Guest post by Meera Sriram
Elephants, tigers, snakes. One cannot talk about wildlife of South Asia and not mention these animals. And when it comes to picture books, there are plenty featuring them in creative contexts besides pure non-fiction. Kipling’s Sher Khan probably gave us our earliest introduction to an Indian tiger in Western literature.
Fortunately, the trend stayed on. The more recent Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Seth and Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji from Lee & Low surprise us with the leverage tigers allow for comical storytelling, particularly when they’re perceived as elusive predators. However, Anushka Ravishankar’s Tiger on a Tree is a different take when a village debates on the fate of a timid tiger up a tree. There’s also a generous potpourri of books featuring elephants, if we sift through South Asian content for children. Road to Mumbai and Kali and the Rat Snake are among those that feature snakes in stories set in India.
We’ve read most of these books in our home and my own children stand testimony to how engaging and enriching it is to read about animal-life in faraway places. Stemming from this sentiment and my own inclination to write about our natural world, I’ve co-authored books that explore fascinating animals in very unique habitats in the Indian subcontinent.
In Bijoy and the Big River showcased in Tulika’s ‘Where I live’ series, kids follow Bijoy growing up by the mighty river, Brahmaputra. Bijoy is the son of a silk farmer in Assam. Children ‘ride’ with Bijoy on his special day trip on a ferry. But something magical happens (hint: it involves a baby dolphin!). River dolphins or xihus, as locals call them, are distinctly different from the well-known and commonly sighted bottle-nosed ocean dolphins. The endangered xihus continue to battle industrial traffic, hunting, and dam construction in their natural river habitats.
In both my books, Dinaben and the lions of Gir, and Bijoy and the Big River children are introduced to critically endangered wildlife species. Along the way, they are exposed to diverse landscapes, interesting vocations like silk and dairy farming, and wonderful communities tucked in some of the most beautiful niches in India. The relevance of including children in conversations around environmental threats cannot be overstated today. Because there’s only one planet that we and all living things must share.
Meera Sriram is a children's writer, and an early and multicultural literacy advocate. She enjoys writing on nature, immigrant experiences, and sometimes on life's everyday moments. Meera loves yoga, Indian classical dance, long walks, and curling up to read with her two children. She relies on chai (several times a day) to help go about life in Berkeley, California.
10+ South Asian Books to Celebrate Earth Day
Here's our round-up of some unique stories that remind us its not just Earth day but everyday, that we need to respect the Earth and take only what we need. Reduce, Re-use and Recycle! Use code EARTH15 to get 15% off our Earth Day collection (valid till April 30th 2019)
A Bhil Story: When their village faces imminent drought, the villages seek out the wise soul to guides them on how to safeguard the water in their community.
Alone In the Forest: Musa, a young boy sets off from his village to the forest to collect some firewood, but gets trapped. Beautiful illustrations bring alive the forest, and the boy's fears, but mother nature eventually helps him find a way out.
Aani and the Tree Huggers: Based on true events in north India (referred to as the Chipko Andolan), this story shares how a group of women courageously hugged trees to prevent them from being chopped. A powerful and heartwarming story of courage and standing up for our beliefs!
Crane Boy: This SABA Honor book shares a story about school-aged kids in Bhutan organizing the community and creating a crane festival to help make the depleting number of black-necked cranes feel at home. A beautiful story about a unique place on this earth.
Gobble You Up: Exquisite bookmaking and gorgeous illustrations come together in this book to share a Rajasthani trickster tale about a greedy jackal who decides to eat his friends up. Great for read-alouds!
Iqbal and his Ingenious Idea: When Iqbal sees his mother and baby sister coughing due to the firewood stove, he decides he must do something - He decides to work hard on his science fair project so he can use the prize money to buy a gas stove. However, his ingenuity leads to an even more sustainable solution!
Barefoot Book of Earth Tales: An engaging collection of seven tales from around the world about respecting and caring for the earth in gentle ways. Bright illustrations and fun activity pairings add to the appeal of this book!
Putul and the Dolphins: A young girl is delighted one day when two friendly dolphins leap right outside her window in the monsoons! A gentle reminder about how our worlds are so interspersed and we must empathize and be respectful of nature and animals around us.
The Boy Who Grew a Forest: Based on the true story of Jadav Payeng, who decided to save his island home from devastation erosion. He began by planting a thicket of bamboo which over the years grew into a forest.
Tiger Boy: Set in the Sunderbans, one of the natural wonders of the world, this book is an insightful perspective on the dilemma a young boy faces when a tiger cub is discovered; should we focus on his studies or save the tiger cub from being poached?
Where's the Sun: One morning, a mother and child go in search of the sun. Will they find it? Beautiful Warli illustrations take us on a journey where lively birds, quick-footed animals and busy humans meet and share the forest, the river and the mountain.
Also check out Together for Humanity