Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category


Beetles, cheetahs, hyenas…

Review of The Land of the Setting Sun and other Nature Tales; Arefa and Raza Tehsin; TERI – The Energy and Resources Institute 2014; Rs 225; pp 168

– Shana Susan Ninan

For the first 10 years of my life I grew up on a lush farm, surrounded by animals and greenery. My father used to narrate many stories – real life experiences and hearsays – at bedtime and when we travelled. Probably why I am still a nature lover. So when I read Arefa and Raza Tehsin’s The Land of the Setting Sun and other Nature Tales, I could identify with the characters and the life portrayed in the stories.

As much as they are satirical, the eight tales in the book refreshingly point a finger at the reader, making us stop and think, every few pages or so. Scarab the dung beetle is a typical portrayal of the people in our society who are sidelined – the ones who do all the dirty work but are seldom noticed. ‘The Six Riddles’ highlights the virtue of patience, a quality we must watch and learn from animals. ‘The Nectar of the Angels’ talks about the much-discussed topic of the angels deciding to share honey or nectar with earthlings. ‘The Steeds of Witches’ is a tale I enjoyed reading. I’ve read about and watched jackals very closely; so a story about a member of their family, the hyena was a welcome read.

The owl and its characteristics takes centrestage in ‘The Owl-Man Coin’. ‘Hanu and Sheru’ looks at rivalry and tolerance from a different perceptive. In ‘The Best Kept Secret’, what struck me was nature’s designs and symmetry. Animals, birds, plants and natural formations all have symmetry in them, a mark of their maker. Ending the storytelling in a very unique way, the authors describe the lithe and lovable animal, the Cheetah, in ‘One Thousandth Cheetah’. I liked the way Arefa and Raza have given human emotions and attributes to most of the animal characters in the tales.

The raised golden letters of the book’s title stand out against the silhouette-light colour background of the cover. The black and white sketches in each story is neatly done to reflect the mood of the tale narrated.

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Rating: 9.6/10 (7 votes cast)

A True Friend

Review of The Elephant Bird; Arefa Tehsin; Illustration by Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja; Pratham Books 2014; pp 20; Rs 40

– Shana Susan Ninan

A level 3 book from Pratham Books, a Bangalore-based organisation that strives to make sure that there’s a book in each child’s hand. Authored by Arefa Tehsin, honorary Wildlife Warden of Udaipur, and illustrated by Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja, this book  is meant for three-year-olds and upwards. But the fact that my one-and-a-half-year-old son was mesmerised by the colourful and vibrant illustrations is fact enough that all kids will enjoy this feast.

Munia’s limp forbids her from making any real companions. And the Elephant Bird is her only true friend. When one of the horses in the village disappears, the headmen and elders are quick to point fingers at the giant animal. Munia knows that the elephant bird is a harmless herbivore, and has definitely not eaten the horse! She voices her protest at the village council, gets shooed away and even her parents are mad at her. But knowing that the village folk plan to search for the elephant bird and harm it the next morning, Munia goes out at night to find the truth about the missing horse. Values such as friendship, honesty and caring are stamped in the foreground of this story.

This children’s picture book is inspired by the real Elephant Bird, one that became extinct in Madagascar, its home.

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Rating: 9.1/10 (7 votes cast)