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Welcome to Bookistaan

Bookistaan is India’s first recommendations based online children’s bookstore

As a small town bookstore, we have an inclination towards Indian publishing and writing, that hasn’t been able to find the routes into smaller towns. We believe it’s important for children to be exposed to their own literature for them to grow into empathetic individuals, proud of their own roots.

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Middle Readers

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Books about disability

For the past few years Literature is all about diversity, giving voice to every people, regardless of race or ability or lack thereof. These diverse books advocate the need for minority representation, representation of disabled or ill characters, as protagonists and not as sidekicks. And mind you, the idea of this books is not to invoke pity. No, the idea is about equal representation, a disabled character need be just as special as any normal character, with everyday struggles, the angst of growing up and hopes for the future like any other character. The idea is to find a place in this world for these stories as well because there may be readers out there who’ll feel less lonely, feel like less of an outcast when they read a story like their own. And for the reader who can’t relate to these books, my advice is give them a try, you’ll find a lot of heart and inspiration in there, even a love for life and people, every people.

So here are some diverse books that we think are a good place to start if you’re game for exploring the genre:

MIDDLE GRADE

 

Image result for wonder bookWonder

August Pullman is a 10 year old who was normal parents, a normal sister, normal life but an unusual facial appearance. He has a deformed face, the kind that scares other children, and he’s never been to a school before. But then his parents start discussing how it’s time and the next thing he knows he’s taking on the challenge, albeit fearfully. He wants to be treated like everyone else, he wants to be the normal kid with friends, but is he?

Wonder is a paragon of middle grade diverse books. A poignant story about friendship, about learning to love yourself, about acceptance and growing up.

(Need more reasons to read the book? click here)

 

Image result for simply nanjuSimply Nanju

Simply Nanju is about a boy who’s simply normal. Nanjegowda is a boy of 10, studying in Standard 5 at the United Integrated School, born-with-a-spinal-defect-which-means-he-walks-funny-and-needs-to-wear-a diaper-24/7 normal. But Nanju has bigger problems on his hands like a mystery to solve, his name to clear concerning said mystery, prevent his father from shipping him off to a hostel for orphans, among other things. Good thing nothing worries him! Much!

(find our full review here)

 

Image result for el deafoEl Deafo

In this autobiographical graphic novel, the author Cece Bell chronicles her own loss of hearing at a young age and her experience with a hearing aid and how it made her her a misfit in school. Gradually it is this very hearing aid that help her become ‘El deaf, Listener for All’. Will she find her place in the world? Will she finally get people to accept her?

 

Image result for charlie and frog bookCharlie and Frog

Charlie’s parents are off to another adventure, this time dumping him with his TV addicted grandparents. He’s out exploring the place when a strange woman leaves him with a desperate message. In sign Language. Before disappearing suddenly.  Now Charlie has a mystery on his hands but no idea where to start. Good thing he finds help in Frog aka Francine, a deaf, wannabe detective who is all too excited to practice her sleuthing skills. Will a lot of ASL (American sign Language), intrigue, humor and a heartwarming friendship, this book is a satisfying, smart middle grade read.

 

 

 

YA

 

Image result for curious incident of the dog in the nighttimeThe Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime

Christopher is a 15 year old boy, living with his father. He loves prime numbers, hates yellow and is autistic. One day his neighbor’s dog is found forked to death and he embarks to uncover the murderer, Sherlock Holmes style. Even though I did not fall in love with the plot of the book, I did completely love Christopher, his musings on life and the world around him are so eye opening, no mind opening that I recommend this book for that reason alone.

 

 

Image result for unbroken duckbillUnbroken

Akriti is the girl with a disability. She’s in a wheelchair but she wasn’t always like this. She was a normal girl once but now that girl is lost. The thing that throws you of guard about this book is that the character with the disability does not elicit admiration in the reader, not for a very long time in the story. She is a character who wants to be hated, she’s much rather be hated than be pitied, she feels no one understands her but she makes no attempt to give people a chance to understand her. According to her, she is a monster and she’s accepted that. This is a book that explores anger, he frustration when your life changes for the worst and stops making any sense and all you can think about is, ‘why me?’.

