7 Kids’ Books to Celebrate 75 Years of Independence

As India gears up to celebrate 75 years of its independence, what does it truly mean to be free? How did we arrive here? Here are 7 children’s books from Penguin that honour India’s quest for freedom and celebrate the lived experiences of those who grew up in those times.

A Conspiracy in Calcutta by Lesley D. Biswas (10+ years)

It is 1928 in Calcutta and Bithi, the book’s ten-year-old protagonist, is eager to join the freedom struggle alongside her brother Bibhas who she suspects is an active participant in the student protests that are raging in the city. When Sulata, her childhood friend, informs her that she’s to be married off, Bithi joins the neighbourhood akhara to take an active part in the freedom struggle. During the protests against the Simon Commission, Bibhas is injured and arrested, further prompting Bithi to take on the responsibility of delivering the secret message before the police catches up to her.

Exploring themes of women’s education and child marriage apart from the obvious role women played in the freedom movement, the book features Bina Das, a real-life revolutionary.

Available on Amazon.in

The Train to Tanjore by Devika Rangachari (10+ years)

When Mahatma Gandhi announced the Quit India movement on August 8, 1942, it sent ripples across the country. The patriotic fervour was felt as far and deep within the country as Thanjavur or modern-day Tanjore. Meet Thambi, a 10-year-old, who on one hand is struggling with an autocratic figure in his family and on the other end wants to fight for independence for his country in any way he can. Will Thambi be able to make the difference he so wishes to?

Read the book to understand how the freedom struggle shaped the South and that standing up for your rights has no age bar.

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The Chowpatty Cooking Club by Lubaina Bandukwala (10+ years)

Set in Bombay during the Quit India movement, the book is about three children—Sakina, Zenobia and Mehul—who eagerly wish to be a part of the Indian freedom struggle. When Sakina realises that there’s an underground radio network and her Bela aunty is a part of it and that she might be ousted as a revolutionary, she and her friends help the Underground People’s Radio in their mission to evade the British police—while their mothers are just running a cooking club.

Read this book for a glimpse of 1942 Bombay and the role the underground radio (and Usha Mehta!) played in the freedom struggle.

Available on Amazon.in

That Year at Manikoil by Aditi Krishnakumar (10+ years)

Based on the repercussions of the Burma War between British India and the Japanese Army, the book centres around Raji and her sisters who are sent off to live in Manikoil, in their mother’s village in 1944. Away from the war but also terribly embroiled in it through her brother who decides to enlist in the British Indian Army, Raji feels the whiff of independence in the air. When Ilavarasi, her new friend, also lets on that she’s a refugee of the war, Raji is forced to come to terms with its devastation. Amidst all this, rumours swirl that Gandhi thatha might be assassinated, prompting the freedom fighters to enlist the help of Raji and her friend Lakshmi to deliver a letter discreetly.

This book provides a glimpse into the role the South had to play during the freedom struggle apart from touching upon themes such as education and empowerment for girls.

Available on Amazon.in

After Midnight: A History of Independent India by Meghaa Gupta (10+ years)

After Midnight charts independent India’s 75 years of history through its highs and lows. It’s a definitive modern history of India for children and adults alike who want a primer before getting into the nitty-gritties of our past and present. The book charts the journey of India through its important social, cultural, scientific, political, military, environmental and economic milestones including India’s fight for independence, India’s meteoric rise as a nuclear and missile powerhouse, the Green and White Revolution, the Union Carbide disaster and even the migrant crisis that was caused by COVID-19 among many other such instances that are the genesis of democracy in India. Personal anecdotes, illustrations and infographics provide perspective to young readers and showcase the many facets of the country.

Available on Amazon.in

Heroes the Colour of Dust by Amit Majmudar (10+ years)

Author of critically acclaimed titles such as GodsongSoar and Sitayana, Amit Majmudar debuts in the children’s space with this hilarious take on the events of the Dandi March featuring some of the most ambitious sparrows! Read about daring birds, narrow escapes, bitter vendettas, tragic back stories, sneaky sahibs and stalwart Indians in this tale where animals vow to protect Gandhiji and help India rid itself of its colonisers. Here’s the true story of Mahatma’s Guards, meant for readers who enjoyed Nilanjana Roy’s The Wildlings, Kipling’s The Jungle Book and Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals.

For older readers, the book provides the layers necessary to understand how people from all walks of life got together to protect the Gandhian values despite circumstances.

Available on Amazon.in

The Vanguards of Azad Hind by Gayathri Ponvannan (12+ years)

16-year-old Kayal’s true identity is hidden not only from her very law-abiding family, but from the man that she’s suddenly betrothed to. But when she discovers her aunt to be a revolutionary and an active member of Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj, she throws all caution to the wind and decides to move to Calcutta and eventually to Burma to train at the Azad Hind Fauj camp.

When Shiva–the man she’s betrothed to–is caught by British spies after he joins the war efforts, Kayal and her friends from the Rani of Jhansi regiment, Letchumy and Shirley, take it upon themselves to free him and press forward into British India as the vanguards of the army.

The novel is a great primer on the Azad Hind Fauj or the INA (Indian National Army) that started off as a military unit of captured Indian soldiers but with the help of Indians in Southeast Asia, especially Burma, turned into a formidable army that played an important role in India’s freedom. The book also provides great insight into the Rani of Jhansi regiment, one of the first all-female regiments to exist during the Second World War.

Available on Amazon.in


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