Back to contents

Children’s Books for Grown-Ups

Apr/02/2023 / by Melanie Fourie

Works by 5 South Asian authors may entertain the kids, but have messages for adults, too

A grandmother and grandaughter reading
A grandmother and granddaughter reading. Shutterstock

Since 1967 International Children’s Book Day has been marked on or around April 2, Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday. It promotes literacy and bring attention to children’s literature. To commemorate it, we’ve listed some children’s books written by South Asians that adults can relate to.

Laxmi's Mooch

Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand

This is the story of a juvenile Indian American girl who, after being taunted about her mustache, learns to embrace her hair and her ancestry. Laxmi never gave the small hairs on her upper lip much thought. At break one day, however, her classmates note that her whiskers would make her the ideal cat in a game of farm animals. She finds that hair is sprouting up all over her body, from her limbs and thighs to the space in between her eyebrows.

Laxmi discovers from her parents that hair develops anywhere and on anyone, despite gender. Shelly Anand’s uplifting text and Nabi H. Ali’s vivacious drawings make Laxmi’s Mooch an ode to bodies and their hair, however they may develop.

Anand’s tale subtly conveys a message of body acceptance in the context of a widespread fear that’s rarely addressed, and that’s why it works so well for both children and adults.

Book link on Amazon: Laxmi’s Mooch: Anand, Shelly, Ali, Nabi H.: 9781984815651: Amazon.com: Books

My Paati's saris

My Paati’s Saris by Jyoti Rajan Gopal and Art Twink

A Tamil youth discovers his passion for his granny’s sari assortment. Getting ready for a celebration involves exciting tasks, including traveling to the market, assisting paati with the cooking, and sewing flowers onto garlands for adornment.

Whether he’s playing dress-up or feeling down, the child always has Paati’s sari to turn to for solace. Each sari has a history, some of which appeal to him. More importantly, they give him the freedom to be himself.

The book is a celebration of the ways in which our clothes weave stories, make us who we are, express our heritage, and bind us to our loved ones.

Book link on Amazon: My Paati’s Saris: Rajan Gopal, Jyoti, Art Twink: 9780593324608: Amazon.com: Books

Sugar in Milk

Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar

A little girl immigrates to a foreign nation with her aunt and uncle. She has a hard time making friends and is homesick until her relative takes her for a walk. In a park, her aunt tells her an ancient tale.

According to the story, long ago a band of refugees came to the beach. The local monarch was set on turning them down for asylum. Due to the language challenge, the monarch topped a container with milk to convey the message that the country was already at capacity. The immigrants’ leader mixed sugar into the milk, which did not overflow. Like sugar in milk, he was saying, their staying could enhance the quality of life for everyone. The monarch warmly welcomed the group.

The book is relatable to adults because it teaches how to embrace people from different cultures. It also focuses on the importance of adapting to new environments.

Book link on Amazon: Sugar in Milk: Umrigar, Thrity, Le, Khoa: 9780762495191: Amazon.com: Books

Amal Unbound

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

When Amal, a young Pakistani village girl, unintentionally taunts a member of the powerful Khan family, her hopes of becoming a teacher are shattered in an instant. As punishment, she is sent to do labor on their property.

While sad, Amal dives headfirst into the hierarchical world of service. She soon realizes that the family will resort to violence to maintain power and that no one will question them. She works with the other employees to protect her loved ones and regain her freedom.

This story it teaches on the importance of courageously expressing your truths to those in power, irrespective of how frightening it may be. It suggest that you should never give up on your dreams and also that you should protect your loved ones.

Book link on Amazon: Amal Unbound: Saeed, Aisha: 9780399544699: Amazon.com: Books

Manya Learns to Roar

Manya Learns to Roar by Shruthi Rao

Manya has her heart set on playing Shere Khan in a school performance. Her go-to flick is “The Jungle Book,” and she can quote the entire story. She’s confident that her portrayal of Shere Khan will be fantastic.

Not everyone agrees. A bully makes light of the fact that she stutters. Her English instructor worries about letting her perform. Manya’s stuttering worsens whenever she gets more anxious. Will Manya have to give up her ideal role? Can she learn to unleash her inner lioness?

The story is good for adults because it focuses on how important it is to believe in yourself despite your flaws or naysayers. The underlying theme is also about overcoming your fears and not letting them get in the way of achieving your dreams.

Book link on Amazon: Amazon.com: Manya Learns to Roar [Paperback] [Jan 01, 2017] SHRUTHI RAO (Children First): 9789383331574: Rao, Shruthi: Books