By Avantika Bhuyan, Jul 02, 2021 12:00
In the past several years, one has seen young children and teens take up environmental activism, be it Greta Thunberg or, more recently, Izzy Raj-Steppings in Australia. With climate change becoming more and more apparent in our daily lives, it has become all the more important to talk to children about the causes and consequences of environmental degradation. And now authors have come up with books that help you do exactly that but in an engaging and humorous way. None of these stories are preachy or judgemental, but bring the issues of encroachment, mindless development, poaching, and deforestation to the fore.
Budgie, Bridge and Big Djinn:
This thrilling tale by Ranjit Lal features 14-year-old Shoma, or Budgie, an outspoken teen, who stays with her Nani in Mehegtal Cloud House—a homestay in the hills, ahead of Nainital. Her best friend is Big Djinn, a massive Tibetan Mastiff-German Shepherd mixed breed, who adopted her as a puppy. One day, a new member is added to this group— Brijesh or Bridge, a boy with a rocky past, who is brought to the homestay by her grandmother to steer him clear of his abusive father.
The adventures start when this formidable team comes up with ways to get back at her obnoxious cousins and their parents, who turn out to be bird-watching bullies. But the story takes a more serious turn when a rich, powerful developer threatens the peace and ecology of Mehegtal by wishing to construct a golf course and resort there. Thousands of deodar, fir and oak trees are felled in the process. Budgie, Bridge and Big Djinn must now find the courage to deal with a tough opponent, while saving their precious town from environmental degradation.
There’s a Leopard in My House:
This is a delightful book authored by Vaishali Shroff, and illustrated by Urvashi Dubey. It all starts when little Leela comes home from school, only to be greeted by a polite leopard, instead of her mum. He insists that this is his house too. And thus starts a sensitive tale about how humans tend to encroach onto wild lands, home to scores of animals, displacing them in turn. Leela, touched by the story, teams up with the leopard to try to save one such forest, resulting in an adventure for both of them.
P.S. What’s Up With the Climate? and A Cloud Called Bhura:
Bijal Vachharajani’s book, A Cloud Called Bhura, is going to be counted as a timeless classic for years to come. A multi-layered story, it serves as an introduction to kids to climate change and global warming. And yet, at no stage, is it preachy. In fact, the illustrations by Aindri C and oodles of humour by Vachharajani keep not just the kids but the adults engrossed and invested in the story throughout as well. The story starts with Amni waking up to a massive brown cloud covering the skies. She and her three friends, Mithil, Tammy and Andrew, start investigating the matter as the cloud starts impacting the weather in Mumbai, bringing in scalding rain and suffocating gases. They set out to get rid of this noxious cloud with the help of a scientist and a lawyer. “In this inspiring tale that’s also a great read, Vachharajani manages to weave in other strands of progressive politics, from queer rights to Ambedkarite politics, into the narrative without any of it feeling forced,” writes Bibek Bhattacharya in a Mint Lounge article, published in September, 2019.
Vachharajani explores the theme of climate change yet again in her book, P.S. What’s Up With the Climate, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan. She continues to address this complex issue in her own inimitable humorous, albeit thought-provoking style. It’s set in a world where the lives of all animals has gone topsy-turvy as it’s suddenly too hot, too cold, no rain or too much rain. “Grizzly bears don’t know whether to sleep, penguins don’t know what to eat. Kangaroos are escaping forest fires, bees are groggy from all the pesticide. In a world overrun by the climate crisis, is it time to panic yet?” states the book description.
Ira The Little Dolphin and Lai-Lai the Baby Elephant:
These wonderful books have been authored by leading wildlife and conservation filmmaker, Shekar Dattatri. In Ira, one meets a happy little dolphin, who is content doing backflips in Lake Chilika. Little does she know of the threats that Irrawaddy dolphins face. The book comes alive with photos, bringing the subject a little closer to young readers, aged 3 to 6. The other book—a bilingual one—introduces the kids to a playful little elephant, who is curious about the world he inhabits. The book stresses on the need to conserve the forests and jungles to ensure a happy life ahead for elephants like Lai-Lai.
This is yet another delightful book by Vaishali Shroff, which introduces kids to the wonders of the Chitwan National Park. As big as 1,78,000 football fields, this is Nepal’s first protected national park and is home to nearly 500 species of birds, one-horned rhinos, tigers, and clouded leopards. Shroff takes one on a journey through Chitwan through the eyes of a young girl, Sita, who dreams of being a nature guide like her father. With illustrations by Kalp Sanghvi, the book follows her adventures through the jungle.