Authors: Geetika Jain & Jaishree Misra
Publisher: DC Books
Ages (recommended as per blurb): 7+
A little less consumption, simpler wants and some respect for nature - then maybe, just maybe, we will start to fix our planet's problems. This is the message conveyed in Meera's Friends, The Trees. Without actually saying it, it tells the young reader that trees are not inanimate objects, they are caring providers that ought to be respected in return.
Little Meera lives in a village at the foothills of the Himalayas. She does not go to school like city children but learns everything from Mother Nature. She runs free among the murmuring whispering trees in the forest and loves them most of all. Every tree is special to her - the old gnarled one with a comfortable lap is the Naani tree, another is a Devi tree which is revered by all the villagers, then there is the little Chottu tree. She understands how the trees not just provide food and a means of livelihood but also save the land by holding it tight with their roots.
One day Meera hears of a terrible thing - that the city people will come with government papers that allow them to chop and clear the forests. She cannot believe her ears. Her mother tries to console her and explains that wood is needed by the city folks to build their houses and furniture and that they did not 'live with little, like the village folks'.
The next day the people arrive with their cutting machines. The villagers plead with them in vain to abandon their plans. They resign themselves to their fate, what after all can they do against such powerful people?
Meera however cannot bear the thought of her beloved Naani tree being cut down and runs past everyone to her favourite place. She clings to her tree and refuses to budge. The rest of the villagers do what she is doing and hug a tree each. To cut the tree, the axe would have to hack through its human protector. The city folks finally relent and leave.
The story has been inspired by the Chipko movement, in which the peasant folks of Uttaranchal saved their trees from being cut down. It became 'a turning point in the history of eco-development struggles in the region and also across the world'. Read more about the movement here.
By the end of the book I found myself humming Karadi Rhymes' delightful Neem Peepal Banyan song that ends like this:
Plant trees everywhere
For trees are precious friends rare