Picture books by Indian author Asha Nehemiah

By Anam Zafar

I was born in the UK to parents of Indian heritage. And despite some of my earliest memories involving reading picture books, I can’t remember a single one I read that either came from India or focused on Indian characters.

This isn’t my parents’ fault: my books were either from the local library or local bookshop, and we just took whatever was available. Clearly, sourcing picture books from so far afield wasn’t the priority of these places, and I can’t say it bothered me at the time, either. But now, I realise the importance of children of all ages seeing characters who look like them, and who share their culture, in the media they consume.

Thankfully, publishers and bookshops in Anglophone countries are waking up to the need for representation on bookshelves, no matter the target age. I hope this — and wonderful sources like World Kid Lit — means that if I were growing up today, it would be easier to have a flow of Indian picture books through my house. To delve deeper into this alternate childhood of mine, I researched Indian picture books for World Kid Lit Month. Asha Nehemiah was an author I particularly enjoyed, especially the two books below.

Granny’s Sari

Written by Asha Nehemiah
Illustrated by Subir Roy
Published by Children’s Book Trust

Granny’s favourite sari has blown off the washing line! Anu, her granddaughter, offers to help find it. The two take a trip around town and meet people who tell them how the sari has helped them, only to blow away again: it wrapped itself around a robber, helping the policeman to catch him, and it landed in a tall tree, helping Mrs Rao to collect the mangoes she couldn’t reach. Then they meet Lakshmi, whose children’s clothes look oddly similar to the pattern on the sari… Anu is surprised to learn that Granny is not sad that her sari has been turned into new clothes for Lakshmi’s children, but glad that it can now bring joy to so many more people. A heart-warming, inventive tale about sharing even your favourite things. I especially enjoyed the focus on an adventure between grandmother and granddaughter.

The Village with a long name

Written by Asha Nehemiah
Illustrated by Suvidha Mistry
Published by Children’s Book Trust

There is a village with a very, very long name, where the road names are just as long. Despite this, people rarely get lost because Shekar at the tea shop and postwoman Gowri are always happy to give directions. But one day, a delivery driver loses an important order for the village head. She is angry, and orders that signboards are put up around the village so nobody gets lost again. But these very, very long signboards are not easy to read. Now people get lost all the time! Plus, Shekar and Gowri feel lonely now that nobody asks them for directions. The village head realises that the best thing to do is remove the signboards, making Shekar and Gowri much happier and allowing everyone to find their way like they used to before. A funny tale about the value of human interaction and the importance of knowing when to change your mind.

Meet Anam Zafar

Anam translates from Arabic and French into English. She lives in Birmingham, UK. When she was little, she never had a “dream job” and was quite content with being a kid. Now, she is happy to say that she wants to be – and is – a translator. In her spare time, she enjoys Muay Thai, growing vegetables, and playing with her cat Lemon Drizzle (or Lemmy for short). Twitter: @anam_translates; www.anamzafar.com.

More from Anam on World Kid Lit:
Translate This: Me, My Friend and the Donkey
Why (and how) to get your school involved with translation