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Book Review - Are you a Snow Leopard?

We had the honour of having our book reviewed by Ms Bharati Silawal - Giri.

Read about her and what she says about Are you a Snow Leopard?


Ms Bharati Silawal-Giri, a national of Nepal, started her career as a radio journalist in 1976. Later she moved on to print journalism and founded the English monthly magazine, "Media Nepal". She is the founding member of the Human Rights Organisation of Nepal and was active in the 1990 People's Movement in Nepal.


Ms Silawal-Giri has more than 30 years of experience in mainstreaming gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) in sectoral programmes such as governance, poverty, economic empowerment and enterprise development, migration, anti-trafficking, climate change, education, ending gender-based violence, and gender-responsive planning and budgeting. She is a proficient trainer on GESI issues and has developed GESI training manuals and pedagogical materials on GESI issues. Having worked with the UN at the national, regional and headquarters levels on GESI issues, she is now back home and actively promoting GESI and human rights issues.

 

First of all, let me congratulate Sandra Shiwani Van Doesburg and her team for producing an excellent storybook and graphic illustrations on bio-diversity.


Having gone through the book, I must admit they are simple and easy to read. This simplicity is not that straightforward and hides many precious dimensions to the story of Snow Leopard that is timeless and goes beyond the story of the animals.


Let me dwell on each of those dimensions:


Content: The content is rich in that in her quest to find a like-bodied friend, Hiuko comes across a wide range of species of the animal world whose unique characteristics are depicted in a very informative manner. The description of these animals and their habitats initiates those unfamiliar with these animals into their world and rich bio-diversity dotted by the Himalayas, mountains, lakes, trees, grass and rocks. The story is very well conceptualised and holds the attention of the reader. In fact, I just loved the names given to each of the animals; it showers so much love on them. It would have been great if each of these names were translated into English by providing either a footnote or a reference at the end of the story to provide a glimpse of the richness of the Nepali language.


Publisher's note: Well, the good news is that through QueRy van, you can read about the names of each character. So when you read the book, make sure to scan the QR code. Check out QueRy Van!

Aesthetics: This work is truly a work of an artist. The colours, hues and brightness of the picturesque animals, the background and the splendid graphics have an attractive appeal. One cannot but appreciate the beauty embodied therein.


Unity in Diversity: I feel this is an important theme that Sandra emphasises in her story. No two species are alike. Even within the same specie, unless they are Siamese twins, there are differences, as is demonstrated by the different spots on Hiuko and Tiktikey, who both happen to be Snow Leopards. This amply reveals that even if one belongs to the same specie, they are not similar and cannot be generalised, leading to an essentialist approach and perpetuating biases and prejudices. Again this generalisation can lead to being treated in the same manner. Sameness in treatment is not the result of equal treatment. For example, in Nepal today, there are 126 caste/ethnic groups with 123 languages spoken as the mother tongue. Treating everyone in the same manner, will not lead to equality. Instead, it will create more inequality and entrench discrimination. Even within the same caste, there are variations along gender, class, religion, geographical location, sexual orientation, etc. This then leads us to pay attention to the core values of humanity.


Core Values of Humanity: Although the quest of Hiuko, the Snow Leopard, starts with her loneliness, her encounters with different species along the way demonstrate the love, friendship, kindness, respect, humility, caring and trust for each other, "even if they are an odd bunch". Most importantly, it reflects co-existence among them, which is the fundamental bedrock of peace.


Cognitive Learning and Knowledge Management: This is the story's strength. After the story ends on a positive note, there are questions that direct the reader to move forward. By doing so, it actively engages the thought processes in the brain and a realisation of the external forces in the environment to create a better comprehension for sustained learning. Engaging all the senses also impacts the learning process and influences the feelings and behaviours of the readers to develop critical thinking. This, I believe, is central to imbibing respect for all living beings and a love for one's environment in a world that is being impacted by climate change and jeopardising not only our rich bio-diversity but also leading to the annihilation of several species of wildlife and in turn threatening the existence of human beings. This is evident through the spread of zoonotic diseases such as SARS, MERS, Coronavirus etc., believed to be a by-product of climate change transmitted by animals to humans and vice-versa and transmission of water-and-vector-borne diseases such as cholera, dengue and malaria, accelerating risks of malnutrition and deaths from natural hazards especially landslides and floods, which we are experiencing with increased intensity as the years go by.

Having said this, I would like to salute Sandra and her team for embarking on this intellectual journey that will benefit all who go through their creations. The books demonstrate her love for Nepal. This, despite the injustice meted out to her and many children like her born to foreign parents who have not been granted Nepali citizenship, owing to the discriminatory mindset of political leaders.


Dear Sandra, congratulations again, and I look forward to many more of your valuable creations.


Your parents and your siblings must be mighty pleased and proud of you.


And most of all, you do us all - all Nepalese proud!!!


Namaste

Bharati.

 

Thank you very much, Ms Bharati Silawal - Giri for your insightful review.

We are glad you feel we are on the right path of sharing our message and core mission of igniting curiosity, self-awareness and confidence in children through experiential storytelling.




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