Reading Nature Writing with Children: Nature’s Spokesman

Nature’s Spokesman is a charming collection of short essays, drawings and poems by M. Krishnan, the eminent naturalist and nature photographer. It is a lovely way to introduce young people to the natural world around them. The book covers an extensive range of birds, animals and landscapes, describing them in flawless, detailed prose. The sentences are stunning, sparing, beautifully worded, and perfectly accessible to readers of all ages.

Krishnan writes based on everyday observations of the environment. These include fleeting anecdotes about the seemingly mundane lives of pigeons and house geckos; brief sketches of mythological animals; discussions around climate change and deforestation; precious encounters with some of India’s most exotic wildlife; and stories of clashes between humans and the natural world. He depicts nature as a dynamic element of our own routine lives, rather than presenting the environment as a static system with elements that must be understood from a purely scientific point of view. The stories of Krishnan’s interactions with nature draw attention to the importance of empathy in learning about other life forms. His gentle humour and understated anthropomorphism convey his genuine affection for the world he describes. The essays encourage young readers to be emotionally engaged with nature.

The author dedicates essays to simple analyses of phenomena that we, in our daily lives, pay little attention to. Images of sleeping dogs, felled sidewalk trees, rain… these seem so ordinary to us. We rarely experience curiosity, feel the urge to open our eyes and stare at a fallen wild fruit or a crow perched on a compound wall. Krishnan, in his descriptive language, reveals the pleasures of minute observation, and teaches his readers to feel fascination even for the most “boring” aspects of nature. His brief pieces express wonder and sorrow and frustration, all provoked by the smallest, most incongruous comings and goings.

The credibility and actual information value of this collection is high. The author was, after all, a naturalist, and an expert in his field. However, he imparts his knowledge in beautiful, unintimidating prose and invites his readers to draw as much solace from mere observation as he did. Children will find facts in this book, but they will also discover an enthusiasm and a mild protective instinct for nature within themselves. This collection will manufacture many Nature’s Spokesmen.

Similar titles:

Of Birds and Birdsong, M Krishnan

My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell

Three Singles to Adventure, Gerald Durrell

For younger readers:

A Boy and a Jaguar, Alan Rabinowitz

The Lorax, Dr Seuss

The Tree Lady, H. Joseph Hopkins

-Dakshayini Suresh for Ever After

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