Full review here

 

Image result for a quiet kind of thunderA Quiet Kind of Thunder

Steffi is selective mute. She’s been silent for so long that no one remembers her talking in school. She’s pretty much invisible until a new boy comes and notices her. Rhys is deaf and Steffi’s knowledge of ASL means she’s assigned to help him settle. A beautiful story about young love, taking a chance and new beginnings.

 

Why EVERYONE needs to read WONDER by R J Palacio

Let’s talk about this wonderful paragon today.

The thing is, there are billions of people on our planet which is the most special planet in our galaxy, what with it the only one supporting life and all. So we live on a planet out of eight, in one galaxy out of billions, in a universe that is infinite.

Why EVERYONE needs to read Wonder by R J PalacioTo say that we are all unique in our own way would be an understatement of epic proportions, but I’m still going to say that. Have you ever met anyone who looks just like you? (Please don’t answer that if you’re a twin.) No, right. That’s because there is no one like you at least on your planet (unless you’re a twin of course). And that’s just talking about physical appearance, your thoughts are just as one of a kind as you are. My point is we are all so special to be living on such a special planet, in such a special galaxy that is part of an unimaginable infinity.

The reason for this rant is because the protagonist in this story that I’m talking about today hates being ‘special’. August Pullman is a 10 year old who was normal parents, a normal sister, normal life but an unusual facial appearance. He has a deformed face, the kind that scares other children, and he’s never been to a school before. But then his parents start discussing how it’s time and the next thing he knows he’s taking on the challenge, albeit fearfully. He wants to be treated like everyone else, he wants to be the normal kid with friends, but is he? Well, his struggles are what make the rest of the story, so I’ll right here but here’s why EVERYONE needs to read this book asap:

  • Auggie is a brave character, brave enough to take a chance when he has faced open revulsion from people all his life. Sometimes we all need to do that, have a little faith and just leap towards the things we want.
  • I think it’s very important to accept yourself before you expect other people to accept you. But it’s difficult to get past our insecurities, our flaws, even painful experiences, isn’t it? Well, it is for August too but he keeps trying.
  • Told from multiple viewpoints, the book not only delves into Auggie’s side of the story but also those around him, those whose lives are also affected by him. This adds great depth to the story. We see how an illness or a deformity affects the entire family, how everyone has to help make room for it.
  • These multiple POVs also gives the reader insights into a young brain. We see the book raising a lot of issues like teenage angst, feeling neglected, trying to fit it, trying to stand out, popularity, rich vs poor etc
  • A lot of things children to, they do for approval and they learn by example. So we as parents and educators need to become the person we want them to grow up to be. We ourself need to be more accepting, more empathetic to the world around us. Why?
  • Because we need kindness in this world. And not just for people like Auggie. No, Auggie is a boy just like any other and he deserves as much kindness as anyone. We need empathy and kindness for all of humanity to lead content, meaningful lives.
  • Friendship is another important part of this book. We see some beautiful relationships that are based on overcoming personal issues and embracing other people for all they are.
  • The book makes you think about what kind of a person you want to be? The kind that makes people smile or the kind that elicit fear or the kind that can break people to tears. It makes you want to responsible for your actions.
  • The story overall has such a positive aura. I was beaming through most of it, sometimes beaming through tears but beaming nonetheless.
  • Never judge a book by it’s cover. Or the title. Or what other people are saying about it. Judge a book for what it has to say. Judge a man for he/she has to say.

 

Indian Historical Fiction

Ever wondered how the royals lived in ancient India? Was it all about sitting on the throne while being fed grapes or were their lives full of turbulence? If yes, we have some historical fiction suggestions for you today all about Indian royalty and the kind of lives they lived.

