The children’s segment in India is currently at full throttle with the number of publishing houses for children growing, more mainstream publishers publishing for children and more Indian authors writing for children,” says Tina Narang, publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books.
The imprint was launched on Children’s Day with Meet Zippy, a picture book by Anitha Balchandran. It promises more fun picture books, chapter books, and books for young adults in the next few months. Here we chat up Narang about the imprint, reaching out to more children, and cultivating the habit of reading among them. Excerpts:
Congratulations on the new imprint. Can you share with us the promotion/advertisement details of reaching out to more children, their parents and schools? Are you looking at tying up with NGOs and not-for-profit organisations who are trying to cultivate reading habit among children?
This is something most children’s publishers are struggling with: finding effective ways to reach out to children and the key influencers, namely, parents and teachers, even as we acknowledge the importance of cultivating the reading habit. So it would be worthwhile to partner with organisations (NGOs and others) who are working towards promoting reading.
Festivals dedicated to children’s literature such as Bookaroo, Kala Ghoda and others provide a platform for authors to engage directly with a live audience of readers and to motivate them to read. This kind of interaction can also be achieved by sending authors to schools.
What will be the pricing of these books?
The average pricing will range between Rs 150 and 300.
Will the imprint also look at publishing regional children’s literature?
Yes, we do plan to publish regional children’s literature. The Kakababu series by Sunil Gangopadhyay is on our forthcoming list. This will be Bengali in translation.
Would you also be approaching young adult authors to write for children?
Going by the number of manuscripts one receives these days from young adults, it does seem that this group is writing more confidently today than they did earlier. So if the right kind of manuscript comes along, then most certainly.
It is said that there is not enough material for the 12-year-olds to read. There are books for the younger ones and the older ones — those who fall in the Young Adults category. But the 12-year-olds are said to be ‘neither here, nor there’. Will the imprint be offering them something?
Publishers are recognising these gaps and filling them effectively. Earlier, there was a gap between picture books and middle grade novels, both of which have widely differing reading levels. This is now being bridged with chapter books, so that children can go from picture books to chapter books and then onwards to middle grade novels. Twelve-year-olds can have the best of both worlds — middle grade and young adult — so depending on personal choice and reading competence levels, they can engage with books in either segment.
Which children’s authors do you like to read?
There are so many, it’s difficult to narrow down the list. Among the international ones, there is Julia Donaldson, Emma Chichester Clark, Aaron Blabey, Roald Dahl, David Walliams, Philip Pullman, Brian Selznick among others. And to name just a few of the long list of popular children’s authors in India: Gulzar, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty, Jane De Suza, Natasha Sharma, Anushka Ravishankar and Sampurna Chattarji.
Which genres interested you as a child?
One just read everything one could lay one’s hands on — books, comics, magazines, newspapers … in fact anything that had text in it! I think the one difference between the way children read today and the way we did, is that we engaged with books on a continuing basis. We read and re-read the books we liked. Kids today are spoilt for choice, and don’t always have the time to revisit books they may have enjoyed reading.