Joan Haig (author of Tiger Skin Rug) picks out five recommended children's books featuring India.
Tamarind and the Star of Ishta
This story is full of intrigue and family secrets. Tamarind travels from England to India to stay with relatives while her father and his new wife jaunt off on their honeymoon. Tamarind's impressions of India, as a newcomer, are fresh and detailed. At its heart, this upper middle-grade story is one about grief, but it's also about familiarity; Bilan explores this beautifully through place in the atmospheric house and spirited forest.
I love Perkins' books, which confront cross-cultural experiences and invite important discussions about modernity and change. I've chosen this one because it's a topic close to my heart. It transports readers to the Sundarbans where siblings Neel and Rupa set out to help a tiger cub, even though their plan threatens Neel's chances of winning a scholarship. This is an accessible read with talking points on climate change, socio-economic class and gender divisions.
Folklore and short stories are a brilliant way to introduce children to cultures different from their own. These retellings, which maintain a traditional feel, hint at the diversity within 'Indian culture'. Educators can pick and choose from twenty lively stories to share with young people learning about India (and there's a glossary and extra activities included!).
This is one of my favourite reads this year - unpredictable and unputdownable. The backdrop to The Acrobats of Agra is India at the height of unrest during the 1857 Indian Rebellion. It follows three wildly different orphans as they try to save a circus tiger and find lost family. A super way to take a critical look at early British colonial culture in India.
Step back in time from contemporary England to late-colonial India with Elsie as she tries to stop her great uncle shooting a tiger. As well as foregrounding concerns about big game hunting, this book will engage confident readers in the vagaries and vices of colonialist society.
Joan's own book, Tiger Skin Rug, is a unique and atmospheric middle-grade fantasy adventure exploring themes of family and what it means to find a home. Tiger Skin Rug is a page-turning adventure set between Scotland and India, with a sprinkle of magic based around an old tiger skin rug that transforms into a magic carpet....