We would like to thank all the reviewers for taking the time to write these reviews. Please note the reviews are not in chronological order and we are still working on adding appropriate images next to the reviews. If you are a new reader and would like to give a review we would be more than happy to post it with a link to your blog, business etc.. once we review it and approve it.
One of the oldest & best small press magazines in Nairobi, Kenya!
Reviewer: Aleya Kassam
My first encounter with Guyanese artist-poet Benrali’s work was in the form of his exquisitely illustrated books Manni from a World beyond Stars and The Turtle’s Dream and Keys. These beautiful books were an expression of his fascination with turtles, in which he weaved poetic storytelling with incredibly detailed illustrations. These are books that beg to be savored!
His newest book, When I Found a Moon of Chai has a similar experimental sensibility, but in this case, he plays around with words and imagery in an unusual way. It is a collection of verse, which he likens to a ‘necklace of beads that don’t match but when strung together they work as a collection of surreal worlds, musings, moments of love and adventures that meander without any destination.’
The writing is indulgent, but that is what I liked most about it. You feel almost like a voyeur, silently watching in on Benrali’s most intimate journeys of love, heartbreak, obsession, self-discovery and connection with the spaces around him.
"Alone at dusk, man beholds stones
At the tide, an endless braille into mist.
A man’s footprints follow me
I look back at myself, ancestors
Thousands of years ago."
Just as Benrali’s finely detailed illustrations demand you to linger, roam and discover something new every time you unravel new layers, the verse in this book does the same. Upon every reading, the imagery takes you somewhere different, a new place, a fresh sensation.
"In the center of a minefield
A soldier is stuck, he wants to ask
The dead he killed where they are
Planted. Looking over a map
The archaeologist found the spot
He peels away a bed of moss
To see wonders inside the cave
The Taoist master greets his
Students explaining not to go down
Too quickly. Chakras unleashed
Can drive you crazy."
When I Found a Moon of Chai is imbued with the same passion Benrali has put into his earlier works, and you really get the sense that this was a deeply personal work. Like his previous books, this too demands to be lingered over, and actually does not need to be read start to finish in order. In fact, the greatest pleasure I got from it was going to random pages and savoring the verse in front of me. Perhaps the only thing I would have hoped for is that Benrali would have illustrated the verse in the same way as his previous books. When you see the magnificent cover page, you will see what I mean. I look forward to more from Benrali, particularly as he discovers his poetic style as authoritatively as he has his remarkable artistic style.
Alliance for Tompotika Conservation Mount Tompotika, Sulawesi, Indonesia
http://www.tompotika.org Manni From A World Beyond Stars by Benrali
Two of the loveliest books I've seen on wildlife have been drawn and written by the American-born Guyanese author-artist Benrali: Manni: From a World Beyond Stars, and The Turtle's Dream and Keys. Both are centred on turtles, the first inspired by a sea turtle beach in Guyana and the second by a turtle living with Benrali! The first book tells the story of a baby sea turtle called Manni (named after the Sanskrit word Mani, meaning jewel', or money'), who, alone in a big sea full of dangers, is befriended by a coconut seed named Oonie. Together they have many adventures, including escaping from a crocodile and a hungry octopus, before being deposited back onto land. At this point Oonie reveals its true self, as a moongazer angel living in palm trees. Oonie then gently guides Manni back to the sea with advice on how to stay safe. The second book revolves around an Eastern box turtle called Jupiter, and the patterns on his shell. The author delves into Jupiter's dreams, going back to prehistoric times (including the age of dinosaurs), from which turtles have evolved.He imagines one of the patterns on Jupiter's back to be a key to a place beyond time, a place where he can change from turtle to wings, from reptile to butterfly, from fossil energy to solar energy, a key to a place where anything can be changed. These books stand out for their exquisitely coloured artwork and poetic prose, and for reaching out to most age groups. It is not only nature that has been Benrali's inspiration. It is also ancient cultures.
Manni uses the ghazal form of rhyming couplets as a base (the author-artist credits this to India), and its story takes from folk tales of the Caribbean including the Arawak indigenous people. As conservationists around the world are realising, it is this combined power of nature and culture that we need to turn to if we are to heal our troubled planet. In their own gentle, visually stunning way, these books will help inspire both children and adults to search for ways to save wildlife, biodiversity, and human beings from being destroyed by greed and selfishness.
There are some spelling or grammatical mistakes, but these are minor irritants in the otherwise magical journey Benrali takes us on. For more information on Benrali and the books, log on to http:/benrali.com
***Click here if you would like to purchase a beautiful, hardcover, collectible edition of "The Turtles Dream & Keys(R):Gardens Without End. This is a more universal edition which can appeal to more ages!
Ashish Kothari is with Kalpavriksh, Pune.
The best childrens books appeal to childrens inborn sense of wonder, their ability to imagine our world in ways that it both already is and could nearly be. Guiana-born author Benralis The Turtles Dream and Keys is a literary journey for children that explores exactly that same sense of wonder by following Jupiter, a turtle awakening from a long winters dream to a vibrant natural world. The protagonist is an Eastern Box Turtle of North America. The box turtles intricate, colorful shell was Benralis inspiration for the work.
