Toto takes you on an exciting ride

These are from the Toto song at the end of a story by Ruta Vyas. It’s exactly like how a story your grandmother told you would have ended, right? Children’s books are undergoing a change and this one comes with an Indian twist. Yes, heroes and heroines in children’s books are characters from India and they seem to have found a firm fan following.

The launch of Ruta’s ‘Adventures of Toto the Auto’ was a fun-filled activity for kids, including a Toto song and dance and interactive story- telling session attended by over 50 enthusiastic children in Bangalore.

Ruta’s books revolve around the character of Toto, a lovable, cheeky little Indian auto- rickshaw who is brave, kind and completely cute.

This series, from the house of FunOkPlease Publishing India, is about how an auto called Toto, along with its driver Pattu, solves problems and helps others.

Involving people, animals, other vehicles and objects, Toto is a friend to all. The best part is that Toto’s stories are also about building character and developing positive self-esteem in children.

Each book has two stories that are narrated in a simple manner with bright illustrations and design by Studio Eguana Inc that makes the simple story come alive. Each story is short and retains the reader’s attention throughout. Each story also speaks an everyday, easy-to-understand language, making the situations very real and believable. And the best part is the books are not preachy, but end with a song that conveys the message in a fun manner. Toto takes you on a ride that you don’t want to miss!

Proud to be Indian

Ruta Vyas, author of ‘Toto The Auto’ series, on why an auto-rickshaw is the hero of her books.

Why is the auto the protagonist?

We wanted to create a quintessential Indian character which all kids across the country can relate to — a contemporary Indian character that is not based in mythology. Since vehicles as protagonists work very well with children in the 3-6 age group, we hit upon the idea of an auto-rickshaw! Autos are unique to India and they are a part of every Indian town. We decided to model our auto, Toto, on the values that embody modern India.

Why is the emphasis on India?

It’s a well-known and researched fact that learning happens best when you learn from a context that you can relate to, identify with and recall. As parents, we are always searching for content which meets these criteria, but what we find in bookshops is a whole lot of mythology and a whole lot of “imported” content with  experiences that are alien to us. Basically, we find that parents like us are tired of reading to their kids about cranberries, scones and toasted marshmallows.

With the Internet such a rage, do children read books?

Of course, children read books. In fact, for younger children a big segment is novelty books that is the pop-ups, the touch-and-feel, and the scratch-and-sniff books, which give a tactile, often multi-sensory experience, that cannot be replicated on the Internet.

What inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration behind all my books is the same: to provide children growing up in modern India with a bank of contemporary content centred around themes, places, experiences that they can identify in their day-to-day life and that they can relate to.

Each time I see a child reciting ‘The grand old duke of York’, or ‘Ring a ring of roses’, I get inspired to move further and faster on the path I have chosen for myself!

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