Rakhi Chakraborty is a journalist and copywriter who moonlights as a creativity coach. She also runs a community for writers on Instagram. She calls herself an eternal splainer fangirl and is a voracious reader. This year, she is attempting to break her 2021 record of 63 books! Here’s Rakhi’s wonderful roundup of the best picture books, novels, movies and TV series. Rediscover your inner child or share them with the children in your life.
Over to Rakhi…
Once upon a time, I waited eagerly for my admission letter from the world’s finest school of witchcraft and wizardry; discovered ethereal new realms through the back of my wardrobe; and reunited with five of my besties (and their dog) during school holidays to solve crimes. Then life got in the way.
It took me a long time to realise that the default setting of adulthood was a disavowal of all things childish—an unconscious dulling of glee, curiosity and wonder. Now, I reclaim my childhood through kids’ books, movies and TV shows. So, in honour of this upcoming Children’s Day, here are some picture and YA books, movie and TV show recommendations that are designed to de-weed an adult heart of ingrown cynicism while restoring a glimmer of wonder. Curl up to them with a hot drink, dimmed lights and quirky, cosy socks for best results.
The Lion Inside: by Rachel Bright. The world’s littlest, quietest and meekest mouse is tired of being forgotten, trod on willy-nilly and missing out on all the wonderful things life has to offer because no one ever notices him. So, he sets out on a journey to discover his inner roar.
Ruby’s Worry: by Tom Percival. Ruby loved being Ruby and all the little pleasures of life, until one day she discovered a worry—which started snowballing and sucking all the light and joy in its path. Then she learned how to deal with it.
The Dot: by Peter H Reynolds. Vashti isn’t good at drawing and is very angry about her lack of talent. Then a teacher convinces her to start with just a dot. This simple dot is the start of Vashti’s journey of creativity and self-discovery. Along with Vashti, find the value of expressing yourself over impressing others.
Giraffes Can’t Dance: by Giles Andreae. Gerald is a gangly giraffe who longs to dance. But his thin legs and bandy knees prevent him from joining the other animals on the dance floor. Until he discovers that he just needs a different song to match his groove.
The Heart And The Bottle: by Oliver Jeffers. A bubbly and inquisitive young girl loses her sparkle and childhood wonder after the loss of her father. She decides to bottle up her heart—quite literally—to make sure she never has to feel such pain again. But an empty feeling soon takes over and urges her to get her heart back. Through strength and emotions, the book follows her attempt to free her heart from the bottle.
Young Adult Reads
I Need To Pee: by Neha Singh. Rahi loves her soft drinks, nariyal paani and fruit juices. As a result, she frequently needs to pee. But adults around her are always making her feel bad when she needs to go to the toilet so often. Unfazed, she has come up with the perfect attitude and technique to stay true to herself in the face of their disapproval.
Wisha Wozzariter: by Payal Kapadia. Ten-year-old Wisha Wozzariter hates bad books. But she hates good books even more—because she wishes she could have written them! One day a hidden worm in a book takes her on the Thought Express to the Marketplace of Ideas where she meets an assorted crew of characters who help her stop wishing and start writing.
Queen of Ice: by Devika Rangachari. In 10th century Kashmir, a girl with a clubfoot is born to a king. She is seen as irrelevant and dispensable from the moment of her birth. But she goes on to become the queen, ruling for fifty peaceful and prosperous years. However, her reign witnesses the death of her sons and grandsons—caused in part by her desire for power. This superbly researched and intricately accurate book is an aching tale of love, longing and power—a real-life Daenerys Targaryen-esque saga.
Pages & Co: by Anna James. Soon after her eleventh birthday, Tilly Pages discovers she has a superpower—bookwandering—which enables her to enter the world of whichever book she’s reading, be it a tea party with Alice, the school at Green Gables with Anne or aboard the pirate ship alongside Long John Silver. In the five-book series, Tilly and her friend Oscar swoop in and out of their favourite books and become IRL besties with fictional characters—while solving mysteries along the way.
Dear Mrs. Naidu: by Mathangi Subramanian. This is a sweet and deeply moving coming-of-age tale about a slum-dwelling girl named Sarojini who starts writing letters to her long-dead namesake Sarojini Naidu—even as she struggles to stay connected to her best friend Amir who has moved to a posh school.
Unicorn Store: Oscar winner Brie Larson’s directorial debut is a whimsical and largely plot-less movie, and is not for everyone. An eccentric almost-thirty-year-old Kit has always been obsessed with rainbows, glitter and unicorns. Now, chewed out by the world and back living at her parent’s home, she sets about answering a life’s calling that doesn’t make sense to anyone else—building a home for unicorns.
Kiki’s Delivery Service: Kiki is a witch who loves to fly. When she must move away from home to establish her independence—as all witches must do—she has to find a way to earn money. Kiki’s bright idea: turning her flying skills into a delivery service that will make all Swiggy-Zomato riders green with envy. But soon she is flying only to make money, not for the boundless joy and freedom it once inspired. Will Kiki rediscover her love of flying before it’s too late?
Anne With An E: In Netflix’s series, Anne is a more complicated character, shaped by darkness and trauma that she was spared in the sanitised original and its adaptations. This is a heroine who creates her own joy and happiness because there’s none to be found in her life. Because she knows, “I'm loved now, but when I wasn't, it didn't mean I wasn't worthy of it.”
The Babysitter’s Club: I never read the books by Ann M Martin on which this TV show is based, but it remains one of my all-time favourites. There’s something about thirteen-year-old girls being unapologetically themselves—be it the ambitious Kristy, creative Claudia, fashion-loving Stacy or hippie Dawn—who run a babysitting business and support each other through periods, boyfriends, business-schemes and the joys of finding the right butterfly clip. This warm hug of a TV show is going to make you feel like you belong.