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Tara story-teller: Gita Wolf

EducationWorld August 13 | EducationWorld People

Gita WolfChennai-based Gita Wolf is the founder-editor of Tara Books Pvt. Ltd (estb. 1994), which began as a children’s book publishing house but has gradually expanded its range of 15 titles per year to cover adults. Wolf’s interest in experimenting with book forms and innovations has given Tara Books a unique identity as a pioneer of handmade books, which feature an attractive mix of words and visuals of India’s folk and traditional art. Over the past 19 years, Wolf has been joined by a core group of like-minded tribal and folk artists, writers from India and abroad, designers, and other creative professionals. Today Tara Books is run as a workers-owned cooperative, committed to bringing a variety of marginalised voices and perspectives to readers.

Newspeg. Tara Books was awarded the Best Children’s Book Publishers Award (Asia) 2013 at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF) staged in Italy, between March 24-27. The continental awards were introduced this year to mark the golden jubilee of BCBF.

Tara Books offers a range of fiction, non-fiction, educational, picture and activity books for children in the age group 3-15. Customers include K-X schools, private and public libraries, and older readers of non-fiction, pop culture and Tamil titles. The firm employs 14 artisans in its book craft workshop in Chennai, who have produced over 200,000 handmade books translated into several foreign languages and distributed in India, the UK and USA. A globally respected publisher, Tara Books has signed 87 collaboration agreements with reputed publishers worldwide, and has sold 152 book rights to them.

Direct talk. “The BCBF award in its inaugural year is a recognition of the volume of work that we have done over the past 19 years, and the quality we offer in terms of content and production.  A lot of research is invested in all our titles and we are overwhelmed with the respect and goodwill we have earned within the international publishing community,” says Wolf.

History. An alumna of Bangalore, Bayreuth and Erlangen/Nurenberg universities (comparative literature), Wolf worked as an academic in Germany for a decade before returning to India with her family in 1987. Her academic background and passion for visual art prompted her to promote Tara Books in 1994. Wolf herself has penned over 20 books for children and adults beginning with The Very Hungry Lion (1995) which won the Alcuin Citation for excellence in book design in Canada. Since then, several titles authored by her have won international awards and have been translated into multiple languages.

Last year, the firm inaugurated its three-storied Tara Book Building comprising a bookshop, art gallery, editorial and design offices. Its guest quarters with coloured wall murals and paintings display India’s diverse art styles such as Patua (West Bengal), Gond (Madhya Pradesh), Warli (Maharashtra), Mithila (Bihar), among others, and the building has become a Chennai landmark.

Future plans. Tara Books has drawn up ambitious plans to reach out to school children countrywide with educational books to develop the reading habit and improve visual literacy. “We are reviving several educational titles for schools with picture books which will help kinder-garten children spell and count, as also other popular titles which impact social messages through story-telling. Our titles have proved popular abroad. Now we plan to expand our Indian reader-ship,” says Wolf.

Wind in your sails!

Hemalatha Raghupathi (Chennai)

Also read: Storytelling: A powerful teaching-learning medium

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