How did you get started in children’s books?
I’ve always been an avid reader but I did not start writing till early 2004. In 2003, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and within two months he passed away. It was sudden and devastating. As always, I turned to books during this difficult time and read a lot of fantasy-adventure stories – my favourite genre. Around the same time, I started writing down memorable events of my childhood so that I wouldn’t forget the life we shared as a family before we went our separate ways. These scribblings gave me the idea of writing a book to encompass everything I love; fantasy, adventure, Indian mythology and a juicy plot. That is how The Third Eye was born.
For more information, please visit me at www.mahtabnarsimhan.com
What (or who) inspires your writing or art?
I love creating unique characters, fantastical worlds and exciting plots. As a child, books helped me deal with the tough realities of life and make sense of the world. Now, as an author, I hope I can do the same for my readers.
What was your favourite book as a child? Why?
The top spot is shared by two; Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
I loved to wander through Narnia with Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, when I didn’t want to study for a math test. The Enchanted Wood was another favourite haunt where Joe, Bessie, and Fanny had adventures up the Faraway Tree.
How can teachers use your books in the classroom?
Since all my books are based in India, they would be a great addition to the curriculum as part of World Studies.
Teacher Activity Guides/Discussion Questions for all my books can be found here: https://www.mahtabnarsimhan.com/teachers
The Tara Trilogy (of which, The Third Eye won the Silver Birch Fiction Award in 2009) is a great read-aloud during class. On one level, it’s a fantasy adventure but on the other, it is about the courage of the human spirit and of believing in oneself when no one else believes in you.
The Tiffin is an excellent glimpse into the harsh life of an orphan on the streets of Bombay. This story introduces readers to the legendary dabbawallas and their near-perfect accuracy in delivering tiffins. While none of my stories have a they-lived-happily-ever-after ending, they always end on a hopeful note, with the character, and perhaps the reader, having grown in some way.
Mission Mumbai, is my latest offering which takes the usual scenario – an immigrant trying to fit into North American culture – and turns is on its head. In this story I have a North American boy trying to fit into an unfamiliar culture and the ensuing hilarity due to misunderstandings. Told from the point of view of Dylan, this story is rife with humour and heart as the friendship of both boys is strained to the limit. At the end, I hope the readers will understand that walking in another’s shoes is the best way to experience what a person is going through. And, often, the grass is not greener on the other side. I hope that providing a glimpse of this truth through the character-lens of Dylan, I can help kids recognize the shallowness of social media, and appreciate what they have in life.
Activities for Mission Mumbai can be found here:
Looking For Lord Ganesh is a picture book on Indian Mythology with a contemporary twist. The Elephant God is also known as the Remover-of-Obstacles and the Solver-of-Problems. Millions in India worship him. Young Anika, a recent immigrant, prays to him to solve her problems of fitting into her new school, and making friends. When he takes too long to answer her prayers, she turns to the internet to contact him. While she does get the answers she seeks, it is up to the reader to decide if it is Lord Ganesh or her own subconscious that is providing the solutions.
What are you looking forward to most during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week?
I look forward to meeting the teacher and student communities in Vancouver and having the opportunity to introduce them to my repertoire. Interactions with my readers inspire and energize me! I look forward to a fantastic Book Tour with TD/CCBC.