A recent post on Flavorwire on 50 books every parent should read to their child went viral, causing us to wonder if there is an Indian version of the same and wouldn’t that be useful to every parent looking for good books to read to their children?
With help from Sangita, an educator, voracious reader, parent and parent who reads regularly to her kids, we have compiled a list of books that challenge stereotypes, fire the imagination and create a healthy space for discussions, besides being a nice reading challenge for kids who can read themselves.
50 Indian books every parent should read to their child
1. The Mahabharata (Ages 9+)
Samhita Arni’s “The Mahabharata – A child’s view”, published by Tara Books, tells the much loved ancient tale of war, kingship, honour and revenge in an unorthodox manner – through the eyed of a child. Written and illustrated by Samhita Arni at the age of 11, the book went on to be translated in several languages and sold over 50,000 titles.
2. The Why-Why Girl (Ages 6-9)
Mahasweta Devi tells us how she meets Moyna (and her mongoose!) and this helps her find answers to all the “why-whys” through books that Moyna herself learns to read. The book is available in Hindi, Marathi and English and is published by Tulika Books.
3. Granny’s Sari (All ages)
In Asha Nehemiah’s book, Granny’s favourite saree has been blown away by the wind! As Granny and Anu go looking for it, they meet several people who have used the saree to their advantage.
4. Barefoot Husain (Ages 9+)
In this Anjali Raghbeer’s story the artist has lost his shoes. Jai offers to help him find them and the two take off on a crazy journey, zooming in and out of paintings, through milestones in M. F. Husain’s life.
5. All About Nothing (Ages 5+)
This book, by Nina Sabnani, is about a hero who simplifies our lives much more than we realise.
6. Handmade India (All ages)
Olivia Fraser takes us on a delightful journey around the various states of the country and gives us a glimpse of some of the many things that are handmade in India.
7. Mayil will not be quiet (Ages 10+)
By Niveditha Subramaniam, this is a spontaneous, sensitive, honest, intimate, and hilarious peek into the life and mind of an insightful young girl, Mayil, as seen through her diary jottings.
8. Moin and the Monster (Ages 7+)
Following one of the monster rules – Rule 17- ‘A Monster can be sent to the human world’ – an invisible monster enters Moin’s life. Anushka Ravishankar blends the story perfectly.
9. Gajapati Kulpati (Ages 3-5)
Ashok Rajagopalan tells the story of a big temple elephant catching a cold after getting wet in the rain. The story is testimony to the author/illustrator’s delightful sense of humour and imagination.
10. Malgudi days (All ages)
R. K. Narayan’s classic collection of 32 stories tells the adventures of Swami and his friends in the imaginary town of Malgudi – which also has a fond urban legend of being an amalgamation of Basavangudi and Malleswaram in Bangalore – is memorabilia for every adult and child, alike.
11. Norbu’s New Shoes (Ages 4-8)
Written by Chewang Dorji Bhutia. Norbu’s father buys him a new pair of shoes. Then, a monkey comes along…(that’s all you’re going to get!)
12. Padma goes to space (Ages 5+)
Shweta Prakash tells the story that somewhere in the universe, little children in butterfly-shaped time machines eat scrumptious star-rock salad from Galaxy Stellar 5689, and a volcano erupts fruit juice that freezes into ice-cream!
13. Your Turn Now (Ages 8-12)
‘Your Turn Now’ is a movement started by Rushabh Turakhia with a simple concept – to remind children and adults to use their innate kindness.
14. Tales of Historic Delhi (All ages)
In this story by Premola Ghose, join the animals of Janwar Dosti — Tunnu the tiger, Zero the giraffe, Lucky the rabbit and all their jungle friends — on a magical history tour through Delhi.
15. Sunu-sunu Snail: Storm in the Garden (Ages 3+)
Sunu-sunu the snail is playing in the garden with his friends, the ants. Suddenly there is a storm! Find out what happens by reading this entertaining book by Sandhya Rao.
16. The Adventures of Toto the Auto (Age 3-6)
In this book by Ruta Vyas, ride with Toto, the autorickshaw and his driver Pattu as they go about solving problems, helping others and having loads of fun along the way.
17. The Fivetongued, Firefanged, Folkadotted Dragon Snake (Ages 4+)
A story by Ruta Vyas told in the first person, it brings us a school story with a “twist in the tail”.
18. The Runaway Pepper Corn (Ages 4-8)
Suchitra Ramadurai narrates the delightful escapades of a charming little black peppercorn Kuru Molagu (in Malayalam and Tamil), that manages to run away one day.
19. We, The Children Of India (Ages 10-13)
Former Chief Justice Leila Seth makes the words of the Preamble to the Constitution understandable to even the youngest reader.
20. Why Are You Afraid To Hold My Hand (Ages 5+)
21. Wisha Wozzariter (Ages 8+)
Payal Kapadia tells the story of ten-year-old Wisha, who wishes to be a writer. When she meets Bookworm, she stops wishing and starts writing.
22. Mathematwist: Number Tales From Around the World (Ages 10+)
T V Padma writes a collection of stories from different countries. Each story sets the brain ticking, encouraging problem-solving skills with a high quotient of fun! And each is followed by a simple explanation of the maths behind the ‘magic’.
23. Little Indians (Ages 10+)
Pika Nani tells of stories and fascinating facts that take you on a double-decker ride across 15 states in India.