Image result for queen of iceQueen of Ice

Devika Rangachari’s novel Queen of Ice brings alive one of the few Queens of Indian History, Queen Didda – ruler of Kashmir from 958 AD to 1003 AD – beautiful, discerning and lame. The story starts with a young princess who transforms into a confident queen who would do anything to stay on the throne.

Full review

 

 

Image result for gulbadanGulbadan

Rumer Godden’s Gulbadan: Portrait of a Princess at the Mughal Court is the story of Princess Rosebody, Babur’s youngest daughter and author of the Humayun-nama. A loyal supporter of the Mughal royal line, Gulbadan Begam lived through the rule of three kings – her father – Babur, her brother – Humayun and her nephew Akbar, as first a child in the confines of the zenana and then as an accomplished scholar and royal adviser. Did she have a favorite? Of course!

Full review

 

 

Image result for history mystery duckbillHistory mystery series

Although this is a series for middle graders, I really love it and wanted to mention it. This is more fiction that history and they don’t talk about so much about the royals but their life and lifestyle. Each book in the series, there are four so far, is full of enigma, espionage and humor.

 

 

 

Image result for palace of illusionPalace of Illusion

This is Mahabharata through Draupadi’s POV, her life from birth to death. Women have always been portrayed at the corrupting factor in mythological wars, the causing factor, and it’s so great to read the woman’s side of the story. When I read this book I was plain blown over. Draupadi’s voice is totally believable and impactful, and the plot twist is so exciting.

Fairy tale retellings for Middle Grade readers

Fairy tales are an inevitable part of growing up. Whether you’ve been exposed to books or movies, I’m sure you’re quite familiar with them.

I, for one, love fairy tales, always have. But did you know, fairy tales weren’t always as dreamy as we know them today. The original stories of Grimm and Anderson were quite gory, in fact they were not meant for children at all. They talked about transgression and its horrid consequences and even rape. These stories were Disneyfied into what we know today which was a drastic improvement but somewhere down the line in their chase for happily-ever-afters, these stories forgot to be politically just. Why must the man always save the day? Why should a girl have to wait for a man to come and rescue her?

I started thinking these questions when i grew up and I took the feminist stance. This is when I started dejecting the whole damsel-in-distress ploy that just showed women as incapacitated, perpetually dependent beings. That’s when I started looking for fairy tales retellings that are magical, or at least hopeful, but not unfair to half the population of the world. Stories need to change with time and so I thought I’d share my findings with you.

This list is mostly for middle grade readers, I’ll be doing a YA version soon:

 

Image result for girls to the rescue tulikaGirls to the Rescue  by Sowmya Rajendran

Sowmya Rajendran little book of fairytales is surprising and funny and super entertaining. In her version of fairy tales; Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood and the Princess decide to take charge of their situation and not follow convention/script. They are on a mission to be examples of strength and independence, to be better inspiration today that they have been all these years.

You can read Bookistaan’s full review here

 

Image result for ella enchanted bookElla Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

In this retelling of Cinderella, Ella has been ‘blessed’ with the gift of obedience which unsurprisingly feels like a curse to her because it means she can never defy her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. So she sets out on an adventure to find her Godmother to take back the ‘blessing’. The story runs close to the original but the twists will make you laugh. The ending isn’t perfect but Ella is a likable character who believes in fighting for herself and fighting for the people she cares about.

 

 

Image result for far far away tom mcnealFar Far away by Tom McNeal

Jeremy can hear voices in his head but when he admits to him townspeople he is shunned. His life has been tough and lonely but now he has a ghost watching over him, the ghost of Jacob Grimm. Reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel, this is much an original take on fairy tales that run a little close to the Grimm style of storytelling. This book does not promise a happily-ever-after but does promise intrigue, a little darkness and a lot of twists.

 

 

Image result for rapunzel's revengeRapunzel’s Revenge by Dean Hale

In this modern retelling, Rapunzel is daring enough to escape her tower o her own. Now she’s on a mission to rescue her mother and seek revenge on her kidnapper. While on the adventure she teams up with none other than Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) and together they fight for justice.

