Read Globally: 20 Vibrant Books That Introduce Indian Folktales, Culture, and History to Kids
by Devon A. Corneal
One of the world’s most populous countries, India is also home to a vast storytelling tradition. The energy and complexity of this melting pot of religions, languages, politics, and geographies have given rise to ancient epic poems, traditional fables, humorous tales, and fantastic new adventures. We hope these stories transport you to new experiences and pique your curiosity about this extraordinary country and the people who inhabit it.
Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth
This colorful retelling of the legend of the elephant god Ganesha and how he came to write the Mahabharata introduces the littlest readers to one of India’s greatest stories. Kids will love seeing the unexpected consequences when Ganesha eats too much candy and is inspired to write the epic poem of the Kurukshetra War.
Tiger in My Soup
Indian author Kashmira Sheth perfectly captures sibling relationships in this amusing story of the lengths one boy will go to in order to get his sister to pay attention to him. And yes, it involves some soup and a very big tiger.
Kashmira Sheth does it again, but this time with a tender story about a boy, his grandfather, and a day spent outside during a monsoon. Get lost in the gorgeous watercolor illustrations and the wonder of a rainy afternoon. As an added bonus, the afterward educates readers about the monsoon season in Western India and the traditions that arise out of this unique time.
Stunning pastel illustrations capture the magic of the monsoon season as it breaks the heat of an urban Indian summer. You can almost feel the anticipation as the rain clouds roll in.
Imagine dressing up in the vibrant colors and textures of a sari — wrapping the lengths of fabric around yourself and watching it drape perfectly until it touches the floor. That’s exactly what the little girl in this story wants to do for her seventh birthday and readers can feel her delight when her birthday wish is granted.
Flood stories are found in many cultures, and this new title from author Chitra Soundar acquaints readers with a flood tale from Southern India. Here, a young boy named Pattan finds himself aboard a giant pumpkin with plants and animals galore as they all use the enormous squash to escape a raging storm.
The Runaway Peppercorn
Amminikutty Amma needs just one peppercorn to finish the onion chutney, but before she can crush it with her mortar and pestle, the peppercorn escapes! Will Amminikutty Amma be able to catch it and finish her meal? Read along to find out!
Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji
Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji brings the spices and tastes of Indian food to life as young Aneel learns to make this hot Indian flatbread for his grandfather.
Little Indians: Stories from Across the Country
Hop aboard a double-decker bus and travel across 15 Indian states to learn all about the vast country and the remarkable people who inhabit it.
Indian Children’s Favorite Stories
Compiled to introduce children to classic Indian folktales, these eight stories include the birth of Krishna and the epic story of Rama. The glossary at the end of the book also helps those unfamiliar with Indian words and names.
Gobble You Up!
Sometimes I’m too lazy to make dinner too, but the jackal in this Rajasthani tale takes laziness to a whole new level. Read along to see how the cunning trickster finagles a belly full of animals and an unexpected ending. Also unexpected? The incredible craftsmanship that went into producing the book and its unique illustrations.
Amma Tell Me Series
This series explores the magic of Indian festivals and deities. Each book covers a different god/goddess or celebration including Diwali, Holi, Hanuman, and Durga Puja. Bright and colorful and filled with information, these stories are both entertaining and educational.
The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story
Having discovered yoga as an adult, I am always looking for stories that make yoga appealing to children. This one fits the bill. Meena is a little bit clumsy and nervous about appearing as a tree in her school play. She isn’t at all sure she can be graceful and steady — until she discovers yoga and her self-confidence.
Middle grade readers will be enthralled by the Ramayana, another of India’s great literary works. The extraordinary epic poem is presented here in a graphic novel as told from the perspective of Queen Sita, and explores issues of loyalty and trust as well as the ravages of war.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Get ready for a fantastic adventure full of unexpected obstacles, danger, talking animals, magic, and a boy determined to return the power of storytelling to his father and his city. Brilliant in scope and appealing to both children and adults, Haroun and the Sea of Stories is an engaging and truly entertaining fantasy written by the prolific Rushdie.
Mayil Will Not Be Quiet!
Mayil wants to be a writer and, as an almost 13-year-old, she has quite a lot to say. So, she starts with a diary — a place to explore her own feelings, her relationships with her family, and all the issues adolescents face today. By turns funny and thoughtful, you’ll be glad that Mayil has decided to put her thoughts on paper.
We, the Children of India: The Preamble to Our Constitution
The Preamble of the Indian Constitution made accessible for kids and a fascinating look at one of the world’s great democracies.
The Serpent’s Revenge: Unusual Tales from the Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is filled with stories — some better known than others. Sudha Murty takes some of the lesser known tales and brings them to life in this collection. A great way to expose children to the scope of this Indian epic.
The Conch Bearer
Anand has been given a mission: to return a magical conch shell to its rightful place. To do so, he’ll have to travel across India with few resources and even fewer friends. Along the way, he discovers that a quest does not always end the way we hope it might.
The Library of FatesAvailable from:
If you have a more mature tween reader at home, you may want to direct them towards Khorana’s upcoming coming-of-age story that’s based on Indian folklore. While technically a YA novel, this fantasy is sure to appeal to 12-year-old fans of adventure stories. Amrita takes helm as the book’s strong female protagonist with the not-so-small task of saving her kingdom from ruin.
(On Sale: 7/18/17)Available from:
Have other favorite Indian authors or stories? Please share them in the comments!