Benrali describes the inner life of Jupiter, the life of a box turtles mind. As readers, we follow Jupiters thoughts as he dreams of his ancestors, nameless giants that inhabit primeval forests. As we travel through these distant places, we join Jupiter on a voyage that envisions the immensity of evolutionary history while indulging ancient legends that explain our presence on Earth. Jupiter ponders the other reptilian creatures that belong to his lineage while also contemplating others, the insects, birds and mammals, with which he may share an even more archaic kinship. The Turtles Dream and Keys is a grand tour of life on Earth, and this is precisely why it appeals to children. It nourishes their hunger for learning and curiosity for the world. The book's illustrations complement this mission. Benrali makes great use of each page to deliver captivating scenes that will delight the eager eyes of children and adults alike. On one page we see Jupiter imagining himself spinning through time while his ancestral brethren, reptiles, mammals, and birds, look on. On another, we see the orange plating of his shell morphing into monarch butterflies, as if reminding us that all of nature, no matter how improbable it may seem, is one. Every image reinforces this motif, the importance of valuing nature and appreciating its beauty.
The themes present in The Turtles Dream and Keys build upon Benralis earlier work, Manni: From a World Beyond Stars. The story follows the adventures of a young sea turtle and the many perils he faces while trying to reach the sea. Manni shares the same strengths as Benralis newer work: beautiful illustrations that teach children the importance of protecting and loving nature. While ideal for parents who hope to foster in their children a respect, admiration, and fascination for the natural world, both The Turtles Dream and Keys and Manni will also not disappoint those adults who have managed to protect and nurture their own sense of wonder.
Frank Izaguirre is a writer, ecocritic, and naturalist. His great passion is where literature intersects with conservation, elevating both disciplines to a level where they improve and beautify the world. He's a contributor for The Costa Rica News, and has also recently been published in Flashquake, in Travel Magazine, and Poets for Living Waters. When not reading or writing, he seems happiest birdwatching
***Click Here If you would like to purchase a beautiful, collectible, hardcover edition of Manni From A World Beyond Stars***
Anansesem Is Pioneering and one of a kind journal for Caribbean YA literature and much more!
by Benrali ~ Only1Earth.Inc (2008) ~ illustrated by Benrali
If you missed my review of Manni: A World Beyond Stars, the magical picturebook by American-born Guyanese children's author/illustrator, Aman Waseem Ben Ali (pen name: Benrali), you can check it out here. And now, I'm following that up with a review of Benrali's other picturebook, The Turtle's Dream and Keys.
Like in Manni, this book also stars a turtle, Jupiter, an Eastern Box Turtle, known for its brightly colored and elaborate shell patterns (I read somewhere that Benrali actually has a box turtle for a pet, perhaps they are a sort of muse for him?)
All winter Jupiter dreamed with earth, stones and gnomes, all winter under hyacinths and snow. But Spring has come and the winter must go. Now its time for my box turtle to break free, its time for Jupiter to see, time from him to feel sunlight on his cold shell.
And then a beak pokes through the garden sand and I see Jupiter is lucky, Earth and Spring have set him free. A box turtle returns safely from his winter dream.
And thus begins the tale of Jupiter, a contemplative story that invites us to wonder at the colorful patterns on Jupiter's shell, colors and patterns that the narrator imagines are "a memory of ancient seas." Every year the patterns and colors on Jupiter's shell change and this Spring, the narrator notices that the pattern on Jupiter's shell looks like a golden skeleton key. The narrator, who we can assume is Benrali himself, imagines that Jupiter has "a key to a place beyond time." And what would this place beyond time be like? When Jupiter settles under some ivy in the garden, pulls himself inside his shell and falls asleep, the reader journeys back in time through the box turtle's dream, to a prehistoric world where anything might have been possible, a world that we know relatively little of, but are invited to imagine.
Deep in a box turtle's dream I imagine Jupiter is a wheel spinning through time. In a turtle's dram I imagine he can see all the species and empires that have come and gone through time. I imagine Jupiter is not slow but fast and free.
Jupiter dreams back to the time when, as the old Iroqouis myth goes, the Earth rested upon the back of a Great Turtle, a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The narrator wonders what other animals might have existed in prehistoric times that Jupiter can see and what these ancient animals might have looked like.
"I wonder what box turtles would look like if they gave up their shells for wings? What would box turtle birds be? Would they be large or small? Would they be flightless or walk on all fours?" It's fitting that the author's uses the Eastern Box Turtle to invoke a child's imagination and sense of wonder about the prehistoric world since Eastern Box Turtles are a species which have existed virtually unchanged since prehistoric times. So if any species has a "primordial consciousness," as they say, it would be the Eastern Box Turtle right? The illustrations, which are highly botanical and naturalist, invite us to appreciate the strange and beautiful wonders of the natural world. Conceptually, Benrali's illustrations, like his prose, move seamlessly between the detailed and lilliputian aspects of nature -insects crawling on the bark of a tree or the patterns on the wings of a butterfly-- and his grand, visionary images of prehistoric landscapes. The intricate pen and ink garden drawings, etchings and watercolors have the finished look of fine art, but have the potential to appeal to young readers as well. At the same time, I can imagine that some of the pictures might be scary or overwhelming for young children.
