A Gift For Her Niece Inspired Hetal To Become An Author Of Every Child’s Own Adventure Book!
- IWB Post
- February 13, 2018
Hetal Gandhi, the co-founder of Bookyboo, is on a Skype call with me. I am surprised at the efficiency of which our call is going – no connection problems or lags and no shouts of “Can you hear me?”, “Can you hear me now?”
I declare this a success so far.
Me (My introverted self still reeling from the semi-awkward exchange of introductions): At Bookyboo, you design customized reading books for children with them as the protagonists.
(Hetal nods in agreement)
What was the inspiration behind this idea?
Hetal Gandhi: My husband and I wanted to gift our niece the perfect gift. In this day and age, children already have all kinds of toys and gadgets, sometimes a cupboard full of them. We wanted to get her something that we could use to bond with her, something that she would treasure forever.
A customized story book is not like any other story because our niece was now the hero and she could go on her own adventures. As for us, we could spend time reading with her. It also fueled her imagination as the story gripped her more and more. The success of the idea with our niece was a big motivation for us to start Bookyboo.
Me: What was your favorite children’s book or story as a child?
Hetal Gandhi: Let’s see. (Pauses to think for a moment) I think I was a big fan of Roald Dahl and his books. One of my other favorites was ‘Danny, The Champion of the World’; I don’t know if you’ve heard of that. (I confirm that I haven’t) Other than that, I used to read a lot of Enid Blyton – Secret Seven and all of that.
Me: People have started relying on technology so much, and not many people want to buy actual books anymore. So how was the initial response to your business idea?
Hetal Gandhi: Initially, people looked at us as if we were crazy. I don’t know if you’ve seen, but we have a preview of all the books on our website. You enter the name of your kid, and we customize and give you a preview of the whole book. So I got a lot of “Who’s going to buy your book if you show all of it online?”
But our idea was to preview the whole book so that the parents know what their child will be reading. Besides, reading a book in your hands is a different experience entirely. Flipping the pages and feeling the paper in your hand holds so much importance. A good old-fashioned turn the page book stays with you forever unlike content seen on a screen. It can be read again and again, children can dwell on each page and create more stories from the pictures. It sparks their imagination far more.
Me: If you could write a children’s tale with yourself in it, which fairy tale would you want to be a part of?
Hetal Gandhi: Fairy tales? (Chuckles and shakes her head) We tend to stay away from fairy tales here. They usually have such stereotypical gender roles. I don’t think they make for good models for our children. We want to write more gender neutral stories where both boys and girls have the same kind of adventures.
Me (In agreement): I guess that’s true. Fairy tales all have the same cliched plot – the beautiful princess gets into trouble, and the handsome and charming prince comes to the rescue. They fall in love and live happily ever after.
Hetal Gandhi: Yes, exactly! We want to get rid of those predefined gender roles. You’d be surprised how many parents come to us, asking us to make princess books for their daughters. So, sometimes it’s parents only who unknowingly introduce these gender roles to their children.
But I think that everyone has started changing. Even Disney has now begun to make movies like Moana, Brave, and Frozen, with incredibly strong female role models, women who don’t need a man to be rescued.
So, coming back to your question, if I had to choose to be part of a story book, I’d pick ‘The Jungle Book’ by Rudyard Kipling.
Me: Which are some of your favorite novels?
Hetal Gandhi: I’m an avid reader. I am especially fond of the Classics. They’re timeless, and I keep going back to them. I was just recently re-reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’
I also enjoy Crime Fiction immensely.
Me: Do you prefer reading the books or watching the movies or shows?
Hetal Gandhi: Books! (Stresses with a laugh) Books, for sure. I always read before watching anything. I read ‘The Song of Ice and Fire’ instead of watching the Game of Thrones show, and now I feel so cheated that the books aren’t getting published, but the show is going forward.
(We laugh in unison over the common plight of every Game of Thrones book fan ever.) I think that the books provide a certain depth that you can never get in the theatrical representation. The book lets you understand the characters in a more rounded way and relate to them on a personal level, which I think is precious.
Me (In agreement, citing my love for the Harry Potter books over the movie series): One positive review that you received about one of your books that made you feel proud of your work?
Hetal Gandhi: Oh, so many. But there was this one video that we received from this two and a half-year-old child, who looks like he is reading the book. I was so stumped. And the parents told us that he had heard the story so many times that he has memorized every word on every page. That made me feel very proud.
Other than that, we often receive videos of children saying thank you. Parents tell us that children sometimes sleep with their books and bedtimes are more fun. We’ve heard glowing reviews from parents who said that their kids love the “mere naam wali book” (The book with my name in it).
Me: Suggest some books for the children of age groups, 3 to 5, 5 to 7, 7 to 10 and 10 to 13.
Hetal Gandhi: For the age group 3 to 5, you have classic kids books like The Hungry Caterpillar and fun books like Emily Brown and the Thing. Picture books are perfect to get their imagination rolling too. A variety of books is essential for proper cognitive development in a child.
For 5-7 years – Dr. Suess’s books are a lot of fun. At that age, there are loads of early reader series to help kids move on to chapter reading quickly.
For someone in the age bracket 7 to 10, I would recommend reading the books by Roald Dahl, which are great fun.
And for someone older than 10, I would recommend that they start picking up the Classics to read and other fantasy book series.
Me: What does your bookshelf say about you?
Hetal Gandhi (Laughing slightly): Anyone who looks at my bookshelf will probably think that I’m a child. I have a lot of children’s books. I need to keep reading them so that I can write good ones.
People usually think that writing children’s books must be easy, but it isn’t. I have to make sure that what I write is not only full of fun and adventure but also concise, action packed and easy to understand for a child.
I promise Hetal that I’ll be buying one of the Bookyboo Fun Family books for my niece and nephew and she is kind enough to offer to send one for them.
I am looking forward to sitting down with my niece and nephew and embarking with them on the adventure of a lifetime!
Create your own adventures, here.
This article was first published on November 14, 2017.