Title: Tiger Boy
Author: Mitali Perkins
Price: Rs 199
Appropriate for: 7+
Of late, I am “regressing” (as a colleague pointed out helpfully). It manifests itself in various ways — one of which is my newly-found voracious appetite for children’s books. I have dug up old favourites (Enid Blyton, Anna Sewell, Mark Twain), discovered new authors (Michael Morpurgo), and picked up books on a whim, drawn by the delightful illustrations and with a decided bias for animal-nature stories. It’s been a whole lot of fun and with my new-found enthusiasm, I eagerly picked up Tiger Boy, a book for young readers, based in the Sundarbans, the only mangrove forest with tigers.
The book is about a lost tiger cub who finds itself in a village adjoining the Sundarbans. Foresters work overtime to find the cub — the mother is getting antsy and may come over to the village — and it’s never a good thing to mix people and tigers. Also hunting for the cub, but with the evil intent to sell its skin and bones, is Mr Gupta, a rich newcomer to the island. Determined to spoil Gupta’s move and save the cub are two local children, Neel and his sister Rupa. Neel is a lively, bright child, with a fierce love for the Sundarbans and his village.
Read the book to find out who finds the cub — and how. It will be time well-spent. The language is easy, the tale, gripping. Young (and adult) readers are bound to get caught in the suspense and the action that surrounds the siblings’ quest for the cub. I found myself racing toward the end in one satisfying read. On the surface, the story is simple. But what I liked about the book is the multiplicity and complexity of issues that the author weaves in, effortlessly, in the narrative: climate change, gender discrimination, the press of poverty and how it compels you to work against your conscience.
Perkins narrates how along the quest, Neel grows up — in his understanding of his sister’s quiet desire to study, or his realisation that sometimes in life, you have to sacrifice your present for a better future. It is easy to identify with the child’s inability to concentrate on algebra, his mind filled with thought of a beautiful, lost cub and its distraught mother. I love the fact that Perkins moves beyond the tiger to dwell on the beauty of the Sundari trees, which
Neel’s family had fiercely guarded from wood cutters.
There is a minor irritant or two, one being that throughout the book, the cub is said to have escaped from the reserve. For those who know, a tiger cub won’t escape from its mother and siblings. It might get lost or wander away inadvertently. Notwithstanding the glitches, bring the Tiger Boy home, for your family and other children. Mine is doing the rounds among the neighbourhood kids.
Prerna Singh Bindra is a founder trustee, Bagh Foundation and a former member of the National Board for Wildlife.