This colourful picture book starring a tiger cub in the jungle contains three short stories that cover topics faced by many children: fears, lack of friends, and bullying.
Suraj is a cute looking tiger cub, who I think will young readers (in particular) will easily identify with and grow to love. Especially as he faces situations that they are likely to face and shows that he is capable of overcoming them.
In the first story, ‘Not Afraid Anymore’, Suraj has trouble leaving his mother’s side. Each time he ventures out on his own, he is beset by fears, such as chattering monkeys and pecking birds, and he races to the safety of familiar fur. Kirk the parrot then intervenes with a helpful song about managing fears – encouraging Suraj to take a deep breath, think about his worries, and wait for a solution to come to him. Kirk may provide the strategy, but it is Suraj who puts it into practice, developing his roar like a big brave lion and then using it to save a baby rabbit from danger.
The same song features in all three stories. In the second story, ‘Making Friends’, Suraj remembers Kirk’s song when he struggles to find playmates in the jungle. And he realises that he needs to be helpful, caring and sharing towards the other animals to make friends, before forming a rather unlikely friendship with a snake, named Rassi.
In a nice touch, Rassi then features again in the third and final story about a tiger cub, Chor, who is bullying the other animals in the jungle. I like the way this story provides us with various approaches to dealing with bullies. First, Suraj approaches Chor’s mother, then he advises the other animals to play in groups and call him for help if necessary. But these tactics don’t work and, when Suraj himself falls victim to Chor’s meanness, he realises he has to tackle him directly – accompanied by his friends. Chor, the bully, proves to be something of a scaredy cat when he is confronted, clearly showing readers that bullies are not always as strong as they might seem. As in the first two stories, there is a happy, huggy ending with Suraj and co. forgiving Chor and later making him a friend.
Colourful childlike illustrations on every page portray the lively cast of animal characters and jungle setting. The language flows well from start to finish and a useful glossary of some of the more advanced terms, like ‘sparkled’ and ‘slithered’, is provided at the end.
Suraj the Tiger Cub is an appealing trio of short illustrated stories showing readers that – with a little thought – they can take steps to tackle and overcome a range of challenging situations.
Suraj the Tiger Cub by Farida Mirza, illustrated by Nyla Khan and Jason Pruett (Oxford University Press, Pakistan, 2014)
Farida Mirza is a technical and creative writer with a background in teaching English and Personal Development. She has written a number of picture books, including Baboo’s Dream and A Bunny Rabbit’s Wish, which are bilingual (English and Urdu). Four of her titles have been published by Oxford University Press in Pakistan. She grew up in Hyderabad, India and now lives in California.
Nyla Khan provided the sketches for Suraj the Tiger Cub. I have been unable to find out more about this illustrator.
Jason Pruett was responsible for colouring the sketches. He has worked as a freelance illustrator since 2009 and counts picture books among some of his favourite projects. He lives in Salt Lake City in the US with his wife and will be starting dental school in 2018.
Read this 2018 article in the Pakistan Daily Times for an overview of the picture books by Farida Mirza published by Oxford University Press, Pakistan.