Children’s Book Trust was founded by Shankar in
1957. It came to be housed in Nehru House, inaugurated by the President
of India Dr. S. Radhakrishnan on November 30, 1965.
Pioneer publishers of children’s books in India, Children’s
Book Trust has set for itself an ambitious target to promote the production
of well written, well illustrated and well designed books for children.
In furtherance of this objective, the Trust brings out books that are
easy to read and easy on the eyes, including books that enable children
to have a better appreciation of India’s cultural heritage.
CBT is now in the 50th year of its establishment.
These golden years have seen a marked progression not only in terms
of creative ideas, themes and factual accounts, but in their presentation,
production and visual interpretations as well. From playful animal
fantasies that were published as Panchatantra tales or the retold folktales
that even today make perennial favourites, CBT gradually steered its
energies towards reality issues like teenage problems, scientific and
technological advances, school and sports dilemmas, contributions of
eminent men and women in India’s progress, the changing mindset
of ordinary people and the evolution of their thought. The change came
about with the launch of the Competition for Writers of Children’s
Books in 1978. The subjects were diversified to make a much wider spectrum.
This now comprises General Fiction, Science Fiction, Indian History/Heritage,
Natural History, Travelogue, Non-Fiction/Information, Popular Science,
Great Institutions, Short Stories/Humour Stories, Short Plays/Dramas,
and Read-Aloud Books/Picture Books. These are published not only in
English and Hindi, as was the case earlier, but in various Indian languages
to a certain extent.
The efforts made in newer genres, it is hoped, will generate a deeper
spirit of enquiry in young minds and a healthy, progressive outlook
to life and living.
CBT publications on science, information, biographies under the ‘Remembering
Our Leaders’ series, have attracted good attention, many of the
titles being reprinted over and over again. CBT books have been included
under schemes for Adult Education and Science Improvement. Select titles
were printed under the ‘Operation Blackboard’ in many languages
to supply the needs of the State Governments. Conscientious attention
has been bestowed on achieving quality and production excellence. The
publications also include an exhaustive and authoritative book on ‘Children’s
Literature in India’ for documentation and referencing. The Trust
has to its credit today about 1000 titles.
The prices of the books are kept down to the minimum possible, in fact
subsidised, in an effort to bring them within the reach of the average
Indian child, which was Shankar’s basic idea.
In such ways, therefore, CBT has steadily built for its readers a vast
storehouse of literature which, if followed systematically and chronologically,
reveals the pace of development of children’s literature from
the time when there was nothing for children to call their own, to the
present times which are altogether competitive and challenging. “If
only the best is good enough for children,” CBT shall continue
to strive to achieve even greater heights to match India’s current
status as ‘an aspiring and happening nation’.
MAGAZINE FOR CHILDREN
The Trust has been publishing for about 39 years an illustrated monthly
magazine in English, ‘Children’s World’. It has helped
forge a significant link with children in India and abroad.
Publications apart, CBT now comprises many facets of activities.
WORKSHOP FOR WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS
As a fillip to creative talent, CBT has organized, from time
to time, workshops for writers and illustrators of children’s
A forum for them, sponsored by CBT, has since formed itself into a
registered body known as the Association of Writers and Illustrators
for Children. Its activities include participating in world events,
encouragement to writers, promotion of the reading habit, and establishment
The Shankar’s International Children’s Competition (SICC)
began in 1949.
At that time, Mr. Shankar Pillai, SHANKAR as he is more popularly known,
was editing a cartoon journal called ‘Shankar’s Weekly’.
In that weekly Shankar used to make fun of grown-ups especially politicians
and public men. However, for children, Shankar always had a soft corner.
So, acting on the spur of the moment, he held a competition for children
in painting and writing. About a thousand children took part sending
3,000 entries. Shankar was so impressed with what they had drawn and
written that the very next year he held another competition throwing
it open to children from other countries. The result was 7,000 entries
from 13 countries. The number of entries has grown over the last three
decades and more, touching an average of about 1,60,000 from 130 countries.
Even Shankar had not bargained for such an explosion of child talent.
The best of the entries are chosen by an international jury. Because
of the limited space available for display, about 2000 paintings are
selected after an initial screening. The selected paintings are put
up for public viewing for three weeks. This exhibition has come to
be known as Shankar’s International Children’s Art Exhibition.
The paintings, chosen by the international jury, are awarded prizes
at an annual function held in New Delhi. There are over 800 prizes.
The top awards are the President of India’s Gold Medal for the
best painting, the Shankar’s Gold Medal for the best written
entry, and 24 Nehru Memorial Gold Medals, named after Jawaharlal Nehru,
the first Prime Minister of India. He had been a source of great encouragement
and inspiration to Shankar.
The annual prize-distribution function itself is unique in that it
is conducted entirely by school children. Prize-winners from India
and a few from abroad attend the function. Prizes won by other foreign
children are received, on their behalf, by the diplomatic representatives
of the respective countries.
The President of India or the Vice-President or the Prime Minister
is normally the Chief Guest at the function.
CHILDREN'S ART NUMBER
The prize-winning entries are published in a de luxe multi-colour publication
called ‘Shankar’s Children’s Art Number’. This
annual compendium has acquired a unique place in the world of children’s
literature. The Art Number published in 2005 was the fifty sixth.
At the 1952 exhibition of prize-winning paintings, a doubting Thomas
felt that children could not have turned out such ‘accomplished
works of art’. To clear the doubt, the first On-the-Spot Painting
Competition in Delhi was held in April 1952. The Competition held on
the sprawling lawns of a New Delhi’s school, was an annual event
till the year 2005 and over 10,000 children in and around Delhi, as
well as children of foreign nationals in Delhi, participated whole-heartedly.