 

 

 

Image result for froggedFrogged by Vivian Vende Velde

A new spin on the old tale where the princess kisses the frog prince. In this retelling when Princess Imogene kisses the frog on his request, he does transform into a young boy, only the kiss changes her into a frog! To her horror the only way out of the magic is to pass on the kiss and the frogness to another unsuspecting victim. Imogene’s adventures as a frog are entertaining and this charming story will definitely leave you grinning.

 

Essential Reads: Classic chapter-books for middle graders

Today I have some classic middle grade recommendations for you that make great summer read projects, so if you’re a teacher making a summer reading list for her students or a student who wants to indulge in some timeless books, this list is for you:

 

CharlotteWeb.pngCharlotte’s Web by EB White, 1952

A memorable story about friendship and loss, Charlotte’s web is about a little pig names Wilbur who is doomed to be slaughtered. Obviously he doesn’t want to die but it seems no one can help him, that is until he befriends a spider named Charlotte and she promises to come up with a plan to save him. This is such a heart touching story and it considered the greatest children’s book of all times. I swear this book is the reason I don’t hate spiders, in fact I see Charlotte in all of them. Yep, that’s the power of Literature.

 

 

Wizard title page.jpgWizard of Oz by L Frank Baum, 1990

I can’t tell you how much I love the Wizard of Oz. The story of Dorothy who is swept away to the magical kingdom of Oz along with her dog Toto by a cyclone.  Again a story about unlikely friendships, crossing hurdles, the fight between good and evil but this one does it with a lot of humor. A Lion who lacks courage, a tin man on a quest for a heart and a scarecrow looking for a brain become Dorothy’s comrades on a journey that is full of hidden meaning and

 

 

Image result for alice in wonderland bookAlice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll, 1865

Alice falls down a rabbit hole only to find herself in another world. A world with peculiar creatures who talk more non sense than sense and who’ve decided that she is their savior. Thus starts Alice’s adventure. It’s a good thing she is a curious, brave character because she’s meant to defeat an evil queen to save the people of Wonderland.

This is how it all started, fantasy as genre. Before Hogwarts, Narnia, even Neverland, there was Wonderland.

 

 

Malgudi Days.jpg Malgudi Days by RK Narayan, 1943

A collection of 32 short stories set in the fictional town of Malgudi in South India, this book will brings alive everything India. The stories focus on simple people living ordinary but charming lives. The book is so atmospheric you can taste the village life on your tongue, you can hear the sounds ring in your ears and the smell of earth and incense. Each story talks about taboos, beliefs and superstitions prevalent in the nineteenth century and Narayan’s signature enigmatic endings will leave you with a lot to think about.

 

 

Image result for charlie and the chocolate factory bookCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, 1964

Dahl’s books are the definition of zany. This book starts with a contest, five golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars that will get five lucky buyers an invitation into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. Charlie is one of the five and it’s a dream come true for him. He knows that something extraordinary is going to happen and what awaits him and the other children inside the factory is nothing short of magical.

 

 

Book cover featuring GedA Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin, 1968

The story follows a young boy, Ged, who displays magical powers and joins a school of wizardry to become a mage. The book follows his journey as a trainee sorcerer, his struggles and his misfires one of which leads to the creation of his enemy. The book is followed by five others in the series, which is considered an important series in fantasy literature and which follows Ged as he grows up to tame his powers and become a wise, powerful wizard.

 

 

WrinkleInTimePBA1.jpgA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, 1962

Meg’s father, a time-traveling physicist has disappeared and then one night her home is visited by an unexpected visitor who tells them of the tesseract, a fifth dimension that allows travel through time and space. This is how Meg embarks on an adventure across the Universe along with her brother and her friend to find her father. The award winning book is perhaps the earliest venture  into time travel and science fiction and it makes all geeks proud.

 

 

Middle grade authors for fans of Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is a quintessential middle school read!

