BOOK REVIEW Short sto­ries with an en­vi­ron­men­tal mes­sage

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Dr Anita Bhat­na­gar Jain’s book Dilli ki Bul­bul is a de­light­ful col­lec­tion of il­lus­trated short sto­ries for chil­dren with an en­vi­ron­men­tal mes­sage. In a happy, un­hur­ried and non­alarmist way, the sto­ries in­tro­duce the child reader to so­cial is­sues such as air pol­lu­tion, health, earth­quakes, wa­ter con­ser­va­tion, etc. While overtly in­tended to be di­dac­tic (as re­vealed in the sub-ti­tle of the book), it sub­tly im­parts sim­ple age-old morals (e.g. with co­op­er­a­tion you can achieve more; with rights come du­ties, etc.) in a gen­tle, non-pre­scrip­tive fash­ion. Us­ing an­i­mal characters is a use­ful metaphor and a skil­ful ploy be­cause chil­dren con­nect with an­i­mals. The sto­ries use mod­ern, con­tem­po­rary mo­tifs to en­gage to­day’s young read­ers. For example, the epony­mous pro­tag­o­nist bird Bul­bul is seen (on the front cover) to use a smart phone to send What’sApp mes­sages. The con­tent of the mes­sage “Na­maste mausi” is sig­nif­i­cant as it sub­tly gives the mes­sage of the use of tech­nol­ogy for pos­i­tive uses such as con­nec­tion with fam­ily mem­bers. The an­i­mals go to watch an in­ter­na­tional cricket match In­dia against Sri Lanka – again a mod­ern-day ac­tiv­ity chil­dren iden­tify with. The il­lus­tra­tions are charm­ing. The colour­ful stylish pic­tures in all the sto­ries make for a cheer­ful look and feel, which help to sus­tain the reader’s in­ter­est, akin to a lat­ter­day Panch­tantra.

The use of Hindi means the book will reach a far wider child au­di­ence. The lan­guage is ac­ces­si­ble to chil­dren and yet it does not shy away from us­ing a few poly­syl­labic ‘samyuk­tak­shar’ words in be­tween, which would raise the child’s cu­rios­ity and won­der, en­cour­ag­ing the reader to look up the mean­ing per­haps in a dic­tio­nary or ask an adult. This method was em­ployed by the ac­claimed chil­dren’s au­thor Beatrix Pot­ter in her sen­sa­tion­ally suc­cess­ful Peter Rab­bit books pub­lished around 1904 – 1908, which have with­stood the test of time; this method keeps adult read­ers engaged too, if they’re read­ing aloud to a child. Where the word is par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult, the au­thor has given the mean­ing, for example in the story on earth­quakes (Jab dharti hil padi), the mean­ing of the word bhukam­prodhi has help­fully been given in brack­ets. But this has not been over­done: some dif­fi­cult words have been left un­ex­plained, which stretches the child’s imag­i­na­tion, learn­ing the mean­ing from the context and build­ing the Hindi vo­cab­u­lary beau­ti­fully. Over­all, a very pleas­ing chil­dren’s book of its genre.



Ti­tle: Dilli ki Bul­bul Au­thor: Dr Anita Bhat­na­gar Jain Pub­lisher : Vidya Prakashan Mandir Price: Rs 150 Pages: 64

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