The Neev Book Award for children’s literature aims to recognise outstanding writing that leads to a fuller understanding of India, Indian lives, and Indian stories. This award aims to promote and encourage high-quality children’s literature from India. Children’s books will be judged in Early Years, Emerging Readers, Junior Readers, and Young Adult categories. The winner in each category will be announced at the Neev Literature Festival, Bangalore and will receive a certificate, trophy, and cash award of Rs 100,000.

Here are the shortlisted books in each category:

Early Years

We are the Dancing Forest, Raj Shekhar, translated from the Hindi by Devashish Makhija, illustrated by Venkat Shyam

Inspired by an adivasi song from Telangana, this taps right into the instincts of children – fun with words and rhythm, and a yet unspoilt ability to be aware of the connectedness of the natural world. Venkat Shyam’s Gond folk style arises from the same ethos. His stunning art comes together with Nina Sabnani’s fine design aesthetic to create a spectacular creative web of its own, visually reflecting the belief of the first dwellers that we are the forest and the forest is us.

My Street, Sadaf Siddique, illustrated by Habib Ali

Running past familiar faces, watching the street go by in a flash of colours – it’s just another day in this neighbourhood. A wordless story about community spirit in a neighbourhood, and the people that make it special.

My Paati’s Saris, Jyoti Rajan Gopal, illustrated by Art Twink

Another exciting day with Paati begins with a host of fun activities done in preparation for tonight’s party; threading flowers into garlands for decoration, going to the market, and helping her in the kitchen with the scent of sambar in the air.

Through it all the boy finds comfort in Paati’s sari, whether he’s wrapped in its colors for dress-up or clutching its folds for comfort. Each sari holds a story – ones that speak to him, but most important of all they allow him just to be.

Emerging Readers

The Sweet Shop Wars, Chatura Rao, illustrated by Rajiv Eipe

Best Sweets has opened next to Firoza’s dadu’s sweet shop and is taking away all the customers. How can Firoza make her dadu’s shop better than Best?

Roshan’s Road to Music: How Annapurna Devi Began Her Magnificent Journey into Music, Mamta Nainy, illustrated by Priyanka Tampi

Right from her childhood, Annapurna Devi, born as Roshanara Khan, had an ear for music. She found rhythm and melody in the most mundane sounds. She listened with wonder to the koel cooing and her grandmother snoring. But when her father gave sarod lessons to her brother, Roshan was moved to make music of her own. How did Roshan embark on her musical journey?

The Monster Who Could not Climb a Tree, Tanya Majmudar, illustrated by Rajiv Eipe

Avi has a secret, a terrible one. He has to face a monster that no one knows about. Who is this monster that troubles Avi? How does he fight it?

Junior Readers

The Ghost of Malabar, Soumya Ayer, illustrated by Isha Nagar

12-year-old Edwin blames his father, a wayward fisherman for everything rotten in his life. But when he encounters Velu his life is catapulted from rotten to outright chaotic. Velu is chatty. Velu is annoying. Velu is a ghost. The ghost of a fisherman who was slaughtered five hundred years ago by Kapitan Vasca da Gama.

Velu soon spirits himself into Edwin’s life he follows him to school, accosts him at home, always appearing at the most unwelcome moments. Edwin tries everything to get rid of him, including rubbing garlic on himself. But Velu can’t be shaken off until the day Edwin banishes him from his life.

In the events that follow, Edwin discovers that Velu has actually helped heal his family in ways he had never imagined possible. But by this time, Velu is gone! Will Edwin find Velu again and will Velu finally find rest after five hundred years of haunting the seaside town?

The Train to Tanjore, Devika Rangachari

There are few excitements in Thambi’s quiet life. There is the new hotel, disapproved of by elders, which lures him with the aroma of sambar with onions. There are visits to the library to read the newspaper, and once in a while, a new movie at the Rajaram Electric Theatre. More disagreeably, there are fortnightly visits from his uncle to lay down the law.

When Gandhiji announces the Quit India movement, Tanjore is torn apart by protests. The train station-the lifeline of the town-is vandalized. Mysterious leaflets are circulated, containing news that newspapers do not publish. And inspired by the idea of a free India and his own dreams of being an engineer, Thambi must find the courage to do what he believes is right-even when it endangers all he holds dear.

Misfit Madhu, Divya Anand, illustrated by Vedushi Sinha

Madhu is a shy middle-grade developer who spends her holidays creating her dream app, “School Santhe”. Soon, the app goes viral…and so does she! And why not? After all, an app where everyone at school can trade stuff is the app they’ve all been waiting for! Madhu now sets her sights on winning the GoTek young developers contest.

But when School Santhe is used to sell leaked test papers, she’s faced with the hardest decision of her life:
a) Shut down the app that made her popular?
b) Or stay silent and become part of something…criminal?

As her dreams begin to crumble – with the entire school now blaming her for the mess her app has caused – Madhu realizes that sometimes, it’s far easier to debug an app than it is to debug your life.

Young Adult

The People of the Indus, Nikhil Gulati with Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, illustrated by Nikhil Gulati

Who were the people of the Indus?
Why didn’t they build pyramids like the Egyptians?
And ultimately what happened to them?

Supported by extensive research from a leading Indus archaeologist, this graphic novel seeks answers to precisely these questions. It is not history in the form of a dull record of dates and events but a beautifully illustrated glimpse into the lives of the people of the Indus civilisation, dating all the way back to 3200 BCE. The People of the Indus is a rare account of how one of the most unique and enigmatic civilisations of the ancient world changed the course of human history. It is sure to enthrall young adults and older readers alike.

When Blackbirds Fly, Hannah Lalhlanpuii

Life is sweet growing up in Aizawl, with his family and friends, and all the narrator wants is a peaceful life. But the independence movement in Mizoram means that regardless of what he wants, he is drawn inexorably into a world where everyone has to choose where they stand. Set in the initial stages of the two-decade-long struggle for Mizoram’s independence and against the backdrop of the 1966 bombing of Aizawl, this stunning debut novel is an universal story of how individual dreams and lives are shattered when larger conflicts arise.

The Enchanted Cottage, Ruskin Bond, Sucharita Sengupta Suri

Odd things were happening to me in my little cottage near the forest…

There was no terrifying dream that night, or the following night, but the cottage did have an almost tangible atmosphere about it – a feeling for the past, or rather, a feeling of the past, as though something happened in it long ago, something sad and lingering.

Mystery, drama, and a hint of the supernatural are all expertly woven together in this compelling story set in the hills.