In The Night the Moon Went Missing, written by Shreya Yadav and illustrated by Sunaina Coelho, a young girl sets out on a grand adventure to find her missing friend. Shreya is a marine biologist who studies coral reefs. One of her favourite things to do is cling onto a rock underwater and spy on all the fish and plants and crabs and coral that live there.
In this short interview, Zeba Imtiaz, assistant editor at Pratham Books, talks to Shreya about life under water, her favourite children's books and the process of writing The Night the Moon Went Missing, a truly enchanting picture book.
Excerpts from the interview:
How did your interest in the ocean and creatures in the ocean begin?
Growing up in Madras, the Bay was always quite central to our lives. My brother and I would trot off to the beach every other day after school and spend hours in the water. We lived very close by - there was always a sliver of the ocean visible from our balcony - so I think we took the salt and sand for granted. I started diving when I was 19 on a family holiday to the Andaman islands. My father, who SCUBA dives, asked if I wanted to do my beginner course at Havelock island. I remember seeing an octopus and an eel and all kinds of other impossibly bizarre life on my first dive and being totally blown away. Even though I was studying zoology at the time, that was the first time I really wondered about the ecology of a coral reef without it being some kind of abstract concept.
If you had to pick, which would be your favourite ocean creature, and why?
I definitely have a thing for the small and cryptic critters that live on a reef. Often, I will be swimming over something, and will catch a tiny eye peering at me from behind something. I always wonder what their lives are like. Blennies and gobies are probably my favourites.
What sort of books did you read as a child? What was your favourite book growing up?
I was lucky to grow up with great books and a family that enjoyed dramatic readings of them! I remember being obsessed with Ekki-Dokki (Sandhya Rao; Tulika) when I was very little and then by a book called Trash! (Anushka Ravishankar and Gita Wolf; Tara Books) when I was a bit older. I also read a lot of Roald Dahl. I think I found Quentin Blake's illustrations very weird as a kid, but there was something so different about them that it was hard to put down.
What was your writing process for your book The Night the Moon Went Missing?
I think we had discussed that bioluminescence would be an interesting topic to explore for this book, but the story actually took a while to come. I knew I wanted it to be taking place on an island and I had a list of creatures I thought were interesting in terms of their biology, but I didn't know how to make it all come together. I think it finally came to me after a few conversations on the phone with friends - saying things out loud always helps.
Later, when I read the first draft out to my parents, my mother told me it reminded her of a story my great-grandmother had written for children which also involved the moon and three young girls on a nighttime adventure. As soon as she said it I remembered that book. Now I feel like I subconsciously plagiarized my great-grandmother!
What was you favourite part of writing this story? What was the most challenging bit?
I had so much fun writing this. I think the most challenging bit was trying to stick to the word limit - I was worried that it would be hard to visualize in so few words, since it was all taking place underwater at night with a bunch of strange glowing animals. But Sunaina's beautiful illustrations more than took care of that. I think my favourite thing about the book now are her illustrations.
If you were to write another children's book, what would it be about?
I think it would be fun to profile a bunch of marine critters in limerick form, Ogden Nash style.
Do you think your childhood was different from how children live today?
I'm not sure - I have a feeling everyone who is asked this question will probably say yes. I remember having a lot of time in the day to play and climb trees and run around the beach and I hope that that is still the case today.
Who are some of the authors you enjoy reading today?
Big fan of Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Loren Eisley, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Robert Macfarlane, WS Merwin.
Any favourite illustrators?
Closer to home, I really like the work of Sonali Zohra, Renuka Rajiv, Vinayak Varma, Orijit Sen, Sarnath Banerjee and the geniuses behind Crocodile in Water, Tiger on land - whoever they are.
Have you read The Night the Moon Went Missing? It is available on StoryWeaver for free, in English, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil and Hindi, and will soon be available in print.Be the first to comment.
Pratham Books is a not-for-profit children's book publisher that was set up in 2004 to publish good quality, affordable books in many Indian languages. Our mission is to see ‘a book in every child’s hand’ and we have spread the joy of reading to millions of children in India. We are now looking to expand out Outreach Team to make our impact wider and are on a lookout for a passionate individual based out of our Delhi office.
Image by Sonal Gupta from 'Why Does a Poori Puff Up?'
About the Project
StoryWeaver is a digital platform that hosts children’s stories in multiple Indian and international languages, so that children have access to reading resources in their mother tongues to learn and practice reading. All the stories are available under open licences and not only can they be read for free, they can also be translated or versioned, using simple tools embedded on the platform. StoryWeaver is being recognized as an emerging innovation that can transform the early literacy reader ecosystem globally. Recently, StoryWeaver was featured in the World Bank's report on 20 innovative EdTech projects from around the world, and was also the recipient of the prestigious Library of Congress Literacy Award 2017 International Prize.
We are looking for a Partnerships Manager who can forge strategic partnerships to facilitate the use of StoryWeaver’s digital resources with organizations that have programs which promote reading and learning among children, specifically in the North and East of India.
The Manager will be responsible for strategizing and executing plans to increase the user base of StoryWeaver and also provide the necessary training and support to the partner network and work closely with internal stakeholders
• Identify potential partners and strategize, design and execute plans to onboard them as StoryWeaver users.
• Create and execute robust work plans for achieving monthly, quarterly and annual goals including specific targets.
