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New Books We Loved in August

August 20, 2022

There are stunning new Indian children's books for kids in the Toka Shop. Lavanya Karthik's Dreamers series is back with its new and brilliantly illustrated short biographies. You will find books by South Asian writers from around the world in our collection and you must get your hands on them NOW!

1.The Girl Who Climbed Mountains by Lavanya Karthik

When my daughter finished this book, she said that the author got her to go into the mind of Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest This stunning book by Lavanya Karthik recreates an incident in the life of Bachni, as she is called by her family and friends in the Garhwal. 

It is spectacular to see a biography that is not a clutter of facts but a story that gets to the heart of what drove a famous person to accomplish something bigger than herself. It is thrilling to see fear, sickness, thirst and darkness personified as demons that , just as the mountains are spoken of as sleeping gods. Lyrical, allegorical and thrilling all at once, this beautifully written and illustrated short biography is a unique way to understand the heart of what made a person achieve something truly remarkable. On top of the mountain, Bachendri Pal realized that she could touch her soul. 

Each Dreamers biography is a pinwheel of fact and recreation, illustrated to depict the inner life of the person, a mesmerizing color theme dominating each book. The Dreamers series have truly redefined children's biographies and made them special. Highly recommended!

Buy this book now! 

2. The Boy Who Loved Birds: Salim Ali by Lavanya Karthik

If 'The Boy Who Loved Birds' by Lavanya Karthik had been written by any other author, we'd have pages and pages about where the famous ornithologist Salim Ali was born, what he studied, his moment of self-realization, and a list of his achievements. Instead, this marvel of a book begins this way -

'What is a bird? 

   A target for sport.

      A morsel to savor.

        A pet. 

As a child, Saloo thought that a bird was a simple thing, until he encountered a mysterious bird and chased it to an unlikely destination. 

Buy this book now!

3. How to Wear a Sari

How to get your family to take you seriously? Ever been told that you are “too small” to do things. Well a sari might very well do the trick. As any sari novice will tell you, it just takes a little adjustment, a pin here, a brooch there and mostly just the confidence to carry the outfit with style. Don’t forget the sparkly sandals. You might just make it to the family hall of fame!

Buy this book now!

4. Making Happy 

One evening, Leila asked softly, “Mama, why did you get sick?”

Mama answered, “I don’t know, love.”
“Is it because you’re strong?” Leila mused.
“Maybe.” Mama smiled. “Probably.”
“But why did it have to be you?” Leila pressed.
“Well, why not me? Someone else wouldn’t have you.”

There is something powerful about reading Making Happy with your child, a shared picture book experience that we think will remain in your memories for years and years to come. The book is about a little girl named Leila whose mother battles cancer. Leila struggles to understand or accept why her mother is so sick all the time. She doesn't understand why her mum has to wear wigs and is upset when she doesn't because of the way people look at her. Leila tries her best to 'make the sick go away.' One day when she eats dinner with dad, she spills her glass in anger and immediately regrets it. Her father then comforts her and then tells her that they will spend the rest of their day 'making happy.' The three of them then tear up newspapers, make a mess, and have a grand time, and they talk long into the night, huddled together as a family. Khoa Le's illustrations work magic here. The picture of Leila, her mom and her dad in bed spending time together will remain in our hearts for a lifetime.

The book is based on the author Sheetal Sheth's own experience battling cancer as the parent of young kids. The book helps us find light in the darkest of moments. We read it together as a family and we sensed a connection so close and timeless that it felt as all-encompassing as the quilt that Leila and her classmates make for her mother. 

Buy this book now!

5. A Taste of Honey

Reminiscent of Amar Chitra Katha and Chandamama classic folk tales of my childhood, this tale is narrated in contemporary American English making it more accessible. I would have loved to know where the story is originally from - which state of India/ Pakistan or what set of well known folk tales it belongs to.

Kamala’s bees make the best honey , but her business is slow and she decides she needs help. So she requests the King for help who allocates a plot of land that she could farm and share the profits with the king. But the plot of land is overgrown and would require ploughing. Also, it is where thieves hide! How does Kamala outsmart the thieves and make the land work for her? Does she manage to farm the land, make profits and protect the money from the thieves?
You have to read to find out! The illustrations by Chaaya Prabhat are what we have come to expect from her! Saturated colors, great expressions and tons of fun! We especially appreciated the deep shades of brown for the skin colors of the characters.

Buy this book now!

