Published: 07th June 2021
What we learnt about Priyanka's books: Kids will LOVE these stories while learning valuable life lessons
Priyanka Agarwal Mehta writes. She writes to change the world. And honestly, what better way can there be to change the world? Let's trace her beginnings and what she has in store for all of us next
When two little girls, one who's all of three and the others a year older, found an injured pigeon in their garden, what do you think they did? It's okay if you guessed that they called their parents, that would be the standard answer.
But not these two girls.
They went ahead and took care of the pigeon on their own and saved its life. Wondering how? Because their life was touched by the right art. More specifically Priyanka Agarwal Mehta’s books from the Samara and Alphabet series.
This is no exaggeration and Ahmedabad-based Priyanka will give you several instances of how her books have actually changed things, even for her own now five-year-old daughter and pigeon-rescuer, Samara Mehta. "It had been one year since they had read the book which taught them that they can do their bit, it’s not a grown-up’s job alone. They are, in their own small way, capable of doing it too," says the author.
One of her books
"I believe in doing my bit to save the world," says Priyanka seriously and yet laughing, knowing that it sounds audacious. But don't fall for that every-present jolly chuckle of the writer, she means business when she says that. After her MBA from University of Cambridge, she launched her own EdTech company, Connect2Teach, which gets people from industries to teach students. This was in 2016, but now the 35-year-old is on a hiatus.
The other way she tried to achieve her aim was by writing books. What stuttered to a start in 2013 picked up full speed in 2017 and today, there are 23 books out there, of which 16 are online, that are trying to change the world in their own way. What's more? On May 12, 2021, Priyanka launched her own portal so that it's easier for us to buy these books and take the change forward.
It’s called Sam & Mi.
New on the bookshelf
Take their latest book, The Leaky Beak. A peculiar tap on a farm thriving with animals is leaking noisily and the four-legged creatures are vexed. The horse is dispatched to get a plumber, but how can any expert fix a problem that doesn't even exist in the first place? Now, we will stop right there with the plot, as we have given away enough already. Expertly illustrated by an illustrator from Singapore, Lisa Wee, who Priyanka especially commissioned for this book, this story might seem simple but it speaks to children, without being in-your-face-about-it. It teaches them about the importance of communication, team building and all those life skills which will equip these children to change the world. This book is also travelling to the London Book Fair in March next year.
The latest book
Let's take another book, Things I Can't See. The real-life story went like this: An injury took Priyanka to the physiotherapist and Samara was tagging along. The li'l one saw another patient at the clinic whose knee injury was not obvious at all. Samara could not comprehend why the person was there if the injury wasn't visibly there and that's where she learnt a very important lesson. "It's not just about problem-solving, you need to identify and empathise with the problem first," says the writer who was born in Delhi and brought up in Mumbai. And that's how the book Things I Can't See came about. We ask Priyanka if it would be right to say that the books follow the same growth trajectory as her daughter, she completely agreed with us.
And it goes like this...
By now, you must have caught the drift. The aesthetics are simple and the colour palette is the perfect blend of cool and warm colours that will have children flipping through the pages again and again. Every page has an illustration, which is outsourced by the author usually to a graphic designer, which is meticulously arrived at after striking the right balance between text and visuals. Take Adventures and the Alphabet: The First Magic Trick. It takes you through different professions in a way that depicts gender and ethnic diversity. These books are all about the message, not about the character. But if you do look at the characters, they are universal in their appeal. No wonder even schools like Hart Hill Nursery School, Luton, UK, were interested in stocking up on this particular book. "The books also reinforce the fact that it's normal to be messy, not know something or be silly sometimes," says the mother of two.
Priyanka Agarwal Mehta
In the pipeline is merchandising, products that would actually help children along their book-reading journey. and there are some games under development too.
Since with kids, it's the whole experience that matters, these self-published books are printed on 210 GSM paper and the pictures featured are of the highest quality. Initially, she used to print in batches of 100, but after 200 books sold out in the first 12 days of launching her portal, she started printing 500 copies per book. "Guess what? About 80% of our customers were people we did not even know," shares Priyanka excitedly. Apart from being available on several portals like Nestery, it was really word of mouth that, over the years slowly and steadily, got the word out about her books. "While couriering the books, we send an extra book to the child and state that this book is a way for them to pay forward and pass it on to someone who they think needs to read it," explains the entrepreneur. Can you think of a better way to change the world?
For more check out samandmi.com