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Obama and Rushdie write for kids

Obama's Of Thee I Sing, is written on the behest of his daughters Malia and Sasha, while Rushdies latest, Luka and the Fire of Life, is a result of numerous requests from his 13-year-old son, Milan.

books Updated: Nov 24, 2010 07:23 IST
Soumya Mukerji, Hindustan Times

You live with them, for them, around them. Scold them, love them, dream for them, save up and perhaps, plan more than half your life in their interest. Would you still spend months of your writing hours on your children, doing a book especially for them?

While you’re still mulling, US President Barack Obama and Booker favourite Salman Rushdie have already gone the whole hog — Obama’s new release, Of Thee I Sing, is a children’s book written on the behest of his daughters Malia (12) and Sasha (9), and Salman Rushdie’s latest, Luka and the Fire of Life, is a result of numerous requests from his 13-year-old son, Milan.

The sudden fixation with the specially-for-my-kid genre (keeping agenda aside) obviously raises some wonderment. “I don’t think I would write a book especially for my children, and then make it available for public reading. I think my relationship with them is too honest to sugarcoat or turn the information around to make them or me sound good in it,” says Raksha Bharadia, author of the Indian edition of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

“If at all I have to write to them, it will be mails or letters. In fact, I do that a lot, when there are things I feel about strongly, and I’m not calm enough to speak to them. But, it’s only for their eyes, or perhaps, something that they can, in turn, share with their children,” she adds.

Others write wing-ers, however, seem supportive. “I wrote stories for, and about, my children when they were little. But I wasn’t a published writer then, and so I never thought about those stories as a book. I do think it is often helpful to have an

individual in mind — who you are telling the story to — as you write. But yes, you need to feel confident that other people will understand it as well,” says Sam Miller, the author of Delhi — Adventures in a Megacity.

Literature’s doting dad syndrome dates back to the 18th century, when Wordsworth wrote poems for his lovechild Caroline, and has been revisited every once in a while ever since. In 1925, English writer Tolkien wrote Roverandom to console his then five-year-old son Michael, who had lost his miniature toy dog on the beach. In 1930-1933, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote letters from prison to his daughter Indira, later made public by him in the book, Glimpses of World History.

Young parents, however, say what really matters is if such books make sense to their kids. “Frankly, I don’t care if Obama writes for his daughters — if he expects mine to pick it, it better be worth the read,” says Sneha Jain, mother of a 7-year-old.

As far the practice’s bearing on sales is concerned, novelist Samit Basu puts it aptly — “Obama and Rushdie could write books meant for their armpits if they wanted to, and still crack huge deals!”

First Published: Nov 24, 2010 07:23 IST