Bengali Children’s Literature: 20 Books Waiting to Be Explored

The world of Bengali children’s literature is waiting for you!

By Rumana Yasmin

If there is a bookshelf in any Bengali household, there is likely to be a copy of Thakurmar Jhuli. Revisiting it after many years, I find much of its content outdated and problematic, but I can understand its wide appeal when it was first published, and for many decades after.

While Bengali children’s literature was still emerging as a separate category 200 years ago, with the establishment of the School Books Society in Calcutta, books printed for children were primarily didactic in nature. The publication of Thakurmar Jhuli, a collection of traditional Bengali folklore compiled by Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder, was perhaps the pivotal moment which marked a move away from purely religious and instructive texts intended for children. Thakurmar Jhuli, while still moralising in nature with its good vs. evil motifs, made way for a reconnection with Bengali oral tradition — a whole array of human and animal characters, the fantastical, the supernatural, all came together to introduce an element of entertainment in children’s literature.

The evolution of Bengali children’s literature since then has been a vibrant one, with authors experimenting with a wide range of genres – adventure, nonsense, mystery, horror, science fiction, fantasy, history, and even sport. Even though it has flourished since it began its journey in print, Bengali children’s literature still remains largely unheard of outside of the Bengali-speaking world.

For World Kidlit Month this September, I have compiled a list of 20 books which have been translated to English. The list can serve as a starting point for exploring the classic and contemporary works in Bengali children’s literature.

Twenty Bengali books:

  1. Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne and Other Stories by Upendrakishore Roychoudhury, translated by Swagata Deb
  2. Rhymes of Whimsy – The Complete Abol Tabol by Sukumar Ray, translated by Niladri Roy
  3. The Select Nonsense of Sukumar Ray by Sukumar Ray, translated by Sukanta Chaudhuri
  4. The Crazy Tales of Pagla Dashu and Co. by Sukumar Ray, translated by Jadavpur University Translators’ Collective
  5. Wordygurdyboom! The Nonsense World of Sukumar Ray by Sukumar Ray, translated by Sampurna Chattarji
  6. HJBRL – A Nonsense Story by Sukumar Ray, translated by Jayinee Basu
  7. The Yellow Bird by Lila Majumdar, translated by Kamala Chatterjee
  8. The Burmese Box (Two Novellas) by Lila Majumdar, translated by Srilata Banerjee
  9. Rasha: Little Girl, Big Heart by Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, translated by Arunava Sinha
  10. Adventures of Ghanada by Premendra Mitra, translated by Leela Majumdar
  11. The Adventures of Kakababu by Sunil Gangopadhyay, translated by Rimi.
  12. The Best of Tenida by Narayan Gangopadhyay, translated by Aparna Chaudhuri
  13. On The Run With Fotikchand by Satyajit Ray, translated by Gopa Majumdar
  14. The Mystery of Munroe Island and Other Stories by Satyajit Ray, translated by Indrani Majumdar
  15. The Complete Adventures of Feluda: Vol 1 by Satyajit Ray, translated by Gopa Majumdar
  16. The Unicorn Expedition: The Exploits of Professor Shonku by Satyajit Ray, translated by Gopa Majumdar
  17. Her Stories: Adventures of Supergirls by various authors
  18. Tiny Jumps In by Inshra Sakhawat Russell
  19. ধবধবে ও কুচকুচে – White & Black (a bilingual board book illustrated by Bangladeshi Illustrator, Farah Khandaker)
  20. Grandma and the Great Gourd retold by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
Rumana Yasmin is the founder of Bok Bok Books, a publishing house dedicated to representing Bengali authors and illustrators in children’s literature.

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