Dehradun : 29 November, 2015
India-born American author Stephen Alter combines the natural history of Jabarkhet Nature Reserve in Mussoorie with magical elements that appeal to younger readers in his new book "The Secret Sanctuary".
A short novel for children aged 10+, "The Secret Sanctuary" is intended to encourage students of all ages to explore the world of nature and to use their imaginations when they encounter wild birds and animals, says Alter, who lives in Mussoorie most of the year.
"The Secret Sanctuary," published by Penguin Books India, grew out of Alter's association with the Jabarkhet Nature Reserve, a privately owned wildlife sanctuary in Mussoorie.
"I wanted to write a story for children set in JNR, combining the natural history of the sanctuary with magical elements that appeal to younger readers," he told
Alter feels it is essential that school children learn to protect and preserve our environment.
"If they gain an appreciation for nature at an early age, they will carry that message with them throughout their lives," he says.
"The Secret Sanctuary" tells a captivating story about the importance of conservation and is filled with magic and adventure and fascinating information about wildlife an natural history.
On their way to school, Monahar, Kamla and Pradeep climb into a giant oak tree and enter a world very similar to their own but also strangely different, surrounded by wildlife and magic.
This is a magical jungle where laughing thrushes brush against your cheek and barking deer stop to be petted; an enchanting wilderness where you can tug a monkey's tail or share a den with a mountain bear. This idyllic world is a natural paradise. There is only one catch. Once you enter, you may never be able to go back.
Alter, author of more than 15 books of fiction and non-fiction, loves to write for young readers.
"Younger readers are often more responsive than adults and engage with books on a more emotional level. Writing for young readers is challenging but the rewards are much greater," he says.
His other books for younger readers include "The Phantom Isles" and "Ghost Letters".
According to the author, good nature writing requires scientific knowledge as well as a strong narrative.
"Wildlife is a subject that more and more writers in India are attempting. Some do it well, balancing scientific knowledge with a strong narrative. Good nature writing requires both elements," he says.
Alter is the founding director of the Mussoorie Writers' Mountain Festival which he says "isn't just a literary fest but celebrates mountaineering, mountain culture and mountain
writing". He also finds Mussoorie as a great place to write saying, "Mussoorie is my home and I write best at home."
He regards Ruskin Bond as the "godfather" of Mussoorie writers. "We all live in his shadow." Alter's next book is a novel about Jim Corbett, which he has just finished as is expected to come out in a year. News 18