Our Favourite Or Not So Favourite Teachers From Children's Books

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What would September be without remembering some of our favourite teachers? Here are 11 children’s books that remind us of some of our favourite and some annoying fictional teachers.

Vedanayagam From Swami And Friends

Swaminathan, or as he’s better known to all of us, Swami considers Mondays “unpleasant in the calendar”. He can’t help but shudder at the thought of school: “that dismal yellow building; the fire-eyed Vedanayagam, his class-teacher; and the Head Master with his thin long cane.” The fire-eyed teacher teaches some of the subjects himself, including Arithmetic. RK Narayan paints some of the most marvellous caricatures of teachers in the fictional village of Malgudi. This one, for instance, stands in sharp contrast to D Pillai, the history teacher who has never “frowned or sworn at the boys”. Then there’s the fanatic Mr. Ebenezar, the Scripture master who clenches his fists and bemoans the wretched idiots his students are.

Author: RK Narayan

Buy Malgudi Days books online here.

Savita Teacher From Nabiya

A teacher who helps us fall in love with books will always hold a special place in our hearts. Savita comes to Nabiya’s local school with stories packed with magic and adventure, opening up new worlds to the children she teachers there who, like Nabiya, listened “so hard that she hardly blinked her eyes.” While Savita Teacher’s English lessons, in which the children can make up stories and create puppets, come to an end when she moves on, “to take her special classes at another school,” Savita doesn’t forget the special spark she saw in Nabiya, and returns to visit her at home and to give her the book which first captured her imagination. The story itself is wonderful, but Mhasane’s gently rendered watercolours take the book to a whole new level. 

Author: Chatura Rao. Illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane

Publisher: Tulika Publishers

Shop Nabiya online here.

Mrs. Khanna From The Adventures of Stoob

“They say dinosaurs are extinct, but they haven’t seen Mrs. Khanna… Watch her toss innocent children into the air and eat them before they hit the ground!” That is how ten-year-old Stoob introduces the reader to his headmistress, who we find out, also has the famous Ice-Vision look. Oh and her full name is Mrs. Trishala T-for T-Rex Khanna. Stoob’s adventures extend across three books – Testing Times, A Difficult Stage, and Mismatch Mayhem, with the stories packed with jokes, friendship, and of course school life. There’s the lovely Mrs. Devraj, the Class Seven teacher who happens to turn Stoob to a quivering puddle of teenage crush every time and the terrifying Hindi teacher, Mrs. Chawla who has a penchant for giving “rambling speeches about how this generation is disconnected from the ‘real’ India.”

Author: Samit Basu. Illustrated by Sunaina Coelho

Publisher: Red Turtle

Buy The Adventures of Stoob online here.

The Teachers From Counting On Moru

Both the teachers in Counting on Moru are simply called ‘teacher’ – but they couldn’t be more different from one another. The first is the type who discourages questions, unleashes his bad temper on students, and rules with an iron fist. Such a teacher is more than enough to completely discourage a boy like Moru, who loves daydreaming almost as much as he loves numbers. Step in teacher number two – an educator who knows how to bring the best out of everybody and has an innate knack for increasing self-worth and confidence. All the more touching for the contrast between the two – and the fact that everyone can relate to both these characters to someone they’ve encountered within the four walls of school at one time or another.

Author: Rukmini Banerji. Illustrated by Nina Sabnani

Publisher: Pratham Books

Buy Counting on Moru online here.

Mr Oliver From Mr Oliver’s Diary

Mr Oliver has to be one of the most memorable characters written by Ruskin Bond. A teacher at a prep school, of course in the hills, life isn’t straightforward for him. What with the wig-toting Olly, as he’s known, having to handle a bunch of boisterous boys and at the same time nursing a crush on a colleague, Ms Ramola. As we get a glimpse into his life from snippets from his diary, we also find out that he is busy dousing fires of all sorts, including a real fire, sleepwalking students, and even a whole knot of frog invasion.

