Kundu

Vee Loved Garlic (authored by Richa Jha); Pickle Yolk

Vee loves garlic. But Vee is a vampire and her family believes it will kill her. Can she convince them she’ll be ok? Kundu’s art gives the tale of discovery and free will the animation-film treatment. His world is mildly macabre, dramatic and Halloweeny. “Childlike drawings don’t necessarily work for children’s books,” Kundu says. “You have to work on composition, colour choice, what’s in focus, what angle you’re presenting, the point of view of the child or the adult reader. The reader is like a film audience.” Most publishers think dark visuals are unsuitable for kids, Kundu adds, “but when Neil Gaiman does it, it’s automatically fine”. The double standard works for fees too. Kunku says Indian publishers pay only a quarter of what equally skilled artists get in the West.

Alicia Souza

The Susu Pals (authored by Richa Jha); Pickle Yolk

What? You never had a friend you’d do susu with? Rhea and Dia do everything together, like best buds. Until Isha joins their class. Souza’s cheery work brightens up the story of friendship and getting along. “I had to make sure the visuals included the kids and parents’ point of view,” she says. “And we wanted handwriting, not set fonts.” Today’s stories are letting kids take control and learn lessons themselves, she adds. “Some grown-ups were a little scandalised by the title, but there are plenty of pee and poo books in India now.”

Ayeshe Sadr & IShaan Dasgupta

Talon Wrestles An Anaconda (authored by Kim McArthur); Amberjack Publishing

“There are plenty of artists working on children’s books in India today and that’s good news. Kids’ books are the nicest platform for your work,” says Sadr. Dasgupta, her co-founder at 211 Studio, agrees. “You can let your imagination run wild. Even though the story has a script, you can add text to the background, textures, crazy things you remember from your childhood. We always try to do something different with a children’s book.” Talon visits the zoo, learns about anacondas, is impressed by their power and decides he’d like to be an anaconda himself. “Drawing the plants and animals were the best part,” Sadr says.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
The library which was set up in the last week of February by the 18 Rashtriya Rifles of the Army has become an instant hit among the students of Ranipura, Chittisigpura, Kejrival and Devipora villages, officials said. (Representational Image) (Unsplash)
The library which was set up in the last week of February by the 18 Rashtriya Rifles of the Army has become an instant hit among the students of Ranipura, Chittisigpura, Kejrival and Devipora villages, officials said. (Representational Image) (Unsplash)

Army converts bus stand to 'street library' for JK children

PTI, Anantnag
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 07:15 PM IST
In a novel initiative, the Army has converted a dilapidated bus stand in a village in South Kashmir into a 'street library' to help students of neighbouring areas to prepare for competitive exams and higher studies.
Close
Women police personnel with all women PCR van at Rajpath in New Delhi. (Photo:Ravi Choudhary/HT)
Women police personnel with all women PCR van at Rajpath in New Delhi. (Photo:Ravi Choudhary/HT)

Women cops taking over the city this Women’s Day

By Ruchika Garg, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 01:28 PM IST
Maximum possible women personnel are deployed in the city to celebrate the women’s day. This is to enhance the visibility of women cops in the Capital.
Close
Sydney's Mayor Clover Moore, bottom right, marches in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Saturday, March 6, 2021. The annual event has been forced into a sport stadium due to Covid-19 restrictions.(AP)
Sydney's Mayor Clover Moore, bottom right, marches in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Saturday, March 6, 2021. The annual event has been forced into a sport stadium due to Covid-19 restrictions.(AP)

Sydney's LGBTQI Mardi Gras goes ahead, with Covid restrictions

AP, Sydney
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:49 PM IST
Sydney’s annual iconic Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras went ahead on Saturday, only in a different format due to coronavirus restrictions.
Close
The global population is ageing, and so are their eyes. In fact, the number of people with vision impairment and blindness is expected to more than double over the next 30 years.(Unsplash)
The global population is ageing, and so are their eyes. In fact, the number of people with vision impairment and blindness is expected to more than double over the next 30 years.(Unsplash)

Study shows that mortality is associated with vision impairment

ANI, Washington [us]
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:30 PM IST
Researchers recently during a meta-analysis found that blindness and impairment of vision are closely associated with increased mortality risk. This has prompted a need to address global eye health disparities.
Close
Stories in Hindu epics help us envision a better India, he said. (Representational Image) (PTI)
Stories in Hindu epics help us envision a better India, he said. (Representational Image) (PTI)

Yogi Adityanath launches Global Encyclopedia of Ramayana

PTI, Lucknow
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 10:31 AM IST
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday launched the Global Encyclopedia of the Ramayana and said that this epic and the Mahabharata give the best life lessons.
Close
Sridevi in a scene from English Vinglish(Screengrab)
Sridevi in a scene from English Vinglish(Screengrab)

Women's Day 2021: Celebrate spirit of womanhood with these Bollywood films

ANI, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 07:49 PM IST
From English Vinglish to Thappad, here is a list of movies that are not just a full-package of entertainment but will also leave you with an aftertaste of inspiration and some encouragement to believe in yourself.
Close
Italian Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini's rare art to go on sale in France(Twitter/Walks)
Italian Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini's rare art to go on sale in France(Twitter/Walks)