The first book I read by the British author was Matilda. I was eleven and I remember it was the first time I found a book really funny. I did not know books could do that back then. I reread the book recently and it still proved itself effectively amusing and I kept wondering if I actually understood everything in the book at eleven.

But anyway, the reason I delved into the story is to emphasize what makes Dahl so special. It’s his ability to make his reader laugh and consequently make them fall in love with reading. His quirky, sometimes slightly unhinged characters, his sarcasm and the way he paints the world, real and yet so exaggerated that you can’t help but shake you your head at the intricacies of human nature, make for delightful, hard to put down reads that I can promise will go with you a long, long time after you’ve read them.

So if like me you are a lover of Dahl’s signature style, here are some other classic authors that you can explore next:

Eva Ibbotson

Ibbotson is one author who comes very close to Dahl’s style of writing. If you’re into stories about witches, ghosts, magic or anything supernatural, you should give her books a try. Her writing style is wrought with irony and if you learned a little about the kind of life she lived (she lived through the second World War and so had an unstable childhood) you’d know that the grotesque comes disguised as eccentric, imaginative and fantastical. It’s such an effective disguise though, things I realized when I revisited her stories as an adult, and her writing is humorous and enchanting.

 

Astrid Lindgren

I’m sure you’ve heard of Pippi Longstocking! The unpredictable, super strong, super opinionated girl with mismatched stockings who doesn’t want to grow up. Pippi lives to slaughter rules and has a decided disregard for authority and conventions. She lives a life of freedom and her unabashed outspokenness is inspiring. Her adventures are brave and chaotic and oh-so-funny and her rebellion charming. She’s a little girl who raises big questions about right and wrong, about society and individual. Astrid Lindgren’s writing is simple and uncomplicated and relatable and this isn’t her only children’s book but it’s her most popular one.

 

Edward Eager

A less popular author who deserves more notice, Edward Eager is the author of the Tales of magic series. The series follows four children who happen upon a seemingly ordinary coin which they soon realize is magical. They start wishing upon the coin but here’s the catch, the coin only grants half the wish. All sorts of mayhem ensues as they find themselves in awkward, complicated situations. Eager’s writing is confessional and mocking at the same time and will never cease to surprise you. It’s the kind of writing that keeps playing in your head after you’ve kept the book down, making you snort of the dinner table.

A – Z Detective Agency

How things unfold?

Ashwin is on a mission to make money this summer so he can go on the School trip and make friends. All he needs is a business plan. As he jumps from the nimbu pain business to selling hand made crafts, all without much success, he stumbles upon a piece of paper that changes his life.

Next thing you know, Ashwin learns how to summon a Djinni, and start yet another business The A-Z Detective Agency. Only as luck would have it the Djinni who comes to  his rescue seems to be in need of rescue herself. Will this school going, forgetful, novice of a Djinni, disguised as a 9 year old girl be able to able Ashwin? Will Ashwin succeed in his mission?

Why read it?

For Ashwin’s entrepreneurial ideas

One reason I loved this character is for his many business ideas and his financial independence, his eagerness to earn his own money and pay for the trip himself.

For loads of anecdotes on Djinnestan

Parinita Shetty paints a mystic and intriguing picture of the world of Djinnies.

For friendship that happens

Just like how the best things in life just happen, the best of friends also just happen. They are not planned, they are happystances that you stumble upon.

Who is it for?

Bookistaan recommends this one for ages 8 and above, all you young readers out there!

Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles

It has to be something else to be able to influence lives even after you’re gone, to leave an imprint on the surface of the globe so deep that it becomes a monument to be worshiped by generations to come.

Today’s book celebrates one such monumental, poetic life. Amir Khusrau, the royal poet of the 13th Century, aka the Parrot of India, has over a 90 books to his credit. His lyrics adorned the court of seven ruler of Delhi and he is considered the founder of Qawwali and Ghazals, one of the many things he gave to our country. But what was his life like? To find out give Ankit Chadha’s Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles a try.

Why read it?

