Her passion for picture books began when she started reading out stories to her children. Richa Jha, an Indian author and publisher, who is based in Nigeria, says how she leaves no picture book unturned! “Whenever, I came to India for a vacation, I would hunt down book stores in Delhi and Bombay that sold picture books. I also spent so much time reading from the archives of picture books in the British Council Library.”
How it started
Richa also spent a few years working with a publishing house for picture books and, inevitably, she decided to author one too. But she was unhappy with the book when it came out. “I could see many shortcomings,” she admits. So, she decided to start a website in which she would not only review picture books for others like her but would also try and list out the possible reasons that made a picture book a huge hit with the kids, or not. And so, >snugglewithpicturebooks.com , a website that reviews picture books from all over the world, came into being in June last year. Richa speaks of the snuggle-quotient of a picture book. “There are certain set parameters that make a picture book good. It should be the kind that could be read again and again, it should have humour and visual appeal,” explains Richa. These are the qualities she keeps in mind before she gives her final rating on the book out of 10. Another parameter is, “Thank God, it is not moral science!” In her website, she provides a one-line synopsis of the story and then the detailed review along with other information such as the name of the publisher, author and illustrator, and the price. The website also provides links to the authors and their respective sites.
Picture books of some of the well-known publishing houses such as Tulika, Katha, Karadi and Tara are featured here. “I also review the books of lesser known publishing houses such as Goa 46 and Little Latitude that are doing a great job,” says Richa. The website has reviewed around 65 picture books. It also has a page on Facebook that gives updates about the latest reviews.
Starting this venture was not a hard task as the platform was niche. “There isn’t a single website that reviews picture books as of now. The idea is to make this into a single source of research pool for picture books from all over the world.” Richa says she is planning to include writings by children and interviews with the authors. Publishers of children's books in India are doing fabulous work.
Richa explains the difference between illustrated books and picture books. “They are based on two different concepts altogether. In illustrated works, pictures support the narrative, but in picture books images constitute the narrative. Half of the story is told through pictures.” That is why a picture book should always be read to children, she says. “So, when you read it to the child, you can ask him to guess what will happen next before you show him the picture.”
A picture book also has multiple plots as one picture carries more than one theme. The child can weave new narrative strands from one image. “The whole point of reading a picture book is to make the child imagine. That is why reading it becomes an enjoyable experience for the story-teller and the child.”