BEST PICTURE BOOK: STORY
CHATURA RAO for Gone Grandmother (Tulika Publishers)
Citation by the jury (Gayathri Bashi, Ranjan De, Niju Mohan): Chatura Rao’s Gone Grandmother handles the theme of death and loss of a loved one with sensitivity, empathy and a lightness of touch that is not easy to achieve in a picture book. Rao’s splendid juxtaposition of the child protagonist’s natural curiosity about her ‘missing’ Nani and child-like imagination to help her find her own answers is easily the book’s greatest strength. The introspective illustrations complement the text perfectly, adding mood and tenderness to the story. Gone Grandmother is a gem of a picture book that effortlessly fills the spaces in the heart created by the loss of a loved one. What is remarkable is that it also creates a space where young readers can open up to their feelings and talk about difficult things.
BEST PICTURE BOOK: ILLUSTRATION
NANCY RAJ for Maharani the Cow (Tulika Publishers)
Citation by the jury (Gayathri Bashi, Ranjan De, Niju Mohan): Nancy Raj’s illustrations for Maharani the Cow exemplify the true magic of the picture book format – they transport you to a world that exists beyond just the words on the page. A seemingly simple story of a cow obstructing traffic becomes the backdrop for a universe inhabited by a colourful cast of characters with their own little stories. The charm of Raj’s pictures lies in her treatment of familiar situations with her quirky style and subtle humour. By playing with shifting, dramatic perspectives, she removes the linearity of the narrative and creates an immersive experience for the reader.
BEST BOOK: FICTION
MINI SHRINIVASAN for The Boy with Two Grandfathers (Tulika Publishers)
Citation by the jury (Mridula Koshy, Anil Menon, Revathi Suresh): Mini Shrinivasan’s The Boy with Two Grandfathers is about a boy dealing with the news that his beloved mother has incurable cancer. Shrinivasan’s insightful depiction of how the boy’s two grandfathers rally to his aid lifts the story out of the ordinary. It has the courage to raise a subject that used to be dismissed, at least until quite recently, as inappropriate for children. The simple, precise and unadorned writing not only avoids the temptations of sentimentality and high drama, but also offers a much-needed recasting of men as nurturers. Shrinivasan’s novel is sure to comfort and illuminate young readers, irrespective of whether they are in a similar predicament or not.
NANDHIKA NAMBI for Unbroken (Duckbill)
Citation by the jury (Mridula Koshy, Anil Menon, Revathi Suresh): Akriti, the heroine of Nandhika Nambi’s Unbroken, admits she is a monster and then proceeds, over the course of this ambitious novel, to show us what a monster she is. That she does her monstrous best to be unlikable from her seat in a wheelchair adds further complexity to this ambitious tale. The story of a less than ideal protagonist and her less than ideal family’s messy relationship runs counter to our requirement that all who appeal to our sympathies must do so through readily understood heroism. Unbroken advances a new understanding of what children’s literature can undertake. It succeeds in that it is no fairytale and makes us uncomfortable as good literature can and as life often does.
BEST BOOK: NON-FICTION
DEVIKA CARIAPA for India Through Archaeology: Excavating History (Tulika Publishers)
Citation by the jury (Devika Rangachari, Shailaja Menon, Sadanand Menon): Devika Cariapa’s labour of love, India Through Archaeology: Excavating History, pulls off the deceptively simple but enormously difficult task of encapsulating India’s past through the archaeological record. Foregrounding the archaeologist as a scientist who studies how humans lived, an intrepid adventurer who seeks to uncover lost civilisations, a detective who fills the gaping holes in our collective knowledge and a storyteller who assembles tales from the past, Cariapa surveys Indian history from the prehistoric times to the present. Besides engaging young readers in a non-patronising manner, the book also proposes a strategy for dealing with history and archaeology in a more open and less contentious way at a time when these have become hotly-contested fields.
HONOURABLE MENTION IN THE BEST BOOK: NON-FICTION CATEGORY
VIVEK MENON for The Secret Lives of Indian Mammals (Hachette India)
Citation by the jury (Devika Rangachari, Shailaja Menon, Sadanand Menon): The Secret Lives of Indian Mammals by Vivek Menon is a stunningly produced and detailed field guide that should be an essential part of every Indian child’s bookshelf. Effortlessly displaying his deep knowledge of the wild, Menon presents the fourteen main types of mammals in India in ways that are engaging to young readers, through lucid commentaries and superb photographs that take their curiosity and intelligence for granted. It is noteworthy that Menon has reached beyond presenting children to wildlife that automatically interests them, to introducing them as thoroughly to less instinctively lovable animals. The message is unmistakable: it is in knowing and understanding all kinds of wildlife that a balance can be found.
Note: Honourable Mention books do not carry a cash prize or trophy, but get a citation from the jury.