Fabulous nature

Print edition : January 31, 2020

Critters Around our Homes, Sanjay Sondhi, illustrated by Sushama Durve, Kalpavriksh, 2018, pages 65, Rs.150.

The Ghost of the Mountains, Sujatha Padmanabhan, illustrated by Madhuvanti Anantharajan, Kalpavriksh and Snow Leopard Conservancy–India Trust, 2008, pages 24, Rs.100.

Po Tricks his Foe, Sharmila Deo, illustrated by Niloufer Wadia, Kalpavriksh & Eklavya, 2018, pages 22, Rs.75.

Saving the Dalai Lama’s Cranes, Neeraj Vagholikar, illustrated by Niloufer Wadia, Kalpavriksh, pages 56, Rs. 150.

Circle of Life, Tanya Majmudar, illustrated by Sushama Durve, Kalpavriksh, 2019, pages 22, Rs.130.

Khari Journeys through Kachchh, Sujatha Padmanabhan and Shruthi Ramakrishna, illustrated by Kalyani Ganapathy, Kalpavriksh, 2018, pages 48, Rs.130.

People & Wildlife, Tanya Majmudar, Sujatha Padmanabhan, Janaki Lenin, Gangadharan Menon, Ashish Kothari, Nikit Surve, V. Arun, Akila Balu, illustrated by Nayantara Surendranath, Kalpavriksh, 2018, pages 65, Rs.200.

The Poop Book, Tejaswini Apte-Rahm and Sujatha Padmanabhan, illustrated by Priya Kuriyan, Kalpavriksh, 2018, pages 24, Rs.100.

Secrets of the Jungle, Tanya Majmudar and Sharmila Deo, illustrated by Sushama Durve, Kalpavriksh & Last Wilderness Foundation, 2016, pages 80, Rs.150.

Shero to the Rescue, Ashish Kothari, illustrated by Anusha Menon, Kalpavriksh, 2015, pages 40, Rs.130.

Something to Chew On, Sujatha Padmanabhan, Shiba Desor, Sharmila Deo, Tanya Majmudar, illustrated by Rohan Chakravarty, Kalpavriksh, 2018, pages 80, Rs.200.

These 11 books on various aspects of conservation have been created by a team of authors and illustrators who understand the mind of children.

The Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz once said: “The way to educate adults is to teach them about conservation as children. Older people are too old to understand that. We should raise legions of conservationists in order to save our world.” He wrote this 30 years back, but it is all the more pertinent today. There is not much material for children on conservation. The situation has not improved even after environmental science was included in the curriculum in schools.

The lack of reading material for children in India, on any subject, is a concern that has not received much attention. What little we get, mostly in English, tends to be didactic and preachy and talks down to children. No wonder children give them a miss.

J.R.R. Tolkien once said that there was no such thing as writing for children. In our country, we underestimate the intellectual capability of children and are inclined to get them fairy tales or books on dinosaurs.

Kalpavriksh, an environmental action group, came into being in 1977 when a few students got together to protect the Delhi ridge that was being threatened by urban expansion. This Pune-based organisation has grown over the years, working for environmental protection through advocacy, legal action and education, and it publishes books and pamphlets on environmental issues.

Kalpavriksh has come out with 11 delightful books that are sure to sustain the interest of children. The Last Wilderness Foundation and Oxfam have also lent a hand in this effort. The team of imaginative writers who understand the mind of a child, helped by a set of creative artists, take the readers on a fabulous journey into the world of nature. The books are about the various dimensions of conservation, written in a straightforward and simple language and cover subjects from the black-necked crane to the honeybee.

Issues relating to the environment, such as local livelihoods, are also dealt with, all in an appealing format. Some of the books, like Something to Chew on, about the food we eat, transcend the distinction between adult and children’s reading material. This particular book has charming illustrations by Rohan Chakravarty, who made his name through his stylised drawings of the birds of India.

Secrets of the Jungle is a workbook with a list of 72 activities, in addition to basic information on birds, animals and reptiles. It is filled with illustrations and is an appealing way to teach environmental science. People & Wildlife contains true stories on wildlife from across India by well-known writers such as Janaki Lenin, Tanya Majumdar and Sujatha Padmanabhan.

Khari Journeys through Kachchh introduces this unique and little-known region of India, with its endemic birds and mammals. Kalyani Ganapathy’s pictures of cranes and wild asses are eye-catching. It also contains an interesting quiz section.

Shero to the Rescue is also about the wildlife of Kachchh, including the hedgehog and the desert monitor lizard. The beautifully illustrated book Saving the Dalai Lama’s Cranes introduces readers to the black-necked crane and other creatures of Arunachal Pradesh such as the red panda, the yellow marten and the serow through a charming story. The Ghost of the Mountains, designed and illustrated by Madhuvanthi Anantharajan, introduces the snow leopard to readers through a story set in a Ladakhi village. The Poop Book is about how different creatures defecate, like the vulture which poops on its legs, killing the germs there. It is a charmingly illustrated book. Circle of Life describes the four kinds of bees in India and how they live. Critters Around our Homes talks about squirrels, lizards, sparrows and cockroaches and is very informative. The story book Po Tricks His Foe centres around a pangolin, one of the most threatened animals in our wilderness.

Altogether a delightful and welcome collection of books. All the books are reasonably priced, ranging from Rs.100 to Rs.200, and make attractive gifts. Schools can buy them, to be given as prizes in their events. The main strength of these books is that they are capable of igniting a spark in young minds, the kind of education that Konrad Lorenz talked about.

I hope these titles will soon appear in other languages too, where they are needed more. I learn that already we have some of the titles in Guajarati and Kannada.

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