There is a lot of excitement around the ICC World T20 cricket championships in Sri Lanka these days, but not all of it is on the pitch. In partnership with the International Cricket Council, Room to Read has released two new original children’s books based on the lives of cricket stars Virat Kohli of India and Angelo Mathews of Sri Lanka. Amid the ICC World T20 excitement, we caught up with the writer of Virat’s Inning and the illustrator of Little Angelo’s Big Day in Cricket, to hear more about their experiences bringing the stars’ stories to life.
Aruna Keerthi Gamage, illustrator of Little Angelo’s Big Day in Cricket, has been involved with Room to Read’s Book Publishing program for five years and has illustrated more than 10 books in Sri Lanka.
Aruna: I read children’s story books while I was growing up—especially those from the Soviet Union and China. I realized that good children’s books manage to strike a harmony between storyline and illustrations. You cannot separate the two. As I got older, my curiosity for learning the art of illustration also grew, so I started searching for new training opportunities in this area.
Room to Read: How was the concept for Angelo’s book developed?
Aruna: Angelo’s book was a challenge since it was a biography and I had to determine how true I wanted to stay to his actual life. I had to imagine his childhood in my mind. I also tried to imagine what an aspiring cricketer would go through in this country—the feeling of wanting to play for their country.
For research, I surveyed newspaper articles, the internet and other archival materials to observe his features and physical attributes. I also met Angelo and his family members and did extensive interviews with them.
Room to Read: What makes an illustrator successful? What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators?
Aruna: Well, first and foremost: understand children. Illustrations should talk to children and be attractive. Think out of the box and also, newcomers should have the ability to observe the world around them.
Bimal Mohan is a sports journalist by profession, but his passion for writing led him to Room to Read. He found his niche within our Book Publishing program in India, and authored this year’s original title Virat’s Inning, based on the life of cricket star Virat Kohli.
Bimal: Well, being a sports journalist, the one question that we often ask sports stars is how they plan to give back to the game. This question stands true for me as a journalist, too. I believe that our generation will only leap forward when we give back to society. So when I got an offer to write for children, I had no second thoughts.
Room to Read: Was it difficult writing a book on a famous cricketer?
Bimal: Yes and No. No, because this exercise was in a way similar to reporting as a sports journalist. Yes, because normally when we write our news reports, we do so for audiences which are at least young adults and upwards and not small children. Writing for children requires a different outlook.
Room to Read: What interested you most in Virat’s story?
Bimal: Irrespective of the sport, every champion has a unique story. All of them cross a difficult hurdle to reach the pinnacle—athletes like Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, Sachin Tendulkar and Lance Armstrong. Virat is no different. He is a true champion in the making.
He lost his father in the midst of playing an important match, but continued to play, which speaks volumes about his mental state. Sports teach a lesson about duty, honor and teamwork. Virat Kohli learned it the hard way and came out the other side with flying colors.
Room to Read: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Bimal: Observe, persevere and read as much as you can.
Learn more about our partnership with ICC at http://www.roomtoread.org/wt20