A Short History of the hOle Books by Sayoni Basu, creator of the hOle books
When Duckbill was starting, and we were doing a systematic market survey to see what the obvious gaps were in the different kinds of Indian books for children being published, it was easy to spot that one gaping hOle was early chapter books for children. There were lots of internationally published ones, from the UK and US, but a dearth of locally published ones. There were many Indian picture books, and many storybooks, but there was a jump in level between them so that there was no smooth, natural transition We wanted a distinctive identity for the early chapter book series—one of the joys of series publishing is that one can think seriously long term—and the best identity is always through design, so we turned to Gunjan Ahlawat. He said he had always wanted to do books with a hole in them, and so the hOle books were born.
The hOles on each page have been a great source of joy. For editors, it is fun to come up with concepts where hOles could be incorporated into the story. For illustrators, it was fun to make characters jump from one page to another through the hOle or transform hOles into elements of an illustration. We were very clear that the stories would be contemporary, Indian, and with protagonists who were the age of the potential readers (so about seven till nine), facing dilemmas and challenges which the readers would be familiar with. And while the first few books were commissioned and the series ideas carefully explained to the authors, very soon, we started getting manuscripts which were labelled ‘hOle books’, showing that people had started identifying the central characteristics themselves. Over the years, the hOle books have been shortlisted for or won every major book award in India. Several authors have written mini series within-series, such as the adventures of Petu, Timmi, Maya, Peanut and Chumki, who have appeared in two or more books.
We are really thrilled that there are now twenty-five books in the series. Series publishing is the backbone of children’s books all around the world—and it makes us really happy that this series has sustained itself and taken on new dimensions and is known and loved by so many people. It is truly a moment to celebrate.