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It’s not everyday that your dream to meet your icon comes true.  It’s not everyday that you get to interact with the person who inspires you. But whenever it does happen, it is simply out of this world.

As a participant of the Bookaroo 2010, a children literature festival held at IGNCA in New Delhi on 27 -28th Nov, I had the pleasure and privilege to meet Anthony Horowitz at a get together dinner at India Habitat Centre on 26th Nov.  It was indeed a dream come true and I was very excited to see him.

As soon as he came to know of my book ‘The School Ghost’, he bombarded me with numerous questions. I presented him with a copy of my book. He was delighted to get that and also to know that I had acknowledged him in my book. He was fun to talk to and I could not believe that I am speaking to the man himself.

He told me about his forthcoming book and also asked about my next book.  He encouraged me to keep writing but keep the focus on studies as well and also gave me some useful tips for making the characters more interesting.

It was an honour to be part of a panel discussion at BOOKAROO 2010. The topic of the discussion was ‘From Acorns to Oaks.. Is it ever too early or too late to start writing?” My fellow panelists were Wendy Orr, author of award winning book Nim’s Island, Samit Basu, author of ‘Terror on Titanic’ and Anshuman Mohan,  author of ‘Potato Chips’.

Samit was the moderator who took the discussion forward in an interesting way.  I was asked about my experience about being a published author, what prompted me to start writing and how did I get published. It was great sharing my own experience with others and also listening to their experiences.

Knowing Wendy Orr was great as she is not only a fine author but a warm person too.  I was pleased to see my friends and classmates from school (Pathways World School) there but I had to keep my eyes off them not to get distracted. It was fun to answer the questions asked by the audience and also to sign autographs myself. I was feeling like a celebrity but at the same time I was humbled by the whole experience.

Thanks Bookaroo for giving me this opportunity!!

Pancham Yadav





Thrilled to Death: That’s Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz is a hot favourite with children – anywhere in the world. And rightly so, for like a few other authors (read- Roald Dahl, Wodehouse), he can really make you laugh. He can also scare you and horrify you equally effortlessly. Horowitz, like his books, comes with a warning – step in at your own peril. And attending a Horowitz talk is an unforgettable experience.
Deliciously quick-witted and sharp, his humour oscillates between dry, subtle and downright sardonic! And boy, it is a real delight to watch him. He entertains with a flowing speech that touches upon issues that authors face and his own life as a best-selling writer, with just a tiny bit of advice that makes you stop to think.
As is probably apparent from his wide range of work, “horror” is his favourite sub-genre. Why? “It is something to do with my marriage” he says, as the crowd erupts in laughter… But humorous speech is also punctuated with remarks that lead to introspection and thought. “Anything could be horrific! A piece of rock, a chair, even a shoelace!”
His cutting remarks win over not only the children but also their parents and teachers who cannot help bursting with laughter when he says, “I always get rid of the parents in the first chapter. They must die. Because you cannot have fun with parents around.”
In fact, he is such an entertainer that within a few seconds into his talk, those who hadn’t read the Alex Rider were converted – rushing to buy copies before they got sold out!
Clearly, Horowitz approves of children who are curious, for the first question from a young fellow got him a signed copy of Stormbreaker, the first in the Alex Rider series. The teachers who had assembled on the Schools’ Day approved. Said Ms. Shikha Gulati (Blue Bells International School) – “I see a lot of freedom, creativity, passion and expression here. This event definitely seems to bring the children of the world together.”

Anthony Horowitz: spellbinding stuff

Dadi Pudumjee’s Ishara Puppet Theater Trust
Kalpataru, the Wishing Tree (based on the book,  The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein)

Anxious parents stood huddled outside the small studio as children were ushered in. Then the doors were shut after repeated assurances and promises and it became dark. In the quiet of the dark, a rich beautiful baritone rang out…a soothing voice that washed over you and calmed your senses and yet made you tingle with excitement.
Kalpataru tells the story of a friendship between a boy and a tree. A wonderful play of shadow and light, music and a few young but brilliant, talented actors brought the story to life.
I sat entranced and captivated, like the children around me. I could not hear a sound, except my own rhythmic breath that rose and fell, with the shadows. The practiced but effortless slow movement of fingers to the accompaniment of stings, piano and undertones of a bass, brought immediate applause from the children.
The creases morphed into the protagonist’s image; he seemed formless as he swayed to the dance of the leaves, leaving you spellbound. The lights, in all the colours of the rainbow transported you to a different world where nothing but the voice, the music, the boy and tree existed.
A young boy’s innocent friendship with a tree that grows with the years, that gives and takes, and moves you to tears. It is a tale of losing and finding, of time and age, of dreams and ache that is part of seasons in a lifetime. A beautiful story played out so perfectly that it holds you till the end and stays with you. The fluid forms, the brilliant use of props, every little detail, so perfect that they come together to make something so pure and moving that you can never forget the tree..or the boy…
Roopa Pai (author and participant in Bookaroo 2010) to the children- What is fantasy? Is it something that doesn’t exist? Because fantasies can come true. Thought-provoking, isn’t it?

Kalpataru: It's about giving

I was walking towards the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, I wasn’t really sure what to be expecting from my first Bookaroo. I had read a lot about the success of the event in the previous years, but I never had the chance to attend it. And this year, I was not only supposed to attend all of it, but write about it too. Having been a part of the Bookaroo in the City programmes across the schools of Delhi, I had some idea about the calibre of the authors and organisers. So saying I was upbeat, would be an understatement.

