About the Author: Sunita Mistry Shah
Sunita is the creator behind The Jai Jais, a growing collection of books, yoga/mindfulness and educational resources for children centred around Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
Sunita has blended her expertise as a Speech and Language therapist with her children’s natural curiosity about their faith to produce the collection for children, of all ages and backgrounds. She has always been an avid reader and has an enviable book collection. A Mother of two young boys; story time is still a treasured time of the day with them.
Sunita’s Indian roots are important to her and despite growing up in a little town in Cheshire, which was not very diverse, thanks to her parent’s encouragement she has upheld her traditional Gujrati culture and values. Keen to do the same for her own children and ignited when her eldest son, Syon, began asking questions about the temple in her home, Sunita’s spark to create books about Hindu characters came to fruition. He would talk about the elephant god, the monkey god and the powerful fork ‘trident’ of Lord Shiva which he thought was like King Triton from The Little Mermaid.
Sunita admitted she would often ‘make up’ stories from memory and from what her grandfather and mother had taught her, but this never seemed to be enough. Hunting around, she realised that while there were a few books for school-aged children and beyond, resources for pre-school children were scarce. That is when she decided to write her own. She wanted to develop a book which was suitable for that age, with relatable imagery. Sunita started researching and wrote her first book about the elephant-headed God Ganesh, which was released in 2015. Using the power of Social Media, Sunita advertised for an illustrator, and was introduced to James Ballance who worked in a special needs school with children with severe learning difficulties. It was a divine connection, and eighteen number has changed books later, James continues to work his magic with The Jai Jais.
The books have been well received across the generations. A special moment was seeing her 100-year-old grandfather sitting with her three-year-old son reading and talking about the characters in the books. It was precious to see how grandparents can be so involved and have a common focus with their grandchildren, bridging the generation gap.
While being a mother has given her the thirst to produce the books, her background in speech and language therapy arms her with the essential ingredients to write for children. Sunita is the National Advisor for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy and delivers training to the NHS and educational and private establishments on supporting bilingual children and plays an integral role in delivering a culturally competent service.
Sunita is passionate about children enjoying their childhood and not growing up too fast, whilst creating memories and interactions that will last a lifetime. Sunita now resides in the countryside where she focuses on her children, her writing, her work and cultivating mindfulness.