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Book Review: Grandfather’s Private Zoo by Ruskin Bond

Grandfather’s Private Zoo by Ruskin Bond is a widely held tale among children, for it depicts personal behavior of animals and birds brought home to add to the personal zoo. Rather a tale of a nature (flora and fauna) lover who loves to keep a collection of animals and birds, at time even reptiles. Grandfather’s Private Zoo is a novella consisting nine well-connected stories.

The story starts with the adventures of Toto, a monkey. The narrator is a small boy and his grandfather loves to keep a private zoo at his home, on the other hand, grandmother abhors troublemaking animals and doesn’t support him with his animals. The monkey being taken from a Tonga driver for the sum of five rupees seems to be indecent. He breaks a lot of kitchen dishes and steals food and whenever grandmother catches him red handed he too often runs away, through windows, to remain inaccessible. Fed up of his indecent behavior, grandfather sells him back to the Tonga rider for the sum of three rupees, at a loss of two rupees.

Next in the line is a python that one days slips away from the bath tub and becomes a rare visitor of the home but whenever he comes he scares people because of his hiding positions. Later he develops fondness for sitting before the mirror for hours and to get rid of him grandfather catches him in a cage attached with mirror and drops him far away into the jungle across the river.

Not only this, other troublemakers are hornbill Harold who stayed with the family for twelve years, and there was a crow: he was kleptomaniac, he loved collecting pens, pencils and pegs from others’ houses, but one day while thieving pegs off the hanging clothes he is struck by a neighbor. The narrator and the grandfather try to heal him with some medication but to no purpose. Eventually, he dies and the small boy buries him respectfully at the backyard with all his stolen material. Sadly, the bad karma of the crow returns to him, taking him away from the world.

Soon the small boy befriends a poor lad called Ramu who takes his buffaloes in the river for bathing. The small boy learns swimming in his company and they both share understanding towards animals and birds. From him the small boy comes to know that Lord Shri Krishna loved squirrels. The small boy plays with the squirrels on a banyan tree. He spends a week in the jungle with some of the hunters who go out all day for hunting while he remains inside the forest cottage only to discover an old library of books probably left behind by someone years ago.

One day he finds a very old photograph of a small girl standing in a garden. He enquires about the same girl to grandmother but she rather tells the girl in the picture was very haughty and wilsome. She refuses to reveal her identity. An observation occurs in his mind that the girl in the picture bears smile like grandmother. He knows who she was but he prefers to remain quiet.

Animals generate interest among children, whether they are at zoo or in the jungle. The objective behind writing Grandfather’s Private Zoo novella is to introduce children to the animals that live around us or in the zoo or in the deep, dark jungles. It also sheds light on the behavioral pattern of animals. Not all animals behave in the same way…monkeys and squirrels may look chirpy to you but monkeys are bit violent with their nasty habits.

If you read Ruskin Bond books regularly, then you must be aware of his efforts to save the nature. This story, too, appeals that the nature and its allied species life birds, reptiles, and animals should be saved and taken care of, and the duty starts with children and youth.

Looking for the character sketch of Grandfather and your favourite animal from Grandfather’s Private Zoo!
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