Italian Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini's rare art to go on sale in France

Reuters
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 07:46 PM IST
After being discovered six months ago in Compiegne, Italian Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini's rare drawing 'Academie d'Homme' to go on sale in France on March 20
Close
New Delhi art exhibition features 40 masterpieces by 20 Indian greats(Twitter/artzestdxb)
New Delhi art exhibition features 40 masterpieces by 20 Indian greats(Twitter/artzestdxb)

New Delhi art exhibition features 40 masterpieces by 20 Indian greats

PTI
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 07:26 PM IST
New Delhi's two-month long art exhibition features artworks by eminent artists such as FN Souza, Ram Kumar, Sakti Burman, K Laxma Goud, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Thota Vaikuntam, Manu Parekh, Seema Kohli, Neeraj Goswami, Manoj Dutta and more
Close
Artisans from Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Dungarpur, Pratapgarh, Rajsamand and Udaipur attended the programme.(Pixabay)
Artisans from Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Dungarpur, Pratapgarh, Rajsamand and Udaipur attended the programme.(Pixabay)

Artisans from various districts in Rajasthan attend event to learn about GI tags

PTI, Udaipur
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 06:37 PM IST
Over a hundred artisans from six districts of Rajasthan on Friday attended a one-day programme in Udaipur organised for sensitisation about the advantages of geographical indication.
Close
Featuring influencers, creators and industry experts, the event will have panel discussions on topics like careers, celebrating sisterhood, adulting, entrepreneurship, women education, body positivity, fashion, self-awareness, global issues and more.(Pixabay)
Featuring influencers, creators and industry experts, the event will have panel discussions on topics like careers, celebrating sisterhood, adulting, entrepreneurship, women education, body positivity, fashion, self-awareness, global issues and more.(Pixabay)

Online festival to empower young women, celebrate womanhood

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 06:21 PM IST
'It's a girl thing', a global festival that empowers young women to break stereotypes and express themselves, will host a three-day virtual finale summit in the International Women's Week starting Saturday.
Close
Japan Buddhist temples survive Covid-19 lockdown with online funerals, Zen apps(Photo by Lisanto and Markus Winkler on Unsplash)
Japan Buddhist temples survive Covid-19 lockdown with online funerals, Zen apps(Photo by Lisanto and Markus Winkler on Unsplash)

Japan Buddhist temples survive Covid-19 lockdown with online funerals, Zen apps

Bloomberg
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 06:12 PM IST
Zen meditation apps, memorial services held online including match-making services keep Japan's Buddhist temples afloat amid Covid-19 lockdown
Close
Less than half of movie theaters are open nationwide, but reopenings are quickening. Theaters in many other areas reopened last summer around the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” but that attempted comeback fizzled.(Unsplash)
Less than half of movie theaters are open nationwide, but reopenings are quickening. Theaters in many other areas reopened last summer around the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” but that attempted comeback fizzled.(Unsplash)

New York cinemas reopen, brightening outlook for theaters

AP, New York
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 03:31 PM IST
After growing cobwebs for nearly a year, movie theaters in New York City reopen Friday, returning film titles to Manhattan marquees that had for the last 12 months instead read messages like “Wear a mask” and “We’ll be back soon.”
Close
Sarod exponent Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, historian-author Rana Safvi, photographer Ram Rahman and model Dinesh Mohan share their experiences of getting vaccinated.
Sarod exponent Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, historian-author Rana Safvi, photographer Ram Rahman and model Dinesh Mohan share their experiences of getting vaccinated.

Delhi’s Covid tales: 60+ Give a shot to life, say better safe!

By Henna Rakheja, Naina Arora and Digvijay, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 01:47 PM IST
As the Covid-19 vaccine becomes available to people aged above 60, and those above 45 with comorbidities, quite a few Delhi-NCR based popular personalities come forward to inspire others.
Close
A mural of artist Banksy is seen on a wall at HM Reading Prison in Reading, Britain in this picture obtained from the artist's official Instagram account. @banksy/banksy.co.uk (@BANKSY via REUTERS)
A mural of artist Banksy is seen on a wall at HM Reading Prison in Reading, Britain in this picture obtained from the artist's official Instagram account. @banksy/banksy.co.uk (@BANKSY via REUTERS)

Banksy at work: Black hoodie, head torch, paint and freedom

Reuters, London
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 01:52 PM IST
British artist Banksy has shared a video of himself in the process of painting stencil graffiti of a prisoner escaping which appeared on Monday on the side of a former prison wall in the city of Reading.
Close
For the first time since 1908, the academy is expanding its core membership, from 250 artists in literature, music and art and architecture, to 300 by 2025.(AP)
For the first time since 1908, the academy is expanding its core membership, from 250 artists in literature, music and art and architecture, to 300 by 2025.(AP)

American Academy of Arts and Letters expands, diversifies

AP, New York, American Academy Of Arts And Letters, Literature, Art, Architecture, National Museum Of African American History And Culture, Us Poet, Transformation, Cultural Institutions, Art And Culture, Culture, Cultural Improvement
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 12:17 PM IST
One of the country's oldest cultural instititutions, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, is undergoing some of its biggest changes in more than a century.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP