Thursday, March 21, 2019

Between the Lines

Ruchi Singh interned with us at Karadi Tales for four months between December 2018 and March 2019 as a part of her Bachelor’s in Design from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University, Vadodara. During her design internship with us, she was given the project of illustrating a board book, Something’s Falling. The book was on falling objects such as fruits, leaves, and so on, and Ruchi had the challenge of not only illustrating this book, but coming up with an innovative way in which to make the objects seem as though they were quite literally falling off the pages! She brought her own unique style inspired by Indian folk art to her illustrations. This is her blog on her experience working with us and illustrating her own book.

Doing an internship and consequently illustrating ‘Something’s Falling’ was a part of my degree project. I like to play with lines and patterns made of lines. As children’s books are usually coloured, my initial experiments for the illustrations made me question whether we could colour with lines. “Why not?” I asked myself. This led me to a very different technique of illustrating with coloured lines. The patterns formed by lines inside a shape, in this case, would need to be very close so that the shape seems filled with colour. This technique seeks to capture the ‘feeling’ of colour rather than its traditional depiction. The child reading the book would learn that imitation isn’t always important, and catching the ‘essence’ of something and representing it in one’s own style can do wonders.

Drawing the illustrations was a fun experience, for which I used coloured ink pens. As the book has flaps that fold out to tell the story, figuring out how to fit the art into the print format was a bit puzzling. But when I looked at the finished sample of the book, I was surprised and delighted. The flaps really added to the feeling that the story was ‘falling’ out of the book.
Karadi Tales has a very open mind for styles of illustration. They are open to experimenting with techniques, media, and ways of telling a story. At the beginning of the internship, I wasn’t very sure if they would agree with my style and experiments, but their positive response encouraged me to challenge myself. During my time here, I learned many things from the KT team. They are a helpful and broad-minded group of people. Along with my widened perspective of children’s books, my decision-making skills and presentation skills also improved. Interning here has been a great, fulfilling experience.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Of Joyrides and Mayhem

Krishna Bala Shenoi, illustrator of Get Off That Camel spends his days making things. His artwork, spanning a variety of styles, has accompanied children’s literature in books produced by esteemed publishing houses. He lives in Bangalore with his family of humans and cats, where he plans to continue contributing to children’s storytelling, imbuing his work with gentleness and a sense of wonder.

What did you like about the story Get Off That Camel that made you want to illustrate it?

More than anything, it was the opportunity to bring a kind of unbridled wackiness to my illustrations. Most of my books so far have been quiet and sober and gentle, so it was nice to be able to draw a delirious girl riding a giant camel through a crowd of panicked people. And I liked that there was an opportunity to draw a world around our central characters, reacting to them with a variety of emotions. The book demanded a level of detail and richness of me that I haven't really given before.

Was there anything challenging about illustrating this particular story?

Quite a bit, actually. First of all, I didn't know how to draw a camel at all. Besides the usual practice of studying images and sketching from them repeatedly, I bought a little model of a camel that I used for reference. It helped a lot with some of the more unique angles in the book (like the top angle used in the supermarket, for example).

Another challenge was managing the wild scales of the book - the camel and the girl are wildly different in stature, and yet both of their emotions had to be readable throughout the images. Beyond that, I had to find interesting ways to fit the camel into spaces and places she wouldn't fit without it feeling repetitive. Each spread had to feel like a fresh version of, essentially, the same joke.

It was also tricky to load my illustrations with detail and yet not lose Meena and the camel in the chaos. Often, I had to peel back some details elsewhere to bring the image back on track.

I think the most challenging thing about the book, though, was keeping the whole thing a lot of fun while also accounting for the impending separation between Meena and her camel - the doctor
discovers that the camel has been tired for a while. I needed the Meena's realization in that moment to ring true without contradicting the happy shenanigans in the previous pages.

Could you give us an example of a time where you built on the story and added your own elements that aren’t mentioned in text?

A. H. Benjamin's text was very sparse in terms of details and tone, and though that demands a lot more thought from an illustrator, it's ultimately a gift for an illustrator--you can bring that much more to the book yourself. Every illustration is full of little details and reactions and flourishes that had no source in the text, simply because the text was so beautifully taut.

As for a specific example of an element I added... there were little things, like the idea that Meena is an artist. I've hidden her drawings of camels here and there in the book, and eagle eyed readers might notice that she actually gets better at drawing as she ages, as one does.

Another element I was particular about adding was some company for the camel at the shelter, at the end. I didn't want her to go off to a shelter while Meena went back to her family - I needed young readers to know that the camel too had people of her own to be with.

I believe you could give this particular text to five different illustrators and come out with five very unique books. I decided to go with something absurd and over the top, because my first reading of the text made me laugh out loud several times.

Do you have a favourite picture book (or artist) whose illustrations you admire?

I love the stillness Chris Van Allsburg brings to his art. His work is so noiseless and moody and evocative. And more recently, I discovered Oliver Jeffers and his ability to tell such compelling, tender, complicated stories with deceptively simple images. "The Heart and the Bottle" distils the complexity of great loss into something anyone could understand and feel. This isn't a picture book per se, but Patrick Benson's illustrations for Roald Dahl's "The Minpins" create such an enormous, lush, inviting, detailed world. I remember opening that book as a child and just staring at it. James Gurney is one of the artists I admire most, for his ability to make the fantastic seem absolutely real.

