In a few weeks’ time, another new school year will be upon us. As students (and parents) get busy with reading textbooks and other study materials, it is also a new year for young readers to expand their creative reading horizons. Very young readers can transition from picture books to illustrated stories, and middle school readers can introduce themselves to long stories and novels for children. \

High school students are already aware of their reading sensibilities and can be encouraged to explore different genres, authors, and writing styles without any inhibitions. Teenage is also a good time to enter the world of young adult novels, nonfiction books, and niche genres such as poetry, graphic novels, and others.

Here is a list of recently published books for young readers of various age groups and reading proficiency levels. Happy reading!

For readers aged between 5 and 7

Wet Paint, Asha Nehemiah, illustrated by Chetan Sharma

Aman is to paint a mural on the new hospital when disaster strikes. Can he and Paru, the mason’s daughter, save the day? Will the townsfolk get the mural of their dreams?

This illustrated story with simple vocabulary and interactive exercises is set in the Nilgiris. It is perfect for young readers moving up from picture books. The story also teaches the importance of inclusivity and representation in healthcare .

Cyrus the Whyrus, Lavanya Karthik, illustrated by Priya Kurian

This is an illustrated short story about Cyrus, whose curiosity knows no bounds. After all, this young man’s favourite word is “why”! Whatever his parents tell him to do, he responds with “why?” Ask him to eat his veggies and he will say “why”, ask him to finish his homework and he’ll say “why”. The whys are buzzing around the house and his parents are tired of it. How will they stop Cyrus from why-ling away their time? And is being curious so bad, anyway?

Sleepytime Tales with Coco Comma, Sonia Mehta, illustrated by Sunayna Nair

Join Coco Comma as she stumbles upon alliterations, idioms, rhymes, and even a magical alphabet tree even though her nose in buried in a book! The third book in the Sleepytime Tales series after Sleepytime Tales with Nico Numero and Sleepytime Tales with Curious Curie by Sonia Mehta, this book is a must read for early readers to discover the many joys of the English language. A collection of four short stories with simple explanations about idioms, alliterations, and rhymes makes the book a fun any-time read.

For readers aged between 5 and 7

That Big-Voiced Girl, Mamta Nainy, illustrated by Asuma Noor

Right from her childhood, Usha Iyer (later Uthup) knew that music was her true calling. She picked up songs from the radio and sang with her big, booming voice. But when she was rejected during the audition for her school choir, Usha wondered if her big voice was any good. All she wanted was to sing. Does she find a way?

Usha Uthup’s picture biography for young readers is a perfect introduction to the genre. It also serves as an encouraging reminder that standing out is not a bad thing.

Mini’s First Vote, Shabnam Minwalla, illustrated by Ekta Bharti

Mini is in Standard 6, old enough to vote in the school elections. Soon, she has to help choose the school captain. Whom should she vote for?

Free and fair elections are the foundation of a healthy democracy. Will Mini’s first elections teach her the true meaning “of, for, and by the people”?

Tine and the Faraway Mountain, Shikha Tripathi, illustrated by Ogin Nayam

Whooshoo. In the hilly town of Echali, Tine hears the mountains calling to her. Can Tine reach the top of the highest mountain in the world? Based on the life of a mountaineer from Arunachal Pradesh, this book celebrates the power of dreams and believing in yourself.

For readers aged between 11 and 13

Tsunami Simon, Damodar Mauzo, translated from the Konkani by Xavier Cota

Thirteen-year-old Simon lives in a coastal village in South Goa. He juggles with school, dancing, and karate classes and thoroughly loves the sea, especially going on fishing trips with his father, Gabru. Despite growing up in modern times, Simon nurtures a deep love for their traditional fisher-folk life. This winter Simon goes to Tamil Nadu, to spend his Christmas vacation with his aunt. But the holiday comes to a disastrous end. One morning, when out fishing with his uncle, the gigantic waves of the tsunami strike the coast of South India sparing little that lay in its path.

Does Simon survive this calamity? What about his family? Will life ever be the same again?

Jukebox, Nidhi Chanani

A mysterious jukebox, old vinyl records, and cryptic notes on music history, are Shaheen’s only clues to her father’s abrupt disappearance. She looks to her cousin, Tannaz, who seems just as perplexed, before they both look at the Jukebox which starts...glowing? Suddenly, the girls are pulled from their era and transported to another time! Keyed to the music on the record, the Jukebox sends them to decade after decade of music history, from political marches, to landmark concerts. But can they find Shaheen’s dad before the music stops? This time-bending magical mystery tour graphic novel invites readers to take the ride of their lives for a coming-of-age adventure.

