Norwich author's children's novel blends art and adventure with anxiety

Norwich author Sangu Mandanna, who has a new book out for middle school-aged children

Norwich author Sangu Mandanna, who has a new book out for middle school-aged children - Credit: Sangu Mandanna

A modern take on the traditional Indian stories a Norwich author heard in her childhood forms the theme of her first novel for middle school-aged children.

Sangu Mandanna, 33, who lives in Old Catton, says her new book Kiki Kallira Breaks A Kingdom, is an inspirational resource for younger readers that deals with themes of anxiety and the power of imagination.

She said: "It's a fun and exciting book on how a child struggling with her own mind finds a way to be a strong hero and is based on the stories I heard growing up, the stories of southern Indian folklore.

"I wanted the protagonist to be close to me, I didn't intend for her to be so like me, but that's what sometimes happens!

"There are some similarities, as, like me, she is from a British/Indian background and has OCD and anxiety.

"I wanted to create a character that has to find a way to be hero and to be an inspiring young heroine."

The main character's love of art is the basis of the story, the very hobby she uses to escape from the worries of childhood life.

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The doodles she has created spring to life and she is sucked through the pages of her sketchbook into a magical city.

Kiki Kallira Breaks A Kingdom features beautiful illustrations from Nabi Ali

Kiki Kallira Breaks A Kingdom features beautiful illustrations from Nabi Ali - Credit: Hachette

Sangu said: "She escapes her anxiety by drawing wonderful, vivid art and I suppose I've been trying to do the same for my whole life. I've found that being creative is a great way to learn and a great way to expand your horizons.

"Anxiety is a big theme in the book. Many children have anxiety in the under-12 age group so this is a way of talking about. it.

"I think mental health is hard to talk about at any age, especially for school children.

"People of all ages turn to treatment or self medication or pursuits that will help and the things I use like drawing and writing are good examples.

"I think there's huge value in finding something you can do day to day that keeps you creative, especially given the last 18 months we've had.

"Some people may turn to gardening or watching movies, but for me it's writing and drawing."

Sangu came to England to study as an 18-year-old and went to the University of Lancaster studying English literature and creative writing, but ended up living in Norfolk with her husband, who is originally from Suffolk.

The couple have three children, aged four to nine.

Kiki Kalliri Breaks A Kingdom is Sangu's sixth book, but her first for the under-12s. Her previous five books were aimed at slightly older readers.

Sangu said: "I love writing for this younger age group, it's harder in some ways, but easier in others.

"It's harder because you have to be more mindful over the language you use and how you phrase vocabulary, but then it's easier because there's so much joy in this age group and you can really let your imagination go."

Kiki Kallira Breaks A Kingdom is out now

Kiki Kallira Breaks A Kingdom is out now - Credit: Hachette

The author adds that writing the book at home while looking after a young family wasn't drastically hindered by home-schooling or the other difficulties of lockdown.

She said: "My husband and I were both working from home before the pandemic anyway so not much has changed but it was a bit tricky having our three children at home.

"I've had plenty of praise so far, people have been very positive and the critics have been incredible. I've done a few school visits which have gone well with more online visits planned for this week.

"My son, who is nine, likes the books and enjoys getting to read them before anybody else but the younger two just see it as my job really - they think it's just what mum does!"

Kiki Kallira Breaks A Kingdom is out now, published by Hachette Books.

For more information on Sangu Mandanna see