Monday, 11 October 2021

Should We All Celebrate? by Chitra Soundar

We All Celebrate, don’t we? Autumn is here and that means across the world, many communities are celebrating different festivals through the next few months as skies darken and the air turns cold and traditionally was the harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Last week marks the start of Dussera or Navarathri for me as a Hindu from India.  Hindus across the world mark nine days of Dussera celebrations in different ways. And then it leads up to Deepavali or Diwali, one of the largest Hindu festivals. Did you know the same day is marked as a festival by Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs too? 


As a writer of picture books and writing in the UK, I always wondered why there weren’t that many picture books about Deepavali (or Dussera for that matter) and why the lead up to Christmas, booksellers didn’t highlight this wonderful festival of lights?

So, when Albert Whitman from the US asked me to write a Deepavali book, I was absolutely elated. 

Illustrated by Charlene Chua, published by Albert Whitman
Illustrated by Charlene Chua

In some ways, the US had caught the wave a little sooner. These books were published both by indie and big publishing houses and very popular among South Asian families and western families in the US.



But my original complaint remained – why aren’t UK publishers not interested in other religious and cultural celebrations? 

Do we need another Christmas book? Actually, do we need another Santa Claus / Father Christmas book? Even if we do, can they feature different communities celebrating Christmas in diverse ways? 

Will the children that are not celebrating Christmas be missing out on their own celebrations?

To counter this dearth of books, I wrote a Diwali counting book (which will come out soon! Shh!). 

Then I wanted to address the above question. Can I highlight celebrations that are not so well-known? So I pitched this book (We All Celebrate) to Tiny Owl and they loved it. With Jenny Bloomfield's glorious illustrations, this book will be out this autumn, right in time for the festival season. 

Illustrated by Jenny Bloomfield and published by Tiny Owl Books

But back to Deepavali (or Diwali as many call it) books in the UK... I went looking for books that celebrate this festival, written by authors and illustrators from the culture the festivals belonged to. 

So, if you don’t see Peppa Pig or Mr Men Celebrating Diwali in this list, that’s why. 

Here are two that came out decades ago.



And here are two just out this year, right in time for this year's festival. What are you waiting for? Go and grab these! 



That is it. Two new books in decades. 

While I have to scroll through a long list of Christmas books, books about Diwali, I can count on one hand - published across four decades. 

We need more books about all the little and big celebrations everyone is celebrating across our country – because we all celebrate and so, let’s celebrate together. 

Here is a call to action!

Are you a picture book writer? Do you celebrate a festival that we are not familiar with? Do you have unique traditions of celebrating a well-known festival? Then why don't you try writing a picture book about it? 

Writing about a festival need not be dry or didactic. It can be full of wonder and storytelling, it can be filled with activities and hands-on fun and it can be joyous inviting others to join in. 

Have a go! Write something different about Christmas or pick another festival from your own heritage and tell us a story that resonates universally! 



Chitra Soundar is the author of over 60 books for children. She has written over 20 picture books and new ones are on the way. She loves celebrating with family and friends, cooking up a meal and sharing stories together. Find out more about her at www.chitrasoundar.com and follow her on Twitter @csoundar. 

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