‘10 stories to make a difference’ is a collection of original illustrated stories for young readers, inspired by the theme of difference. Pop Up Projects is a non-profit UK based national children’s literature development agency, especially working with writers and illustrators who are under-represented in children’s publishing, and is grateful for crowd-funding and for skilled people who have donated their time to bring the project to publication. With this book, it is celebrating its 10th birthday.
This story was one of the winners of Pop Up’s Birthday Writing Competition, and by the time it was published, the author was still only in Year 12. Anjali tells of the spirited 14 year-old Lakshmi, who ventures out one night to see if there really are demons in the woods. Finding none, she decides that she no longer believes in those legends, but she sees a girl of about her own age, crying, on the terrace of the Big House. She and her father are poor, too poor to pay for the medicine that might have saved her mother’s life, and they live hand to mouth. Her father works at the Big House, and she persuades him that she should go and work there too. She meets the girl, Ratna, and they enjoy being together when possible, but their friendship is short-lived, as Ratna’s mother discovers them relaxing together, beats them both and dismisses Lakshmi. Lakshmi scornfully rejects Ratna’s effort to stay in touch, as they come from different backgrounds and are not allowed to be friends, but after some time she regrets that. She wants to be able to give Ratna a present for her birthday, as her Dada tells her that rich people do that, but she has no money. An idea strikes her, and, having arranged to meet Ratna the following night, she takes her to a beautiful clearing in the wood, full of flowers, and tells her she can go there when everything seems more than she can handle. They agree to stay friends, and Lakshmi says ‘In the bliss of our laughter, I am free’ but a year later, when Ratna has turned sixteen, she comes to tell Lakshmi that her marriage has been arranged. They are both very upset, and that is the end of the story.
This is evidently a very worthy project. This slim volume will need to be displayed, as it may not show very clearly spine-out, but the unusual story is worth promoting.