By Debu Majumdar
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The set of four Viku books include Viku and the Elephant, Viku to the Rescue, Viku and the Ivory Thieves and Viku Goes to School. They describe the beginning of how Viku met his elephant friend Haatee, how they became friends and all their adventures in the forests of India.
The first book, Viku and the Elephant is a story of a boy and a young elephant. Viku lives at the edge of a forest in India. He becomes friends with an elephant by saving him from a snake. Haatee the elephant communicates with only two sounds – a happy trumpet or a sad cry – but Viku and Haatee understand each other perfectly. The story of their adventures together unfolds quickly, as they take on ivory poachers and thwart their selfish, evil plans.
Viku to the Rescue continues the story of Viku’s adventures begun in Viku and the Elephant. In Viku to the Rescue, Viku rescues his friend from elephant-catchers by sheer perseverance and his intimate knowledge of the forest.
Viku and the Ivory Thieves is the third installment in the Viku adventure series. At the end of the first book, Viku and Haatee escaped ivory poachers, and left them on a tiny island surrounded by crocodiles. In this continuation of that story they realize the forest is not safe as long as poachers and ivory thieves roam the forest. In the 3rd story Viku and Haatee help the police round up and capture clever ivory thieves.
Viku Goes to School is fourth in the Viku adventure series begun with Viku and the Elephant and continued in Viku to the Rescue and Viku and the Ivory Thieves. In the new book, Viku’s father sends him to school, saying, “Otherwise you’ll never know all the new things happening in the world.” And his mother tells him, “Haatee can live in the forest, but you have to grow up and earn money. You cannot do that without a good education.”
Viku has to walk far to reach the school and he does not know anyone there. He meets a boy in his class who bullys him. How is he going to handle the bigger boy who makes him do things that he doesn’t want to do? Could Haatee help? As Viku works through the problem, the reader identifies with him and his struggle and will think about how to deal with similar situations in his or her own life. Then farmers come to Viku for advice when wild elephants trample their fields. Viku learns about the human-elephant conflict over basic resources. How will he help? These Viku stories are fast paced and intriguing while telling us about life in another culture.
These Viku books work well as a read aloud story for young children, is suitable for early readers (2nd and 3rd grades), and is an excellent chapter book for 4th and 5th graders.