Muchkund and his Sweet Tooth by Madhav Gadgil has all the elements of a book that will be enjoyed both by children and grown-ups. Muchkund is a young ghost who belongs to the Vetal Baba gang of ghosts. Muchkund is not your average ghost, satisfied with merely floating about in a wispy white outfit and scaring people. Instead, Muchkund takes a keen interest in acquiring knowledge and often spends his time attending lectures and observing scientific experiments. When his Uncle Jambavan invites Muchkund to spend the Deepavali vacations in Edjar forest in Gadchiroli, the young ghost is delighted. All it takes is a giant leap for him to reach his destination, and soon Muchkund is enjoying his vacations with his cousins Neel, Angad, and Sushen. What makes the vacation especially delectable is the presence of innumerable hives of the rock bees, festooning the trees in Edjar forest. For the first few days Muchkund enjoys himself as he gorges on the delicious honey from the beehives. Even the fact that Muchkund and the others are attacked by armies of honeybees does not stop them from plundering the beehives.
Then Munchkund’s conscience wakes up and he realizes that while he and the others have been enjoying the honey, they have been responsible for the death of thousands of bees killed defending their hives. He proposes to Jambavan that they attack only that part of the hive where the honey is stored and spare the rest. Jambavan is naturally taken aback at this but soon he understands the concerns that prompt Muchkund’s suggestion. After much discussion the unbelievable happens – the bees agree to let the bears eat honey as long as they don’t eat the eggs, larvae and pupae. What happens when Vali, the troublemaker, breaks this truce and attacks a bee hive? Do the bees and bears become enemies once again? Does Muchkund’s attempt to save bees even while ensuring that the bears are not denied their favourite food remain unsuccessful?
Narrated by the well-known ecologist Dr. Madhav Gadgil, Muchkund and his Sweet Tooth is a book that seamlessly weaves fact and fiction to create a storyline that resonates with genuine solutions to the very real problems of our world. That these problems are nature related and the solutions suggest ways of protecting nature makes this a book that is very relevant today. Muchkund is a wonderful character, breezy and carefree but with a strong sense of what is right and wrong. In today’s use and throw world, a hero like Muchkund is not only unusual but deserving of praise. His earnest desire to protect the bees is commendable. All too often a good plan remains unsuccessful because of a few selfish people. Vali ably represents this selfish section of society, intent only on fulfilling his own desires. But it is the determination of the other bears to punish Vali in order to continue the good work begun by Muchkund that really surprised me. The decision of the bears to punish one of their own people sends out a strong message of how unity and a vision for the future is an essential ingredient for the success of any plan.
Maya Ramaswamy’s wonderfully detailed illustrations not only entertain, they also educate. The book provides relevant information about bees, ghosts, and bee hives in a way that does not interfere with the narrative. Rather, it helps add another layer to what is a well-written story and ensures that we take away much more than a story when we finish the book.
This large sized book, sumptuously published by Pratham Books, is a joy to behold. At Rs. 55 it is a steal and an investment that parents and educators should not hesitate to make, considering the many hours of fun and information it will give children.
The author has written over a dozen books for children of various ages. She can be reached at [email protected].