Nature Writing for Children: Salim Mamoo and Me

Zai Whitaker, in conversation with Shashwat D C, about her books on nature and her upbringing in a family of conservationists

NWFC Zai Whitaker

Zai’s uncle (or Mamoo) is the famous birdman of India’ Salim Ali. In fact, everyone in her family is a birding expert, while she struggles to identify the pipit sitting on the window pulpit. Salim Mamoo and Me is a story about a little girl’s struggle to recognise birds.

Catch the author of the autobiographical book, Zai Whitaker, in conversation with Shashwat D C, as she talks about the genre of Nature Writing For Children, her writing process and her upbringing in a family of conservationists. She has authored over 20 books for children like Kali and the Rat Snake, Andamans Boy, Cobra in My Kitchen, and others.

Nature writing for children is a field that has grown vastly in recent years, with many authors, old and new, contributing a fascinating array of books aimed at diverse ages, from toddlers to young adults. 

To deepen our collective engagement with this genre, Azim Premji University brings you a Webinar series #SeekingSustainability: Nature Writing for Children. The series will be of special interest to aspiring writers, parents, educators, and book lovers everywhere.

About the Speaker

Zai Whitaker is the Managing Trustee of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, which she co-founded in 1976. She also started, and remains involved with, the Irula Tribal Women’s Welfare Society (ITWWS), which promotes the economic and social empowerment of Irula women by using their traditional skills such as natural healing practices and the preparation of herbal medicines.

Zai grew up in a family of conservationists in Mumbai, and was married to the herpetologist Romulus Whitaker for twenty years. They continue to work together in conservation initiatives. 

She has written twenty books for children, most of them on environmental issues and conservation. These include Kali and the Rat Snake, Andamans Boy, and Cobra in My Kitchen.

Education is another interest and she taught at the Kodaikanal International School for 18 years, and was principal of Abacus Montessori School, Chennai and Outreach School, Bengaluru. 

Her role models include Gerald Durrell, Dr George Schiller and Rachel Carson. Within her family, her parents Zafar and Laeeq Futehally, and uncle Salim inspired her love of nature. She lives with her son Nikhil, who is the Curator of the Croc Bank. Her interests include birdwatching and reading. 

About the Moderator

Shashwat D C is part of the research team at Azim Premji University. He is a blogger with sus​tain​abil​i​tyze​ro​.com. With a deep interest in history and mythology, he is also a passionate champion of the environment and biodiversity. He writes on issues related to sustainability, sustainable development, and the environment.

Watch previous Nature Writing for Children webinars here.