How Helpful Are Book Guides? Very!

Most books are bought for young readers by adults. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends parents … there is a huge network around children who see books as a wonderful life-enhancing gift opportunity. But sometimes I am sure we are all a bit stuck on what to get for the train-obsessed four-year-old or the dragon-loving eleven-year-old. It is wonderful to remember our childhood favourites and recommend them to children for reading, but bearing in mind how much richer the world of young people’s literature is today than even ten years ago, it would be great shame if the books from our childhood were the only books we could share. If, like me, you like to graze books with lots of helpful hints and tips and insider information, there are books available to help you as an adult make informed choices when buying books for children. (Or indeed, they are books that can be bought for generous relatives who like to buy books for presents but can get stuck on what to buy.)

101 indian children's

When I was with my friend Anita Roy of Zubaan Publishers, based in New Delhi, she gave me a copy of their new book 101 INDIAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS WE LOVE! Edited by Anita Roy and Samina Mishra this is more than a list of books; it is a hugely valuable resource of information. Peppered with really fantastic articles and opinions about literature for young readers the adult user not only gets a list of interesting titles, with précis and covers to peruse, but also learns a lot along the way. Thanks to Manisha Chaudhry I now know that Hindi children’s literature can trace its roots back to the third century and the Panchatantra Tales told by Visnusarman to teach ‘niti’ to three princes, and from Abhijit Gupta that the first significant work of Bengali literature for children was a collection of ‘fairy tales’ published in 1906 which is still mandatory reading for Bengali children today.

The primary purpose of 101 INDIAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS WE LOVE! is to point out the wealth of choice available to Indian children reading today; to suggest stories that reflect the world around the reader, stories about kids like them, in settings that they recognise as their own. The book celebrates the reading of Enid Blyton and Tom Sawyer, as well as contemporary bestsellers like Wimpy Kid and Twilight, but really focuses on the belief that Indian children’s books should find an important place on kids’ bookshelves. Divided by age group, the 101 books cover books suitable for children from pre-school years to young teens and it is a hugely valuable resource that will be so useful to parents, teachers, aunts, uncles and grandparents everywhere who want to know more about India’s amazingly rich and varied literary output with the view of getting something perfect for their child to read.

Ultimate Book Guide101 INDIAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS WE LOVE! fits well with a tradition of guides for adults about children’s books. A & C Black publish three fantastic books under the series heading THE ULTIMATE BOOK GUIDE, with two specialised editions THE ULTIMATE TEEN BOOK GUIDE and THE ULTIMATE FIRST BOOK GUIDE. The format for this series is easy to use and appealing, with information and thoughts and general suggestions interspersing the individual title recommendations. The books listed are also cross-referenced brilliantly so if the child you are shopping for has a favourite title you can quickly find other titles that they could also enjoy. From the classics to the latest releases (or at least as up-to-date on the releases as the year in which the guide was published) the books are very user friendly and informative without being dry lists.

Choosing books for young readers, if you are not immersed in the world of children’s books, and often even if you are, is a tricky business. Just like adults all young readers are different, and have different moods that mean that one day they may relish a full-on alternate world fantasy and the next a social drama. Navigating the world of children’s books when you are twenty or thirty years (or more) from having read in that area for pleasure, is even trickier. These books and others like them are wonderful dip-in and find-out books that offer guidance, advice and information.