Again, like Manni, The Turtle's Dream and Keys is a high-concept picturebook that transcends the genre of children's literature; it can easily double as an art book or a gift book for art lovers and adults. Naturalism, dreams and fantasy combine to create a story world where anything is possible. The narrator ultimately submits to the reader that "all patterns in nature are keys." It's an interesting concept. The way I interpreted it is that if we look closely enough at the patterns in nature, we can gain an appreciation of the intelligent design that exists and is manifest in the natural world, we can unlock some of the mysteries of nature. Too high of a concept for a child? I don't think so. Children may not follow all the details of the text, but I think they will find lots to appreciate about this book...if only for the cool dinosaur pictures!
Manni: From a World Beyond Stars (Book Review)
I like coming across new things: unexpected treasures, interesting discoveries.One of my latest and happy discoveries is Benrali, the pen name of American-born Guyanese children's author/illustrator, Aman Waseem Ben Ali. Benrali is a newbie in the world of children's literature, which makes the arrival of his books all the more exciting.
Today I'm reviewing Manni: From a World Beyond Stars; look out for the other one in an upcoming post.
Manni: From a World Beyond Stars is the story of Manni, a baby turtle born one fateful night on Shell Beach, Guyana, who instead of rushing into the waves with the other baby turtles, gets left behind on the moonlit shore. Manni, is "the first rainbow born at night," newly arrived from "a world beyond our stars"; he must find his way to the open sea, which he eventually does, but not before traveling deep into the belly of an island of immense and perilous beauty, an island where things aren't always as they seem. The story of this remarkable journey, is told by Oonie, a coconut seed sent by the wise Moon to guide Manni through shifting worlds of water and light, of imagination and reality. Interestingly, the book jacket says that Manni: From a World Beyond Stars is the first childrens book written using the ghazal, an ancient Arabic and Indo-Persian form of poetic verse.
All was quiet that night on Shell Beach
all but the turtles rushing to sea
That night the full moon spoke to me.
"You will leave the forest of palm trees."
So the moon blew me down to the sand.
I saw jewels running to the sea.
The moon says I have to protect one,
I have to help him return to the sea.
Manni follows the light of the Moon into the sea where he is frightened by the foaming waves and swims through gorgeous undersea worlds filled with colorful fish and sea anemones.
Although he meets a few well-meaning creatures, the wide-eyed baby turtle is soon tossed back up to the surface by strong waves, where Oonie finds him. This is where the adventure really begins! The ocean carries Oonie and Manni to a mysterious island, where they encounter a ghostly swamp, fall down a waterfall, wind up inside the mouth of a sleeping alligator, travel through the heart of a tree, are nearly crushed by a giant octopus and get hurled out of a whale's spout.
Will Manni and Oonie survive their strange and wondrous nocturnal adventure? And will Manni find his way back to the sea?
Manni: From a World Beyond Stars is a sophisticated, picture storybook; there are lots of details and layers to the narrative for the reader to unpack. The use of the ghazal, a classical genre, adds complexity, as does the often metaphorical language and the highly conceptual illustrations. Then there are folkloric elements as well; there's a surprising twist at the end when the coconut seed cracks open revealing Oonie's true form; Oonie is actually a Moongazer, a mythical creature that "comes from the moon and lives in palm trees." Moongazers are found in Caribbean folklore; they are often described as men who are 100 feet tall and whose faces can't be seen. They are said to terrorize rural villages by standing with their long legs at either side of the road, while they gaze at the moon. If anyone tries to pass through their legs they quickly shut them and crush the person to death. The Moongazers pictured in Manni: From a World Beyond Stars pretty much fit the bill, but seem more benevolent than anything else, putting a friendly spin on the old, scary myth.
In terms of the writing, I warmed quickly to the rhythm of the ghazal, which I think is a sort of momentous rhythm, lending a sense of occasion to the narrative. Moreover, both the ghazal form and the beautiful imagery of the storyteller's language work to create a riveting, poetic atmosphere that is quite transporting for the reader. Having explored Benrali's background, it seems to me that he writes from a rather mystical, or perhaps metaphysical, place and tradition and this is reflected in Manni: From a World Beyond Stars, a story plays with the very fabric of reality, using both words and images to unravel a world that can only be described as surrealist. Indeed, the story borders at some points on magic realism; for example, the whale is not just compared to an island but actually is an island --a "whale tree"-- and so on. Overall, I got a great sense of myth and mystery from the text.
That said, given the abstract grain of the story and the twisting and turning chain-of-events, I thought the narrative chain could have been stronger to make things clearer for young readers. That is to say, the story became confusing in some places; I found I had to read very slowly and re-reread to make sense of what was going on. I boil it down to the fact that some of the word choice was confusing (It took me a minute to realize that "inside the tree" meant under its aerial roots) and some of the language a little too metaphorical. As I said, this is a sophisticated picturebook story, one that employs classical tropes, reads like poetry and transcends the genre of children's literature. The complexity is fine if you accept that children can enjoy these sorts of highly stylized books too, but don't expect a young child to be able to tell you back word-for-word what happened in the story.
I was much more taken with the illustrations than with the writing. For me, the strength of the storytelling in Manni lies in Benrali's incredibly detailed pen and ink illustrations.