6. Diwali in My New Home


Priya loves Diwali, the festival of light that celebrates the victory of good over evil. This year, she believes that celebrations will be muted, as she is no longer in India and has moved to America with her family. Priya misses the festive fervor of Diwali in India. She finds that the streets in America are empty, people go about their own lives, and no one is interested in Diwali. Her parents then encourage her to celebrate. Suddenly, the house is filled with the aroma of sweets and savories, which entices the neighbors and passers-by. Priya and her parents then invite them to join in and they have a wonderful Diwali celebration. Aishwarya Tandon's illustrations bring a festive cheer and warm glow to the book. Shachi Kaushik tells the tale of a sweet and relatable moment in the life of a child who moves to another country but who still misses her roots and her home.   

Buy this book now!

7. Connected

The tweens are a complex time - sometimes a child, sometimes a teen. It is also a time for learning what social relationships and life can be like. You may see your child struggle with some aspects of this new phase as I am doing now. sometimes I lack the words to support and make sense of how to navigate. Connected offers the tools to do exactly this! Even though it is aimed at kids, as an adult it gives me the tools and words to talk to my tween about life, and how to navigate emotions and problem-solve. The system of Guards and Guides works even for me as a adult. I have a lot of take aways from this small but mighty book for my own mindfulness and emotional journey as well as to support my child’s. A must have for your social emotional reads list!

8. Leya's Super Secret Super Important Birthday List

Nine-year-old Leya has a secret list of things to do before her tenth birthday. Items on the list include writing amazing letters as part of a school assignment, baking a cake by herself, overcoming her fear of blood, and walking to school alone. To complete the list, she must take help from her best friends Aman and Diya.

She knows that her family is different from theirs. Living with her Amma in Kerala and her Appa working in Kuwait, she is overjoyed when he returns home unexpectedly. But is Appa hiding something from her? With the new challenges at home, can Leya complete her secret list? 

9. Up the Mountains of India 

When my daughter read Mala Kumar's Up the Mountains of India, it seems like all her questions were answered! She loves mountains and has a singular obsession with the Himalayas. She was also very intrigued that she could be 'a mountain scientist' if she wanted to. She is also obsessed with how mountains are formed and where they come from, so this book has been answering all her questions! Up the Mountains of India is a comprehensive and fun guide to mountains in India. The author makes many interesting connections between mountains and people. The book also brings in references to mountains in mythology, explains the curious mountain illusions called specters, mountains in different parts of India and other delicious details about bamboo biriyani and coffee in the Araku Valley, mountains with gravity defying rock formations, and more. The story about the Khasis training the roots of rubber tree and constructing living root bridges in Meghalaya was quite a thrilling story!

10. A Conspiracy in Calcutta 

A Conspiracy in Calcutta.jpg

The Songs of Freedom series from Penguin depicts the Indian Freedom Struggle as experienced and narrated by children. As fans of Lesley D. Biswas's Chumki series, we were thrilled to see her write for older children. A Conspiracy in Calcutta is about ten-year-old Bithi who is furious that her best friend, Sulata, is forced to get married at a shockingly young age.

All around her, India's struggle for freedom grows stronger and while she is drawn to this struggle, Bithi finds the purpose to fight for issues like women's education and against child marriage. She owns the local akhara and her brother is injured and arrested, which means that Bithi is forced to deliver a secret message without being caught by the police. The book is set against the student protests in Calcutta and give us a stunning portrait of the Indian Independence movement in that city.   

11. The Great Escape

Who hasn't plotted an escape from school? My cousin and I almost pulled it off when we were 6 but our security guard threw a spanner in the works.

This hOle book by Menaka Raman is about Sachit, a boy who is not a fan of Wunderkind Academy. One beautiful day, Sachit decides to escape. Aided by new friends Hari and Kris, can he escape the gates and find his freedom? Menaka Raman's new book is funny, charming and perfect for children who want a tale filled with adventure and friendship. At some point, didn't we all dream of breaking out of school? I know I did!

12. Gupshup Goes to Prison  

Khalid’s cat Gupshup has run away to a prison but it is no ordinary prison. It is Sanganer's open jail in Jaipur. People outside the prison avoid its people and want to stay clear of them, but when Khalid finds himself going to Sanganer to find his cat, he experiences something completely different from what he expected. He meets people who have made an honest life for themselves inside the prison, children who were born there, and people who had to work to get money and food - labourers, factory workers and even teachers.

Arefa Tehsin's new hOle book looks at India's first open prison.
The book encourages children to think deeply about crime and punishment, and of course, rehabilitation. 

13. My Travel Alphabet


My Travel Alphabet’s back cover says that it is written to inspire the next generation of travellers. And it does! With the pandemic scuttling travelplans and travel more fraught with complications than ever, this book comes at the right time to bring excitement back to go and see these magical awe-inspiring places in the world. Doing some research about the places together as a family will be a great way to spend an afternoon. The illustrations are gorgeous!

I am ready to add to my travel bucket list!


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