BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Author and illustrator Charles Norris-Brown, a recent arrival to the area, read to children through the afternoon at Village Square Booksellers in Bellow Falls recently. Mrs. Santa Claus visited, too, to help children with stickers and games for “Take a Child to a Bookstore” day.
Norris-Brown based his book, “Did Tiger Take the Rain?’ on real people he met in the western Terai flat region of Nepal. He shows children how the flat Terai, a wet swampy area with small farming villages, is across the river from tiger reserves in the jungle. An anthropologist, he took his watercolors and pens with him to India in 1999. He asked folks then what he might do to help the tigers. Now only 3,000 tigers remain in the wild. More tigers live in zoos than in the jungle. The answer – he should write a children’s book.
Years later, his gorgeous watercolors illustrate a text that draws on tiger lore, the old stories that always have a tiger and jackal or tiger and monkey, as well as current climate-change concerns. Norris-Brown says this is his story, not a myth retold. Still, his characters are real people he’s met who agreed to model for his paintings and to share their tiger stories with him. In the story, the river is low from lack of rain. Tiger crosses the river and the people of the Terrai take this as a bad omen that Tiger is angry.
The fantasy begins. Anjali and her best friend, Usha, cross the river to ask Tiger the cause of his anger. Jackal and monkey tell the girls about the time before so much forest was cut, when many tigers lived. Monkey explains the rain cycle and importance of trees to keeping clouds in the sky to bring rain. Monkey gives the girls seeds to plant back home. Rains come again with the tree restoration. Norris-Brown tells children Tiger hides on three different pages watching the girls.
The book has a teacher’s section and a reader’s guide. The book is available at the bookstore.