Good, Honest, Book Work

Musings of a publishing Jack-of-all-trades

The Observer & Hope is a Girl Selling Fruit

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An Easter treat! Last Sunday’s Observer (in the UK) included Hope is a Girl Selling Fruit in their round-up of children’s books for the Easter season.

It’s an unusual book, and falls outside of what would usually be considered a picture book for children, so we were delighted to see it included in the list. Sadly, despite requesting Amrita Das’ stunning image which imagines childhood, it wasn’t in the final print edition. So I’m including it here!

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The full article is here, and the text of the review below:

It is not specified what age Hope is a Girl Selling Fruit by Amrita Das (Tara £10.99) is aimed at – in one sense, it could hardly be less child-like. It is an arresting autobiographical book with illustrations as exact as embroidery. It is by an Indian woman who, one day, attended a book-making workshop, a “chance which has made it possible for me to do this book”. She is philosophical too: “Life is strange – you never know what awaits you.” What follows is her meditation, on an Indian train, about another woman, poorer than herself. It is about unfolding empathy and written with rare sincerity, vulnerability and poise. (9-ish and up)

Bookshops in Lucknow

Trips to Lucknow have thus far been very family orientated. Lots of home food, visiting relatives and not a great deal of time for exploring. Before visiting last week, I had decided that come hell or high water I was going to make the time to visit Hazratganj, a traditional market area in the heart of the city.

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The area was massively refurbished in 2011, making it very pleasant to walk around: real pavements, street lamps and even benches. What struck me most, though, were the uniform black and white signs above each shop. While branded typography has been retained on the shops signs, all of the colours are missing. It’s amazing how much less recognizable the Cafe Coffee Day logo is when it is black and white rather than red and white. I presume this is because it is a heritage area?

Signs aside, the main purpose of my visit was a trip to Universal Booksellers, which I’d heard about from various quarters. I have to admit that I was more than a little disappointed. The children’s section consisted almost entirely of Enid Blyton, and overall it was extremely confusing to navigate, with fiction, non-fiction and guidebooks all crammed into the top floor. Note the precarious book piles below. I guess you could say it’s a bit like Blossom’s in Bangalore, but without the charm or second hand books.

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Inadvertently, though, we stumbled across Ram Advani Booksellers at the other end of the market, which was refreshingly different. Much smaller that Universal (just one floor) the focus seems to be largely on visual and political books, with a strong emphasis on Lucknow and India more broadly. To add a bit of diversity to a beautifully curated selection, we were amused to find a copy of 50 Shades of Grey laid out on one of the the tables. We also managed to pick up copies of wonderful Indian book review magazines Biblio and The Book Review which can be a little hard to find. I’m hoping that the picture below gives something of a sense of the quaint atmosphere.

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So a successful book excursion in Lucknow, if not quite the way I’d envisaged it.

Very happy to see The Colour Book selected for Vogue Bambini’s book page. And there will also be an interview with the author/artist behind the book Sophie Benini Pietromarchi in the forthcoming edition.

Very happy to see The Colour Book selected for Vogue Bambini’s book page. And there will also be an interview with the author/artist behind the book Sophie Benini Pietromarchi in the forthcoming edition.

Sultana’s Dream

I’m unbelievably excited about getting to work on the Indian press for the new Tara edition of Sultana’s Dream. The original handmade edition went out of print just before I first came to Tara in 2010 and I’ve been waiting ever since then for this new edition.

The book is an illustrated edition of Begum Rokheya Sakhawat Hossain’s feminsit utopia, first written in 1905. Gond artist Durga Bai’s stunning art lends an appropriately whimsical note to this fable-like text.

This version is an inexpensive (but beautifully produced) flexi-cover edition, so I’m hoping it will spreads its wings even further than our original book.

Bangalore’s Indie Bookshops

I recently wrote about Bangalore’s bookshops for a fantastic website dedicated to women’s writing, For Books’ Sake. All those bookshop visits have not been going to waste!

You can read the full post here, and these are some of the photos that I took but they didn’t use. The first is Blossoms, and the second Lightroom.

Watch this space for a post just about Bangalore’s wonderful children’s bookshops.

Kutoohala

Another week, another visit to a children’s bookshop in Bangalore. Kutoohala opened last year, with the aim of providing a space for curious minds. An apt tagline, as kutoohal means curiosity in Hindi.

While it lacks some of the style of Lightroom Bookstore (which also opened last year) the fact that it has a range of second-hand books is a massive bonus. I’m not sure where they source the used books from, but I managed to pick up some titles from US-based publishers that are not usually available in India - see below!

Their promotional material states that they have developed a rigorous criteria to identify the best children’s books and toys available among publishers, that nurture creativity, social and emotional development, problem-solving and a host of other skills.

The selection is clearly carefully curated, and I was impressed to see so many of my favourite books in such a small space. I’ll certainly be visiting again.

International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Cue many text messages wishing me a happy day, and advertisements for beauty packages, discounted shopping and getaways.

As irritating as all of the above is, I was happy to be involved in two events that bore some relation to the day’s roots as in the struggle for equal rights for women in the workplace.

Focus Bookstore in north Bangalore held an event to discuss women’s labour and artisanship in India. I was able to share some of the work that Tara has done over the years to bring the work of female indigenous artists into the form of the book, as well as hearing about the work of others: Urvee train underprivileged women in the art of making paper products, while Vishakha Chanchani’s The Craft Studio operates as a potter’s cooperative.

Meanwhile in Chennai, Tara launched its new exhibition at Book Building: Floor to Book, Women’s Everyday Art Traditions. The exhibition traces forms of indigenous Indian art back to their roots as forms of household art largely rendered by women, as well as documenting how we have worked with women from various folk and tribal traditions over the last ten years. There was a lovely write up in Live Mint yesterday.

The Tara exhibition continues until July with a series of events, so do visit if you are in Chennai.

Celebrating the 110th birthday of Dr Suess by re-reading The Cat in the Hat today. I’m very pleased with this lovely 1980s Book Club edition that I picked up from Blossom Book House here in Bangalore last week.

Celebrating the 110th birthday of Dr Suess by re-reading The Cat in the Hat today. I’m very pleased with this lovely 1980s Book Club edition that I picked up from Blossom Book House here in Bangalore last week.

Colour Quotient

It’s always interesting to get reviews in new and unusual places. I think that our recent mention in Colour Quotient – the magazine of Asia Paints aimed at interior designers and architects – shows that however good your press list is, there’s room for improvement.

I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail and The London Jungle Book were mentioned in a beautiful article about Gond art, as examples of the artwork in contemporary book design.

Lightroom Haul

I *may* have just spent a good chunk of my monthly income on lots of (lovely) books from Lightroom Bookstore. Aashti - the wonderful owner of Bangalore’s best children’s bookshop - is just a bit too good at hand-selling her titles.

I promise that I had very good reasons for buying all the above: Basava and Raindrops because I know the illustrators; The Cherry Tree because I haven’t read any Ruskin Bond (horror!); Stitching Stories and Same & Different because of stellar reviews on Saffron Tree; Up in the Tree because it’s amazing to see this in an Indian incarnation; and The Monster Hunters because I’m intrigued to see what the publisher Duckbill is doing.

And The Fault in Our Stars? Because Aashti told me to. She really is good…

For those that haven’t seen the news, Lightroom has moved, but only just down the road from where it used to be. Picture below to prove that it’s still just as beautiful!