Session at Tata Steel Junior Kolkata Literary Meet

Kolkata friends, please drop in at the Junior Kolkata Literary Meet, Victoria Hall Grounds, if you want to know about the serpent hunters in the backyard!

Session: The Serpent Hunters in the Backyard

On 24th JanAt 9AM, ( At Victoria Memorial Hall Grounds )






The Hindu: Spoilt for Choice


Spoilt for CHOICE

 DECEMBER 09, 2016 00:00 
AREFA TEHSIN:I feel as happy as a clam in high water! The fact that the award is in collaboration with The Hindu , a daily that I have loved and regarded always, makes it all the more special.

The Hindu Young World -Goodbooks Awards 2017 will be announced on January 16, 2017 at The Lady Andal School in Chennai during The Hindu Lit for life. Read what the shortlisted authors and illustrators have to say about making it this far.

The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Awards is for children’s books published in India. It was introduced to promote excellence in children’s writing and illustration. The award aims to acknowledge innovative publishing trends, and recognise children’s literature as an independent and important field.

This is the second year the award will be given and the winners will be felicitated at The Hindu Lit for Life festival which will take place in Chennai on January 14, 15 and 16. This year, the awards will be given in two categories — Best Author and Best Illustrator. Each award will carry a cash prize of Rs. 50,000, a trophy and a citation.

The Hindu Young World -Goodbooks Award is the first in India to recognise different genres in children’s publishing and to honour authors and illustrators for their invaluable contribution. The Hindu Lit for Life, showcases the best of Indian literature and now provides a platform to promote excellence in Indian children’s books.

The Goodbooks website is a repository for Indian children’s books and provides a space to all those engaged with children to discourse on children’s literature.

Interview in Book Trotters Club



Arefa Tehsin is our hero at the book club! Why? Well, for starters she has been a forest warden. If that isn’t reason enough, we are awestruck by the fact that she gets to live admirably close to wild animals and writes books about living creatures we know very little about! This year has been extra special for the lady. After her book The Elephant Bird became Pratham Books’ choice for PBChampions, to be read across 3200 locations simultaneously in September, Arefa has scored another hit with her book Wild In The Backyard. She has been shortlisted for The Hindu Young World – Goodbooks Best Author Award 2017 to be announced in January. Harshikaa Udasi brings to us the story behind the forest warden, the writer and the wanderlust.

With Wild In The Backyard, you’ve made it to the shortlist of The Hindu Young World – Goodbooks Best Author Award 2017. Congratulations! January 2017 could bring in great news. We are doubly celebrating because one of our Book Trotters – Tanay Bhat – reviewed your book and got published in The Hindu.

Congratulations to Tanay!

I am delighted to make The Hindu-Goodbooks shortlist! Yes, they will be announcing the results in January during The Hindu’s Lit for Life literary festival, where I’ve been invited as a speaker as well. Hadn’t thought that I would be a part of the award ceremony too!

Your book The Elephant Bird was Pratham’s choice for PBChampions for promoting literacy. How was that experience?

I had not understood the scope and reach of this campaign when the book was selected. It was only when the pictures of sessions started pouring in from all over the country when it struck me. Sessions conducted by volunteers and communities in 25 different languages at 3200 plus locations from slums to the schools for specially-abled to Pranab Mukherjee’s Presidential Library! It was overwhelming, indeed, to see Munia and the Elephant Bird touch the hearts of so many children. Kudos to Pratham Books and the volunteers!

A forest warden and a writer. That’s got us intrigued already! Please tell us about your background. 

I come from a family of jungle lovers. My grandfather was one of the earliest big game hunters-turned-conservationists of India. He was a contemporary of Jim Corbett. My naturalist father Dr Raza H. Tehsin, fondly known as the Vasco da Gama of Mewar jungles is the initiator of the wildlife conservation movement in Southern Rajasthan. I have seen him fight for issues of conservation and wildlife protection like I wouldn’t fight for my own family!

I sort of grew up with jungles around me. My father was the Hon. Wildlife Warden of Udaipur district for 33 years and then I was appointed the honorary warden.

He always encouraged me to write. I’d started writing features for The Times of India in my school days. It was my partner Aditya who pestered me to take my writing more seriously and that’s when I penned down my first book – Iora and the Quest of Five – a fantasy novel based in a rainforest. Since I had grown with wild around me, the settings and subjects of my books came naturally to me.

Who or what is your inspiration?

Maybe it is the wild, jungles, animals…the things I love that inspire me. Anyway, I don’t wait for an inspiration. I just sit down and write.