A Cloud Called Bhura: Climate Champions to the Rescue, Bijal Vachharajani, illustrated by Aindri C

Amni wakes up one morning to find the sky taken over by a huge brown cloud. Where did this cloud appear from suddenly? Even as she and her friends Mithil, Tammy, and Andrew start finding out more, their city of Mumbai starts reeling from the changes the cloud brings to the weather.

Bhura Cloudus, as the media calls it, contains noxious gases, causes scalding rain to fall, makes birds flee the city, and suffocates every living thing. What will Mota Bhai, the powerful politician, do now? Can Vidisha and Bidisha, the scientist twins, find a solution? And what about superstar Pavan Kumar and the amazing cloud-sucking machine? Can Bhura ever be driven away, or is it already too late?

Thought-provoking and inspiring, A Cloud Called Bhura is about the changing global climate and the havoc it is causing, as well as the forces of friendship, trust, and community that will counter this deadly threat to humanity.

Year of the Weeds, Siddhartha Sarma

Korok lives in a small Gond village in western Odisha. His life is in the garden which he tends every day. Anchita lives in the house which has the garden and is an artist. One day, the government tells the Gonds they have to leave the village because a company is going to mine the sacred hill next to it for aluminium ore. The Gonds oppose this, but the mighty government, led by police officer Sorkari Patnaik is determined to win. So is the Company. But how long will the Gond resistance last, when everybody, from politicians to activists and even Maoists turn up at the little village? What can a lone gardener and a girl with a computer do against the most powerful people in the land?

For readers aged between 14 and 17

A Firefly in the Dark, Shazaf Fatima Haider

Sharmeen’s life is disrupted when, after an unexpected tragedy, she moves into her Nani’s rambling ancestral bungalow with her family. She hates this new life: her mother, Aliya, and Nani fight constantly; her new schoolmates bully her; and the family retainer, her loving Aziz Bhai, suddenly becomes dominating. The only place where Sharmeen finds solace is the world of Nani’s fantastical stories: tales of Jinn, shapeshifters and other dastardly creatures.

But slowly, unseen forces that had lain dormant for centuries start to awaken. Sharmeen meets her own personal Jinn, the prankster Jugnu, who reveals her family’s history, a pact one of her ancestors made with the Jinn-world, and also some not-so-good news – and Sharmeen realises that it is up to her to rescue the adults in her life. Mysterious, magical and moving, A Firefly in the Dark is a page-turner and a work of fantasy and soaring imagination that will delight readers.

A Bend in Time: Writings by Children on the Covid-19 Pandemic

In this collection of stories and essays by children and young adults from different parts of India, we see unbridled imagination and empathy, as they write about what is happening around them. While one writer wonders why her dreams have gone missing, another turns to history to see what lockdowns would have been like in ancient times. There are heartrending and deeply emotional stories of lives lost and the stark inequalities that the pandemic has laid bare. Some writers wonder if the star of hope will ever shine again, and others look for relief in scientific thought, in writing, and in books. Throughout the collection there runs a sense of time lost and gained – of how this phase of global history is a bend in time.

Intensely honest, wise yet innocent, thoughtful and full of hope, this anthology, introduced by author Bijal Vachharajani, is a peek into the mind of a generation that could re-imagine our world and, if we are lucky, make it safer, wiser and more compassionate.

Best At It, Maulik Pancholy

Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favourite person in the whole world, his grandfather, Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you’re really good at and become the best at it.

Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul’s brain. While he’s not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won’t be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge...But what if he discovers he isn’t the best at anything?

Funny, charming, and incredibly touching, this is a story about a gay Indian American boy coming into his own.

The Nameless God, Savie Karnel

God hadn’t done right by them. Noor had prayed hard at Fakir Baba’s dargah, Bachchu had prayed desperately at the Ganesh temple. But god favoured the toppers. Again. Maybe he was drowning in prayers from too many kids. Noor and Bachchu come up with a brilliant plan – they would create a God who knows only them, and no other children, and so has no option but to grant their wishes. Thus they create their own nameless god. And you know what? The plan works! The very next day, god performs his first miracle – a day off from school.

Unaware that the Babri Masjid has been destroyed, sparking communal violence across the country, they go out to thank their god but get caught in the riots. Can the nameless god save them? In a world polarised along religious lines, The Nameless God offers a vision of another way of being. This powerful and moving story of friendship and understanding brings home the pointlessness of the invisible boundaries created in the name of faith.