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BizAsia talks to author-illustrator Kamlesh Patel on his ‘Tipu’ children’s books

Talented author-illustrator of the ‘Tipu’ series of children’s books, Kamlesh Patel, has released his most recent, to coincide with the Hindu festival of Holi – titled ‘The One Where Tipu Saves Holi’. However, where Tipu the elephant has been so far is quite a journey in itself. Having written and illustrated each book himself, with some very special help, children can go on adventures with Tipu in an educative and fun way through Patel’s books, with a Hindu festival and occasion focus. caught up with Kamlesh Patel, who is a Doctor/Surgical Registrar, to talk about his books, his motivations behind them and where Tipu will go next.

What would you say is your inspiration behind the series or indeed the first book?
Tipu’s first outing was to entertain the kids at our wedding with two books about Tipu’s Diwali adventure and Tipu saving Holi following during lockdowns in the last year. So many times as a child I remember being dragged to weddings and I just thought, if I could tie the wedding experience to a fun little story it would serve to entertain them but also perhaps educate them a little on the wedding ceremony. I was a little obsessional about it- I included details like the groom (my name) hidden on the bride’s (my wife Riya) hand as it is in real life. I’ve always thought elephants are such majestic creatures and I’ve always had a fascination with birds, kingfishers especially. The idea of a friendship between two contrasting creatures was the basis of the series.

I recently worked at Birmingham Children’s Hospital around the time of the first lockdown and had the idea of continuing the Tipu series from my colleague, a surgeon Mike Singh. There is a shortage of books written specifically for the under 5-year-olds as the content is not appropriate for them (death and violence). We often talked about passing knowledge of religion and culture to children and how it could be achieved in a fun but educational way in a manner in which young children under the age of 5 could appreciate. Mike’s 5 year old daughter, Vaishi gave feedback and was able to contribute to the storyline. Riya and I tried to design the two subsequent storylines (Diwali and Holi) to educate, whilst toning down events such as deaths and violent battles for a child audience. It was a challenge more than anything else to convincingly do this and maintain a coherent story with Tipu the elephant in which kids could enjoy.

What made you start writing/illustrating?
I started drawing from a young age. My parents and brothers enjoy arts/ crafts too- we encourage each other. Like most people I wanted to spend downtime in lockdown doing something constructive. When I wasn’t at work I wanted a creative outlet and the books were perfect for that. I spent a long time thinking of ideas for the books with Riya helping me with the story line. I can’t say the books are perfect but I’m happier with each new story.

Would it be right to assume that the illustrations came first and then the books? (Considering we already know you’re a great artist!)
You’re too kind! Smaller test pieces came together to form the first wedding book but larger illustrations inspired some of the pages of books. For example, I wanted to recreate bigger paintings of a giraffe being carried by balloons into the storyline to allow children to use their imagination. I was inspired by vintage artwork, particularly images of Ram and Laksman’s crossing on a bridge of rocks to Lanka.

You have been helping a good cause too – please could you tell us about that?
I’m fond of Birmingham Children’s Hospital having worked there on and off during my career to date. Birmingham Children’s Hospital charity seek to improve the lives of sick children who are patients at the trust. I’ve seen personally the work they do and it is so important to those children. At Diwali last year we supported the Birmingham Children’s Hospital charity which strives to improve the lives of sick children in so many ways. For Holi we are raising money for the Keyhole Surgery fund- a division of Birmingham Children’s Hospital charity.

The Keyhole Surgery fund supports the purchase of equipment, training and education, and research within General Surgery and Urological services within the children’s hospital. It was set up by Mr Parikh, a friend and mentor of mine who inspired me from a career perspective many years ago- several advances in techniques have occurred as a result of purchases made from the fund.

Tipu is a character who loves adventures and it’s wonderful that Hindu traditions/festivals/occasions are included. Can you let us into where Tipu may be heading next?
There are a few ideas I have but I wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises. I enjoyed illustrating the Holi book so much that I’m sure I’ll be getting my sketchbook out soon!


‘The One Where Tipu Saves Holi’ is on sale on Etsy. thanks Kamlesh Patel for speaking with us.