Ethereal, luminous compositions convey the mystery of the nocturnal setting and underscore the otherworldly aspect of Manni's journey. Jeweled tones capture the richness of island landscapes and seascapes, while shapes and flowing lines create a sense of the grandeur and energy of nature. Elements of old-fashioned botanical illustration and decorative art do much to elevate the visual impact of this book. I do think, however, that younger children might find some of the pictures scary, like the image of a Mr. Octopus in the book!
***Click Here If you would like to purchase a beautiful, collectible, hardcover edition of Manni From A World Beyond Stars***
***Click here if you would like to purchase a beautiful, hardcover, collectible edition of "The Turtles Dream & Keys(R):Gardens Without End. This is a more universal edition which can appeal to more ages!
Review Done by
All was quiet that night on Shell Beach,
All but the turtles rushing to sea.
That night the full moon spoke to me,
You will leave the forest of palm trees.
from Manni -
Manni, From A World Beyond Stars is written and illustrated by Aman Waseem Ben Ali (writing under the pen name Benrali), an American born Guyanese author-illustrator.
Manni is a baby sea turtle, born one moonlit night on Shell Beach in Guyana. He is drawn to the sea where danger lurks, and finds an unusual guide to help him navigate the adventures which await him.
This picture book is filled with amazing, brilliantly colored illustrations which capture the world of the sea turtle. The author has fused cultural concepts and written the verses using the ghazal, an Arabic and Indo-Persian form of rhyming couplets, as a foundation for the story. The result is a captivating narrative poem which has a dreamlike quality.
***Click here if you would like to purchase a beautiful, hardcover, collectible edition of "The Turtles Dream & Keys(R):Gardens Without End. This is a more universal edition which can appeal to more ages!
Journalist, Guyana Times Newspaper:
"Benrali's rich heritage is beautifully infused into both his engaging textual narrative and delightful illustrations. This makes his books not just an ideal read for children, who are fascinated with colors and fantasy, but for adults who appreciate the artful intricacy of his storytelling as well as his imagery."
INDIAN BOOK REVIEWS
Travels of Manni The Turtle
Shana Susan Ninan
Review of Manni – From A World Beyond Stars; Benrali; Dreamworlds Beyond Time; pp 18; Rs 837 approx
A baby turtle on Guyana’s Shell Beach seeks his family. His life the next few hours is an adventurous ride – joining hands is Oonie, a coconut seed that transforms into a Moongazer. Drawing from Caribbean, Guyanese and Arawak Indian folklore and culture, author Benrali scrips – rather, sketches – the story of Manni, the turtle.
Benrali is an American author-illustrator born to Guyanese parents, and is the first to use the technique Ghazal couplets to decorate his story. The couplets flow like the water in the river, rendering a soothing music to the ear.
But that isn’t all. The whole book is illustrated to form a base for the story. I’d say that the illustrations capture the essence of the folklore and cultural aspects of the story. The sketches take the reader to Manni’s world. You can “hear” the waterfalls, “feel” the spray of water on your face as Manni dodges along the river, “see” the rise of the river, “travel” with Manni and Oonie to the island, and so on.
After his stint in the sea with Oonie as guide, Manni carries on with his search for his family. Colourfully done up, Benrali’s book is a refreshing read, classified under Caribbean Literature and also Children’s Literature.
Rating: 9.5/10 (3 votes cast)
I’m called Shana Susan Ninan. After my MA from CIEFL (Yes, I prefer our institute’s old name!) at Hyderabad, I joined The Week as a subeditor-trainee. Edited and cleaned up hordes of stories, interviewed a couple of people, wrote articles and features on health, video gaming, art and books. Right now, I work as a Soft Skills Trainer in an educational institution. Indianbookreviews is a platform for readers, writers (wish this word would have been written with an ‘r’ and not a ‘w’) and reviewers. Although with a passion for books, Shana started reviewing books and posting interviews and book-related events, IBR has now grown, and grown well. We have a smattering of reviewers who are authors, students, researchers and professors as well as a couple of them from abroad.
Caroline Poppendeck, Librarian
Head of Youth Services
Steele Memorial Library
101 E. Church St.
Elmira, NY 14901
Head of Youth Services
Manni From a World Beyond the Stars, by Benrali, captivated my senses. In a dreamy and sacred world, the luminous story graces bountiful scenes. A sense of ancient lore permeates the gentle story of a special turtle, born at midnight, in the presence of the moon and the sea.
Achromatic wallpaper washes the background, while brilliant pastels spark the story-driving illustrations. I was slow to turn each one, taking in color, form, and seeing moonlight cascading over magical landscapes.
Unexpected twists drive the reader to follow Manni and his guide through dangers to prevail in this glorious creation. For all ages to share.
The Turtles Dream and Keys takes us on a phantasmagoria into the inner workings of a beloved box turtle. Upon awakening in spring, Jupiter is drawn into a garden, and the narrator reflects on his place in the grand scheme of things. The key a special marking on his shell, unlocks turtle dreams. They come alive in Jupiters minds eye. We share his visions in the illustrations prehistory, alternate turtle evolution, marvels erupting deep in his daydreams.It is an unbridled reverie into a fellow being living in our time. A superb art book designed as a picture book.
Caroline Poppendeck has studied art and art history for years, both academically and privately, before culminating her knowledge in a MLS from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
She currently works as Head of Youth Services in a New York state public library, where she happily peruses art of all kinds within the Children's genre.
