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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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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.

 

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.

Bookistaan’s favorite Fantasy worlds: fantasy series

Reading means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some it’s an adventure, for others it’s an escape and for yet another category it’s a chance to face the mirror.

If there’s one genre that does is all, it’s fantasy. The experience of losing yourself in another world, bumping into all sorts of characters, dragons included, is nothing short of surreal. A world unlike another and yet it has the power to make you see your own reality in better light.

So today we share with our favorite ever fantasy world. Please remember the list is mostly revealed of middle grade readers and young adults. Also the series does not contain any dystopian novels because that’s a genre in itself, lately. So, here goes:

Image result for harry potterHarry Potter

If you read only one fantasy series, read Harry Potter, the book that brought children’s writing to the forefront. Harry is 11 when he receives acceptance into The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and his life changes forever. He’s faced with his past, new challenges, new friend, a world full of magic and even an enemy. Rowling’s magical world is so imaginative, symbolic and immersive that it will have you addicted until you reach the entire series and you’ll still not be satisfied. I still at least one book in the series every year!

 

 

 

Image result for the chronicles of narnia bookThe Chronicles of Narnia

C. S. Lewis’ first in this series of seven was published in 1950. The first book The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe  stars 4 brother and sisters who whilst hiding in a cupboard stumble upon the magical land of Narnia. The main characters change in the subsequent books but the world remains the same and the books span the entire history of the realm. Full of magic, conflict and acts of bravery, the series is hard to put down and harder to forget.

 

 

Image result for percy jacksonPercy Jackson and the Olympians

This magical world takes inspiration from Greek mythology, which in itself was a winner for me. It’s a world of Gods and demigods where one misfit is trying to find his place. But Percy Jackson is more than meet the eye and it looks like fate has great adventures in store for him. Percy faces one nail-biting task after another to prove his worth in this series of Five books. The books are set in a school for demigods and Greek Gods make special guest appearances throughout the plot!

 

 

Image result for artemis fowlArtemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl is a hero unlike any other. He is a criminal mastermind. Yep, you read that right! The series starts with Fowl kidnapping a fairy for ransom, so that he can extort gold from the fairy people and restore his family’s wealth. Our little villain grows into many shades in this series with eight books and has won the hearts of readers worldwide with his evil plots.

 

 

Image result for fairyland seriesFairyland

Finally a series with a heroine! In the first book of five, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, we meet eleven year old September who is spirited away from her ordinary, uneventful life to Fairyland. Here is meets witches and gnomes and all sorts of odd characters and is trusted with a very important task. It’s a delicious story about growing up and finding courage and compassion.

 

 

 

 

 

Fablehaven.jpgFablehaven

This fantasy series of five books by Brandon Mull follow a brother and sister duo who are visiting their grandparents while their parent are on a holiday. To their surprise they come to find that their grandparents are guardians of Fablehaven, a sanctuary for ALL sorts of magical creatures. Think fairies, centaurs, ogres, goblins, trolls, dragons etc, all in one place. Is that a geeks dream come true or what!

 

 

 

Cover ravenboys 300.pngThe Raven Cycle

The Series follows Blue, who’s lived her life among her clairvoyant family. Her entire life she’s been told that when she kisses her true love, he’s going to die. The prophecy has never been a problem for Blue, that is until she meet the Raven Boys, a group of four boys from a local private school, and finds herself on a quest with them.

Bookistaan’s favorite Indian YA writers

YA is the fastest growing genre in publishing right now and it’s a genre that is liked by adults, if not more, as by teens. One reason is probably because most YA’s are such breezy reads, fast-paced page-turners for when you want to read something light but that also have a certain literary depth. This is certainly why it’s my favorite genre right now.

Today I have some Indian YA writer recommendations for you:

Asmara’s Summer by Andaleeb Wajid

This is the story of 17 year old Asmara, confident, popular and a little bit of a diva. But behind her perfect life is a secret, one that even her best friends are unaware of, one that she thinks could be the end of her life.

Much to her dismay she is thrown into this secret and despite her protests has to live it for a month. She has to live in Tannery Road – a conservative part of the city, a place she has avoided all her life – where her grandparents live. Of course she plans to spend it cooped up in one room, away from civilization and technology!

Read full review here.


The Gita for Children
by Roopa Pai

Roopa Pai simplifies one of the most important Hindu religious text, making it approachable for children. Chapter by chapter she unravels concepts of the Gita, quoting plenty relatable examples for young readers. She broods over questions about duty, human expectations, relations and life with such ease and poise, candor and seriousness. I think this is a book everyone should read once in their lifetime to come a little closer to life, to come a little closer to themselves.

The House That Spoke by Zuni Chopra

Written by a 15 year old fantasy lover, The House That Spoke is about 14 year old Zoon, living in a heavenly house in Kashmir with her mother. She knows that her home is more that its beauty and right before her 15th birthday, she finds out the secret that her house has been guarding, a secret that unravels her heritage and her powers. But with these powers and the magic she also discovers an enemy that she must defeat to save her home, as well as her Kashmir. It’s a spellbinding Magic Realism about finding hope even in darkness.

