Aakangshika Dutta
DANCING WITH BIRDS by Written and illustrated by Bulbul Sharma Talking Cub, an imprint of Speaking Tiger Books, 2022, 16 pp., INR 250.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

All of 16 pages, this children’s book is one that must find its rightful place in every library across schools and homes. It is appropriately narrated without any purple prose, and it is about big, old and ancient trees. No poem has a single unnecessary description and the message conveyed is deep to arouse the child’s curious mind.
The tile itself is an invitation to the child, as well as the reading and thinking adult, to move away from the obvious. Trees surround us, many of us have seen saplings grow into trees that today provide shade and comfort during summer months, and yet, few of us have the time to think about trees more deeply.
Ruskin Bond writes a rhythmic verse that draws the attention of the reader and also makes it very appropriate to remember and deliver at a poetry recitation. He begins with an account of how trees are containers and witnesses to precious secrets of this society, from individual stories, friendship, love to hatred, trees are steady witnesses.
In today’s world where challenges of climate change are experienced by all of us, trees point towards many possible solutions that could provide a respite to Planet Earth. They have been natural habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna. They help capture rainwater; they strengthen the soil by preventing erosions of mangroves. Besides we know that trees, especially those that are several thousands of years old have grown to great heights and have an intricate root network system that not only is a source of nourishment for themselves but also prevents the death of other trees that maybe growing nearby.
Ruskin Bond reflects poignantly in so many ways on what ‘being alive’ entails, on the wisdom acquired through ‘steady presence’, ‘… that trees have seen it all happening … the folly of hate and the joy of loving’. It shows children that this world is often filled with joy and sadness. If there is fun of friendship, then the world also experiences the chaos of fighting and hatred, the happiness of weddings and the chaos of armies fighting battles and wars.
This poem is one that speaks of the resilience of trees, to be able to stand through storms and lightning, through burning cities and armies that come from other lands.
These many noteworthy characteristics of trees give them a new perspective, this creates and encourages curiosity among children and adults alike to draw inspiration for being strong and steady as well as for patience and resilience. The wisdom that such big and old trees carry is really in knowing that every winter is followed by spring and summer and that every storm will bring out the rainbows.
Illustrations by David Yambem complement the poem; they are colourful, fluid in style and the book itself is printed on glossy paper. Makes for a wonderful addition to the collection.