9 brilliant children's books inspired by India, chosen by Jasbinder Bilan

Published on: 21 September 2020 Author: Jasbinder Bilan

Tamarind & the Star of Ishta author Jasbinder Bilan has always been inspired by Indian stories. Here, she shares nine brilliant children's books set in India...

The front cover of Tamarind & the Star of Ishta and a photograph of Jasbinder Bilan

I was born close to the Himalaya on our family farm and when I was 18 months old, we moved to Nottingham.

Although I was too young to remember India, family stories sent their roots deep and gave me the vivid sense of place which inspired my two novels: Tamarind and the Star of Ishta and Asha and the Spirit Bird. Here are my top stories set in India...

1. Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan

I'll kick off with my own two novels! Have you ever wondered whether the little robin in your garden could be the spirit animal of an ancestor? Do you like a sprinkle of magic in your stories? Then dive into my debut, set in the Himalaya. Asha thinks her nanijee's (grandmother's) spirit has reincarnated into a lamagaia and is guiding her on dangerous quest in search of her missing papa.

Read our review of Asha and the Spirit Bird

2. Tamarind & the Star of Ishta by Jasbinder Bilan

If you enjoyed exploring the mighty Himalaya in my first book, here's a chance to go back. This time a new character, Tamarind, travels from Bristol to stay with her family for the first time. Her grand ancestral home is full of secrets - she discovers a magical garden, a mysterious mountain girl and her golden monkey Hanu.

3. Tales from India by Bali Rai

The front cover of Tales From India

Pic: Nathan Yoder

Bali Rai is an award-winning author who has been writing for twenty years and this collection is one of my favourites. I love his retelling of traditional tales which evoke the cosy feel of the bedtime story and transport me back to my own childhood.

Read our review of Tales from India

4. Jasmine Skies by Sita Brahmachari

If you like travelling, you'll love this sequel to Artichoke Hearts. The writing is full of the sights and sounds of bustling Kolkata as we explore the city through Mira's eyes and peel back the layers of family misunderstandings - be prepared for a few surprises!

Read our review of Jasmine Skies

5. The Wheel of Surya by Jamila Gavin

The front cover of The Wheel of Surya

Pic: David Dean

Uncovering the past can raise a lot of ghosts and the Partition of India in 1947 was hugely controversial. What I like about this story is the way Gavin takes such a life-changing event and shows us its effect on one family.

6. The Ash Mistry series by Sarwat Chadda

If you thought the stories of the Greek gods were exciting, think again - they've got nothing on Hindu mythology! I love the way this series fires the imagination, making your blood pump with adrenaline. It's a roaring, thrilling battle of demons and gods. At the holy city of Varanasi, our hero Ash finds a gold arrowhead, and when he picks it up everything changes!

Read our review of Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress

7. The Extraordinary Life of Mahatma Gandhi by Chitra Soundar and Dalia Adillon

 The front cover of The Extraordinary Life of Mahatma Gandhi

This book about the life of Mahatma Gandhi is a lovely way to share the story of one of India's most important leaders. I really liked the easy way the text is presented with the gentle illustrations, and it would be a great starting point to find out more about what was happening in India at the time.

8. The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

Who doesn't love a good old fashioned whodunnit? This series is totally charming and a wonderful step into the life of crime in Mumbai. With a baby elephant called Ganesh to help solve the mysteries, what's not to love?

9. Under the Great Plum Tree by Sufiya Ahmed and Reza Dalvand

An adorable picture book to share at bedtime - or any other time, for that matter! The illustrations are beautifully vibrant and inspired by Gujarati patterns. The story itself is a re-telling from the Panchatantra, one of the ancient Sanskrit texts. It's a perfect way to talk about friendships as the story about a crocodile and a monkey unfolds.

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