One of Nairobi's most innovative, unique and powerful magazines!
Reviewer: Aleya Kassam, Editor & Journalist
As an avid reader, I often find myself gobbling up books, tearing through the pages as I am transported by the story (well the good books at least). Not so for Benrali’s books; these hardcover picture books are to be savoured and pored over as you luxuriate in the beauty of the pictures on each page. In fact, the first time I leafed through the book, I barely read the text as I was entranced by the incredibly detailed illustrations that fill every inch of every page.
Benrali is an American born Guyanese poet-illustrator whose prints have been widely exhibited around the world. It is his fascination with turtles that inspired the two books; Manni from a World beyond Stars and The Turtle’s Dream and Keys. In both these books, he weaves his poetry-storytelling with illustrations that are as detailed as they are exquisite. Having researched and drawn these creatures for years, you can feel the love that he has for them in every brush stroke.
From vibrantly painted technicolour turtle heads, lush forests with every imaginable shade of green, patchwork coloured crocodiles and ethereal moon-gazers, you find yourself lingering on each page, absorbing the intricacies of this world that he sketches. The Turtle’s Dream was inspired by a dream Benrali had, and so it is not surprising that it has a dreamy other-worldy feel to it; one that makes me yearn to see the world in the same bold dramatic detail that he paints.
Initially I assumed that these were storybooks books meant for children, however the language seems at times difficult to be appropriate for a child, even though I can imagine though how a child would be entranced by the pictures. Some of the writing has a lyrical, staccato quality that even though is abstract, is pleasurable to listen to aloud.
Look at all the patterns in a garden, stars in moss, circles in sand, ivy wings, little hats on mushrooms and sun letters on box turtles shells.
The Turtle’s Dream
These are books that as a child I would love for the pictures, as a teenager I would cherish for the unusual beauty of the writing, and as an adult I would be enchanted by the idea of the stories he tells. In Manni, Benrali tells the story of a baby sea turtle that is guided back to the sea with the help of Ooni, the coconut seed who has been sent by the moon. I was charmed by the story, despite the sometimes clumsy language, and I wanted to see his world of jewel like sea turtles, moon gazers and glow-in-the-dark crocodiles. Benrali has used the ghazal as the foundation for his writing in Manni, which is unusual and is also probably why the story feels more lyrical when read out loud.
Every now and then, a line will leap out at you
Jupiter’s colors are like slipper
orchids, hard to find in nature,
colors that I imagine are a memory of
If nothing else, it awakens in you the wonder with which you looked at the world as a young child.
Benrali’s books are the kind that you pick up repeatedly over the years. I am tempted to tear out the pages and frame them to hang up and enjoy on my living room walls - such is the beauty of the art within.
Midwest Book Review
The Turtle's Dream and Keys
"The Turtle's Dream and Keys" is an enchanting, lingering look at the beauty of a very special box turtle named Jupiter and his dreams. The artist lovingly creates the unusually colorful designs of this box turtle, including a very special key design on his shell. Turtle shell designs are partial camouflage, so there is infinite variety of box turtle shell design. Artist-author Benrali imagines his turtle's sleeping dreams as keys to "a place beyond time, a place where he can change from turtle to wings, from reptile to butterfly, from fossil energy to solar energy, a key to a place where anything else can be changed." Gently unfolding visions of the turtle's dreams accompany incredibly intricate illustrations of Jupiter in his natural surroundings. "The Turtle's Dream and Keys" is an ageless book to be treasured by both child and adult.
Earthshine Nature Conservatory
A Rare Conservationist Society Protecting Eastern Box Tortoises
Naturalist Steve O'Neil
"Recently I discovered a wonderful new book about box turtles. This book is called The Turtles Dream& Keys.r.
and it was written and illustrated by Benrali. As a naturalist and box turtle researcher I find this book to be outstanding! This book transcends all life on planet earth; it flows through time and space all within the long life of a box turtle.
I was so impressed by the wonderful story and intricate and beautiful artwork in this incredible book that I plan to feature it in the Earthshine Nature Education Center for all to read when they visit Earthshine. I will also take this outstanding book to seminars and animal shows so I can share with more people the beautiful work of art that Benrali has created about the animal that inspired him, and me--the Eastern Box Turtle. Please take a look at Benrali's website to learn more about his book and how you can get one of your own--if you love turtles as much as I do then this book is a must have."
Steve O'Neill is a resident conservationist, herpatologist, biologist and naturalist.
V stands for Vaani. Vaani is a Sanskrit word for inner voice that touches the strings of heart, the deep senses before flowing out in a stream of words. Vaani recites poems or transforms into prose. In every form, it splashes the sensibilities, nourishes the spirit and transforms into pearls of words. Vaani is the Goddess of knowledge and art. It is beauty, aesthetics and reasoning personified. Vaani's shade is pure, pristine white, the color that sparkles any word with its radiance. Let our Vaani; the true voice of our soul, be our muse!
While Vaani has an aim on focusing of South Asian Women writers they made an exception for a guy this time...I am honored!.