For a glimpse into the life of the mystic
The book gives the reader a sneak peak into the life of the poet, just enough to make the reader curious. It doesn’t drone about his life and achievements but talks about his beliefs, desires, likes and dislikes.

A little bit of riddle, rhyme and reason
Another thing that makes this book unique and stand apart from other books about history is that it uses riddles to take the reader through the life of a legend, riddles all attributed to him. You have to decode the riddle to find out more about him, it’s an interesting way to decode a life.

For a taste of the Sufi language
Khusrau wrote mostly in Persian or Hindvi which was a combination of Persian and Bhojpuri and which later developed into Urdu and Hindi. The book offers the Urdu lyrics along with translations, giving the reader a taste of the glorious language as well as more challenge.

The illustrations deserve a special mention for Urmimala Nag’s colorful illustrations add to the beauty of the book. This book is a collector’s dream.

Who is it for?
Bookistaan recommends this beauty for the middle reader, age 10 and above.

Color to Calm

Children are better teachers than adults. Why? You’d ask? Well, have you ever seen a child give up just because she fell? No, she’d pick herself right back up, not letting the fear of falling stop her. That’s not it, you can learn a lot more from a child like enjoying the little things in life and smiling through tears. And there’s a new entry to the list of things to learn from children – coloring.

Not only is it fun, it is also therapeutic, here’s how:

Reduces stress
Coloring has proven to be an extremely effective stress buster. It helps you focus on the present and relaxes your brain just as well as meeting friends does, opening doors for mindfulness. It’s like the new meditation!

Helps you focus
It helps you focus on the task at hand, enhancing problem solving and organizational skills in the long run.

Enhances creativity
For starters coloring involves both hemispheres of the brain – left and right, which means it uses the logical as well as the creative parts of the brain. People who color soon find a more creative way of approaching life, their job or any other task.

That said the best reason to believe in something is experience, so try it out for yourself and let the art convince you of it’s ability. Here are some coloring books you can choose from:

The Sita Coloring Book by Devdutt Pattanaik
Add you own color and touch to Master Mythologist’s retelling of Sita’s Ramayana in 108 pictures. The quirky detailed illustrations make for a satisfying activity for both children and adults.

The Sita Coloring Book by Devout Pattanaik

The Sita Coloring Book by Devout Pattanaik

Bagh-e- Bahar
This splendid and mesmerizing book takes you on a walk through the gardens of the Mughals, added into this mix are quotes by Rumi. The perfect gifting treasure this season.

Bagh - e - Bahar

Bagh – e – Bahar

Ever after by Priya Kuriyan
This intricately detailed book will introduce you to 40 animals that are either extinct or on the verge of extinction. Your chance to add color and life to them.

Ever After by Priya Kuriyan

Ever After by Priya Kuriyan

The Great River Magic

The famed village of Rajpur is said to be bound in an age old magic, a magic bestowed upon its people by a fairy for saving her life. A magic that is a big part of the life of its residents.

Sangeeta wants nothing more than to unravel mathematical problems all day but at the end of school what awaits her is her responsibility as the first born to learn the family business so she can single handedly take over one day. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t feel for it enough. It also doesn’t matter that her younger brother feels for it a lot. Such is a normal, magical day in Rajpur, until the magic somehow starts going wrong and there’s a real mystery to unravel…

Why read it?

To challenge tradition
Nandini Nayar’s The Great River Magic challenges a lot of traditions and forces the reader to take that course of thought also. It forces one to question the hitherto accepted standard, age doesn’t make a practice right after all!

A peep beyond the surface
Sometimes the answers are right in front of us and we still see right through them. Sangeeta’s story is no different, her problem comes with an answer like any other, but will she be able to finally see it?

For a little push to chase your dreams
Failure can be scary and especially if there are too many people steering your life but what this book assures you if that no matter how bleak the chances may seem, no matter how difficult the flight may seem, you have got to try. Start with a leap, if flying seems too scary, but start.

Who is it for?
Bookistaan recommends middle readers, ages 10 and above, to dive into The Great River Magic for a taste of courage and adventure.

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