BOOK REVIEW Short stories with an environmental message
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.
PROF GEETA GANDHI
Title: Dilli ki Bulbul Author: Dr Anita Bhatnagar Jain Publisher : Vidya Prakashan Mandir Price: Rs 150 Pages: 64