It was raining for the past couple of days and the weather was balmy. The traffic was chaotic. But when Shalini Arora, the speaker for the day reach RAK Study Centre, and was greeted with a huge Good Morning by a group of tiny angels, all the annoyance of existence vanished. We were at RAK Study Centre at Lady Irwin College for the second session of storytelling. There were 40 children between ages 2-4 for the session.

Frog out of water

Frog out of water


Shalini began her session with a story named “The Greedy Frog”. She narrated the story with the help of props such as hand puppets, colourful scarfs, stick puppets and mask which proved to be the most efficient way to get the kids involved. She made animal voices with the children and they loved it. The story was about a frog who drinks all the water of the jungle and how animals make him laugh to get the water back out of his tummy. She modulated her voice to engage the children and ended with the rhyme “sticky bubblegum”.

Delhi monsoons can be very depressing. Humid days, traffic jams due to rains. But spending an afternoon with children always lifts up your mood. And if  there’s a writer telling you stories from childhood, it is an icing on the cake.
That is exactly what happened at the RAK Study Centre, Lady Irwin College. Vasundhara Bahuguna from Delhi Storytelling Network, the speaker for today’s session had two stories to tell a group of chirpy and enthusiastic kids between 7-13 years of age. The kids were eager to listen to the stories and throughout the session all of them and listened intently. Vasundhara narrated two stories which the kids themselves gave titles to. She made the session more interesting as she made funny voices, rhymed and involved kids in the story as well.
A magical afternoon

A magical afternoon


The first story was about an old folk tale about Cat and Mouse which she had appropriated with rhymes and Indian names and expressions and the other was also an old tale about a Fisherman and the Gold Fish.The stories were funny and magical (the second story had a fish that was magical).

Christopher C. Doyle, best-selling author of Mahabharata Secret, Mahabharata Quest: Alexander’s Secret and the upcoming book, Secret of Druids, has an unique approach to story- telling. He believes in weaving together History, Science and incidents fro Mahabharata while shaping his thriller narratives. When he addressed about 100 children of  classes 9-12 at Khaitan Public School today, Christopher encouraged them to imagine alternative histories- and its possibilities.

Given the present political climate, Christopher also spoke of the apprehensions regarding writing alternative histories. Through various video images, researched materials and documents, he introduced the children to the world of fact and science. For instance, he gave a fascinating account of how one of the scientists’ discovery of the nature of erosion of the rocks in Egypt determined the period when Pyramids were created. Instead of 2500 BC, the scientist proved that the origin of pyramids and sphinx must have happened only after 6000 BC for it to have coincided with the heavy rainfall erosion.

In his own books, Christopher deals with important issues like Asoka as a historical figure with a secret to guard and not just a legend like he was believed to be before 1837. He questions the real reason for Alexander the Great to leave India without conquering it. According to Christopher’s research and fiction, Alexander came in search of Samudra Manthan which would lead him to Amrita, the nectar of immortality. He left as he was unable to find it and his desire of becoming a God remained unfulfilled.

What if we could re-write history?

What if we could re-write history?

Christopher spoke about some of the writers and books that inspired him to pursue this particular writing style. He mentioned Graham Hancock’s “The finger prints of the Gods” and Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas’ “Uriel’s Machine” and Akshay Majumdar’s The Hindu History.  He even brought a few of these books to let children have a glimpse of his idea of creativity and writing.

Children who attended the session were shy to discuss about writing or ask questions about the books in public but had a fun time with the author when they got a chance to talk to him individually. They even had an opportunity of buying the books signed by the author. He also spoke about the Quest club whereby avid readers could connect with the author online for discussions on books, ideas around thinking, reading and writing.

The special kids at the Sarahana NGO, belonging to the age bracket of 6 and 15, were in for a treat as the storyteller for the day, Simi Srivastava took the stage. They set sail on a journey with the kind witch and her animal friends, the cat, the dog, the parrot and the frog. It involved an adventure whereby the kind witch (enacted by Simi in this case) kept dropping her belongings – the witch hat, the ribbon, her magic wand and each time one of her animal friends helped her find it. In return, they just wanted a ride on her on her broom. It was all fun and exciting till they faced a bigger problem- the dragon! The animal friends helped out the kind witch collectively this time. The children listened with rapt attention, wide-eyed – that showed their involvement in the story. Some of the kids also volunteered to take roles of the different animal friends and the kind witch when they were ready to take the make believe ride on the broom- Whooosh-Whoosh-Whoosh!

