Updated: April 9, 2013 14:49 IST

Winning words

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Special Arrangement

Tara Books gets the award for the best children’s book publisher of 2013 in Asia at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

In celebration of its golden jubilee this year, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair expanded its circle of activities to include an award for publishers. This recognition of “excellence and innovation” in publishing books for children is of special interest to us in Chennai, and in a larger sense to all publishers of children's books in India. Chennai-based Tara Books was declared the best children’s book publisher of 2013 in Asia.

The award is sweet for several reasons: The Bologna Fair, held annually in Italy, is the most famous among fairs organised around children’s books. The winner for each of the six regions — Asia, Europe, Central-South America, North America, Africa and Oceania — was chosen not by a handful of jury members, but votes cast by all the international publishers exhibiting at the Fair. A list of thirty publishers — five from each region — was first drawn up, and then a winner from each region was voted for. Tara Books stood as the overall winner in the Asia region and was the only Indian publisher nominated for the prize.

Awards here and elsewhere are not new (or news) for Tara Books. It won the Bologna Ragazzi New Horizons Award for The Night Life of Trees in 2008 and for Do! in 2010. In 2012, Waterlife was picked for the runner-up prize. But this award is for the publishing house as a whole, and has been won in its inaugural year. Makes it special.

“Specially gratifying for us at Tara to receive it at the 50th anniversary of the Bologna Book Fair,” said Gita Wolf, founder-editor, who has been attending the book fair for eight straight years. In what way did Tara consider itself a pioneer, Gita was asked at the prize-giving. A pioneer goes through uncharted paths, exactly what Tara has done in the area of Indian children’s literature, she replied. “We didn’t do it expecting awards and recognition, but it’s very gratifying nonetheless, to have set benchmarks and to have brought it to the international stage,” she said. “We were overwhelmed by the amount of respect and goodwill we’ve earned in the international publishing community.” The award is affirmation of that appreciation.

Gita wishes to thank all her supporters and well-wishers in the city. “Chennai is our city of choice, we’re pleased to be part of the city’s cultural landscape, to contribute to its ethos.” Tara Books has now written special lines in the city’s pages. “We’re never afraid to take risks,” Gita said. “The visual and the word are equally important to us and we’ve brought a lot of interesting voices and perspectives into children’s literature.”

Book Building, the Tara Books store exemplifies it in its exterior, floor plan and display. “We were the first to work with folk and tribal artists and emphasise the role of design in children’s books. A combination of playfulness and rigour marks Tara Books.” And makes each one of them unique.

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