When trees, animals and birds talk about climate change in verse…

Archana Natraj

Grrrs to Hisses and their homes by Katie Bagli and Dr. Paramita Mukherjee Mullick, published by Inking Innovations, is an interesting collection of poems and stories in verse about climate change and conservation. Katie Bagli has 27 published titles to her credit, nearly all of which are on endearing animals and spectacular nature. This book has been co-authored by Dr. Paramita Mukherjee Mullick, who is a scientist and educationist.

With meticulously researched facts narrated in the voices of polar bears looking for ice to stalk their prey and turtles that feel lucky not to have choked on plastic, to Laburnum trees that are confused as to why there are no insects to pollinate their early blooms, the authors unfold the perils of climate change for the voiceless flora and fauna. The exigency is stark as we hear from the Emperor Penguins who can’t fly away from their rapidly changing habitat, the endangered Great Indian Bustard searching for his mate and the snow leopard who is labelled a thief and driven away from his own lands. As the authors spotlight hornbills laying eggs in concrete walls, weaver birds using plastic in their wondrous nests and pepper moths that have changed their colour to match the grey soot belched out by the factories, we are gently made aware of the devastating effects of human callousness, of conflict and pollution and Nature’s vulnerable species, struggling to adapt.

Some poems are extremely informative, giving children insights into the importance of evergreen trees in the ecosystem, the pneumatophores of the mangroves and insectivorous plants. With spotlights on marine life, parakeets, crocodiles, snakes and more, the book enriches and entertains the reader providing a peek into the fascinatingly diverse world of Nature around us, as they enjoy the verse.

There is also hope for positive action and change as Planet Earth confidently declares to carbon dioxide that “good sense has begun to prevail”. A benevolent Mr. Prithvi saves a Karanj tree from the concrete strangling its roots. Farmer Gopi realizes his folly in decimating wild flowers by thoughtlessly spraying chemical pesticides as he finds that the bees have vanished.

Indian children’s literature is warming up to climate change and this book will be a wonderful and much needed complement to school EVS texts. Listening to distraught animals directly puts the reader right in the characters’ shoes and builds empathy and connect. Each nugget of information on endangered species, vanishing habitats, human-animal corridor conflicts can be used as starting points to inspire research on climate change and the need for conservation of flora and fauna. Poems set to songs like Octopus’s garden and Imagine by the Beatles lend themselves to easy dramatized recitation. One can even easily visualize small field trips where children are encouraged to look for where species around us have had to adjust their biological patterns and eating habits due to human interference, like the bats under the bridges mentioned in the book. Students can be encouraged to look for Indian conservationists working in diverse ways to save the world from human destructiveness, often against insurmountable odds.

Like many of Katie Bagli’s books, the illustrations of adorable animals are done by Katie herself. Children can easily be inspired to create similar art by adding their own dialogues to demonstrate their understanding of the many repercussions of the climate change crisis on various animal species. 

The climate change narrative has often remained an isolated, ice melting doomsday prediction in the future state while the dangers posed by environmental emergencies affect species and their habitats everyday all around us. Books like this build awareness in even the youngest readers, evoking hope and prompting urgent action. Every small change we make matters. Environmental action is not about us humans saving endangered species, but about us recognizing our solipsism, realizing that we are but a strand in the complex and intriguing web of Nature. 

‘Grrrs to Hisses and their homes’ by Katie Bagli and Dr. Paramita Mukherjee Mullick

Publisher: ‎ Inking Innovations Paperback: ‎ 96 pages

Recommended Reading age: ‎ 8 – 12 years

 Price: Rs. 275/-

The author is a transportation engineer who currently follows her passion for teaching, story telling and inspiring a love for reading. She runs creative writing classes, book clubs and  teen life skills workshops and blogs at https://archanablogs.wordpress.com/. She can be reached at anatraj@gmail.com.

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