What do you find more fascinating – books or wildlife?

Both. Equally. And both have been an integral part of my life. Wildlife – the real world around me. Books – the imaginary world I inhabit.

Do you sense that today’s children are keen on reading non-fiction? Especially about the wild?

Oh yes, anything that crawls, slithers, eats their own poop or has eight eyes is certain to grab their attention. Jerry Mander had said in his book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television that after sometime, if you ask a child, ‘where do oranges grow?’ she’ll say, ‘in a supermarket’. Most city-dwelling children today are alienated from the wild. But they are nonetheless fascinated by it. The problem is that there aren’t many avenues to bring them close to nature. I have observed the fascination of many young readers during my interactions with them – talks at literary festivals and schools – how much they enjoy knowing and reading about the wonders of the wild.

We know a lot of research goes into every book of yours. Could you tell us a little about how you structure out your book writing process?

Yes, many long hours of research go behind writing non-fiction books. Even behind fiction to a certain extent, if it has to ring true. Each book is different. And there is no set method to structure a book. For non-fiction I sometimes decide to divide it in chapters that I want to write before I begin. For fiction, especially novels, I draw a rough outline of the story and then let the story guide and lead me as I write. Sometimes it turns out to be completely different than how I had imagined it to be.

Can you tell us what’s in the offing?

The book called The Steed of Jungle God, which should hopefully get released this year. It is a collection of stories on my father’s 70+ years of experiences in the forests of Mewar, the phenomena which he has come across in the wild which can attributed to ghosts and spirits and his quest for rational explanations behind those phenomena.

A piece of advice for our budding writers please!

Books can be your best teachers and friends. Read a lot. Write a lot. Hone your skills. Don’t get stuck with the “rules” of writing. Or make publishing your final goal. If your writing is good enough, it will happen. Writing should be like Nature – original, unpredictable, green, fresh and wild, of course.

Copyright: Book Trotters Club

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Shortlisted for The Hindu-Goodbooks Best Author Award 2017


The Hindu: Come, be a Student Reviewer!

Updated: June 27, 2016 17:58 IST


28ISBS_BOOK_SWAP_2911031fPhoto: R. Ravindran

It’s your chance to read a new book and be rewarded

It’s your chance to read a new book and be rewarded. In the run-up to The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Awards 2017, we invite students to team with a teacher and review one or more of the books mentioned below. Reviews must be original and not exceed 400 words. Mail us at and mention the subject as BOOK REVIEW. Include your name, your teacher’s name, class, school, city and telephone number.


1. WHEN SHE WENT AWAY by Andaleeb Wajid


3. TIME RACERS by Gayathri Ponvannan

4. DEAR AUNTY by Nandini Nayar

5. TIGER BOY by Mitali Perkins



8. WILD IN THE BACKYARD by Arefa Tehsin

9. SQUIGGLE GETS STUCK by Natasha Sharma

10. SACHIN TENDULKAR by Rohini Chowdhury


Pick one or more books from the list. Discuss it with a teacher from your school and find out if she/he will help you understand and review the book. Get a copy of the book and write the review as a two-member team. Reviews MUST be original and not copied from the Net. Reviews must not exceed 400 words. Mail us your reviews before July 20. The best reviews will be published in The Hindu In School along with the photograph of the teacher-student team.


Your review should include a brief recap of the story/content, its theme, its characters, its writing and illustrative styles, and what makes the book interesting or not. So make notes on these points as you read the book.

Some tips:

a) Give a story/content summary without giving away the surprises/twists in the plot.

b) Describe the theme of the book.

c) Discuss the characters – what is special about them, are they stereotypical, are they believable?

d) Discuss the author’s writing style and appeal. Is the language used age appropriate?

e) Describe how the book has been illustrated. Do the pictures capture the mood of the story? Comment on the book’s format and how it looks.

f) Make your final remarks on the book based on the analysis presented.


The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Awards, the first Indian award to promote excellence in Indian children’s writing and acknowledge innovative publishing trends, was launched in 2016. The Student Review initiative is meant to encourage school-goers to read contemporary writings and critique them. This is the first set of ten books. We will publish a new list of books for reviewing every month.

