Monday, February 22, 2016

Best Children's Books About Indian Culture

Whether you are Indian, half-Indian, or just simply interested in Indian culture, there is unfortunately such a lack of books out there for children in this genre. This is due to the fact that many traditions are stories are passed on from generation to generation by spoken word - usually by Indian grandparents or family elders. It has been a real struggle to find any books with characters that resemble my daughter and her dad's family, so I have put together a list of our favorites.

My Mother's Sari, by Sandhya Rao
Children are fascinated by sarees and love to hide under the long fabric. This book is about the fascination and love for the saree, as the girl's imagination runs wild. It is also about the positive tradition of wearing a saree which is handed down to our children. The book is filled with eye-catching colors, a la Eric Carle.

Ganesha's Sweet Tooth, by Sanjay Patel
This book is a modern gem combining the ancient tale of the most-loved Hindu God Ganesh, paired with bright vibrant illustrations. It is an original interpretation of Ganesh and how he inscribes the Mahabharata. We gave this book to our Indian relatives and they adored it!

Tiger in My Soup, by Kashmira Sheth
This book is about a boy's imagination that runs wild during mealtimes. A wonderfully whimsical story!

Monsoon Afternoon, by Kashmira Sheth
This one is another book I love by author Kashmira Sheth. This one is about the special bond between a boy and his grandfather and about all the fun they have during a monsoon. It's a fun story about how you can enjoy the outdoors, even if it's in the rain!

Monsoon, by Uma Krishnaswami
This is another beautiful book about the monsoon season, except it features a female narrator and her mother. This book focuses heavily on the description of senses - sight, hearing, smell - of the monsoon. Descriptive, magical, and well-written.

The Story of Little Babaji, by Helen Bannerman
This book has been around since 1899 and I have one of the original copies that my grandmother kept. Back then, it was called "The Story of Little Black Sambo" and was incredibly politically un-correct. The new edition though, is wonderful because now the family has been given authentic Indian names. It's a fun classic story.

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji, by F. Zia
This book is about a boy's grandparents who are visiting from India, and the magical stories they tell. It is about the sweet connection between grandparents and their grandchildren, and a shared love of Indian food.

Ganesh and the Little Mouse, by Anjali Joshi
This is a sweet little book about Ganesh and his race around the world. The illustrations are modern and cute!

Indian Children's Favorite Stories, by Rosemarie Somaiah
This is a wonderful compilation of eight classic Indian fables with beautiful illustrations. I would recommend this book to ages 6 and up, because the stories are more complex. Many of the stories are educational and have a "moral of the story" type endings.

The Elephant's Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India, by Marcia Williams
This book is a compilation of eight Indian fables about various animals. It is paired with eye-catching comic book style illustrations that are very detailed and colorful. This book is non-denominational and great for families who want stories that are light on the religious aspect.

Usborne's Stories From India, by Anna Milbourne
This is another compilation of Indian stories, interpreted by a Western author. It is published by the famous Usborne books, so it is widely available in North America. This book has sixteen different stories that are all very different and interesting. This book has a good mix of Hindu and non-Hindu stories.


Dear readers, have you read any of these ones?
If so, which ones are your favorites?
Do you have any to add to the list?


  1. the most famous book for children is "panchatantra" which is an ancient book of moral tales using animals as various characters. It is perhaps the oldest book for children in history.

    The second book is "jatak kathas" or jatak tales which are buddist in origin. They are wonderful both for young and old.

    you may also like to add English translations of famous bengali writer shukumar ray. He is a legend as far as humorous and children literature is concerned.

    then there are publications like champak and chandamama for children. There is the legendary comic book for children "amar chitra katha" with variour mythological and historical tales of valour with beautiful pictures.

  2. As the commentator mentioned "panchatantra", "jatak katha/tales" are some of the basic books along with various cartoon books (chacha Chaudhari etc.) and publications like champak, chandamama etc. There are plenty of books and it is untrue generalization that there aren't.

    Also, majority if not all of the books now have English translation. Finding a version is Hindi should be easy as it is a language spoken in major parts of India except south but people in south do have some appreciation for language nowadays due to movies.

  3. Some of our favorites (my kids are 2 & 4) are Gajapati Kulapati (Rajagopalan); To market, to market (Ravishankar); Tiger on a tree (Ravishankar); What shall I make? (Nayar); What did you see? (Nayar); Let's Go (Mohan); Ranganna (Navaneeth); and The Auto that Flew (Spillman). We also like Ganesh and the Little Mouse (though I was underwhelmed by the Hanuman and Harini book in the same series, which is too bad, since my kids love Hanuman stories!).

  4. What a great set of books! I particularly enjoy Sanjay Patel's work. I have his Ramayana (I love the Ramayana, and seem to be collecting various versions of it).
    Growing up my favourite stories of Indian and Hindu culture were from the huge collection of Amar Chitra Katha comics. They're just so vibrant and engaging, and remarkably detailed. Perhaps for slightly older children, but I seem to recall reading them from about age 7, and coming back to them over and over. Now in the UK I look out for them on Amazon and eBay.

  5. My book, YOU KNOW WHAT? with Clavis Books, comes out September 2017 but is now available for pre-order on Amazon. It is a dialogue between a white mom and her son, Oliver. Oliver continually asks, You know what? in order to delay bedtime. In a photo on the bathroom mirror, the illustrator shows the Indian dad which helps us to understand why Oliver is dark skinned. So thrilled with the illustrator. So thrilled to have a character enabling Indian children to see themselves in another picture book with the reality of many mixed racial families.

  6. Thank you for this list. I am a teacher in a school with a large number of students from India. I have been trying to find more books with Indian characters to add to my classroom library, but they are hard to find. I have several of these already and will be purchasing a few more from the list.


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