To be inquisitive is a gift children are blessed with. The joy of seeing a child discover something for the first time and the wonderment that it fills them with is unmatched – as a librarian at a children’s library, I am lucky enough to relive this joy day in and day out. When children – even pre-schoolers as young as 3-5 years – are making sense of the world around them, their quest can be well aided by introducing them to a range of picture books. There are so many mediums today to sensitize children about the world we live in, but books will always be a favourite. Here are some chosen ones to, as we always say, catch them young.

THE POOP BOOK!

Authors: Tejaswini Apte-Rahm, Sujatha Padmanabhan

Illustrations: Priya Kuriyan

Published by: Kalpavriksh

We don’t think anyone would disagree that children find potty talk intriguing. It is entertaining and at the same time educative to hear them describe potty with utmost fascination! This interest is well captured in this book, which talks about poop ranging from bee poop to elephant poop. Describing pooping habits, necessities and uses, it beautifully captures the relationship between creatures and their environments, while making the information engaging and funny. The illustrations are, of course, amazing.

STONE EGGS

Author: Helen Rundgren

Illustrations: Soumya Menon

Published by: Tulika Books

Ever wondered why the dinosaur is every child’s favourite? Dinosaurs represent a long-lost world very different from the present, but much more real and believable than that of fairy tales and wizards. They represent our yearning to understand the planet better, but more simply, establish that the world we live in has evolved over millions of years and is constantly changing. It’s a tiny little window to the world before us. And what is more exciting than a window that opens onto one’s backyard? This story about Indian dinosaurs is a revelation.

Sandhya and Shankar chance upon what they think are stones, during one of their visits to their grandparents’ village. However, upon inspection by scientists, it is confirmed that they are indeed dinosaur eggs. Imagine the excitement of discovering that the dinosaurs we thought were only found in faraway lands of America and Africa, actually roamed around Central India as well!

A SONGBIRD DREAMS OF SINGING

Author: Kate Hosford

Illustrations: Jennifer M. Potter

Published by: Puffin Books

The book beautifully explains how our sleeping habits are intrinsic to how we function as living organisms. Did you know that otters sometimes hold hands and sleep so that they don’t drift away? Did you know ducks sleep in a row, with the ducks at both ends sleeping with one eye open to keep watch? The book is full of such fascinating facts. With endearing, playful poetry and great illustrations, this is a good bedtime read as well.

HOW TO SAVE A WHALE

Author: Nia Joseph

Illustrations: Vimal Chandran

Published by: Larks & Fables

Marine life is fascinating for children because they do not engage with it as much as they do with birds and animals in daily life. The whale, because of its sheer size, is everyone’s favourite, and also symbolic of the health of the underwater world. What happens when a whale chokes on plastic waste strewn in the ocean? Two children quickly muster up enough courage to save her, in the process also learning that there is much, much more to be done to keep our waters clean. The rhythmic tone of the tale and brilliant visuals make for an engaging read many times over.

WAITING FOR TURTLES

Author: Pankaj Sekhsaria

Illustrations: Vipin Sketchplore

Published by: Karadi Tales

The magic of watching life being born is probably unparalleled. When Samrat decided to accompany his mother – a sea turtle researcher – on a field trip, little did he know that it would be a rare opportunity to see the wonders of nature unfold before him. The anticipation, excitement and amazement of watching a sea turtle lay a hundred eggs was an experience Samrat would never forget. Carefully demonstrating how one should respectfully behave when in the midst of delicate wildlife precincts, this book is a must-read for everyone young and old.

KHARI: JOURNEYS THROUGH KACHCHH

Authors: Sujatha Padmanabhan, Shruthi Ramakrishna

Illustrations: Kalyani Ganapathy

Published by: Kalpavriksh

What better way to explore the biodiversity of a region than through the stories of the animals that inhabit them? Khari, a little Demoiselle Crane, is on her first migratory journey with the rest of her family, to the Indian subcontinent. Overcome with excitement on seeing the salt deserts of Kachcch, Khari loses the rest of the flock. Thus begins her journey through the varied landscapes of the region, where she encounters endemic Wild Asses in the Rann, buffaloes in grasslands, and camels, cranes, chinkaras and others, until she finally finds her mother.

The book showcases the diverse habitats of Kachchh and their influence on communities and livelihoods – perfect for some armchair travelling and a peek into rich and complex Kachchh, unfortunately wrongly known for “barren landscapes”.

WILD CITIES

Author: Ben Lerwil

Illustrations: Harriet Hobday

Published by: Puffin Books

It is one thing to talk about animals in natural environments, but to see how so many animals have adapted to large cities around the world is curiously fascinating. From urban foxes in London, wild boars in Berlin, wallabies on the outskirts of Sydney, African Penguins in Cape town, Oriental Pied Hornbills on balconies in Singapore, to the nesting of Olive Ridley Turtles on the shores of Mumbai – the book has many more examples.

This brilliantly illustrated book is a conversation starter on many fronts – people, places, habitats, conflicts and urban environments. While some animals find their ways to cities because of the loss of natural habitats, some may return to an original breeding ground because of the efforts of the local community. Overall, a must-read book for all ages.

IN THE HEART OF THE VILLAGE

Author & illustrator: Barbara Bash

Published by: Sierra Club Books

The banyan tree is the national tree of India, and for good reason. Its tremendous cultural significance and importance in everyday life is well illustrated in this book. The book documents daily activities under the shade of the banyan tree, ranging from religious rituals to markets and social gatherings. Not only humans, but even birds and animals are at home within the trunk, between the branches, and amongst its leaves. Could there be a better example of harmonious co-existence?

WHERE HAS THE TIGER GONE?

Author & illustrator: Dhavat Singh Uikey

Published by: Tara Books

The book is full of simple and succinct stories with beautiful illustrations. Beginning with basic information on tigers and continuing with enriching and enchanting stories based on folk tales, this book is captivating to even three year olds. Books can inspire children in unimaginable ways – be it through illustrations, words, or content, and this book ticks all the boxes. A great way to sensitize an entire generation about a beautiful beast and the environment at large.

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It is always a good time to talk about the things that matter, and there has never been a better time to talk to children about it than right now! Children’s books introduce us to our environment, and are instrumental in generating curiosity, a sense of wonder, and empathy amongst readers. We can be hopeful that this understanding will groom both children and adults into conscious, responsible world citizens.