50 Indian books every parent must read to their child

A list of Indian 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.

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?

Starting with this excellent post by Sangita, an educator, voracious reader and parent, and generous help from The Alternative’s contributors, readers, parents and our kid-book loving in-house team, we have compiled a list of Indian children’s books that go beyond – that challenge stereotypes, fire the imagination and create a healthy space for discussion, besides being fuel for the pure pleasure of children reading.

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. Publisher: Tara Books

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. Publisher: Children’s Book Trust

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. Publisher: Tulika Books

5. All About Nothing  (Ages 5+)

This book, by Nina Sabnani, is about a hero who simplifies our lives much more than we realise. Publisher: Tulika

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. Publisher: Pratham Books.

7. Mayil will not be quiet (Ages 10+)

By Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran, 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. Publisher: Tulika

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.  Publisher: Duckbill

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. Publisher : Tulika

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. Publisher: Indian Thought Publications

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!). Publisher: Tulika

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! Publisher: Tulika

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. Publisher: FunOkPlease

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. Publisher: Zubaan.

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. Publisher: Tulika.

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. Publisher: FunOKPlease

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”. Publisher: Tara Books.

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. Publisher: Tulika.

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. Publisher: Penguin India.

20. Why Are You Afraid To Hold My Hand (Ages 5+)

Inspired by the Spastics Society of India, this little book by Sheila Dhir is a celebration of the normalcy of the differently-abled. Publisher: Tulika

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. Publisher: Penguin India.

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’. Publisher: Tulika

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. Publisher: Tulika

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. Publisher: FunOkPlease

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. Publisher: Tulika

26. One World (Ages 3-16)

Radhika Menon’s collection is a series of theme based books focusing on various topics. Publisher: Tulika

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. Publisher: Tulika

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. Publisher: Tulika

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. Publisher: Tor Books

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. Different books by Sunila Gupte, Anu Kumar and Subhadra Sen Gupta. Publisher: Puffin

31. Ekki Dokki (Ages 3+)

An endearing Marathi folktale by Sandhya Rao about two sisters: Ekkesvali who has one hair on her head and Dhonkesvali who has two and thinks she’s great. Publisher: Tulika

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. Publisher: Tulika

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. Publisher: Puffin

35. Tak-Tak!  (Ages 8+)

Tak Tak! Where did that noise come from? Did you hear it? Is it a ghost? Well, once a young man heard this noise everywhere and he thought it was a ghost… until he found out what the noise really was – and it was not what he expected. Find out more in the book by Soumitra Ranade. Publisher: Chitra Publications

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. Publisher: Puffin

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. Publisher: Tulika

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. By Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

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. Publisher: Tara Books

40. Dalai Lama Biography (Ages 10+)

By Aravinda Ananthraman, the book presents the journey of the Dalai Lama in a very interesting way. Publisher: Penguin India

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. Publisher: Viking

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. Publisher: Tara

43. The Moustache Man (Ages 4+)

In this story by Priya Ramanathan, Nekgaon is a perfect village, but one wily man arrives and changes everything about Nekgaon with his strange demand. Publisher: Chitra Publications

44. The Glum Peacock (Ages 9+)

Tabish Khair tells a story of a turquoise peacock who decides to give away all his flamboyant colours, till he is left with only a chic grey. Soon he regrets it. Will his friend, the scaly Miss Snake, be able to help him out? Publisher: Zubaan Books

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. Publisher: Tara Books

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. Publisher: Viking

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. Publisher: Pratham

48. The Ouch and Moo (Ages 3+)

Daily Dump in its Ouch and Moo books address the plastic bag issue at different levels of complexity. This fosters a sense of perspective and inquiry, so necessary to understand the “complete” story. Publisher: Daily Dump

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. Publisher: Scholastic India

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. Publisher: Aladdin

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