Rajah: King of the Jungle (hardcover)
By Balraj Khanna
Pages 111; Price Rs 395
Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 opus, The Jungle Book, is difficult to measure up to, but it has a kindred spirit in a new release by Mapin. Published simultaneously in India and the US, Rajah: King of the Jungle has been written by the London-based painter and writer Balraj Khanna. The illustrations by artist Sean Victory are sparse for a children’s book but are lovely nevertheless.
The book is about two deadly enemies: Rajah, the tiger, and Ananta, the venomous king cobra, who live together in harmony. Other characters include Mohan the peacock, Bibi the cheetah and Manu the monkey, all of whom are united by their struggle against their mutual enemy—Man.
Told through the lives and adventures of these characters, the book is a lesson in conservation. Khanna follows a lyrical style, although some of the vocabulary might prove to be tough for very young children. Divided into 11 chapters, the book is best suited to be read out to younger children.
Rajah: King of the Jungle, Balraj Khanna, Pages 111; Price Rs 395. The Adventures of Rama, Milo Cleveland Beach, Pages 56; Price Rs 495
The Adventures of Rama (hardcover)
By Milo Cleveland Beach
Pages 56; Price Rs 495
This is an exquisite collector’s edition—and not just for the children’s bookshelf. Several books abound on the story of the Hindu god Ram, but not many come with illustrations from a 16th century Mughal manuscript. Tales from the Ramayan, which were transmitted orally for centuries, were later captured into magnificent painted texts by Mughal ateliers, who also translated the stories into Persian. The book comes lavishly illustrated with 24 of these 130 paintings ordered by emperor Akbar, which are now in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, US. This book has been co-published by Mapin and the Freer Gallery of Art and the author, Milo Cleveland Beach, is the former director of the gallery and an authority on Mughal art.
What works in favour of the book is its “adventure” approach rather than a religious one. The narrative works as one continuous story with no chapters. While children might struggle with the vocabulary on occasion, the language and syntax is simple enough to facilitate reading by children aged 8 and above.