24. 366 words about Bengaluru (Ages 3-8)
Learn 366 words and concepts through the landmarks, parks, places of learning, places of worship, festivals, culture, experiences and cuisine of Bengaluru.
25. The Aditi and Friends series (Ages 7+)
Suniti Namjoshi features Aditi and her friends – an ant, a one-eyed monkey, an elephant and two dragons.
26. One World (Ages 3-16)
Radhika Menon’s collection is a series of theme based books focusing on various topics.
27. Sorry, Best Friend (All ages)
A collection edited by Githa Hariharan and Shama Futehally, featuring 10 stories that look at the India our children live in with clear, steady eyes. And while they see suspicion and division, they also find many reasons for hope.
28. India at the Olympic Games (Ages 11+)
Sandhya Rao’s book is the first for young children on India’s participation in the Olympic Games.
29. The Jungle Book (Ages 7+)
By Rudyard Kipling and as equally delightful as the movie, it is probably one book that many children are going to read after they have seen the movie and fallen in love with it.
30. Girls of India series (Ages 12+)
An attempt to introduce young readers to history, make it come alive and accessible, without confining it to history textbooks where history is dry, dull and boring.
31. Ekki Dokki (Ages 3+)
An endearing Marathi folktale about two sisters: Ekkesvali who has one hair on her head and Dhonkesvali who has two and thinks she’s great. By Sandhya Rao.
32. And Land was Born (Ages 4-8)
A story by Sandhya Rao, from the Bhilala tribe who live in Central India. This book brings together pictures and words in the spirit of freedom and celebration.
33. First Look at Science Series (Ages 6+)
Boondi, Bhoomi, Beeji, Gitti and Dhooli (Tulika) – These five books are perfect for a child’s first look at science, because they were born as pictures.
34. History of India (Ages 10+)
Vol. I and II by Roshen Dalal, are books on Indian History which start from the Indus valley civilisation, traverse through the various kingdoms and dynasties of India, take us through the freedom struggle, and shed light on the years following our Independence.
35. Amazing India: A State by State guide (Ages 8-10)
Anita & Amit Vachharajani is filled with interesting facts, figures and maps and more than 250 hand-drawn illustrations in colour. Amazing India takes you on a fascinating journey through this large and diverse country.
36. The Rusty Series (All ages)
A collection of stories by Ruskin Bond about a boy, Rusty, who is quiet, intelligent and longs for love.
37. A Trail of Paint (Ages 12+)
A Trail of Paint by Anjali Raghbeer introduces kids to the paintings by Jamini Roy, the famous artist from West Bengal. Children will thoroughly enjoy unravelling the mystery and will be thrilled as they grasp the many clues along the trail.
38. Tiger on a Tree (Ages 3-6)
By much loved author Anushka Ravishankar, the story is about a tiger who wanders from shore to field, is a scaredy-cat tiger and suddenly finds himself up a tree.
39. Kanchil Series (Ages 3-6)
Kanchil is a trickster character in Indonesian and Malaysian folklore, a small mouse deer who uses his wits to survive.
40. Dalai Lama Biography (Ages 10+)
By Aravinda Ananthraman, the book presents the journey of the Dalai Lama in a very interesting way.
41. Letters from a Father to a Daughter (Ages 10-14)
A collection of 30 letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1928 to his daughter Indira Gandhi when she was 10 years old, talking about natural history and the story of civilisations.
42. Sita’s Ramayana (Ages 12+)
Samhita Arni shifts the point of view of the Ramayana to bring a woman’s perspective to this timeless epic. Narrated by Sita herself, it is a powerful meditation on the fate of women.
43. Excuses, Excuses (Ages 6+)
Anushka Ravishankar tells the fun story about a school boy named Neel who know what’s right, but cannot resist doing things his own way.
44. To Market! To Market! (Ages 4+)
Anushka Ravishankar tells the story of a little girl who is going to the market because her mum gave her ‘lots of change’. She doesn’t know what she is going to buy but she knows she will have looking for it.
45. Excuse me, is this India? (Ages 3+)
Anushka Ravishankar is illustrated with rich quilts put together with Indian textiles, this whimsical story in verse is an unusual book of travel-through a child’s imagination.
46. Haroun and the Sea of Stories (Ages 10-13)
Salman Rushdie’s delightful tale is about a storyteller who loses his skill and struggles against mysterious forces attempting to block the seas of inspiration from which all stories are derived.
47. A Man Called Bapu (Ages 12+)
Subhadra Sen Gupta narrates an affectionate account of Bapu, the man, and his life, and why he will inspire generations to come.
48. A Silly Story of Bondapalli (Ages 5+)
Shamim Padamsee’s book is a series of comic turn of events that led the royal cook to create a soft, crisp, golden ball, which again, by a funny twist of words, gets to be called a Bonda!
49. At Least a Fish (Ages 8+)
By Anushka Ravishankar, this is a story about Ana, who gets fish as a birthday gift instead of a puppy. Ana, along with Zain, then find one advertisement regarding a puppy for adoption.
50. The Conch Bearer (Ages 8+)
The Conch Bearer, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, was a Booklist Editors’ Choice, Publisher’s Weekly Best, Book of the Year, and is a 2005 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee. In a dingy shack in the less-than-desirable Indian neighborhood he calls home, twelve-year-old Anand is entrusted with a conch shell that possesses mystical powers.