Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Desert Contest

Author/Illustrator: Muriel Kakani
Publisher: Spirit of India Books
Ages: 4-8, 8+

Some weeks ago, we watched a puppet show called The Little Blue Planet by Katkatha. Earth was a happy creature and skipped and danced around creating wonderful forms of life. Then he decided to make something out of the world and with a lot of thought created Man. Man was brainy and evolved quickly into a very intelligent being. He wanted more and more and destroyed pretty much everything around thanks to his greed. Earth became a sad and miserable creature. Man realized his mistakes and eventually set about reversing the damage. 

The show had such an impact on my little one that she has converted into a very vocal eco-warrior. You dare not leave the taps running even for a moment. The Desert Contest talks about water conservation and its importance, and is needless to say, one of her current favourites.

The book is part of a series called Ecological Tales from India by Muriel Kakani. Sultan is a well-travelled camel from Arabia - he has been to the Sahara desert which is the hottest and largest, the Sonoran desert which is the greenest, the Namib desert which has high sand dunes and the Thar desert which is the most densely populated desert in the world. He understands, better than most folks, how difficult life is in these arid regions and also the fact that its inhabitants - plant, animal and human, have evolved and adapted to survive in these tough climes. After all the elixir of life - water - is scarce here. Sultan decides to celebrate the ingenuity of the desert creatures by holding a contest to choose the best water conservation method.

The giant Saguaro cactus from Sonoran narrates his story in rhyme - tells us that he can collect up to 200 gallons in a single rainfall. The long-legged beetle from Namib says that her only source of water is the morning dew and elaborates on how she harvests it. Then the desert tortoise from Mojave desert talks about how he can survive with near zero water sources and that he can even live off plant juices.
Finally Ran Singh from a Rajasthani desert comes forward. Sultan the camel is not very hopeful about him - after all Man has been an expert at ravaging the planet's water resources. Raj Singh however convinces him that this was not always the case and that people in the Thar region revered water. He further elaborates on the water harvesting methods they have been practising since centuries - for example in kunds, nadis, from the roof-tops and through khadin, where water is harvested from the farmlands.

So who wins the contest?! Read the book to find out! An excellent resource to highlight the importance of water conservation on World Water Day!

ETA: Anupam Mishra's TED talk - totally worth checking out if you haven't already. Also Muriel Kakani's post on her blog where she talks about water harvesting. Thanks Sathish and Ranjani for the links.


sathish said...

Chox, Thanks for the wonderful review.

A beautiful TED talk by Anupam Mishra should be a must listen for any one reading this blog entry - :)

sathish said...

Anupam Mishra

This is that talk.

ranjani.sathish said...

Chox, that was a good review ! I really enjoyed this book as it was very informative and I learned a lot of new things myself. I read this book to both the kids and they found the story of the beetle very fascinating.

just wanted to share this info...
The Runaway lion (another book in this series) talks about the endangered Asiatic lion of the Gir forests. I thought this book would be a great sequel to Dinaben and the Lions of Gir.

ranjani.sathish said...

The author talks more about the water crisis and the harvesting methods here in her blog

Choxbox said...

Sathish and Ranjani: Thanks! Have seen the Anupam Mishra talk - awesome stuff really. Will link to the post.

Ranjani: Have The Runaway Lion - in fact had bought the two together. Why don't you review it?!

Vibha said...

Perfect post for the World Water Day.
Thanks for the review Chox.

And the talk was great too.

sandhya said...

Lovely review as usual. What say we swap books?

Choxbox said...

Vibha: Thanks and it was R's suggestion that I do it!

Sandhya: Thanks. Sure lets swap.

aabid said...

Thanks 4 the inspiring review. Muriel is one of my favorite writers and THE DESERT CONTEST is my favorite book on ecology. I m trying my best 2 get it translated into regional languages so that all children can benefit out of it.

Choxbox said...

aabid: Thank you for stopping by!
If you do get them published in regional languages, please let me know - I volunteer in a library for underprivileged children and would love to introduce the books there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the compliment Aabid. I am really touched by your words and your efforts to see the Ecological Tales from India series translated into regional languages.

Anonymous said...

where can i find this book ? already tried flipcart :(

Choxbox said...

Anon: I found it in Crossword. You could try writing to Muriel Kakani - here's her e-mail address:, or leave a comment on her blog:
They are awesome books, hope you get them soon!

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