Of giants and centipedes


Santhini Govindan... a treat for every child.

Santhini Govindan... a treat for every child.  

Where can we meet the poor bad-tempered giant Boomba who had no friends? Or the centipede who goes shopping for a 100 pair of shoes, the poetic octopus unable to think anything lyrical, the little girl who wonders where her guardian angel lives or the woodpecker who wants a job? Why in Santhini Govindan's magical world of stories for young people, of course!

Santhini Govindan is no stranger to the world of fiction for little people. She has written more than 20 books for children including picture books, non-fiction, poetry, and short stories. Many have been translated into other Indian languages. Her latest book The Angel Who Stammered was released recently. Several more books are due for release later this year. She has also compiled the Parent and Teacher Guide for Highlights Primary Education Foundation Programme, (sold in India by Lotus Learning Private Limited) and the Parent and Teacher Guide for Getting Ready For School Programme and the Primary Plus Programme which are early learning programmes that include a set of educational books and CDs for children in primary classes. These books are published by Highlights For Children, the world's most widely read children's magazine, published from Pennsylvania. It Happened 5,000 years ago... The Indus Valley Civilization is part of the Read India Series of books. The author was in the city on a workshop tour recently and spoke extensively on her life, times and forthcoming publications.

I was born in the city of San Francisco, California. My father served in the Indian Foreign Service, and my early days, were spent globe-trotting. It was an interesting way to learn about the world. Our parents were rooted in Indian culture. My younger sister and I were very aware of India and of our customs, traditions and food. We celebrated all the Indian festivals at home.

I have wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember. I have always loved books and reading, and have been writing from the time I was a very young child. My father encouraged my passion for books and bought me all the books I wanted. My favourite authors were Roald Dahl, A.A. Milne, Edward Lear, and C.S Lewis. Among the Indian writers today, I particularly like Rohinton Mistry, Gita Mehta, Vikram Seth and Ruskin Bond. I went to the American International Schools at the cities where my father was posted. It was a very relaxed way of learning, and my writing was appreciated and nurtured in this environment. There was no pressure to get marks. In fact I was not aware of its importance till we returned to India.

I studied at the Stella Maris College, Chennai and later at the University of Madras. In July 2001, I was the first Indian writer to be invited to attend the annual Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop, held at Chautauqua, New York, in the United States. The Chautauqua Conference a major event in children's publishing in the U.S. has delegates attending from all over the world. I like animals very much, and have always kept pets at home. Since children and animals have a special affinity for each other, they appear in a lot of my stories too! I have a 21-year-old son who is at IIT Mumbai, and a 17-year-old daughter who is in Std. XII. I began by writing for them, and for my niece who is now 18 years old. They were my first critics and readers. I like interacting with children, and since several of my books are used as readers in schools I get a chance to meet children very often.

Writing for children is in many ways more difficult than writing for adults, because you have to "hook" your readers' attention right from the start, and sustain their interest throughout the book. It is satisfying too, when a child tells you he/she likes your book and wants to read it. A good writer always speaks from the heart, and as with every craft, aspiring writers must work very hard to practice and perfect writing skills.