Monday, September 25, 2017


Title: Chatur and the Enchanted Jungle
Author: Subhash Kommuru
Publisher: Kommuru Books
Pages: 32

Chatur and the Enchanted Jungle is a delightful tale that kids could enjoy as well as grownups.

The story is simple, but told so well, and the adorable illustrations add to the charm, enlivening the book still further.

Chatur and his friend, the talking donkey, Gadhu, travel together in search of work. As they travel to the next town, they have to pass through a jungle to get to the next town. Chatur thinks it would be faster to go through the jungle, rather than go around it.

Before long, they are lost. As they settle in for the night, Gadhu resting on the grass and Chatur under the shade of a bargad tree with abundant foliage, the latter wishes for a cold drink of water. Miraculously, a pot of refreshing water appears before him. Emboldened, Chatur asks for something to eat. As each wish is fulfilled, Chatur realizes that this is an enchanted jungle and his greed increases. He keeps asking for more and more.

But then his greed gets the better of him, and he ends up asking for something that ends up undoing all the good he has going for him.

There’s a lesson for kids right there: Greed never pays. But the beauty of this book are the values hidden in plain sight all through this book.

Chatur is always in a hurry to get to places, while Gadhu, more laidback, gently chides him, Ya gotta take it easy, man.

Haste makes waste, we were told as kids, but this is such a delightful way of teaching kids to enjoy the journey. My kids enjoyed repeating Gadhu’s pet phrase. I just hope they don’t make it their motto, or else it will become ammunition to lob at me.

La Niña and El Niño were equally amused by the characters' names. In Hindi, Chatur means clever and smart, while Gadhu is an endearing twist on Gadha, Hindi for donkey, an animal that is almost universally derided as stupid. Yet her, Chatur shows himself to be not-so-smart, while Gadhu turns out to have the last laugh.

Figuratively speaking, of course. Gadhu is too sweet and gentle a soul to laugh at anyone.

The Bargad (banyan) tree is highly venerated in the context of Indian culture and mythology, and I think this book also teaches us a wider truth about all that trees do for us and our world and about the significance of cherishing them, not destroying them.

Wish fulfilment is a fantasy that appeals to children of all ages, and both the kids and I were delighted at the thought of a jungle that had the potential to make wishes come true. The possibilities for fun and adventure were endless, but the author takes this story in the right direction, including within it the right dose of entertainment and values.

Both kids enjoyed reading about the adventures of Chatur and Gadhu. I hope the Kommurus have many more in store.

(I read a Kindle edition of this book through NetGalley.)


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