Last week, I introduced you to LadooBook and as promised, I have with me on the blog today, Vaibhav Malankar, who along with his wife Ankita Sagar, created the wonderful picture book series.
In case you haven't read my review of LadooBook yet, please give it a quick read here and come back to hear Ladoo's story from Mr Malankar.
1. What inspired you to venture into the field of children's picture books? Have you two had any experience or background in language teaching or working with children?
After our nephew was born we couldn’t wait to share our love of reading with him. My wife, Ankita, was convinced that we should train him early to win Jeopardy! As we gathered our favourite books, we thought to include some new options that spoke to his Indian heritage. We found great options specific to religion and folklore but didn’t find anything that focused on the joys of secular Indian culture. Thus, we created our own books to share with him and other young children.
We love that children are curious and inquisitive. The joy in their eyes when they learn something new is gratifying, and we are very proud that our books can be a part of that learning experience. These moments further fuel our passion in creating learning opportunities for young readers.
2. How did LadooBook happen?
It happened on a rainy Saturday.
Just kidding 😃 …
As mentioned above, the motivation was to create a book for our nephew. With that in mind, we wrote our first book, Ladoo & Pooja Day, on our smartphones while eating a big bowl of Bhelpuri. The ideas were flowing and we were having a great time creating our first story. When we finished we couldn’t wait to start our second story and before we knew it we had a series of four books completed!
3. Is there a story behind the name 'Ladoo'?
Our dog is named Ladoo in real life. When we brought him home as a puppy, we had a lengthy few days trying to decide on a name. Indian parents of course wanted to name him “Shiv” or “Ram” – hoping that multiple call-outs in the day will bring good omens.
We decided that perhaps our deities were too occupied for multiple call-outs a day. So our focus shifted to sweeter, smaller things - munchkins, beignets, M&Ms, eventually realising that there was one sweet that was universally loved: Ladoo! And, the name stuck.
4. What made you choose the protagonist to be a puppy? Why not a kitten perhaps?
We always knew that we wanted Ladoo to be our hero because he is loveable! Whenever children visit our home they instantly gravitate towards Ladoo – he is gentle, calm, and fluffy. Also, writing for Ladoo is natural because we know him very well. It is a perfect fit to have him as our protagonist as we build the LadooBook brand.
5. How has been the response to LadooBook till now? Have you received feedback from the young readers themselves?
The feedback to LadooBook has been extremely positive! We’ve heard back from many young parents and they immediately recognise the value of our books. Introducing fun tales about daily Indian culture is an unfulfilled need for many parents. Other parents commented that they only realised the need once they saw our books and discovered that our stories can help open the door to a whole new arena of learning. Our most valued customer, young children, have provided helpful and very encouraging feedback. We see that they are engaged and excited about our stories, and of course Ladoo! This excitement dominoes into a cycle of enthusiastic reading - our most desired result.
6. Is LadooBook read by children outside of the Indian diaspora?
Yes, we have many non-Indian readers who enjoy our books! We’ve found that parents who value multiculturalism for their children are quick to pick up LadooBook. One parent wanted to introduce Hindi to her children so our books were immensely helpful in getting that effort started! While our message is most relatable to Indians, we believe that non-Indians will enjoy our books because at our core LadooBook is about unconditional acceptance, learning, and fun!
7. Where do you belong to, in India? Do you look for stories from that region or community alone or do you look for stories from all over India?
I was born in Mumbai while Ankita is from Chandigarh. Growing up in those cities, we each share common stories and memories. Our childhoods are certainly reflected in our books. Nevertheless, we value the diversity within the Indian community – the variety of traditions is tremendous. Thus, we hope our books continue to speak to and include everyone.
|Vaibhav Malankar and Ankita Sagar|
8. What do you have in the pipeline? Will you be creating more books in the same series or will you be creating a new series altogether?
Ladoo loves adventures and we love telling you about them! We have many ideas in the pipeline for future books under the LadooBook banner. And, we are excited to share these stories with our readers, parents and children alike.
9. How was your experience in self publishing?
The experience has been very fulfilling. Being able to hold the books we produced and watch others be excited about them is very gratifying!
10. I have come to know many good children's books which have been self-published. Do you think self-publishing is a more viable option for creating children's books?
Circumstances vary for different situations but for us self-publishing is a great way to get our stories out to the public!
11. What advice would you give aspiring children's book authors?
Our advice would be to set realistic goals and work diligently towards them. With every milestone we reach, we see our books appreciated and this is very encouraging. At the end of the day, if you pursue your passion with great tenacity and smarts, then others will reciprocate with appreciation.
Planning to get a copy of LadooBook?
[This post is the second in the series in collaboration with LadooBook. Read more: LadooBook: Raising Multilingual Readers. The special discount code will expire on March 24, 2017 and can be redeemed until then, on their Etsy store. All images courtesy: Vaibhav Malankar.]