CHAT The founders of Duckbill explain their publishing philosophy

The platypus is a creature of curious assemblage. When it was first discovered, naturalists thought that the beak of a duck had been stitched onto the body of a beaver. The platypus is also unique in that it is the only known egg-laying mammal and one of the very few venomous ones. It is cute, but deceptively so.

Duckbill, a new publisher of books for children and young adults, seeks to channel these traits into its publishing list. Started earlier this year by Anushka Ravishankar and Sayoni Basu, Duckbill will be run in partnership with Westland Books. Anushka, a prolific writer, has previously worked in publishing at Tara Books and Scholastic India.

Sayoni has worked in publishing for over 13 years, including at Oxford University Press and Penguin India. “We wanted to do a certain kind of books which working for a larger company wasn’t allowing us to do,” says Sayoni.

There is a certain sensibility in children’s books that it must be a very safe, protected world with moral lessons coming out at the end of it. And children really aren’t innocent; they are living in quite a complex world and they are sensitive to what is happening,” she adds.

With the implementation of the RTE, children’s literature will come to play a big role. Sayoni and Anushka find it exciting to be part of the children’s publishing industry at a time when it is maturing, but they also outline some of the challenges they will have to overcome.

One of them is to get schools to stock their books. As custodians of knowledge, schools tend to be quite rigid about what children read.

“Some schools can be quite blinkered when it comes to books which they consider suitable for their library,” says Sayoni.


We do look to find genres which haven’t been published very extensively or not at all in India