By the Book: Pets and birds are the beating heart of two new books for early readers by Natasha Sharma and Bulbul Sharma – The Indian Express


I Am Fierce! Yes, I Am!
Natasha Sharma,
Red Panda,
24 pages,
Rs 299,
Appropriate for: 5+ years
In early 2020, Mumbai-based children’s writer Natasha Sharma had adopted a dog from an animal shelter. A mixed breed, Molly was then around eight years old, waiting for a forever home. In the time since, Molly has grown a small but dedicated following on Instagram and her adventures have been chronicled by Sharma in a series of endearing picture books for early readers. I Am Fierce! Yes, I Am! Is the second book in the What is Molly Doing? series and follows Molly’s adventures in establishing herself as a ferocious guard dog — nemesis of strangers and protector of loved ones. She pounces on the cat, barks at the crow, leaps at the vacuum cleaner when it’s unplugged and plans to chase the postman. Molly is certain she’s made a point, only the cat hisses and spits back, the postman is indulgent of her shenanigans and offers her treats and her human mollycoddles her and puts a bow on her mohawk to make her look cutesier than ever. What is a guard dog to do if no one will acknowledge her feral spirit?
Accompanied by commercial artist Nirzara Verulkar’s illustrations, the second instalment of Molly’s adventures is another visually engaging account of the life of a beloved pet, cosseted and adored by her favourite humans. Sharma’s writing is inherently funny and sparkling with joy, just the sort of early reader that offer children glimpses into the possibilities of literature — to express, absorb and imagine beyond the written word.
 
Dancing with Birds
Bulbul Sharma,
Talking Cub,
16 pages,
Rs 250,
Appropriate for: 6+ years
One of the hallmarks of children’s writing in English in India has been the range of nature writing that has emerged over the years. From Ruskin Bond to Ranjit Lal to Bijal Vachharajani, there has been an exciting array of books that deal with different aspects of the natural world and voice the climate anxieties of today. Veteran writer and artist Bulbul Sharma’s Dancing with Birds, written in verse, slips effortlessly into the canon, taking young readers into the avian world and introducing them to species they might come across in their neighbourhoods. There’s the Indian lorikeet, a species native to India, Nepal and parts of Southeast Asia, with a penchant for roosting upside down; there’s the (quite literally) high-flying eagle out on its customary prowl; the beady-eyed owl, lord of the night; the garrulous, frugivorous and forever frisky barbet, and several others, who hold sway over treetops and the sky. As she watches them, a child comes to realise how she embodies the very traits that characterise her feathered neighbours. She too thrills in the warmth of a sunny day, chirping and prancing around to her heart’s content out in the open. It makes her feel like a creature of the earth, at home with the birds and bees and the trees all around.
In 2019, a charming picture book called The Jungle Radio: Bird Songs of India by Devangana Dash had introduced readers to the symphony of bird calls that get lost in the din of urban lives. For those acquainted with it, Sharma’s book appears like a companion volume for slightly younger readers, homing in on a handful of species and building up a charming narrative around them. The illustrations that accompany the story are particularly delightful, even for tiny tots yet to get on the reading trail.


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