Seeing how captivating my daughter found it, I realised that history comes to life and becomes interesting for a child especially if narrated in another child's voice. It need not be a mere string of dates and events. I looked around for similar accounts of Indian history and found a series called Once Upon an India published by Pratham Books. The four fictional tales based in different periods of Indian history have been penned by Subhadra Sen Gupta and illustrated by Tapas Guha.
A Royal Procession is set in the times of Emperor Ashoka. Parvati and her brother Laxman, children of a potter, go to the monastery one day to deliver some pots. They bump into a man who tells them he was a soldier who has now stopped fighting. The children tell him they wish they could also meet the king like he could. Their wish does come true and whats more they're in for a royal surprise!
The simple storyline is punctuated with details of what the palace was like and what they wore. Also there is a section at the end that talks about fun facts about life in those times.
Incidentally, Sen Gupta has recently authored a book called Ashoka The Great and Compassionate King. Published by Puffin Books, it is for an older child and also goes into details of how historians discovered what they know about Ashoka and the Mauryan period.
Sailing Home is about Basava and his sister Sundari who live in the port-town of Mamallapuram in the Pallava period. When their father, a sailor, doesn't return home when he should have, the children get worried. To find out what happened they go to the port where they meet sailors from foreign lands who do not speak their language. What will happen next?!
The fun facts at the end of the book talk about interesting things - sample this - people in those days not only dyed their hair but also used toothpicks after meals!
In Raza Meets the King you meet the royal tailor's son who goes to the palace with his father to deliver Emperor Akbar's clothes. The emperor is not happy with his new outfit and Raza uses his wits to save the day. I found this story utterly delightful!
In the fun facts section you learn that Akbar would choose from as many as thirty dishes every meal and that he enjoyed flying kites!
Marching to Freedom was written to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the historic Dandi March and through nine-year old Dhani's eyes, we learn about the thoughts of those who undertook it. Dhani also wants to join in and is gently persuaded by Gandhiji himself to stay back and do another very important job - that of feeding his goat Binni. The story illustrates the endearingly simple principles that the Mahatma lived by. The facts about the March at the end make all the more sense after reading the story.
Wish books like these would be used to teach history in schools!
Edited to add: Pratham Books have an online catalogue here. Or here in pdf version. To get hold of their books you can choose the ones you want from the catalogue and mail them the list or call them up (the contact details are in the last page of the catalogue) and they will ship them over. They have a stall in the Bangalore Book fair that is on till this weekend, you could pick the books from there. Some major bookshops like Landmark have started stocking sets of their books as well.