The Jungle Radio

Illustrated by Devangana Dash

“Who is it that speaks, / sings and melodies / from those murmuring beaks?”

A celebration of diversity of bird sounds, The Jungle Radio is a playlist of the songs of thirty Indian birds. The story follows the girl called Gul who walks out into a veranda and closes her eyes to hear the sounds of nature. Her jungle radio magically transports Gul to an Indian forest, “the land of countless colours” and “sweet-sounding radio show.” There, Gul hears birds that sing, chatter, call, talk, and imitate other sounds. “More birds surprised Gul, / as, collecting sounds, she walked, / not among singers this time,/ but birds who talked!” Each page features new birds, new colors, and new sounds. The adventure starts with “the sounds / filling the silence of dawn” and concludes at dusk to the lullaby of the Nightjar. As Gul tucks herself into bed “to dream of her feathered friends,” the narrative turns to the reader: “If you listen carefully tonight / to the musical land beyond your wall, / you’ll hear the jungle singing for you, / ‘goodnight, Gul, … goodnight, all!’.” Covering thirty birds from sub-tropical India, the book ends with a hand-painted chart with the names and pictures of each species featured in the story. This is followed by a page with resources on bird sanctuaries in India and on birding by ear and by sight.

Included in the Honours list of South Asia Book Award, Jungle Radio is an invitation for children and their parents to listen to Nature: not just in forests but in parks, from balconies, and wherever else they may be. As the author says, birds “are all around us and we all around them.” An accessible introduction to birding, the book also offers a practical—phonic (say-it-aloud)—entryway into exploration of biodiversity and nearby nature. It encourages a playful read-aloud in which the reader tries to imitate bird sounds. This playful mock-immersion, in turn, can be a portal into everyday immersion and appreciation of nature, which starts with our willingness to actually listen and begin noticing birds and wildlife that exists all around us. Or in bird sanctuaries, which are listed at the end of the book, but exist in everywhere on the planet. By highlighting a variety of different bird species, the book demonstrates the uniqueness of each particular species (see ecosystems), while also showing how they are all able to blend together produce a wonderous, harmonic melody. “Bird sounds are everywhere in nature — making music in the sky, in trees, and in our rivers.” We just need to be listening out for their beautiful songs. Vibrant, colourful illustrations support the tongue-twisting verse narrative, which begs to be read aloud. Besides celebrating the rich variety of birds in India, Jungle Radio empowers young audiences to venture outside and explore the natural beauty and wonders that their country has to offer.

©2022 ClimateLit (Anupa Roy, with later edits by Alexandra Delacruz

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Publisher: Indian Puffin, 2019

Pages: 40

ISBN: 9780143447139

Audience: Ages 4-7

Format: Picturebooks

Topics: Biodiversity, Bird Sanctuaries, Birding, Birds, Ecosystems, Nearby Nature, Wildlife