• Build and nurture networks of partners working in the field of Education/ with Children / Ed-Tech.
• Provide training and support to the partner network.
• Provide information and feedback to the internal team based on partner feedback and essentially be a bridge between the internal and external stakeholders
• Help with research and documentation for impact assessment
• Plan, execute and own book/event specific campaigns, on-ground events and CSR volunteering activities.
• Help build strategy for the function, contribute in new ideas for both the function and platform.
• A Post Graduate Degree preferably in Marketing and Management
• 3 to 5 years work experience in Sales, Marketing, Outreach, Partnerships or related areas.
• Experience in a programmatic function in the development sector (preference for experience in Education)
• High level Communications Skills :- Exceptional interpersonal and verbal/written communication skills
• Organisation/Time Management Skills – Planning, working systematically & efficiently and keeping information organized and accessible
• Project management skills – Multi-tasking and prioritising, planning and organizing, perseverance, working with multiple teams that are interdependent, ability to work with timelines and targets.
• Ability to gather data, analyze information, and prepare reports and documents
• Experience in classrooms and/or working with Education Orgs
Good to have
• Ability to network and make connections
• Interest in books, education and publishing.
• Should be open to travel
Location: This role is based out of Delhi and is full-time.
Salary: Compensation will be commensurate with experience.
How to Apply: Interested candidates are requested to send in their resume to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line – Partnerships Manager_North and a short note outlining why they are suitable for this position.Be the first to comment.
Last week, while I was at a government office on some personal work, I got a call from my colleague Zeba, also an editor at Pratham Books.
“Listen, I wanted to ask about the Oviraptor’s eggs,” she began.
And while I waited, got my photo taken and submitted heaps of documents to government officials, Zeba and I spoke softly and grimly about the finer details of the oviraptor, the T-rex and the mammoth. It was a strange experience, talking about extinct creatures in the middle of a dusty office where people were hanging around, trying to get all sorts of practical things done.
“Have you brought your Aadhaar card? Do you have 3 passport-size photos? Where are your bank statements?”
“Is the mammooth looking too tall?”
Around February every year, we’re in a great state of excitement and nervousness because the books we’ve spent months and months creating are finally being released to the world (that should explain our conversations about dinosaurs and mammoths). At Pratham Books, this is our third year of creating STEM picture books in a focussed manner. In three years, we have created over 50 STEM titles (more than 250 books!) for early readers in English, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Tamil. And we’re delighted that these are part of 300 STEM libraries that we have helped set up around the country.
So what do we have for you this year?
Our aim for this year was to continue creating simple and engaging picture books that explore STEM topics creatively. The idea, in essence, remains the same: to nurture curiosity in children.
We strongly feel that it's important to highlight the more playful aspects of math and science. So we’re very pleased with this amazing book on different kinds of animal tongues. We are also excited about these upcoming books: a book of patterns by Aditi Dilip in which the reader has to spot the odd one out, and a book on the concept of heavy and light by physicist Sukanya Sinha and Hari Kumar Nair.
We do refer to the school curriculum as well though, and pick topics that have picture-book potential. This year, after sifting through a bunch of textbooks, we decided to make books on friction, magnets, bones, blood, time, division and electricity.
Have you noticed that children have a natural affinity for books about animals, birds and insects? Goby’s Noisy Best Friend explores the idea of symbiosis through the friendship between a goby fish and a pistol shrimp. This year, we have also made books on crabs, spiders and blue whales – all written by accomplished subject-matter experts and illustrated by artists who are incredible with getting all the intricate details right. And not to miss --- an enchanting island adventure by marine biologist Shreya Yadav and illustrator Sunaina Coelho which features flying fish, angler fish, firefly squid, plankton, and the moon – who makes a last-minute appearance!
We’ve been told by our wise outreach team that children enjoy stories inspired by real life. So we are mighty pleased to have two short biographies based on the lives of two inspiring people: Anna Mani, a meteorologist who invented nearly a hundred weather gadgets (by Nandita Jayaraj and Priya Kuriyan), and Zakhuma, a forest guard and wildlife photographer (by Sejal Mehta and Barkha Lohia).
This year, we also wanted a couple of stories that demonstrate the importance of building and creating. Upcoming titles to look out for are: ‘The Grand Patch Up’ in which a girl uses her building-skills to make up with her friend, and ‘A Whistling Good Idea’ which is centred around the concept of a Rube-Goldberg machine.
Then there are the books that introduce children to interesting STEM careers. Shalini Srinivasan and Upamanyu Bhattacharyya’s book on water conservation features a spunky girl who aspires to be a sanitary engineer. Aashima Dogra and Fahad Faizal’s story on 'animals in space' features a woman who is always dreaming about exploring space. And, we finally have a book on paleontology (this has been on our wishlist) and all the marvellous things you get to do as a paleontologist.
Stories around technology are always tricky because of how rapidly technology evolves. Don't forget to read Lazy Mama -- a story by Vidya Pradhan and Rohit Kelkar on Virtual Reality.
All these stories will be available on StoryWeaver in at least 5 languages. You can read, download and print them for free! You can also translate it to any language that you are fluent in.
Below are the titles we have already published this year. We’ll continue to update this last as we publish more books so that you can see all the titles in a single place.
5. Unni's Wish
7. Lazy Mama
(Yamini is an editor at Pratham Books. The development of these books has been supported by Oracle.)Be the first to comment.