ABOUT THE BOOKThe Adventures of Woka Chimni is the first of a new picture-book series that aims to introduce India to the child reader. Woka Chimni is a “feisty house sparrow” from Mumbai who enjoys visiting different places in India. Woka’s love for travel, helpful nature and ecological curiosity take kids through a discovery of the natural splendour of our country, beginning with the Sunderbans and the Pangong Lake, as detailed in the two stories in this book.
- The underlying idea of this series is a great one, especially because Woka the Sparrow loves visiting places famed for their natural beauty and is also interested in learning about the environment and how to keep it safe. The stories are fast-paced, and the full-page illustrations are very attractive.
- Using a sparrow as the anchor of the adventures is brilliant, for it is not only small in size and an unthreatening figure, it is also an everyday bird in most parts of India, and an endangered one in some of our rapidly urbanizing cities.
- Woka Chimni makes use of her GeePee (GPS) to locate her destination and route and carries her backpack with her wherever she goes. Little details like this make it easy for young readers to relate to her.
- There is too much information thrown into the stories, almost as if the author were in a hurry to educate the reader.
- A little fact-checking would help in certain places. In “Woka goes to Pangong Lake”, we read that she flew all the way to Jaipur in one day and stayed the night at Jantar Mantar. Mumbai to Jaipur is 568 miles by air and sparrows (a Google search reveals) fly about twenty-four miles in an hour. This means Woka would have to fly without a break for almost twenty-four hours to reach Jaipur!
- The Pangong Lake tale is rather elitist. The marmots and other local fauna are aware of the pollution, but need a visitor from the city to begin the clean-up process. Tellingly, the visual shows the local animals and birds (= natives) doing all the physical labour while Woka (= the overseer from the city) hovers above, flaunting the technology that makes it possible for her to call the shots.