Books for the Multi-Culti Reader
The Elephant Bird by Arefa Tehsin, illustrated by Sumit and Sonal
The underdog overpowers her detractors. Check!
The unjustly accused is publicly exonerated. Check!
An unexpected friendship repairs foolhardy mistrust. Check!
Girl power saves all! Check!
Surely that sounds like just the superhero adventure tale you want to share with your kiddies!
Munia’s tiny village is in an uproar over a missing horse. Circumstantial evidence points to the single-feathered giant elephant bird – the very last of his kind! But Munia knows better: “Yes, he was big enough to swallow a horse, but that didn’t mean he had!” The elephant bird is Munia’s only friend, as she’s ostracized by the village children; because of her limp, she’s never invited to play their games. “Munia felt she had something in common with him. The elephant bird could not fly and Munia could not run.” She also realizes that he’s a “shy herbivorous bird.”
The villagers, however, are not convinced. “‘For years he has been lying silent, hatching his evil plans!’” the milkman insists. The crowd agrees the bird must be hunted down. When Munia attempts to defend her friend, she’s dismissed with an angry, “‘This girl has lost her mind!’” Even her parents harshly chide her.
So what’s a determined girl to do …? Dark jungle, howling jackals, screeching owls? Nothing will stop Munia from saving her innocent friend!
Author Arefa Tehsin – deemed an “honorary Wildlife Warden of Udaipur” – empowers, cheers, and rewards with her feel-good story of loyalty and truth. Artists Sumit and Sonal’s Gond-style art (a distinct, tribal folk art form originating from the Gondi or Gond community indigenous to Central India) capture Munia and her adventures in brilliant colors, and imaginative whimsy, inviting young readers to explore patterns and shapes, as well as appreciate unexpected details (that tiny brown mouse is never, ever far from all the action). The interactive possibilities makes this a book that keeps on giving …
Thanks to fabulous Pratham Books, a not-for-profit organization based in India with a mission to put “a book in every child’s hand,” this Bird is available in six Indian languages. For their global accessibility – 1800 titles (thus far) in 11 languages, with most of their titles costing less than 35 Indian rupees (50 U.S. cents!) – Pratham Books was recently commended by the Library of Congress Literacy Awards 2014, “For Its Effective Implementation of Best Practices in Literacy and Reading Promotion.” Here’s an empowering reminder that the most unlikely superheroes are the ones who are best at making everyday magic …