Salim Mamoo and Me – Book Review


BookReviewPublisher: Tulika Books 

Story: Zai Whitaker   

Illustrations: Prabha Mallya

Have you ever stopped to listen to the tweet-tweet and the chirp-chirp in the wee hours of the morning?

Has your afternoon siesta ever been cut short by the cacophony arising from the pipal tree next to your home?

Ever wondered what the tiny specks sitting on the wire were?

Or are you one of those lucky ones who’ve shared a garden or a home with these beings?

Birds and their lives have always captured my attention and imagination. They’re such fascinating creatures, with their plumage and nests; each one with its quirk. I grew up in Dehradun and remember rising early, to go for a walk in my neighbourhood; spotting, identifying and listing all the birds I encountered.

Recently, I’ve begun to go for walks again, although in a crowded, bustling city and I hope to catch a glimpse of these wondrous birds or watch them feed and groom themselves and just lose myself in the moment.

One thing hasn’t changed since those early mornings in Dehradun, I still come back and look up Salim Ali’s ‘The Book of Indian Birds’ and make sure my list matches Ali’s descriptions.

Tulika’s Salim Mamoo and Me is a wonderful homage to the birdman of India and a delightful book for young readers, especially those interested in the chirps and hoots in their backyards and parks.

Zai Whitaker takes us on a wonderful ride, generously allowing us to peep into her childhood memories. Whitaker knows her audience here, and she lives up to expectations and writes with ease. Like her other children’s books (Andamans Boy, Kali and the Rat Snake, and Kanna Panna) this too is a narrative that is woven sensitively, with vivid details and the right amount of humour.

One can’t help but feel little Zai’s worry and trepidation as she negotiates her role as the niece of a famous uncle.  Born into a family of naturalists, where everyone is a birding expert, she struggles to remember bird names and fears she will embarrass and disappoint her uncle. The story takes us to the Bombay that was, the Bombay Natural History Society and the birding trips to spot the common and the rare species, and Salim Ali’s famous Willys Jeep makes an appearance too! In just a few words and pictures a wonderful and colourful life is depicted and there is no detail that is superfluous.

Prabha Mallya’s illustrations compliment Whitaker’s narrative well, bringing the characters, the city and the story to life.

Whitaker’s story isn’t just about the birds. It will appeal to all, children and grown-ups who’ve experienced nervous moments wishing they live up to expectations from their families.  

Targeted at ages 6 years+, this picture book will speak to people everywhere but children and grown-ups with a special place for birds and nature are sure to relish it more.

Roshni Ravi (1)

Roshni Ravi, is a teacher at Poorna Learning Centre, Bengaluru. She is fascinated by the little stories that the everyday has to offer. Birds, Books and Baking are just some of her interests. She can be reached at