Full review here

Our Nana was a Nutcase by Ranjit Lal

Gosling, Duckling and twins Dumpling and Dingaling was been raised by their nutty Nana, he is the only parent they have ever known while their parents have been AWOL since before they could walk, too busy with their careers. An ex Army Doctor, Nana is very unconventional (read eccentric) in his ways, he wakes his ‘patloon’ up with trumpets and a show, their day starts and ends with staring at the mountains (they live in the hills) and their weekend plans include trekking, camping and treasure hunts. Life at the Shadow House with Nana as commander in chief is never boring. A heart touching story about family love and growing up.

I can’t do this book justice in such few words so read full review here.

Queen of Ice by Devika Rangachari

Devika Rangachari’s novel Queen of Ice challenges this illusion. She 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 book challenges the way we see women’s contribution to Indian history and is a must read is you are a history fanatic.

Here’s our full review.

The Great Indian Graphic Novel

For those you are not familiar with the term, graphic novels are essentially comics, with images and text driving the story, but unlike comics they are not periodicals. So a graphic novel is usually a complete story, though sometimes they do have sequels.

There was a time when the only graphic books India produced were Amar Chitra Kathas. Don’t get me wrong, I loved ACKs growing up, I love that they made comics ‘educational’ so to say. But they are mostly about mythology and history and after about a dozen books I just wanted to read something that explored another world, maybe even the real world.

So graphic storytelling was pretty much missing from the publishing landscape, especially those aimed at young adults and adults. But that is not the case anymore which is why I’ve put together a little list of Graphic novels from India. I’m still new to the genre myself, but I find it so riveting and charming that I’m absolutely in love with them lately. Also if you’re into art like me, you’ll be just as charmed. Plus I think they hold a certain appeal even for the non-readers.

So, here goes:

Image result for sita ramayana taraSita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar

Starting with mythology because they are just such an important part of growing up in our country. But the reason I love this one is because it made me question a lot of things about these stories that my grandma told me. It’s a feminist take on Ramayana and tells the age old tale through Sita’s POV. The narrative is so innocent that it’ll have a thinking but without pointing fingers. Mythology has been all about men and their glory but this book puts the women in the centre.

The book has been illustrated in the Patua art form and the pictures are earthy and extremely eloquent.

 

Image result for this side that sideThis Side That Side curated by Vishwajyoti Ghosh

This is an anthology of stories from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh about the consequences of the partition. This book brings together 48 writers and artists, presenting a mix of stories from various places that successfully evoke pain, pity and empathy. The book will transport you to refugee camps, show you the difficulty of cross border travel, and confronts you to the feeling of displacement, homelessness.

It’s a painful subject and I think a graphic medium makes it slightly more bearable. The book raises questions of identity and belongingness instead of focusing on violence and that for me at least was a winner.

 

Image result for pao graphic novelPao

Another anthology, this time just a coming together of various writers and artists to bring to you the allure of graphic storytelling. These are stories about aliens writing Sci-fi, a boy who doesn’t understand that his mother is gone, a spinster aunt holding her family hostage for ice cream. The diverse topics and styles paint a beautiful picture of our diverse landscape. Oscillating between quirky, poignant, contemplative and dazzling the stories will leave you with a lot of food for thought.

 

"Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back!" Zubaan Edition - May 2015Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back

Yet another anthology! They seen to be quite the trend. This one brings together experiences of women in India. The book can be divided into 14 stand alone stories that cover a myriad of topics such as sexual violence, the pressures of beauty standards, patriarchy in the workplace etc. The stories are all printed in black and white but explore different art forms for storytelling as is common in anthologies.

 

 

 

 

Unbroken by Nandhika Nambi

How things unfold?

There are two things about this book that’ll throw you off balance; one that the protagonist of this book is someone with a disability (trust Duckbill to do something like that!) and second that this 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.

Her life is pretty normal comprising of parents who want her to lead a normal life, a do gooder brother who dotes on her (and everyone else), two friends who have stuck around through the thick, school, homework. exams. But everything, no matter how normal, seems to infuriate her more and more and more. How much anger can a teenager have? And what happens when the anger reaches the tipping point?

Why read it?

 For the awkward topic

Let’s admit it, disability is an awkward topic that most of us don’t know how to address. It’s almost a taboo which is why you’d hardly find it in books. So reading about a topic like that does educate you in terms of how to deal with it and this book does more that, it gives you insight into the thoughts of a person with a disability like its the most normal of circumstances. It makes disability normal not awkward. Kudos to the author for that!

For the fiesta character

Aakriti (that’s our main lead) is quite a rebellious character full of sarcastic come backs and mean (honest) opinions that she doesn’t shy from voicing. She can seem even heartless sometimes but her journey is enlightening (not to mention very satisfying). The book in that sense is an epiphany, telling you that all it takes is one person, one moment, one little thing to change your life, to change you and when that chance comes you should accept it.

