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Children's Literature in India: Varied Perspectives

Madhumita Chakraborty

By Supriya Goswami
Routledge, London, 2012, pp. 197, price not stated.

By Michelle Superle
Routledge, London, 2011, pp. 200, price not stated.


Any literature, but crucially and specifically children’s literature plays an important role in the growth and development of young minds. It is used to entertain, to inform, to socialize, and to shape behaviour, a channel to learn beliefs, customs, mores of not only one’s own culture, but also to develop an understanding and create an exposure to other cultures, other peoples, etc. Children’s literature can spark the imagination, nurture curiosity and delight the hearts and minds of young people. This is also an area in which not much has been done, especially in the Indian context. And it is here that the two books under review play an important role in formulating academic discourse in the area. It is interesting that while both the books have children’s literature as their focus, their choice of texts is very different, and this in many ways make the two books as complementary reading material. While Goswami’s book clearly chooses texts from the pre-Independence period, Michelle Superle’s study discusses 101 children’s and young adult novels, written in English by Indian and diaspora authors living in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, and published between 1988 and 2008.   Goswami’s book begins with an allegorical reference to the mugger or the crocodile and his boasting of his reputation as a ‘murderer, man-eater and local fetish.’ The connection with the colonial agenda is not hard to establish and the tone of the study is set. The book is part literary analysis, part a historiographical documentation, and as such, this places it in an interesting realm of transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies. As Goswami states in her introduction, ‘this book is about the intersections of British, Anglo-Indian, and Bengali children’s books and defining historical moments in nineteenth and early twentieth century India’ (p. 2). This is connected with five historical events of colonial India—‘the missionary debates leading upto the Charter Act of 1813, the defeat of Tipu Sultan, the Mutiny of 1857, the birth of Indian nationalism, and the Swadeshi movement resulting from the partition of Bengal’ (pp. 2-3). Focusing on six authors, Goswami explores the connections between history and literature, and argues that these texts ‘not only engage in political activism, but also seek to empower children (both real and fictional) by celebrating them as active colonial and anti-colonial agents’ (p. 3).   The book is chronologically arranged according to the five historical events ...

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