NEW DELHI, April 30, 2014
Munia and her pet elephant bird
The long-extinct giant, flightless elephant bird, once a common sight on the Madagascar island, comes alive in a book that introduces children to a world of mystery.
“The Elephant Bird” by wildlife activist Arefa Tehsin is a about a young and brave girl Munia in a village called Adhania in India who befriends such a bird, whose species were believed to have wiped out due to increase of human settlements on the island and cutting down of forests.
The pictorial book, having traditional Gond art and illustrations, is published by Pratham under its ‘Read India’ movement in six languages including Hindu, Kannada, Marathi and English. The illustrations are by Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja.
The book begins with the disappearance of Vayu, one of the two horses which pull carts in the village. Everyone believes it is the elephant bird, the only one of its species living in Adhania, that has eaten the horse.
Though the villagers kept a safe distance from the bird, Munia was quite friendly to it.
They had something in common — Munia could not walk properly as she limped and the bird could not fly as it had no wings.
The villagers were also angry with Munia for her closeness with the bird and held her equally responsible for the loss of Vayu. They want to kill the bird.
Were the villagers right? Will they ever be friends with Munia and the bird?
Munia’s tale reached many villages and the villagers in faraway hamlets whispered to each other, “Munia knew that giant one-feathered elephant bird had not swallowed the horse!”PTI