Right now, I also get a lot of inspiration from several contemporary Indian illustrators (some also working in picture books). They're so excellent with their craft and constantly make me want to up my game. A few names, off the top of my head: Lavanya Naidu, Rajiv Eipe, Roopsha Mandal, Sandhya Prabhat, Sarthak Kath, Sayan Mukherjee, Upamanyu Bhattacharyya, Vibhav Singh.

I'm sure I'm going to read this later and slap myself for not recalling other significant influences and inspirations.

What medium do you prefer working with while illustrating?

I've done every single one of my nine books (so far) digitally. It allows me to work faster (not fast enough, though), make the numerous corrections publishers ask for more easily, and work and re-work my illustrations the way I like to do. Even so, I almost always try to emulate some of the qualities of classical media because I have a personal preference for them in my own art.

And finally, do you plan on illustrating any more books for Karadi Tales?

No question. I loved working with Karadi Tales. I was given such freedom to make this book my own while also being guided the whole time, and they were incredibly accommodating throughout the process. I'm immeasurably proud of the work we've done together and will be working with them on something as soon as I can and as soon as they will have me.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Karadi Tales Shortlisted For London Book Fair International Excellence Award

Ahead of the 48th annual London Book Fair, the shortlist for the International Excellence Awards for publishers has been announced. Chennai-based children’s publishing house Karadi Tales has been shortlisted for the Audiobook Publisher of the Year Award on the basis of its high-quality content and its partnership with the Karadi Path Education Company.

Karadi Tales is an award-winning independent children’s book publishing house that was founded in 1996. Its picture books and audiobooks have been on prestigious lists such as The New York Public Library’s Best Children’s Books, White Ravens, IBBY, the Amelia Bloomer list and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program, and have sold translation rights around the world. Karadi Tales was a pioneer in the children’s audiobook industry in India, with stories narrated by acclaimed theatre and film personalities, and set to professionally performed music.

Karadi Path was founded in 2010 as Karadi Tales’ partner company with the aim of bridging the cavernous English literacy gap in India by using stories and immersive learning. The award-winning Karadi Path pedagogy saw exponential success and is now part of the curriculum in over 3000 schools, benefiting over half a million students, many of whom are at the bottom of the income pyramid, with limited access to English language learning tools. All Karadi Path programmes feature content from Karadi Tales.

Karadi Path has partnered with the Indian Government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, The State Council of Educational Research and Training, and schools for tribal children, girl children, and minorities, and has been recognized by USAID and the San Francisco-based Project Literacy Lab for its effectiveness in environments with limited infrastructure and for first-generation English learners.

The Karadi Tales-Karadi Path business model is a unique one that brings high-quality, low-cost products to those who need it most, and has been recognized for its innovativeness in this sector.

Every year, the London Book Fair sees participation of over 25,000 publishing professionals from around the world. The LBF International Excellence Awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday, 12 March, 2019 in The Conference Centre, Olympia, London.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Interview with Chitra Soundar - Author of the Beloved Farmer Falgu Series

Chitra Soundar is the author of the much-loved Farmer Falgu series. She hails from India, resides in London, and lives in imaginary worlds woven out of stories. She has written over twenty books for children, ages 3 - 10. Here, she talks about what inspired the Farmer Falgu books, and the creative choices she made while writing the series.

How did you decide which festivals and events Farmer Falgu would attend from the many options available?

When the first two books of Farmer Falgu were published, I created many activities for Sankaranthi, the harvest festival. That’s when I discovered the kite festival that happens in Rajasthan during this time and hence I thought it would be fun for Farmer Falgu and his daughter to fly kites.

Farmer Falgu is ever the optimist, why do you think that’s important to have a character like that in children’s literature?

Farmer Falgu takes after my grandmother and her advice for me as a child – always see the positive side of things. As a child, I grew up thanking about my blessings than worrying about what I didn’t have. Children who learn resilience at a young age are able to cope with disappointments better and they will keep trying until they achieve their goal. Telling this in stories will help children understand through another character without preaching to them.

In Farmer Falgu Goes to the Kumbh Mela, was it a conscious decision to show him being kind even when it meant losing out on something he'd been looking forward to?

I think in today’s world we all need to think outside our own needs. Farmer Falgu cannot walk past someone who has fallen down or is lost, just to get to his destination. That’s not the kind of person he is. It actually has the underlying motto from Bhagavad Gita – Do your duty, do not expect results. And that’s what he does too. A hero is someone who is kind and courageous despite the outcome and not because of the outcome and hence for me Farmer Falgu is kind and considerate first and foremost.

And finally, did you always want Farmer Falgu to be a series or had you only planned for one book initially?

At first it was only one story I sent to Karadi Tales. And then the second one came to me and Karadi Tales agreed to publish it. The series idea was from Shobha, our publisher who loves Farmer Falgu as much as I do and wanted more stories for him.