Open your mind

I don’t wanna give out spoilers but there are a few other issues that the book takes on in a thought-provoking manner. It will open your mind about a lot of things, so give it a try.

Who is it for?

Bookistaan recommends this one for young adults, ages 13 and above.

 

 

 

The House That Spoke

Reality can be a little harsh, perhaps even dull which is why it is sometimes you want to escape it and what better way than in the worlds of words? My favorite kinds of books are the ones that don’t sugar-coat the reality but that set it in a magical ambience while giving it a human quality.

How Things unfold?

Perhaps that’s why I loved today’s book.

Written by a 15 year old fantasy lover, The House That Spoke is about 14 year old Zoon, living in a heavenly house in Kashmir with her mother. She knows that her home is more that its beauty and right before her 15th birthday, she finds out the secret that her house has been guarding, a secret that unravels her heritage and her powers.

But with these powers and the magic she also discovers an enemy that she must defeat to save her home, as well as her Kashmir.

Why read it?

For magical Kashmir

Zuni Chopra’s Kashmir is magical both for its beauty as well as its reality. She paints a Kashmir majestic in its beauty, soulful in its suffering and colorful even in its darkness.

For a magical reality

As I said I like to read about a reality that is enveloped in a wrapping of the unreal. I like that the author has presented a morbid reality in such an endearing and imaginative setting. She gives Zoon a talking house as an ally in her fight against evil.

Imaginative and Hopeful

The narration is not just imaginative but also full of hope. One thing that I’ve learnt with this book is that darkness is always waiting around the corner to take charge and blow your world out of its balance but then there’s a fight waiting right inside you to defeat the darkness and find hope again.

Who is it for?

Zuni Chopra voice is fresh and mature, fun and rousing at the same time and Bookistaan recommends this eloquent read to any one above age 12.

One Half from the East

How things unfold?

Where do you belong? Does belongingness come with birth or is it passed down like many other things? And what if you don’t want to be who are born as? What if you want to be someone else?

One Half from the East by bestselling author Nadia Hashimi is about 10 year old Obayda who’s life is thrown into turmoil along with her family when her father loses a leg in a bomb explosion. The family has to move out of Kabul, to a small village and thus they embark on a journey of changes.

While Obayda and her sisters are still getting used to being girls in a village, their aunt comes up with a scheme to bring them luck. All they need is a boy in the family and since they don’t have one, they have to get one. So, Obayda becomes Obayd, the boy of the family, a bacha posh.

Why read it?

For a girl who wants to be free

If you’re a girl and you’ve wished even for the slightest second that you could be a boy then this book will hit home. Obayda’s transformation into a boy is a reluctant one but what happens when she realizes being a boy is better than being a girl, what happens when she doesn’t want to be girl anymore, what happens when a girl starts enjoying freedom, freedom that doesn’t belong to her in the first place? That is the story of Obayda.

What it means to be a girl

Obayda is a brave character, there were times in the story when my heart went out to her and I wanted to whisk her away for it all but she always maintained to be a character that doesn’t need saving. She is a character who with girl clothes also sheds her limitations, becoming a character who is confident, she finds her fight. Makes one wonder if the girl had it all along!

The bacha posh tradition

This old tradition of Afghanistan is quite a curious one. Families without a son, designate the youngest daughter with the responsibility  of filling the void in the household and bringing them luck. The girl is dressed as a boy, her hair is cut off and Ta da! She’s one of the more privileged.

Change is the only constant, they say

Obayda’s unwavering resolve in the face of all the changes thrown her way is admirable and inspirational. She takes everything in her stride, never giving up. Not once.

For family

It’s what gives the 10 year old the courage to make a sacrifice far bigger than her age.

Who is it for?

Bookistaan recommends this heart touching story to anyone looking for a little inspiration and a little fight.

 

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

Gulbadan

Ever wondered what life is like as a royal? Is it as velvety and silvery as it seems or is it a struggle a day?

Well, life as a Mughal wasn’t all that dreamy and today’s book gives us an exquisite tour of the world.

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!

But that’s not the only reason to give her story a chance.

Why read it?

For in depth details of the first three Mughal Kings
Did you know that Humanyun spent most of his life as King, fighting his brothers for his throne or how Akbar was the most liberal Mughal King even though he never could read and write? There was so much more to their life than conquering and dying.

The Mughal Women
Also get an insight on how women of the Mughal Era lived, how their days were spent, how they lived with their co-wives and just how much influence they had in the society or even the household.

The struggle of the climb
The Mughals gave us so many wonders like the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, the city fort of Fatehpur Sikri and it is something else to go back in a time when none of these existed, all that was there was a thirst to rule. How they reached the zenith is a story to not be missed.

Who is it for?
Bookistaan recommends this timeless masterpiece to the history loving young adult, age 15 and above.

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