Source : The Hindu
This edition of the Big Little Book Award celebrates four Bengali authors
Writing for children in regional languages is undoubtedly challenging for many, but there are a few voices who have persevered to build an oeuvre that is both engaging and thought-provoking. The Big Little Book Award, was instituted by the Parag initiative of Tata Trusts and ‘Literature Live!’ to recognise and honour significant contribution of authors and illustrators to children’s literature in Indian language (s). The first awards were announced at Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest in 2016. The award is given under two categories – one for author and another for illustrator/artist. The focus this year is on Bengali children’s literature. After receiving 25 nominations, writers Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Amarendra Chakravorty and Kartik Ghosh have been shortlisted for the prize. The winner will be announced on November 19, the last day of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest 2017. The winner in the illustrator category will be announced on the same evening.
Range of issues
Known for her strong female characters, Sen has been writing for children since 1979. The Padma Shri and Sahitya Akademi Award-winning author has addressed a range of issues in her writing; from the Naxalite movement to homosexuality to child abuse. “She is remarkable for producing a body of work which treat children not just as children but young adults,” notes jury member Rimli Bhattacharya, Professor Delhi University. With his popularity cutting across generations, Mukhopadhyay’s popular works include Monojder Adbhut Bari, Goshaibaganer Bhoot and Patalghar. He is described as “a writer with an incredible sense of humour and unique vision,” by jury member Chandril Bhattacharya, poet, author and lyricist.
Chakravorty, a writer, poet and travel filmmaker, has been translated in various Indian and foreign languages. He won the Sahitya Academy’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar for his book Gorillar Chokh. “Chakravorty has continued to reinvent himself, working quietly, and has not overproduced or written according to any formula,” observes jury member Abhijit Gupta, Professor of English at Jadavpur University and Director, Jadavpur University Press. “In fact, very few of his themes and subjects repeat themselves,” adds Gupta.
Raised in a small village in Arambagh, Hooghly District, Ghosh – who won the National Award for Children’s Literature for his book Ekta Meye Eka – often illustrates the tranquillity of nature in his works. “He infuses innocence and lightness in his stories by hatching simple plots and keeping them brief,” notes jury member, Bidisha Ghosh, teacher at Barah Sri Gouranga Vidyalaya, Birbhum
Identifying the best
In its first edition last year, the initiative highlighted Marathi authors with Madhuri Purandare winning the award for her writing and Atanu Roy for his illustrations. The award has an indispensable criteria: dedication. The authors are required to have contributed to regional children’s literature for at least a decade. The award aims to go beyond the felicitation of authors and establish a discourse on the paucity of regional writing for kids. The jury members will identify the best three books of each shortlisted author which could be translated into other regional languages. “Despite Bangla having a rich history of children’s literature, you will not find them being translated or read outside Bengal, especially the contemporary ones,” explains Swaha Sahoo, head of Tata Trusts’ Prayag initiative.
The award’s aims include connecting older authors and illustrators with younger talent, who can be mentored. According to Sahoo, works of older writers, especially in languages like Kannada, are either out of print or difficult to procure, and there is a void of newer voices in regional children’s literature. “Being a children’s author or illustrator doesn’t pay handsomely either,” says Sahoo. The Big Little Book Award, in that regard, hopes to be a push in the right direction and a much needed reassurance for those persevering.