BOOKS: Indian Wildlife & The Book of Indian Birds

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1998:

Indian Wildlife
Second edition (revised)
Houghton Mifflin Co. (222 Berkeley St.,
Boston, MA 02116-3764), 1994.
367 pages, paperback, $20.00.

The Book of
Indian Birds
Bulbul Sharma
HarperCollins India (7/16 Ansari Rd.,
New Delhi 110 002), 1991.
48 pages, hardcover, 95 rupees.

Produced by a collaboration of 23
Indian experts, Indian Wildlife is recognized
in India as the definitive guide to what
species may be seen where, when. Yet,
though India has as developed a publishing
infrastructure as anywhere, the four publisher/distributors
are based in the U.S., Canada,
Great Britain, and Singapore. No one produces
an edition in India for Indian consumption.
Nor do Indian publishers seem to offer
anything comparable. Many field guides are
imported, but because they are imports, they
cost far more than even most very interested
Indians can afford. The implicit assumption
seems to be that foreign tourists comprise the
only market for wildlife literature.
Locally and inexpensively produced,
for children, the charmingly written
and exactingly illustrated Book of Indian
Birds is both an exception to the rule and the
only book of its kind that we saw: Indian
children’s books about animals otherwise run
toward umpteen different editions of Aesop’s
F a b l e s, long on morals, short on ecology.
We paid about $3.00 for our Book of Indian
Birds at the Keoladeo sanctuary gift shop. A
similar volume in the U.S. would cost $15 or
more. We could wish for better paper, to last
longer and do more justice to Bulbul
Sharma’s art, but more important is that such
information find its way into small Indian
hands and hearts.
Our seven-year-old son Wolf virtually
memorized The Book of Indian Birds.
He took special delight in spotting at least
one of every bird in it, completing the roster
with the red-whiskered bulbul, Sharma’s
namesake, who appeared in Maneka
Gandhi’s Delhi garden. So taken was Wolf
with the bulbul that in following the bird he
became mired in a near quicksand of congealing
well-drilling mud, having to abandon
his shoes to escape.

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