The two books 'Manni From the world beyond stars' and 'The Turtles Dream and keys' by Benrali are a collection of verses and illustrations. Berali has used both his skills as a poet and as an artist to tell his readers a story of friendship and coming of age.Muted yet colourful images have dream like qualities to them in the twin books. The words add to the magic created by the art.
"Jupiter's colors are like slipper orchids, hard to find in nature. colors that I imagine are a memory of ancient seas, colors that remind me of fish from coral reefs."
The authors love for the Eastern box turtle of North America is evident on each page but sometimes a reader might forget that this story is about a tiny turtle and not about themselves.
"Look at all the patterns in a garden, stars in moss, circles in sand, ivy wings, little hats on mushrooms and sun letters on box turtle shells."
The second book Manni from a World Beyond Stars is more suited for children aged 5-9 as it tells a story along with beautiful and mesmerising illustrations.
The books are best bought as a gift for children or even for adults who like rich art illustrations.
By Smita Singh
Nancy K. Wallace:
Ellington, Pennsylvania Librarian and Youth Services Coordinator + reviewer for Voya Magazine
"Exquisitely intricate illustrations and lyrical prose set this picture book apart. Benrali records the emergence of an Eastern Box Turtle from its winter hibernation. This particular spring, its elaborate shell patterns include the shape of a copper skeleton key. Entwining myth, fantasy, and factual information with page after page of lush art, he creates a beautiful tribute to the Box Turtle's presence and role in earth's history. The turtle dreams of earth's beginnings, recalling the Iroquois myth where the earth's inception took place on the back of a turtle's shell. While its memories recall the earth's first residents, the turtle's dreams envision a future where the earth will be preserved and cherished for generations. This exceptional picture book belongs in every home and library.
America's Oldest Environmental Organization
Book Roundup Wednesday: Nature Books for Kids
The Turtles Dream and Keys(by Benrali, $15.99, Only 1 Earth, Sept. 2009): Eastern box turtles are very special to this Benrali, who draws captivating pictures that fill every page with surreal patterns. The story starts autobiographically but grows into fantasy, following Benralis own shelled pet, Jupiter, on the adventures the author imagines for him.Benrali introduces a new idea to conservation by asking readers to imagine if box turtles became extinct, what patterns would leave the earth, an interesting perspective that adult environmentalists might never have considered.
SUPERMOM BOOK REVIEWS
I do so adore the artwork that Benrali uses in his books, I reviewed The Turtles Dream& Keys.r. which was a work of art itself and I now have the pleasure of reviewing his second book, Manni From a World Beyond Stars.
Benralis books are not so much a storybook as they are a wandering poem accompanied by amazing illustrations, children might not get the exact meanings behind everything but this books is an excellent introduction to free verse, poetry that doesnt rhyme. Most childrens books do an excellent job of immersing kids into the world of rhyming poems and I must admit these are my favorite to read out loud to my children. But everything has a place and free verse can be just as intriguing to read to a child.
Manni is a baby sea turtle who has a big adventure at sea after being born. We meet all sorts of amazing sea creatures and moongazers from the folklore of Guyana. In fact, we find out that the book is narrated by a moongazer, Ooni.
This is another amazing book from Benrali that takes us on a journey of magic and wonder.
Reading level: ages 5 and up
Page Count:32 pages
Thalia Ava Carpenary
Registered Nurse(Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Parent
Comments : I enjoy looking at your art work. It brings to life the imagination of a child's thoughts in color.The effects appear real to life and yet magical. A beauty very mystical and alluring for the eyes.Beautiful. Look forward to seeing more of your visions and adventures.
Highschool Student: ZACH SUBRAMANY
Comments : Book Review: \"Manni, From a World Beyond Stars\"
Today I had the pleasure to pick up, \"Manni, From a World Beyond Stars\" by Benrali. From the moment I took a glance over the book's cover, I knew that it would be quite the experience. As the old saying goes, however, you can't judge a book by its cover, and I began to read. Page after page, an organized, flowing, and enjoyable tale was laid out before me, and I was absolutely enthralled by the struggle and wonder that Manni faced. Not to mention the illustrations are absolutely wonderful and bring the entire story to life; the vibrant colors and contrasting patterns certainly grabbed my attention! All in all, Benrali has sculpted an itriguing look into the life, troubles, and successes of an aspiring sea-turtle and the spirit that guides it.
“…..The books impressed me very much. The artworks generate peculiar aesthetic response and create delightful sensations in the brain. Many of the responses I could not analyze properly in conscious intellectual level. May be the responses are made in the unconscious and it is very difficult to retrieve them? “
The Turtle’s Dream and Keys
Price: $25.99 USA & Canada
By Tarun Tapas Mukherjee
Bhatter College, India
Benrali’s The Turtle’s Dream and Keys is a wonderful series of illustrations telling a story of creation with the glorification of an Eastern Box turtle in its colourful and mysterious history of evolution. The illustrations have been inscribed with short pieces of poetic prose or prose poems in the tradition of “Rembrandt/Albrecht Durer etchings”.