However, the Competition had to be suspended owing to space constrains
and traffic restrictions.
Set up by the renowned political cartoonist K. Shankar Pillai (1902-1989),
Shankar’s International Dolls Museum has one of the largest collection
of costume dolls anywhere in the world.
Housed in the building of the Children’s Book Trust on Bahadur
Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi, the Museum occupies a floor area of 5184.5
sq. feet – a portion of the first floor. A separate entrance
with a stately winding staircase leads up to a foyer. Inside, the Museum
is divided into two equal halves. The two sections have over 160 glass
cases, 1000 ft. long, mounted on the walls. One section has exhibits
from European countries, the U.K., and the U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand,
Commonwealth of Independent States and the other from Asian countries,
the Middle East, Africa and India. There are also special displays
besides a representative collection from the over 150 kinds of authentic
Indian costume dolls made at the Dolls Workshop attached to the Museum.
Indian dolls made at the workshop are exchanged for gifts received
from abroad as well as sold to collectors and to museums in India and
abroad. Each doll is handcrafted after meticulous research into the
physical attributes, dress and jewellery of individual characters.
Little wonder then, the dolls won the First Prize–Golden Peacock
Feather–at the Dolls Biennale held in Cracow, Poland, in 1980.
The Museum’s collection of the costume dolls was inspired by
a gift of a single doll, which Shankar received from the Hungarian
Ambassador in the early fifties, to be given away as a prize in the
Shankar’s International Children’s Competition. Shankar
fell in love with the doll. With the permission of the Ambassador,
he kept the doll for himself. So fascinated was he with this Hungarian
doll that Shankar, thereafter, began collecting costume dolls whenever
he went abroad. His visits were frequent, he being a part of the group
of journalists accompanying the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Soon he had a collection of around 500 dolls which he decided to exhibit
in various places in India along with the paintings done by children.
The frequent packing and unpacking resulted in damage to the dolls
much to Shankar’s consternation.
At an exhibition held in Delhi, which was visited by Jawaharlal Nehru
and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, Shankar voiced his concern for the
damaged dolls. Promptly a suggestion came from Indira Gandhi: Why not
a permanent museum for the dolls?
So, when the Children’s Book Trust was putting up its building,
a portion was set apart and planned as a museum for the dolls.
The museum was ready in 1965 and it was inaugurated by the then President
of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, who appropriately named the building, ‘Nehru
House’ after the late Prime Minister. The Museum started with
a thousand dolls. Between 1965 and 1987 another
5000 were added – a vast majority coming as gifts. Today the
volume has increased to 6,500 exhibits from almost eighty-five countries,
giving it a truly international character.
The Museum is listed in the itinerary of all visitors to Delhi. Some
of the important dignitaries who have visited the Museum and recorded
their appreciation are: President U. Thant of Burma (now Myanmar),
Madame Tito of Yugoslavia, Queen Frederika of Greece, the Queen of
Thailand, the sister of Shah of Iran, the wives of the President of
Mexico and Indonesia, of the Prime Ministers of Poland and South Korea
and the UN Secretary General and cultural delegations from many countries.
The Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. without any lunch break.
The entry fees are Rs. 17/- for adults and Rs. 6/- for children. Children in groups of 20 will be charged at the concessional rate of Rs. 3.37 per child. The ticket counter closes at 5.30 p.m.
The Museum observes Mondays as weekly holiday, besides three National
and festive holidays.
The Shankar’s Academy of Art and Book Publishing, situated in
Nehru House, was founded in 1991 to train students for the field of
book publishing and to develop illustrators of children’s books.
The Academy began by conducting two diploma courses – one in
Art, Book Illustration and Graphics, and the other in Book Publishing.
The courses are conducted by a trained faculty, their content being
intensive in nature. The Book Publishing course is currently suspended.
INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR CHILDREN
Children’s Book Trust was allotted land in the Diplomatic Enclave
in New Delhi where now stands the International Centre for Children
which is nearing completion. The Centre would be a meeting ground for
children from everywhere. It would be a visible symbol of the goodwill
and sense of togetherness among children of the world that Shankar’s
International Children’s Competition has succeeded in creating
in the last five decades. This would fulfil Shankar’s dream to
establish a Centre for the children of the world to converge into a
creative assemblage. The Centre shall house galleries to display paintings,
the Dolls Museum, the Children’s Library, hobby rooms and have
facilities for its young visitors from India and abroad.
THE VERY BEST
Children’s Book Trust has travelled far in perspective and the
quality and variety of its activities. As for publications, it remains
the most important publishing house for children’s books. The
production of books, limited to a few a decades back, has increased
several-fold, at times exceeding a 100 in a year. CBT books have become
a byword for elegance, quality and printing merit. The annual sale
of books has increased five-fold. The diversification of subjects has
come to cover a large gamut relevant to children and their growing
needs. CBT books have got national and international awards. CBT Library
is attracting a larger number of members. The SICC, with its increasing
world wide participation, has created a much-needed sense of fraternity
among children of many countries. Drawing and writing about peace on
earth, which now figures as a recurring subject in the Competition
entries, the participants have come together in their attitudes and
sensitivity, favouring harmony and cooperation among the nations.
In all these activities CBT has kept in mind Shankar’s passionate
belief that children deserve nothing but the very best.
any other information contact:-
Children’s Book Trust
4, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg
New Delhi 110002