While bargain hunting in second hand book shops, two friends stumbled upon the idea of an online bookstore for children, finds out Nithya Sivashankar

About four years ago, Bangalore-based Angela Jain and Shalini Sekhar were setting up a library at Shibumi, a school they founded together. In the process, they discovered numerous children's books at the second-hand book godowns. “These were universally acclaimed books for young people that were not easily available in India,” says Shalini. “They were shipped to second-hand book dealers in India from the US where they had been discarded. We picked them up.” With these “special books”, Angela and Shalini started Story Revolution, an online children's book store. Shalini adds, “The intention was to take these books to more readers. In the very beginning we attempted to do this through other existing libraries but when that did not quite take off, and schools and parents began to show an interest in buying these books, we decided to run Story Revolution as an online bookstore.”

Beyond Enid Blyton

Story Revolution stocks international award-winning titles and lesser known books. Says Shalini, “Angela was the one who introduced me to these books. Having read voraciously in her school library which had books other than the usual Enid Blyton-Nancy Drew-Hardy Boys fare, she began to spot these books at second-hand bookstores. We have spent a lot of time in these bookstores. We read these books, researched them and so on.” The duo curates books that “open children's minds, nurture curiosity, empathy and compassion, and provides them an understanding of themselves and of the world.” The website was created by Shalini and her brother Rahul Sekhar.

It is not just foreign publications. Story Revolution includes books brought out by Indian publishers as well. “We are now locating and sourcing more Indian books, and we have never consciously drawn a partition between Indian and non-Indian books. The books we select and sell are all generally ones that reach out in a universal, human way, though they may be deeply rooted in a physical, geographical or temporal context that is very different from that of the readers,” says Shalini.

Old is good

“Our regular sources for used books are second-hand book dealers who receive consignments of discards from abroad. Now we are beginning to source new books from publishers, but recycling used books are important to us ,” she says. Angela continues to teach math and science at Shibumi, while Shalini dedicates most of her time to Story Revolution. Shalini, a communication designer, is also involved in art education for children.

The two also collaborate on Kairi (www.kairi.in), a design studio and are interested in moving into some form of small publishing.

Shalini refuses to be drawn into a debate on the reading habits of children. She says, “Our goal has never been to get children to read more. There are so many other things children could do that are just as valuable: spend time outdoors, play, create things, etc. Our concern has really been that when children do want to read – and a great many do – they should have good, sensitive, creative material to read.”

Most people have heard of Angela and Shalini's initiative through word of mouth. And parents, they say, are willing to trust their choice of reading material, and happily buy the books in their collection. Says Shalini, “Our intention was not to be an inexpensive source of books, but as it turns out we are, and people like that as well.”

Story Revolution has used and new books for children and young adults, starting at prices as low as Rs. 50. Once an order is placed online, the team delivers the books at your doorstep for a nominal charge of Rs. 20 per book. Payment can be made by cash or cheque at the delivery point. Visit www.storyrevolution.in.

A sampling

Some of the books available are:

Stepping on the Cracks – Mary Downing Hahn

Dear Mr. Henshaw – Beverly Cleary

Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt

What Shape is an Elephant - Rumi

The Landry News – Andrew Clements

Kira-Kira – Cynthia Kadohata

Song and Dance Man – Karen Ackerman

Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson

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