My search for Best Children’s Books began when I had to gift some books to my 12-year-old niece. I surfed through the internet and could not come up with many options. This is when I started asking around for recommendations and nothing much came beside the usual Ramayan, Mahabharat, Panchatantra and Amar Chitra Kathas.
So, began the effort to curate and create a list of Best Children’s Books with a special focus to know India.
Best Children’s Books based on Indian Epics & Scriptures
Epics are the best stories we can pass on to children. Of course, we can not expect them to read the whole epic when most of us have not read them ourselves. Here are some recommendations:
- Amar Chitra Katha Series
- The Mahabharata – A child’s view by Samhita Arni – Buy at Amazon IN
- Mahabharata by C Rajagopalachari – Buy at Amazon IN or Amazon US
- Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni – Buy at Amazon IN or Amazon US
- Ramayana by C Rajagopalachari – Buy at Amazon IN or Amazon US
- The Ramayana by Arshia Sattar – Buy at Amazon IN or Amazon US
- The Gita for Children by Roopa Pai – Buy at Amazon IN or Amazon US
- Krishna Deva Raya: King of Kings by Roopa Pai – Buy at Amazon IN or Amazon US
- Tales from Katha Sarit Sagara by Somadeva – Buy at Amazon IN or Amazon US
- Listen, O King!: Five-and-Twenty Tales of Vikram and the Vetal By Sivadasa and Deepa Agarwal – Buy at Amazon IN or Amazon US
Classic Children’s Books from India
Books in this section may seem obvious, but believe me, it took me some effort to compile this list too.
Malgudi Days by R K Narayan
Malgudi Days was first published in 1943 and republished in 1982 by Penguin. Most of us know of it from the 1986 TV series based on this book. It is a collection of 32 stories talking about the problems faces by the country then. It would best be known as the imaginary city of Malgudi that the Bangaloreans would say comes from the combination of Malleswaram and Basavangudi. However, what strikes as a reader is the simplicity of stories.
Great Stories for Children by Ruskin Bond
Ruskin Bond’s writing is so simple that most of his books can be read by children. However, in this, he writes specifically for children. His simplicity and his strong observation of his surroundings are bound to entertain and inspire children.
More Books by Ruskin Bond – Delhi is Not Far
I surfed through my list of Best Children’s books on India and by Indian Authors and came up with this list.
Best Children’s Books on India
Incredible History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal
This is a children’s version of the Sanjeev Sanyal’s more popular ‘Land of Seven Rivers’. I enjoyed reading this book. Sanjeev has a very anecdotal way of making you see the intersections of history and geography. While we may know bits and pieces of history he tells, he makes you see the connections. So, I think this would be a good book for children to Read.
Lore of the Land – Storytelling Traditions of India by Nalini Ramachandran
Lore of the Land – Storytelling Traditions of India came to me for review and I totally enjoyed reading it. The book travels across each and every state of India and picks up one storytelling tradition from that state. Traditions are woven into an overall narrative where a young girl discovers the storyteller in her during this adventure. It is a lovely insight into the myriad traditions of storytelling across the country.
The Secret Sanctuary by Stephen Alter
The Secret Sanctuary is a book that takes children to Jabarkhet – a sanctuary not too far from Mussourie in Uttarakhand. It re-creates the wilderness through a magical story that keeps the audience engaged while introducing them to the life of a jungle, for jungle is the protagonist in the story. I visited Jabarkhet when I visited Landour and loved it.
Riddle of the Seventh Stone by Monideepa Sahu
Riddle of the Seventh Stone is a mystery thriller based in Bangalore wherein a folk cum fairly tale kind of story the world of spiders, rodents, and kids comes together. There is a mystery to be solved and the clues come as poetic riddles. It leaves the reader with a feeling of ‘I can do anything’, so I am sure I want young readers to read it.
Elbie’s Quest by Manjul Bajaj
Elbie’s Quest is a fantasy world where Elbie – the tree is called my the maker to solve a problem of warring children. In a make-believe world, my takeaway from this book was – Everything that happens in our world happens first in someone’s imagination. It is a lovely little story to read that leaves with a message that your imagination is what creates your world. I would definitely want children to grow up thinking they can create their own world.
We the Children of India by Leila Seth
An illustrated introduction to the concept of India as a democratic republic. Most readers found it useful to introduce the concept of nation and how it functions to children.
The Tree with a Travelling Heart by Paro Anand
A boy travels the world, comes back tells the tales to his tree in the garden and one day the tree wants to go around the world. Pretty much how we get inspired to travel the world.
Best Children’s Books for Activities
Aha! Activities by Arvind Gupta
Buy at Amazon IN
A simple book that encourages children to do simple activities using household items and practically teaches them some simple scientific principles.
Explore Delhi by Yasmeen Van Baugh & Yamini Puri
Explore Delhi is a small activity book that allows children to explore their city in an exploratory manner. Though this books talks about places in Delhi and includes a small quiz or a treasure hunt kind of way to explore, the principle can apply to any city that you live in. Unfortunately, I could not locate this book online so look for bookstores near you.
Hands on Heritage by INTACH
This is a lovely book that through activities makes you conscious of the heritage around you – both tangible and intangible. Unfortunately, you can only buy this from INTACH store in Delhi or through INTACH network.
More resources on Children’s Books
National Book Trust Books for children.
Children’s Book Trust website
Kids section at Chinmaya Mission Website.
This compilation has books in English. We will soon work on a list of Hindi Books for children too.
We have not included books on Nursery Rhymes or poems in this collection.
Please suggest any good children’s books that you know of in the comments below and we would include them in the next update.