Just Right For Kids

There’s painfully little writing for children on the lives and cultures of indigenous communities in India.

Written by Paromita Chakrabarti | Updated: March 18, 2017 6:22 am
A Village is a Busy Place by Rohima Chitrakar & V Geetha

Name: A Village is a Busy Place
Author: Rohima Chitrakar & V Geetha
Publisher: Tara Books
Price: Rs 500
Appropriate for: 5+

There’s painfully little writing for children on the lives and cultures of indigenous communities in India. Thankfully, publishers such as Tara Books are addressing the gap with their gorgeously produced, interactive art/activity books that evolve out of interactions between writers, artists and community members. A Village is a Busy Place is the outcome of one such initiative by writer V Geetha and young patua artist Rohima Chitrakar.

The book, designed as a scroll, invites readers to participate in the communal life of Santhals, one of India’s most prominent Scheduled Tribes. Chitrakar’s artwork is a tapestry of intricate details. From boisterous wedding celebrations to everyday livelihood pursuits (hunting, harvesting, going to the market); from gatherings in the evening where people unwind over music, dance and song to the passage of seasons, young readers are drawn into a universe they have little knowledge of.

The scroll is more a jigsaw puzzle than a guided tour. Geetha’s text provides clues to the scenes in Chitrakar’s busy universe, but it’s only the patient and avid reader who can unravel and locate them in the panorama of village life. That could mean hours sprawled on the floor, with the scroll laid out, exploring life away from gaming consoles and urban cityscapes. For today’s gadget-dependent lives, that would be no mean feat.

Burning Bright

When I Grow Up I Want to be a Tiger by Prerna Singh Bindra

Name: When I Grow Up I Want to be a Tiger
Author: Prerna Singh Bindra
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
39 pages
Price: Rs 250
Appropriate for: 6+

After a century of steady decline, 2016 brought in good news for tigers, with their numbers going up marginally across the globe. India, in particular, had reasons to cheer as censuses revealed that it was home to about 70 per cent of the world’s total tiger population. One of the reasons why Project Tiger — India’s tiger conservation programme — has succeeded is because, apart from adequate funding, the crisis and its fallouts have widely been talked about.

Books such as When I Grow Up I Want to be a Tiger, therefore, become crucial to the conservation story because it starts with the building blocks of society — its children — and sensitises them to our environment.

T-Cub is a six-month old cub growing up in the forest of Baghvan. He frolics with his sister and is taught important life skills by his mother. But, as he soon finds out, even a predator is no match for the greed of man. There are steel traps and smoking nozzles that can snuff out their lives with one misstep, and T-Cub learns it the hard way, when his mother has a near-fatal encounter with one of these.

It’s a simple enough story, which is bolstered by a detailed afterword of sorts on tigers, the problems faced by the species and the ways one can help the ongoing narrative around conservation. There’s also a brief bibliography to introduce readers to the treasure trove of nature writing in India and outside. Just right to catch ’em young.

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