Saving Grandma's Tree

I live in Bangalore and if there are those among you who live here, you’ll know how the city’s changing. Well, change is good but it sure as anything hurts when you are going down a tree-lined avenue only to see woodcutters at work. And every time I watch this happen, I am reminded of the women in Garhwal in the Himalayas who took it on themselves to save their trees, back in the 70s. Now famous as the ‘Chipko’ movement, it has been such an inspiration for many, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a book for children that talks about this fantastic story.

Jey Manokaran’s story draws greatly from the original and the book is interspersed with fact boxes ranging from a description of what the Bhotiya tribal’s of Garhwal wear to the Alakananda flood to the effect of deforestation that is so simply described that kids should have no trouble understanding the gravity of the situation and putting two and two together. In her story, Chandri the protagonist is a young girl who is especially attached to the ash tree where she believes her grandma’s spirit lives. One day, when the men of the village are away, she spies the treefellers marking trees to cut. And Grandma’s tree among them! She rushes to the village and alerts the women and they all come out to save their trees by hugging them. Chandri selects her beloved ash tree to hug and that’s how the trees are saved for the day!

Manokaran is a prolific author and illustrator and this is an admirable attempt to talk about something as important as the Chipko movement, for children.

Published in 2006 by Scholastic, this edition also carries a foreword by renowned activist Medha Patkar. 

Reviewed by Aravinda Anantharaman