A short story writer, artist, poet and screenwriter, Benrali is a versatile man from Guyana, who graduated from Parsons School of Design. His original name is, however, Aman Waseem Ben Ali, half Hindu and half Muslim, whose ancestors had settled there during the colonial period from the Indian subcontinent. This information is important because in his work we find a conscious fusion of the eastern and the western artistic and cultural traditions. He sought inspiration in “Indian and Middle Eastern miniature paintings and illuminated manuscripts, especially the world famous Moghul miniatures. But being Guyanese he felt he didn't want his illustration to seem like copies of the Indian miniatures…so he pushed his work in a totally different area…which led him to researching Balinese rainforest paintings which were choked and teeming with all forms of life, Japanese woodcuts (Hokosai) and their strong usage of the diagonal and patterns to depict space, Amercian folk art, jungle scenes from Henri Rousseau's oil paintings, Gaugin's paintings and even Carnival art used in circuses.”ii These are, however, are simply milestones of traditions having distant connections with Benrali’s art and he has succeeded in creating a transcendental world through his exploration of primeval nature where human beings have no place. Benrali has added intertextual dimensions to his works by inscribing short verbal poems in prose, which, combined together, release swift wave of cultural codes forcing the reader/viewer to the next piece/s for almost an immersive experience.
The book owes its origin, as the artist informs, to the beauty of an Eastern Box Turtle introduced to him by his girlfriend whose premature death forced him “to put together a picture book…in a small way…[as] a tribute to her”.Another shot of inspiration came to him after “a dream he had about the pattern one of his box turtles Jupiter, that looked like a skeleton key”. Whatever the actual inspirations or compulsions might have been, Benrali drew upon numerous different artistic and cultural traditions and fused those into highly concentrated works of art with grave ecological concerns of our postdigital times. The book begins with an archetypal theme from the fertility cult—the theme of death/sleep and resurrection in nature. Section I: “The Turtle Key” starts with an illustration of the Box Turtle waking up from hibernation and with minimalist prose the artist introduces the story:
“All winter Jupiter dreamed with earth, stones and gnomes, all winter under hyacinths
and snow. But Spring has come and the winter must go. Now its time for my box turtle to
break free, its time for Jupiter to see, time for him to feel sunlight on his cold shell.”
The next five illustrations celebrate the multi-coloured patterns of the turtle on its back
and the artist finds a mythical connection: “I imagine the gold patterns are poems elves
have read for millions of years.”vi In the section II: “Jupiter Dreams” with the Box Turtle
the artist journeys back to the prehistoric times: “…Jupiter is a wheel spinning through
time…he can see all species and empires that have come and gone through time”
In one of the brilliant illustrations the artist explicitly links the turtle to the Iroquois legend which tells the story of the earth’s creation on a turtle’s back. But the artist also might have been by a story from Hindu mythology in which Lord Vishnu reincarnated himself as Kurma or a turtle. Again, in many cultures, turtles are honoured as preserver of memory and energy and the artist must have used this aspect in his presentation of the Box Turtle. Finally he concludes: “I imagine Jupiter has a key to a place beyond time, a place where he can change from turtle to wings, from reptile to butterfly, from fossil energy to solar energy, a key to a place where anything can be changed.”viii The book can be a perfect buy for any person of any profession and of any age-group—adults and children, and can prove to be an inspiration for some noble action.
Tarun Tapas Mukherjee is Assistant Professor in English, Bhatter College, Dantan, Paschim Medinipur, West Bengal. He is interested in E-literature, digital technologies, documentary photography etc. He is a web and graphic designer. He edits Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities (www.rupkatha.com).
Hotel El Jardin del Eden
Traveling With the Turtles
Dont ever fool yourself: breaking into the Young Reader market is a tough, highly competitive arena. The story needs to be basic yet compassionate and the illustrations have to be alluring; and youve got to sell it to the parents, too. Afterall, they are the ones reading the book to their children, not to mention paying for it in the first place. You also have to find your niche, a hook to present your story like no other before it. For every Dr. Seuss, there are literally thousands of failed attempts by aspiring authors. Enter Benrali, the pen name for the Guyanese author/illustrator Aman Waseem Ben Ali. He recently entered the Young Reader scene with two independently published books that both have turtles as their main characters. The author uses prints of his own woodcut blocks, etchings and ink illustrations and he has developed a form of storytelling that integrates various cultures, including an Indo-Persian rhyme scheme called the ghazal, with a markedly non-Western meter to it, and the folklore tales of Guyana, specifically moongazers from the indigenous Arawak tribe. Needless to say, he doesnt have a lot of competition with these combined art forms. In fact, it is the first childrens book to use this Indo-Persian style of rhyming couplets.
Manni is the title of the first book released by the author, as well as the name of the main character, a young sea turtle that the elusive moongazers help to guide and protect as he enters the sea and unites with his family. The story and art make up a book that children clearly can enjoy and the prints are of an artistic level that adults can appreciate, too. The entire package, in fact, is quite impressive, printed on high grade paper stock.
Jupiter, a box turtle, is the main character in The Turtles Dream and Keys, Benralis second publication and the storyline is possibly more accessible to young readers than his first work. Jupiter awakens from a winter sleep to enjoy the springtime sun, nap under a cluster of ivy and dream of creatures who inhabited the earth millions of years ago and are now extinct.
The artwork in this book is very detailed, stunning and the message is a positive one for young minds, a story that encourages the imaginations of the readers minds. I found it interesting that the author used the death of his girlfriend (who had a pet box turtle) as inspiration to write about an animal he admittedly would never have had an interest in if the unfortunate event hadnt occurred. Benrali also bucked the system by ignoring the advice of several publishers by not including human beings in his stories and for this self-assuredness he is to be commended because his stories really work well without them.
