Children of all ages go through a range of complex emotions. And very often neither children nor parents know how to deal with them. Now, a new independent publisher, AdiDev, has developed a host of picture books for children, from toddlers to early readers, that help them make sense of this web of feelings. So, for example, “Are Your Emotions Like Mine,” featuring a young girl and her lion friend, inspires toddlers (and their parents) to breathe deeply when faced with difficult situations, other like ‘Kindness with Mahavira’ and ‘Peace with Buddha’ take young readers through valuable messages – that every soul, whether an ant or a person, is of equal value, and that the path to peace lies within.
The books don’t pontificate on values, rather the beautiful illustrations and layered text convey the message without being preachy. Bilingual books are often written in verse and make great bedtime reading. The publishing house’s roots were sown in 2015 when founder Chitwan Mittal moved from India to Singapore.
As an expat mother, her search for culturally relevant content for her two sons, Aditya and Dev, took her from bookstore to bookstore. All the while, she kept reminiscing about bedtime with her mother, who offered a variety of storybooks (albeit of Western origin). “I wanted picture books with stories and images from South Asia. I decided to stop looking and start creating the books I wanted my children to read, books that would bring them closer to their culture and values,” says Mittal. And so AdiDev Press was born – with the name derived from the names of his two sons, who continue to inspire his books.
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Often, parents resort to “teaching” cultural values and stories from myths and legends to their children. However, this has the opposite effect of distracting children from these stories. “This can never be done with uninteresting or boring, outdated and outdated books and materials. If we want children to fall in love with our stories, they must be presented in an evocative, beautiful and inspiring way. Children should feel excited and intrigued,” says Mittal. “When we’re able to create that experience for our children, where we can explore and learn together, we can truly engage them on a lifelong journey of discovery and celebration.”
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A fascinating title is “My First Hanuman Chalisa”, an illustrated book, which features the original text in Awadhi with an English transliteration. It also comes with a QR code on the back cover that allows parents and children to access verses and word meanings read aloud. The reason I find the book interesting is that it is in no way religious in nature or promotes any faith. Through its illustrations and format, it simply seeks to make children fall in love with Hanuman and the stories of the Ramayana. “We took up the challenge of illustrating Hanuman in a totally original way. Illustrator Aparajitha Vaasudev added whimsical elements in a pop culture style to create unforgettable images,” explains Mittal. “And we hope, through the pictures, to take children on a fantastic and wonderful journey, in which Hanuman is not just a god to be worshiped but a friend to be loved and held close to the heart.”
Meanwhile, the ‘Learning to Be’ hardback series is inspired by a UNESCO report on global education, which named four pillars of learning: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learn to be. “Here, learning to be is associated with the essence of what it means to be human,” she says. After the books on Guru Nanak, Mahavira and Gautam Buddha, the team is now working on new titles in the “Learning to BE” series about women in science and sportswomen, which was written by poet Pervin Saket.
A series of bilingual books (Hindi and English) for early readers is also in the works, to be published later this year. Some of the tracks include ‘A Pagdi for Sinh’, ‘One Elephant, Two Monkeys’ and ‘Animal Band’. “The aim of this series is to introduce children to vocabulary related to South Asian clothing, musical instruments and Hindi numbers in a fun and playful way. We also have another highly anticipated bilingual book on colors titled ‘Colours with Radha Krishna’,” explains Mittal.