A magical story session

A magical story session

This was followed by few rhymes and songs like – When you are happy and you know it, clap your hands; I love you-you love me; humne teen cheesein dekhi hain, ek mota haathi fasee ek makdee ke jaal mein, etc. Not only were the children delighted, their parents had a lovely time too. The oversized book really worked well. The illustrations were out there for the children to explore the look and the feel of the characters more closely.  The animated voice over and the gait of different characters were perfectly portrayed by Simi. Happily, we all found an access to Julia Donaldson’s Room on Broom.

There are just too many things I wanted to share about Pustaka Bookaroo Festival of Children’s Literature that ended its second edition in Kuching recently. The festival which aims to bring children and books together, culminated in a 2-day fiesta of storytelling, crafts, doodling and activities on 16-17 April.

Here are some highlights from my Pustaka Bookaroo experience.

I checked in at Permai Rainforest Resort and found out that I was to share a chalet with a stranger.  I had arranged to share a room with Heidi, the madam who wrote The Door Under the Stairs series of chapter books that I illustrated. But there were two rooms in the chalet and someone called Valentina Trivedi from India had already checked in earlier to the second room.  Valentina turned out to be great! Valentina is a funny, friendly and gracious storyteller from New Delhi with a passion for educating and bringing kids up right. Now Heidi and I will be plotting for ways to find funding for a visit to a new found friend from India.


Moments of Self Importance
Actually, there were several…walking into Pusaka Negeri Sarawak on the first day and seeing my name on a card at the author signing table, walking into the Author’s lounge area and getting pinned with a fancy ribbon with my name on it,  being asked to autograph books that people were actually buying, and having all those helpful and eager volunteers from the colleges (SEGI I think) escorting me to the designated venues and addressing me as “Miss” very respectfully. I honestly felt like a VIP!


My Sessions as a Speaker
This was actually my first big “gig” and I couldn’t help feeling a little anxious especially when I saw the lineup of amazing writers, illustrators, storytellers from India, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.  I worked the sessions around two of my books Atuk’s Amazing Sarong and Menagerie – Fun with Animal Groups. Luckily, I didn’t have to play to an empty room as kids actually turned up for the sessions. In the end, I think they had a good time.  I had a silly song, a silly hat and plenty of sarong action – what could have possibly gone wrong with that?

session speaker

Satisfied Customer


The photo says it all.

Delicious Meal
We were served really tasty BBQ lamb chops at the dinner hosted by Pustaka. The cendol was also very good – soft yet chewy and full of flavours.  The cake deserves an honourable mention.


Awesome Venue
Pustaka Negeri Sarawak was the perfect venue for the festival.  With a spacious green park right in front and a quiet small lake at the back, the high ceilings, glass doors and windows and a grand glass staircase all made for a very pleasant festival location indeed.  I was also impressed with the spacious layout of the library and the many comfy looking tables and chairs available.


Amazing Organizers
Kudos to the Pustaka and Bookaroo team for a brilliant organization of the whole festival. It seemed to me that everything ran like clockwork and the volunteers were fantastic.  The happy smiles on the kids and the flustered but appreciative parents said it all.  And I felt really well taken care of. They even helped us squeeze in a trip to Kuching town and back in time for our dinner date.


New Friends and Old
I had a blast meeting all the generous, friendly and like-minded people who shared their knowledge, experiences and their love for stories and reading and also the chance to interact and get to know better the friends from Malaysia and Pustaka Negeri Sarawak.


The above post is an edited version of the original post bt Lim Sisters.

Log on to

At SJK Chung Hua No 1 Tom McLaughlin was greeted by approximately 50 children. He started the session by asking the children to use their imagination and draw a purple man with one horn and one eye who could fly. He encouraged them to make a 3 page comic book on the character.


Colourful comics

At the end of the session, Tom gave his comic ‘The Borneo Boy’ to all students.

The principal and children of Little Learner Kindergarten gave a warm welcome to Grace Jie Jie (Grace Wong) and Lulu Jie Jie(Mah Xiang Ru). Lulu Jie Jie is a PhD in molecular biology but is passionate about paper craft and storytelling. Grace Jie Jie is an early childhood lecturer who loves books and storytelling.

Lulu Jie Jie started the session with some music and taught the children some movements to warm them up. After this Grace Jie Jie narrated a story about gorilla that was looking for friends.


