A world through little eyes

The upcoming edition of the Neev Literature Festival 2023 attempts to address the world of children through literature

Published - October 06, 2023 09:30 am IST - Bengaluru

From a previous edition of the festival.

From a previous edition of the festival. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“It is an exciting time to be in children’s literature,” says writer and editor Bijal Vachharajani, who will be part of the Neev Literature Festival, to be held in the city on October 7 and 8. Now in its seventh edition, the festival which kicked off in 2017, “will attempt to address the world of children through literature and discussions around how we consume ideas and use that to navigate what is going on in a child’s world,” as the concept note to the festival puts it.

Talking about the genesis of the festival, Karthika Gopalakrishnan, Festival Director for NLF and head of reading for Neev Academy, says that it was started by Neev Academy, Bengaluru, because “We wanted to have some serious conversations about children’s books and literature,” she says, adding that the school has always held reading in high regard.

Children’s books, in general, don’t always get the attention they deserve, points out Karthika, sharing some perspectives gleaned from industry experts. For starters, they don’t get serious reviews in the media, limiting outreach, she says. They also often don’t get a good display in retail spaces and there is a dearth of salespeople who know enough about the contents of these books, she adds. “The smaller independent bookstores do a better job with this,” she says. “But the market is really small and facing a combination of challenges.”

Despite this, however, there is some great work now happening in it, she states, something Bijal echoes too. “There is a lot of conversation happening around diversity in kid’s literature,” she points out, adding that as a commissioning editor, she is thrilled to see the range of books that resonate the pulse of different Indias.

“We are seeing stories that talk about climate change, exclusion, the caste system,” says Bijal, who believes that it is important to see this exchange of stories across the country. “It is powerful for these stories to be coming out and being read across,” she says. “Children as readers have always been open and curious.”

So, what can someone attending the festival look forward to? According to the festival release, this year, the festival will host over 77 speakers from around the country and the world, with over 100 sessions and access to 2000-odd books. The lineup will include global award-winning authors such as Linda Sue Park, Renée Watson, and Robin Page as well as some of the best writers for children’s and young adult books from India, including Anushka Ravishankar, Shabnam Minwalla, Venita Coelho and Jane De Suza.

There will also be sessions by editors, storytellers, artists, publishers, actors and performers, sessions for parents and educators, masterclasses for children across age groups, book readings and signings, among other offerings.

“Neev becomes a space where a lot of us gather — writers and illustrators across India as well as internationally — and there is a lot of excitement and conversation about books,” says Bijal, adding that this is always fun and refreshing. From a writer’s point of view, it is also a great way to track and meet readers, illustrators, publishers and other writers, says author Menaka Raman, who will be reading from her latest book, Topi Rockets from Thumba, at the festival.

She firmly believes that simply focusing on how reading is good for children from an academic perspective, sucks out the joy of reading for them. “Festivals like these are about celebrating books, browsing through books, picking what you like, listening to authors read, meeting illustrators…to be in that space and environment, is very joyous,” she says.

The Neev Literature Festival 2023 will be held on October 7 and 8, 2023 at Neev Academy, Yemalur, Bengaluru. Open to all. Log into www.neevliteraturefestival.org to know more.

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