‘Close Encounters in the Rain Forest’ takes children on an adventure tour with a frog!

Book cover of ‘Close Encounters in the Rain Forest’. Photo: Courtesy Vandana Mathrani

Close Encounters in the Rainforest written & illustrated by Vandana Mathrani is an adventure picture book for children, with photographs by Mathrani.

Written in a conversational style in easy and readable language for young readers, each page of the book is a visual treat in the form of detailed sketches of animals drawn by Mathrani.

Traveling has been Mathrani’s passion, she told News India Times in an exclusive interview. She has traveled to many places including India, Japan, Canada, Alaska, France, Costa Rica, Belize, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore. Inspiration for the book came when she visited the rain forest in Costa Rica during her graduate course. “That trip offered me amazing experiences,” Mathrani said.

Resident of Flushing, New York, Mathrani is a school teacher and work with children was the inspiration for the book. “I love teaching children and I thought this would be a great way for them to learn about animals from a different place in the world, and perhaps travel there in future,” she said.

‘Close Encounters’ is dedicated to the ‘living beings of the forest’ “May you thrive so that future generations can admire and witness your wonder,” it says. It is also dedicated to the ‘indigenous peoples, the guardians of this Earth’.

“I have a close affiliation to biology and ecology,” Mathrani said, adding she wanted to create more of an adventure science book. She chose the picture book form to evoke initial interest in the children’s minds, she said.

Mathrani said creating characters in cartoon form seemed like a creative venture to her. ‘Close Encounters’ is narrated by a tree frog who speaks of other animals and unique plants in the rain forest.

Teaching children has been important for Mathrani who has been a teacher for 15 years, currently teaching pre-school children between the ages of 3 and 5-year old. It is a job which gives her immense joy, she said.

“I love seeing the brightness and excitement on their faces when they learn something new or when they share something with their class mates,” she said.

Mathrani likes to teach them about the environment through outdoor education. She likes to take children on field trips, playing and exploring and collecting things, she said. In a city like New York, children do not see many green spaces and she has taken children to the MTA train museum, Prospect Park, and nearby sites to be with nature, she said.

Author of ‘Close Encounters in the Rainforest Vandana Mathrani on a trip
PHOTO: Courtesy Vandana Mathrani

In Costa Rica, she was impressed by the lushness of the rain forest, by the animals and the unique and flowering plants during her hikes within the forest, she said. “It was amazing to hear the sounds of the rain forests when we did night hikes,” Mathrani said, adding she was able to listen to the nocturnal animals. She did not find it scary as she was with a group of hikers and had head lamps.

But daytime hikes and half-day hikes were on steep terrain and were sometimes dangerous. Mathrani recalls one of the especially difficult hikes on a long stretch of steep incline. “On the gravel side of the forest, we were able to see leaf cutter ants walking by,” she said. But they had three experienced persons including their professor and a local tour guide with them, she said.

Mathrani found the climate of the rain forest in Costa Rica appealing. It rained there for the most part and during the day it was sunny with temperatures in 70s and 80s. She said, “Mornings and evenings were cool. Elevation wise we were higher and clouds were all around. It felt like you were in the clouds,” she said.

She was also impressed by the eco-tourism industry in Costa Rica. The local people were friendly and could speak English, she said, adding they were helpful and knowledgeable about places to visit. Mathrani said she would like to visit the rain forest in Costa Rica again.

Mathrani plans to write other books. With her treasure of travel experiences she has collected, she plans to write travel related books or travelogues. “You learn a lot about different cultures and history of places when you travel. It is also nice to meet people from around the world and make friends,” she said.



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