Blog post 3: Write a book review – Diversity

1. A detailed description of the activity undertaken

The visually stunning book: The London Jungle Book by Bhajju Shyam (Shyam, Rao, & Wolf, 2014) was reviewed.  In this recently republished book, an Indian artist from the Gond tribe creates a visual travelogue of his experiences in London where he lives for two months to paint murals in an Indian restaurant.  The title refers back to Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle book – a juxtaposition where an Englishman travelled to the jungle area where Shyam lives and wrote of his experiences there.

The visual story and text / Explanation of drawings

Besides the wonderful illustrations and the poignant but perceptive comments on London and its people, I particularly liked the fact that the book could be read on multi-levels and is therefore suitable for readers of all ages. There is a visual story accompanied by text in translation from his oral storytelling that will appeal as he simply recounts experiences and observations of a foreign land. Then the artist explains his choices of drawing as he breaks with traditional communal symbols and traditions in order to tell a unique and personal story. An additional level is added by the reader, who while reading this will no doubt reflect on his or her own travel experience or knowledge and feelings about London.
Extension activities for students could include investigating and comparing Kipling’s book with this as well as the works of the anthropologist Verrier Elwin who lived with the Gond tribe.

2. Answers to the following questions:

What did you learn?

In the first place I realized that although I’ve been reviewing books informally (in my Goodreads profile, or on my blog) for a while, I didn’t actually know what the principles of a good review were, so I had to first do some research on that. I found three good reputable resources, Owl Purdue writing lab (Brizee, 2012); BookTrust (Playa, 2014) and Scholastic (Philbrick, 2014) and compared the elements.

How was the activity relevant to your professional practice?

As a librarian I am often asked my opinion on books or need to write brief reviews. I had not approached this in a structural way before, so it is good to have a review “template” in mind when talking about a book. I can encourage students to write reviews on the books they have read, and give them tips on how to do so.

Were any gaps in your knowledge revealed? How might you fill those gaps?

At first the illustrations struck me as being reminiscent of Australian Aboriginal art, so I did some more research on the Gond Tribe and ethnic minorities in India. About 30% of our students are Indian, and I recognised that I know very little about India and its vast diversity in language, culture, art and literary traditions. I can fill the gaps in my knowledge both by reading up about the country and its people and by having conversations with students and their parents to better understand the nation.

3. References:

Brizee, A. (2012, September 19). Purdue OWL: Book Review. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

Philbrick, R. (2014). Writing with Writers: Writing a Book Review. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

Playa, L. (2014). Tips for writing book reviews [Article]. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

Shyam, B., Rao, S., & Wolf, G. (2014). The London jungle book. India: Tara Books.

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