Author: Ruskin Bond

Publisher: Puffin

Shop Mr. Oliver’s Diary online here.

Theresa Miss From Simply Nanju

Sometimes it’s possible to see things through the teacher’s eyes, even when the story is narrated from the perspective of the students. So while Theresa Miss comes across as irritable and slightly distant, there’s still a sense that she has the very best interests of her {unruly!} students at heart. Especially when we discover towards the end of the book that apart from taking on the needs of a full class of differently abled students every day, she’s struggling to make sure that one particular boy is protected from an unsafe home environment. 

Author: Zainab Sulaiman

Publisher: Duckbill Books

Buy Simply Nanju online here.

Granny Grit From Horrid High

Horrid High, where 12-year-old Ferg studies, is full of some fascinating teachers. There’s Granny Grit who likes to begin her class with news time, where students read the paper together, circle the stories that made them think and discuss the important ones. Doesn’t matter if Horrid High is the place for parents to dump their wards and forget about them, Granny Grit ensures all is better there. She’s way better than the former Principal Perverse, and definitely more than Cook Fracas, who loves nothing more than a food fight. All in all, quite a memorable set of teachers.

Author: Payal Kapadia

Publisher: Puffin

Buy Horrid High online here.

Mahasweta Devi From The Why Why Girl

It takes a very special person to channel the energies of a child as spirited as Moyna in The Why Why Girl in productive directions. Mahasweta Devi writes about her experiences working with the Shabar tribe in this book, and while she’s not Moyna’s teacher in the formal sense, Devi is the one who gives Moyna the freedom to ask questions, and even provides her with some answers. Eventually, Devi is also the one who helps make sure that Moyna is the first girl to attend the village primary school, paving the way for Moyna to become a teacher herself.

Author: Mahasweta Devi. Illustrated by Kanyika Kini

Publisher: Tulika Publishers

Shop The Why Why Girl online here.

Didi From City of Stories

Sometimes, the best teacher is the one who simply has time to listen to you. Didi, who has “warm eyes and a soft smile”, is one such person. While fathers are often busy reading papers, brothers tend to want to play cricket and everyone has an errand or two to run, Didi is someone who can take the time to listen to – and tell! – a captivating story. A colourfully and absorbingly illustrated tale which brings to life the busyness of Mumbai as much as it captures the immense power stories can have in our lives.

Author: Rukmini Banerji. Illustrated by Bindia Thapar.

Publisher: Pratham Books

Shop City of Stories online here.

Annie Miss From Dear Mrs. Naidu

Meet 12-year-old Sarojini, who sets off on making her government school a better one. She begins to pour her heart out in a series of letters to freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu as a classroom assignment set by a slightly unusual teacher, Annie Miss. The teacher tells Sarojini about the Right to Education Act, and helps her put together a committee of teachers and parents to revitalize the school. Dear Mrs. Naidu takes you into the classroom of government schools and reminds you of some of the amazing work being done by the teachers there.

Author: Mathangi Subramanian

Publisher: Young Zubaan

Buy Dear Mrs. Naidu online here.

Mrs Raj From The Bookworm

Mrs Raj is the kind of teacher we’d all like to have had — supportive of her students, and unwilling to tolerate nonsense from class bullies. But the real hero of this story is young Sesha himself, who stands up to the rough boys in class who are teasing him, taking strength from the things he’s learned in the books he loves to read so much. A story which goes to show just how much a child can achieve when they’re given a nurturing environment, and can rely on the support of their teacher.

Author: Lavanya R.N. Illustrated by Shilo Shiv Suleman

Publisher: Karadi Tales

Buy The Bookworm online here.


Together Bijal Vachharajani and Maegan Dobson Sippy dreamed up BAM! Books (bam_books) on Instagram, a space for diverse children’s and YA books, especially with a South Asian inspiration. Follow them here: https://www.instagram.com/bam_books/.