Trees: A Book of Ecology Trees: An Ecology Book for Children on Asian/Pacific Trees

Trees: A Book of Ecology

 Trees: An Ecology Book for Children on Asian/Pacific Trees, National Book Trust, New Delhi, 1996 (Reprint,2014)
In a culture that burdens the child with a heavy load of textbooks it is important to rediscover the joy of reading good books—the books that illumine one’s being. And how fascinating it is to know about trees, particularly when the mantra of ‘development’ is destroiying the ecosystem

By Pika Jha

For overall mental development of a child, it is imperative that we inculcate in her a habit of reading beyond textbooks.  Knowledge thus gathered stays with the child for her lifetime, whereas, most of the things learnt from textbooks are lost just after the exams are over and marks are awarded.  However, reading for pleasure is a habit fast fading, not least because of the advent of the electronic media, video games and the Internet. Under such circumstances, it is the duty of parents and teachers alike to help the child escape from rote learning and introduce her to some well written books and develop her interest in reading.

Trees: An Ecology Book for Children is one such book written in lucid style, which is sure to capture a child’s attention. One would have imagined that a book on Ecology and trees would be cluttered with information on trees, providing children nothing more than another textbook of sorts, to which they would not connect. But this book comes like a whiff of fresh air, it not only provides information of variety of trees of the Asia Pacific region, but blends associated folklore and mythology, beautiful illustrations, consisting of drawings and photographs, gives insights into the life of people and animals in the region, which is sure to keep young readers captivated.

The book begins with some incredible trees of the Asia pacific region, where common trees like the banyan, jak tree and the tualang, are introduced to the young readers, and stories from the legend associated with these trees are also told like the Banyan and Shepherd, the legend of Qiao mountain, the spirits inhabiting the Champa tree, the Magic Maker of Maldives – these stories make reading about the trees all the more fascinating. The mango tree is introduced with a beautiful poem, and the peepal tree and the folklore of ghost of Munjia, the custom of not cheating or telling a lie under peepal tree, the Pho tree and its importance in the life of Lord Buddha, and how all these trees influence the life of humans, their uses and fuel, as medicines, are touched upon. Highly fascinating is the anecdote on the bottle tree, and its similarity with bottle both in terms of uses and appearance. 1100 years old Gingko tree, which has been preserved as a natural monument in Korea and the 2257 years old peepal tree of Sri Lanka are sure to take young minds by surprise and awe.

Then we are introduced to the different kinds of forests, the tropical forests, the deciduous forests and the mangrove forests. The entire ecosystem of these forests, and how the trees of these forests affect the environment, the flora and fauna, preventing soil erosion, forming a complex ecosystem affecting lives of different species, providing food and air to a wide variety of creatures.  The author never fails to remind that “we are at the top of this pyramid-but we are still affected by what is happening lower down” The fauna that lives around the roots of a tree are also lucidly explained with illustrations, so are how the lives of Vietnamese people depend on the Bamboo. The chapter on  various uses of a tree in our lives in India is sure to make a child appreciate the enormous importance of trees in our lives.

The book then touches on a sad note on how the trees are being felled to meet the selfish demands of humans, how the noise of logging machines have scared animals out of their natural habitat, and continues on to a sad poem: A Tree’s Plea to man to not plant it if it was only meant to cut it down at a suitable time.

The book, however, ends on a very optimistic note, by referring to the Bishnoi movement in the 18th century when the Bishnois offered their lives in order to save the trees from being felled. The more recent Chipko movement of the northern hills, where villagers embraced a tree which was meant to be cut, and prevented a large number of trees from being felled, is also certain to inspire children to save trees.  Then, the story of the “ Tree Doctor” Dr. Yamano from Japan, who saved more than 800 trees, including one that was split into two by the Hiroshima bombing incidet is immensely fascinating. All these nature lovers are sure to permanently etch in the young minds an understanding and love for one of the most vivacious, awe-inspiring, useful and precious liveform on earth- THE TREES

In a nutshell the book is a wonderful resource on a large number of trees and forests they grow in, their uses in daily life, and sure to inspire awe and appreciation in their minds about trees and their importance. Moreover, the book goes beyond the textbook tag line of save nature, and gives children wonderful examples from real life, which would help them commit to the cause of saving trees and hence, the environment.

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