Mumbai: The adventures of a happy street dog whose life suddenly changes. A music-loving buffalo who is kidnapped and has the local cops on their toes. An unlikely friendship forged amid conflict in Manipur. These are just some of the engaging storytelling and imaginative illustrations that were praised at the first-ever Binod Kanoria Children’s Literature Awards on November 12 at the National Center for Performing Arts in Mumbai.
Based on the philosophy that children’s literature is a unique space in the literary world that deserves to be honoured, the awards also serve the important function of celebrating the work of Indian authors and illustrators. As Nirbhay Kanoria, who created the awards in memory of his industrial grandfather “who was a great storyteller”, said in his speech, “Indian authors and illustrators are creating fantastic books for children but sorely lacking in recognition compared to their Western counterparts. It’s a grave injustice to their talent. The awards can’t solve all the problems, but they are the first step we want to take.”
Awards administrator Lubaina Bandukwala hosted the event and introduced all the winners, including writers Sushil Shukla, Mandira Shah and writer-illustrators Priya Kuriyan and Rajiv Eipe. The winners were congratulated with cash prizes, citations and medals amid applause and cheers from children and parents during the Tata Literature Live! festival.
Bhopal-based Shukla’s book Ye Sara Ujala Suraj Ka, published by the Eklavya Foundation, has won the Hindi Early Readers Award 2021-22. Three other of his books – Machhali Nadi Khol Ke Baithi, Feriwale and Aam Ke Sukhe Pad Par – were also on the shortlist, along with Kavita Singh Kale’s book Amma. The Hindi jury was made up of poet Arun Kamal, educator Sonika Kaushik and teacher Kamlesh Joshi.
Shukla, who was unable to travel to Mumbai for the awards ceremony, told HT in a phone interview that he strongly believes children’s literature cannot be isolated from the contemporary political scenario. “I tried to make it clear that we all get our sustenance from the sun,” he said. “We feel sad when someone is in pain. We rejoice in their happiness. We are connected to each other. »
Kuriyan’s book Beauty Is Missing and Eipe Dugga’s book – both published by Pratham Books – were co-winners of the 2021-22 Illustration Award. They were chosen by a jury made up of artist Indrapramit Roy, animator Shilpa Ranade and Shukla, who also publishes children’s magazines.
Beauty Is Missing, which was developed with funding from the Humane Society International, revolves around the frantic search for a music-loving buffalo who is kidnapped. On receiving the award, Kuriyan said, “During the Covid-19 pandemic, I was in Kerala for a long time. Much of it was spent in a village with rice paddies and quirky characters that ended up in the book. I was inspired by two endearing reports about police officers trying to find missing buffaloes and reunite them with their human keepers.
Kuriyan traveled from Bengaluru to receive the award, but Eipe, who is also based in Bangalore, was unable to be there in person due to prior commitments. In a video message shown during the awards ceremony, he said: “Dugga is the story of a street dog in a busy city in India, her adventures, an unfortunate accident she encounters and her further path to recovery with the help of a kind human being. Eipe wrote the book to honor the quiet and unrecognized work of individuals and nonprofit organizations that care for street animals.
Another book illustrated by Eipe – The Monster Who Could Not Climb A Tree – was also shortlisted for the awards. Other shortlisted illustrators were Pankaj Saikia for The Theater of Ghosts, Sanket Pethkar for Aai and I, and Lavanya Karthik for The Girl Who Loved to Sing.
Kuriyan also won the 2021-22 English First Readers Award for the book Beauty Is Missing. The other candidates on this shortlist were Samina Mishra for Nida Finds A Way, Menaka Raman for Thumba’s Topi Rockets, Vibha Batra for Pinkoo Shergill Pastry Chef, Lavanya Karthik for The Girl Who Was A Forest and Tanya Majumdar for The Monster Who Could. Do not climb a tree.
Shah’s Bengaluru-based book Children Of The Hidden Land, published by Speaking Tiger, won the 2021-22 Middle Level English Readers’ Choice Award. Set in Manipur, it explores how friendship is forged through conflicting identities as people examine their assumptions about each other and overcome their biases. It tries to provide hope amid thorny issues of nationality, citizenship, insurgency and borders.
The other authors shortlisted for this category were Anupam Arunachalam for Young Pandavas, Bijal Vachharajani for Savi And The Memory Keeper, Amit Majmudar for Heroes The Color of Dust, Aditi Krishnakumar for That Year At Manikoil and Likla Lall as well as Kripa Bhatia for Somnath Hore. : Injuries. There was a joint jury for the two English-language book awards consisting of author-editor Anushka Ravishankar, author-editor Anita Roy and librarian and reading specialist Dalbir Kaur Madan. Each award category received a cash prize of Rs 50,000.