‘Illuminating Childhood’ author Ellen Handler Spitz discusses Indian children’s literature in The New Republic

by Shaun Manning on April 16, 2012

Ellen Handler Spitz, whose Illuminating Childhood: Portraits in Fiction, Film, and Drama is now available in paperback, dedicated her latest column in the New Republic to reflecting on some of the best authors of children’s literature in India. At a recent conference at Ravenshaw University, Cuttick, in the Odisha province, Spitz discovered Raja Mohanty’s exquisitely-produced The Enigma of Karma, a hand-crafted and lavishly illustrated volume of about 2o pages telling the story of Ramu and Shyamu , brothers whose actions inadvertently change their fates. Spitz also praised Deepa Agarwal’s latest collection, Folk Tales of Uttarakhand. Agarwal and Mohanty, she said, represent a pushing back against the simple, utilitarian–and English-language–approach to children’s literature that is prevalent in India. “Although the government of this vast nation recognizes twenty-two official languages, its children go to schools where English is spoken, written, and read,” she writes, leading to a publishing program that focuses on the same. Nevertheless, Spitz says, “a number of gifted Indian writers and artists buck this tide to produce marvelous books, and it would be a boon to make them available to American children.”

Read the whole article, with some fantastic descriptions of the books under review, at The New Republic.

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