Read, Read, Read A Lot: Exclusive Interview With Children’s Author Bijal Vachharajani
In an exclusive interview, children’s book author and editor, Bijal Vachharajani, talks about her writing journey, her favourite children’s books and why reading is important for children
By Vani Venugopal • 5 min read
Bijal Vachharajani describes herself as writer, editor Scissorhands and climate worrier. Her books reflect a coming together of all of these identities. Bijal believes that children are instinctively the staunchest champions for the environment and her books often weave the the environmental crises looming over our planet into the narrative. Her book, “A Cloud Called Bhura”, which won the AutHer Children’s Book Award 2020, tells the story of children turning into climate champions and saving their city from a giant cloud of pollutants and toxic gases.
Apart from “A Cloud Called Bhura”, Bijal’s books for children include “So You Want to Know About the Environment”, “What’s Neema Eating Today?” and “The Seed Savers”.
She has also written essays for Rohan Chakaravarty's comic book, The Great Indian Nature Trail with Uncle Bikky, co-authored Ten Indian Champions Fighting to Save the Planet with Radha Rangarajan, and contributed short stories for two anthologies, Prankenstein and Grandma's Tales.
Bijal has a Masters in Environment Security and Peace with a specialization in Climate Change and Security at the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. She was part of the launch team of Disney Adventures, a children’s magazine where she wrote and worked closely with schools and has headed Kids for Tigers, a school contact programme by Sanctuary Asia and managed the media department of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, India.
Bijal Vachharajani will be hosting a session on “Planet Saviours: Eco Champions of the world” with Radha Rangarajan at the The Little Festival, an exclusive Children’s Lit Fest, a part of the Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest. For more information click here.
In this interview with ParentCircle, Bijal talks about how she started writing for children, her love for picture books and why reading is important for children.
How did you become interested in writing for children?
I used to work with animals, and I realised that when it comes to nature, children are the staunchest champions. Then, I got acquainted with the world of children’s books in India and internationally, as the Kids section writer at Time Out Mumbai, and before that at Disney Adventures. As I read these books, I realised just how powerful narratives can be in making sense of this world, for young audiences. When I came back from my Masters, I was asked to do a book for children. And that’s how it all began!
You’ve authored non-fiction, picture books and fiction. What is your preferred medium?
Whatever I am writing right now! I adore reading picture books and love editing them – the chiselling of the words to the core and watching the illustrations give shape to the story. Right now, I am working on fiction for middle-graders and enjoying that process a lot.
What were your favourite books growing up?
I grew up with Enid Blytons! I loved “The Magic Faraway Tree” series, “Famous Five” and “Secret Seven”, and I loved Shel Silverstein. I had a special place in my heart for "Target" magazine and would wait for it impatiently every month.
You have written many books on environment and sustainability. How important is it to educate children about climate change and other environmental issues?
I think children naturally care about the environment – they have that innate sense of curiosity and wonder about the natural world. I feel books are a wonderful way to get children to discover planet Earth and its many mysteries. I find that they gravitate to these stories, asking questions, feeling concerned and demonstrating a strong sense of respect. We are at a time in the history of the planet, when children are demanding a better future for themselves, and it’s crucial they understand about the climate emergency as it impacts them the most – their present and the future.
Why is reading vital for children?
Opening a book is perhaps like a wonderful time machine – it takes the reader into many different worlds, unlocking imagination and potential, offering spaces to navigate complex real-life emotions, and allowing a safe space for escape, reflection and introspection.
What advice would you give to children who aspire to become writers?
Read, read, read a lot. Read good books, read bad ones, read funny ones and sad ones, read a lot. And try to make writing a habit. The more you write, the better you will be.
What are five books that you think every child must read?
That’s a tough one, but here are six of my favourites: “Charlotte’s Web” by EB White, “The Lost Words” by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, “Year of the Weeds” by Siddhartha Sarma, “Ammachi’s Glasses” by Priya Kuriyan, “Snip” by Canato Jimo, and “Julian is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love.
About the author:
Written by Vani Venugopal on 16 November 2020.
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