A short review of the children’s picture book Stone Eggs written by Helen Rundgren and illustrated by Soumya Menon published by Tulika, Chennai.
Stone Eggs written by Helen Rundgren and illustrated by Soumya Menon is a book I wish I had when I was a kid. Sankar’s inability to believe that the round stones could be dinosaur eggs reminded me of my first plant fossils and the shock I had received on realising what they actually were. Reading about fossils in American and British books a whole generation of us had grown up believing that fossils and stuff were to be found only in Devonshire and certain South American deserts. But children today know better, and much of the credit goes to books like Stone Eggs.
A book that I was reminded of the first I saw Stone Eggs is From Bone to Stone by Karen Haydock. Haydock’s book sets into motion a catchy jingle about “. . . the big/Triceratops/That was killed in a fight/One Saturday night. /(67 million years ago)”, and tells the story of how the bones eventually turn to stone to be discovered by the child and the final illustration shows some men and women in ‘Indian’ attire digging at the fossilised Triceratops skeleton. In Stone Eggs, the child becomes children with names — Sandhya and Sankar, and even the palaeontologists receive names. The dino relics are no resident of some subtropical Neverland but something that is discovered quite close to Grandma’s place. Finding dino fossils in one’s grandma’s yard might sound like quite a tale, but anyone who has some idea of the geology of India would know that India is quite an unexplored treasure trove especially when it comes to fossils. The journey we had begun with From Bone to Stone completes a full circle with Stone Eggs.
The charts, info bubbles, maps and geological timelines throughout the book makes it informative, and at the same time entertaining. Helen Rundgren explains in charmingly simple language an idea that had taken scientists more than three hundred years to accept — the continental drift theory. And Soumya Menon’s illustration of India on her way to meet the (or rather, create the) Himalayas along Africa’s east coast adds to the fun. Her dinosaurs with their grins, sneers and startled expressions are independent individuals with defining characteristics, and the baby dino peeping out of an egg with some of the shell on its head on the page titled Dino Eggs is perhaps one of the cutest dinosaurs drawn in history!
Having always cherished the desire to become a palaeontologist myself, I must say that I am jealous of Sankar, yet happy for him that his dream is not met with jeers and stern disapproval. However, in order to be accessible to all the little Sankars and Sandhyas residing in several little towns all over India and dreaming paleo-dreams, it would be great if the book could be priced a bit lower. I am aware of the economics of publishing children’s books in India without any external financial support – how at the end of the day the whole enterprise is mostly driven by a love of books, and very rarely profits. Finally, I look forward to editions of this book in many other Indian regional languages in the true Tulika tradition.
Stone Eggs: A story about Indian dinosaurs
by Helen Rundgren, illustrated by Soumya Menon
Tulika Publishers, Chennai, 2011, pp. 26, Rs150