Two years later, the Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival returns to a new venue

The 13th edition of the two-day festival took off at Delhi's National Rail Museum on Saturday

Until the pandemic and the Central Vista Redevelopment Project reshaped the city and our relationship with it, for many of Delhi’s children, sun-soaked afternoons on the lawns of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) at Janpath, listening to some of their favourite storytellers bring alive tales of wonder and joy at the Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival, had been a winter staple. Which is why the return of the festival after nearly two years, this time at the National Rail Museum in Chanakyapuri (since the old IGNCA complex has been razed), also marks a return to a semblance of pre-pandemic lives. The two-day festival, which took off on November 27, will see 46 speakers — children’s writers, illustrators, storytellers and publishers — hold sessions for children between 4 and 14 years of age.

On Saturday afternoon, the weekend buzz at the museum seemed to have gained further momentum, as long queues of parents and children snaked their way to the venue. Inside, at six different venues, storytelling and art and craft sessions were in progress with veteran writers such as Ranjit Lal, Paro Anand, Deepa Agarwal and artists such as Savio Mascarenhas and Mistunee Chowdhury.

Even though this year’s festival is at a smaller scale — 48 sessions as opposed to the 90-100 sessions over the weekend and an additional 25-30 on the preceding Friday — festival director and co-organiser Swati Roy says their efforts have gone into ensuring there is something for everyone at the festival. “As always, we have a lot of new speakers — debut authors and illustrators. We have an ongoing activity called the Wall of Healing, based on the book, Somnath Hore: Wounds (by Likhla, Shambhavi Thakur and Kripa Bhatia, published by Art1st). Here, children and adults can come and express their pain and angst, guided by the artists who have created the book,” she said.

As children streamed in, poring over programme brochures to decide where to head to or made their way to the festival bookstore to pick up a book by an author they had just discovered, writers said they were delighted to be back at one of the country’s finest children’s literature festivals. “It was great to be back to a semblance of normalcy…(It) was great to see kids’ animated faces and chat with some who are really going to make it good in spite of our education system which aims to garrot them,” said Lal, who had one of the opening sessions of the day.

“Bookaroo showed the children in the city (and their parents) how to pack a punch in reading for pleasure and leisure. It showed them how to read without an agenda, but at the same time, also got them to create their own, if they wished to. It was like a book-love movement that began small but continued to gather momentum with every new edition. And it became an inspiring prototype for many similar engaging acts that have followed in various cities, both Bookaroo’s own but also by other organisers who come in all degrees and shades of passion for children’s books and resources. Bookaroo’s contribution to Indian kid-lit can’t quite be measured, so intricately has it been linked to the rise of this glorious phase that we have been seeing in children’s publishing of late, both in terms of getting more and more children interested in reading, and in that of providing a platform to celebrate books, creators and stories. Look at the number of book releases that happen at each Bookaroo and it’s easy to understand why our publishing plan is centred around this annual event!,” said author Richa Jha, publisher of Pickle Yolk Books.

At a Glance:

* While Bookaroo’s sessions are free-for-all, entry to the National Rail Museum is ticketed. Tickets cost Rs 100 per adult and Rs 20 per child on weekends.

* Festival timings are 11 am to 4.30 pm. Go in early to avoid ticketing queues.

* Some of Sunday’s highlights are sessions by writers Akshay Manwani (11.30 am-12 pm), Meghaa Gupta (12.30pm- 1 pm) and Nandita da Cunha (11 am-12 pm), Samina Mishra (2 pm-3 pm).

* Richa Jha will launch My Upside Down World by Ken Spillman and Silvana Giraldo

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