Talk at the Press Institute, Colombo

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Lively Presentation by Author

Arefa Tehsin, the author of ‘Wild in the Backyard’ and other wildlife stories conducted an interesting presentation for Funday Times Club Members and readers on May 28, 2016 at the  Sri Lanka Press Institute Auditorium. The presentation focused on little-known questions on wildlife such as, do tigers drink blood? And facts about the Elephant Bird and venomous and
non-venomous snakes. The children enjoyed the presentation and put forward many questions.
After the presentation Arefa signed copies of her latest book ‘Wild in the Backyard’, for the participants. Copies of the books are now available at the bookshops. Pix. by Amila Gamage

Wild in the Backyard Reviewed on Goodbooks



Wild in the Backyard

By : Jane De Suza  /  2016

Wild in the Backyard
Author: Arefa Tehsin, Illustrator: Sayantan Halder
230 pages. English. Rs 199.00
Penguin Books, 2015

“Ma, did you know that lice poop is red?” yelled my nine-year-old son, and I hushed him because I didn’t want the neighbourhood thinking we were walking around with lice. Though, of course, if brave, battle-hardy, macho soldiers had them, why not us? In World War I, a soldier broke the record with 10,000 lice on him!

Here’s the thing: We’d never have known all this had we not been reading a book, and not the Guinness Book of World Records, but the very riveting Wild in the Backyardby Arefa Tehsin.

It’s knotty for an adult to be reviewing children’s books because evidently I am not a child. However, I do have two. The test is really how deeply engrossed they can be in a book; and for two boys, a book on lice, snakes and spiders is a winner.

Arefa Tehsin divides her book on the everyday creepy-crawlies in our lives into twenty-five chapters, each dedicated to demystifying the myths and clouds of dread surrounding them. Happily, this does not make for a yawn-inducing biology lesson; the author’s lively language turns it into a fun fest. It’s peppered with quizzes, questions, fill-in-the-blanks and a bit of reptilian and other creaturely dialogue here and there.

Sample this: A centipede mama eats her own eggs at times, and in utter gratitude for letting them survive, the babies, if born, sometimes – eat their own mamas! This alarming fact is softened by Arefa’s centi-talk:

“Baby: Mama, I’m hungry…

Mama: Oh no, my dear! I am not served with tomato ketchup!”

More on this soccer-team dream: Some centipedes keep growing new legs all their lives! And the males are chivalrous (or lecherous?) enough to allow the ladies to grow more.

Moving onto other lifetime-award-winning body-builders – geckos have up to a hundred teeth (and we thought they were as toothless as grandpa!) and they can replace each one every few months (Wouldn’t you love that, grandpa?).

There are so many fascinating facts in here, a kid could impress his whole class by spouting them. “You have Type O blood? You poor sucker! Mosquitoes are more likely to go for you!” And again, “You can go up in a helium balloon to escape a spider, but they can be seen wafting at those heights too.” Seriously, I mean, a spider can jump up to fifty times its height. What wouldn’t your basketball team give for that, right? A married rat is called a – dam! (Here’s when your kids are legitimately allowed to use cuss words!) Damn right! She’s called a dam. And the next time, any adult accuses you kids of mischief, challenge them, “You’re calling us a group of rats? That’s what a mischief is.”

The greatest gift this book gives to children is the respect it fosters for every living thing. The next time a crow drops a nut on the road, for example, your kid won’t call it clumsy. It’s intentional, so that the cars drive over it and do the job of cracking it open for the crow.

Let your child see how sophisticated each of these little ‘pests’ is. Some bats create their own napkins while eating on the fly. Stylish as they are, even their poop is named – it’s called guano. You think only dogs bark? Well, geckos do too. Most land-snails are so gender-sensitive and politically correct that they’re hermaphrodites and can choose to be a boy or a girl, depending on which chick or hunk they meet at the pub. The blind snake has a head and tail which look the same. If any of us humans could do half the things the wild ones in our backyard do, I’d agree we’re the smartest in the natural world. Until then, my vote goes to the ones who can sit while flying, or to the little guy who can take kitchen junk and turn it into fertiliser – and all without a skeleton of his own.

Arefa Tehsin loves the wild. She learnt to love it, walking alongside her naturalist father. Later, she went on to become a (ex-honorary) wildlife warden herself. Her articles are scattered around magazines and newspapers and she has authored many books. A junglee is what she calls herself on her website. And boy, are we glad she loves the wild, because it’s given us many hours of remarkable reading.

There is a disclaimer. This is not a book to polish off in one sitting. There are so many facts that kids will probably use it more as a go-to, or research book. If only this were recommended reading in schools though. How delightful that would be!


Jane De Suza is a humour writer and the author of SuperZero, whose next mission she is plotting on popular demand. She has written other children’s books, a parenting column, and a novel for adults, The Spy Who Lost Her Head.

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