The first event I had planned to attend was at the Amphitheatre and was being conducted by the author Mariam Karim Ahlawat, where she was gracefully narrating stories which focused on the presence and the importance of the role of water in the many stories from across the world. All the stories were enacted by Arka Mukhopadhyay, who seemed to have hit the perfect note in the minds of the young children present. Every single grunt, every bark of his lucid enactment brought scintillating laughter of children in the air. This laughter acted as a magnet to attract people to the amphitheatre, which was steadily increasing its attendance. Quite an impressive start to my Bookaroo journey, I told myself.

Mariam Ahlawat keeping the kids interested

After this, I rushed across the venue to the Crafty Corner, where Cindy Jefferies was teaching a small but extremely interested bunch of kids the art of telling never-ending stories. The trick was folding a piece of paper in an innovative way, which created a loop of image cells. What really impressed me was the level of maturity in the children when it came to choice of stories. They chose looped stories like the egg-chicken cycle, the scenery from dawn to dusk and even the change of seasons, all of which made exceptional themes for never ending stories.

The creation of never ending stories with Cindy Jefferies

Next up, I found myself at The Palms, which is one of the most scenic of all the beautiful venues at IGNCA; set around two large buildings and surrounded by palm trees. This was one of the busiest venues of them all. Over here, I found Subhadra Sen Gupta surrounded by a bunch of 8-14 year olds in what seemed to be an extremely informal gathering where the young ones were being quizzed and narrated stories at the same time. Several kids won prizes, courtesy Puffin books, in the quiz, in which topics ranged from Gandhi, Tagore to Satyajit Ray. The children were also read out excerpts from the Puffin editions of the books on these greats as well. Those who knew the answers were jumping up and down with their arms raised, while the others listened in rapt attention as they learnt about these greats.

Quizzing at the Palms with Subhadra Sen Gupta

All of this in less than two hours of the start of Day 2? This was going to be quite a memorable day, I smiled, as I found myself walking to the sublimely inviting shade of the Kahani Tree. Under the tree, Valentina Trivedi was narrating folk tales to a large group of youngsters. Most of who sat in the laps of their parents.

My next stop was indoors, at the Studio, to attend an extremely special session. This was perhaps the event I, personally, was looking forward to the most. I was seated in time to catch the famous illustrator, Francois Roca. What surprised me about his session was that he was just as good a story teller as everyone else at Bookaroo. And the way he used a sequence of his illustrations to support his stories gave us a visual treat. Unlike many other artists, who are decidedly touchy about letting people in too close to their paintings, Francois walked in the crowds letting them admire both his printed works, as well as the originals, which left the crowd ooh-aah-ing throughout.

Francois shows his works to an admiring crowd

After a quick lunch where I sat admiring the works on the Doodle Wall, I was back at the Amphitheatre at a surprisingly packed event titled “From Acorns to Oaks”. This session was perhaps the one where I saw the maximum attendance of adults and young adults. Everyone seemed to be interested in finding out what differences lay between starting a writing career at different ages. The session was conducted by Ashuman and Pancham, who are in their early teens (both published writers, of course), Samit Basu, a well respected author in his late twenties, and Wendy Orr, the author of ‘Nim’s Island’ who has been writing for nearly 50 years. This session was clouded with numerous questions from the children and adults alike, all of whom seemed to be extremely curious in knowing the complications of writing at their respective ages. Punctuated by the quick witted humour of Mr. Basu, this event was extremely captivating for all.

(Left to Right) Samit, Wendy, Anshuman and Pancham

With a little time to spare for the next major event on my calendar, I felt compelled to stop over on seeing the turmoil of kids at the Crafty Corner, where a fairly young Sachin George Sebastian was displaying and teaching the fine art of Kirigami. Hating myself for not having much time to spare to this activity where I would’ve wanted to indulge myself. The children paid no heed to the tables provided to them, and insisted on hounding Mr. Sebastian for tips and instructions. But to his credit, he handled the chaos of the children brilliantly as he continued his workshop with his ever calm demeanour.

I only had the time to hang around 10 minutes to walk amongst the children and was forced to drag my feet away. I found myself once again attracted to the beautifully magnetic charm of the Kahani Tree. That, I have to admit,  was perhaps the most captivating venue of Bookaroo. Every single time I walked passed it; the constant story-telling over there always coerced me to stay long. This time it was Hema Pande and Valentina Trivedi who were spinning the magic of Japanese folktales to children.

Off once again to The Palms, I was there to catch John Shulman who started off with a story session from his book, which later evolved into a football game amongst the clouds for the kids. The kids jumped around, kicking the ball in the goal as John talked about the importance of imagination as he taught them about the creation of such games in his head, and how he got the chance to implement those games through his books.

John Shulman reading excerpts from his book

My final session on the 27th was in the Studio and was being conducted by Sarah Prineas, the author of the fantasy series, The Magic Thief. As wonderful an orator as she is a writer, Sarah took the audience through the complications of the publishing world.  She talked in details about the things overlooked by the layman when they come to think of the publishing cycle of a book.

Sarah Prineas explaining the complications of publishing

After this, I was absolutely exhausted from all the running around and attending events, and took my leave for the day with my mind buzzing with all the experiences of the day. Trying desperately to hold on to all the information I’d learnt in the day, I left, already looking forward to the final day on the Bookaroo calendar. Surely this day had turned out to be far better than I could’ve imagined. And aside of my legs, which were screaming in agony, I wanted nothing more than time to rush on to the 28th.

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