Stand up and dance

Lulu Jie Jie told a story about a child who wanted to eliminate his enemy. His father told him about a magic pie that would make his enemy disappear. All he needed was to play with his enemy one full day without fighting. Lulu Jie Jie ended the session with some more music and dance.

Grace Rong Rong captivated both children and their parents at China House, The Old Court House. She told them two stories, both about fishes.

The first story was about a fish motif that goes missing from a boy’s shirt. The fishes flew away and the little boy tries to bring them back on his shirt through various ways. He succeeds after he writes a letter to all the five fishes.


The second story was about a small fish that stole a hat from a bigger fish and how the hat was recovered from the small fish.

Grace also had a craft session and showed the children how to make a beautiful fish sun catcher. The children proudly showed off their craft at the end of the session.

Alan Tan is a man of many talents. He is not only a primary school teacher, but also a radio announcer. And he loves to tell stories.

A bunch of 70 enthusiastic kids greeted Alan at SJK St. Paul. After the initial introduction Alan started the session with some songs and games.

The story he shared with the children was about a lion that had 1000 teeth. But he lost all of them as a boy fed him lots of candy.


Dancing with Alan

Alan also narrated another story about a Monster which was actually a dog. The dog-turned-monster had the ability of eating all the abusive words its master said at home while quarreling and scolding. The more he ate the bigger he became. In the end, the family members learned how to talk nicely and softly at home.

Alan made his session interesting with songs and acts and the children enjoyed the session a lot.

Today was a special day. Storyteller Rituparna Ghosh had a beautiful theme where she handpicked stories about brave girls. The rainy morning with a windy feel added to the ambience. For the younger group of children, about 6-7 years at the Jaypee Public School, the author weaved an original tale about Mini who loves to paint. However, what sets her apart is the way she experiences the world of colours. Mini is only 6 years old, a very happy person and is even encouraged to become a painter when she grows up. She cannot see and that is why Mini uses her other sensory experiences like the sound, smell, touch and taste to feel what she creates. One moment of the story which helps the listeners understand Mini’s delight in learning about the colors she uses is when her mother tries to console her.  Mini’s mother makes her taste ‘tomato’, ‘tulsi leaves’, smell ‘coffee’, touch the ‘bark of the tree’ or ‘the garden earth’ and makes her hear the ‘sound of the raindrops’. All this allows her to also associate each object with a particular color.

Bic March

Do you know the taste of colours?

We see in the end how Mini is able to guess what color of expression her sister is wearing from the tone of her voice. She laughs out saying ‘Didi, you must be all red with anger because bhaiya has put green color on your face. I know you do not like the color green which is colour of Tulsi leaves’. The story makes one believe that if one has the courage to smile through difficulties, the journey definitely becomes a lot easier. Children enjoyed thoroughly because Rituparna made sure that each expression was animated and each episode was well conveyed. When the children were asked to associate one color with and activity of their choice, the results were varied. One child associated the color Red with playing, another one found the same color appropriate to express his emotion when he is cycling. One associated the color blue with swimming; one found the color of dancing to be rainbow and another one associated the color orange with Toys. Overall, children did try to imagine how they could enter the world of colors using the other sensory experiences.

The second story was for a slightly older age group. There were students from classes III, IV and V who were transported to the Taliban inflicted world of 12 year old Malala who vowed to fight for education come what may. Rituparna did a wonderful session where she introduced the highlights of the entire biography in just an hour. She approached the part about the political tensions between Afghanistan and the United States of America and the role of Pakistan. She spoke about the genesis of Taliban group and how they gained control over certain parts of Pakistan, how they entered Swat and generally what it was like to be born as a girl in Pashtun community, the community to which Malala belonged. Malala, named after Malalai, whose words of encouragement made Pakistan win the war against the British in the 1880’s truly lived up to her name. It took massive determination, passion and courage to put forth a question like ‘Who is the Taliban to take away my basic right to education?’ Slowly, the influence of Radio Mullah from the Taliban group started to spread terror in Pakistan. Girls were forced to stop going to school. Few motivated students like Malala and a few others had to go to school in the hiding from the back gate.

Rituparna also narrated briefly the story of Malala’s father who was the source of her support and belief system to begin with, his small school and his endeavors. Children were in awe after hearing the story. Towards the end, they were asked to write very short letters addressed to Malala and the response was indeed marvelous. Just to give an idea, I end with what one of the boys wrote- ‘Malala makes me feel that girls and boys should be respected equally’.