Teacher, TDSB (Toronto District School Board)
Peter Secor Junior Public School
Manni From A World Beyond Stars
"Hip hip hooray! Three cheers for Manni as he safely makes his way back to the sea. Embedded in Guyanese folklore and the ghazal form of rhyming couplets, Benrali's Manni From A World Beyond Stars is an inspirational story of bravery, courage, and true friendship. As I read this beautifully illustrated book to my grade 2 and 3 students, I observed that I had their full attention and they were totallyengrossed in the story, on the edge of their seats eagerly awaiting the next word, the next sentence, the next page. The children demonstrated perfect reading comprehension by stating that the author's message or the 'big idea' in the story is that of friendship.They cited passages from the book to prove that Oonie helped Manni on his journey back to the sea and Manni helped Oonie escape from the crocodile and the octopus.
The moongazers or spirits in the Guyanese and Caribbean folklore tied in nicely with the grade 2 Ontario CurriculumSocial Studies units on cultures around the world.Author and illustrator Benrali had us all routing for Manni's safe return to the sea and Oonie's survival. Manni From A World Beyond Stars is Benrali's masterpiece, a work of art that is riveting, aesthetically appealling, and absolutely captivating.Hip hip hooray! Three cheers for the brillancy of Benrali!"
The Turtle's Dream And Keys: "Ahhh, a teacher's dream! My elementary students thoroughly enjoyed Benrali's The Turtle's Dream and Keys as it allowedthem toopen up their imagination to a world of possibilities, a world wheredreams become reality, a world such as Jupiter's.Eachbrilliantly illustrated pageis an entity unto itself absorbing the children's attention,captivating them, andleaving them in awe. Our post-reading discussion of the bookwas one of the richest ever embarked upon in ourclassroom.The children became curious about what exactly happens when they fall asleep at night, where does their dream take them, andis their dream a vision of what might be? One little boy said that he wanted to be the "secret angel of time"
where an angel interweaves with a prehistoric dream-scape. Manychildren commented on the beauty of thelush, colourful, detailed illustrations and attempted to replicate Benrali's artistry during Art Class.The read aloud lent itself to teachable moments focusing on similies, metaphors, and the use ofdescriptive adjectiveswithin the body of text. Todiscover a book that can both entertain andinstruct is indeed a teacher's dream. Thank you Benrali.One word sums up your talent as author and illustrator...'PHENOMENAL'! "
Peter Secor Junior Public School
http://www.SAWNET.ORGhttp://www.sawnet.org/kidsbooks/reviews.php?Manni+From+a+World+Beyond+the+StarsManni From a World Beyond the Starsby Benrali Only1Earth, 2010 (Ages 5 - 16)Review by Susan ChackoThe first word that came to my mind when I saw Benrali's books was 'fractal'. The books are quite gorgeous, with each drawing containing layers of exquisite detail that go on for ever, or so it feels. I was tempted to pull out a magnifying glass and study them as I would examine the detail on a skeleton leaf.
The author, who goes by the single name Benrali, is from Guyana, of Indian origin, and combines several different artistic traditions in his books. According to the book summary, these include Balinese rainforest paintings, Japanese woodcuts, and Rajput, Turkish and Mughal miniature paintings. A more artistically educated reader would, I'm sure, enjoy trying to identify the styles and influences in each picture. I can only attest that the net effect is luscious.
The two books are called The Turtle's Dream and Keys and Manni From a World Beyond the Stars. They are very suitable for being read out loud to a child while the child and adult look together over the pictures. They are also suitable for an artistically-inclined older child who, I can imagine, would pore over the art and perhaps explore some of the styles themselves.
Each drawing fills the full page from edge to edge and is awash in colour. Occasional parts of the drawing are in black-and-white, which make the lovely colors stand out even more. All the drawings were hand-drawn in pen-and-ink.
The Turtle's Dream and Keys is, not surprisingly, about a turtle. A box turtle, to be exact, who is waking up after the winter's hibernation. The text in the book imagines the dreams of this turtle
"back to a time hundreds of millions of years ago to an Earth found in the Iroquois legend, when Earth started on a giant turtle's shell."
Manni: from a world beyond the stars, is also about a turtle. This one is born on Shell Beach in Guyana, and the book follows his adventures with other denizens of the sea. The text in this book is in couplets, based on the structure of the ghazal. I found it more interesting than the text in 'Turtle's Dream', but to be honest, in both books I thought the text was almost beside the point. For me, the story, such as it was, was merely a vehicle for the artwork which is completely worthwhile in itself. It would be a fascinating project for a child (or adult) to look at these drawings and make up their own accompanying story.
Susan Chacko is a scientist, reader, and parent in Maryland.
Senior Editor, Young Zubaan, New Delhi
"Benrali's images and words take you on an ethereal, beautiful, multi-layered journey. These are the kind of books that children will treasure well into their adulthood, and adults will cherish for reminding them of their earlier, perhaps more innocent or open selves."
Editor, Author, Artist and founder of Biblioreads Magazine
"Stunning and breathtaking drawings with a story that intrigues and weaves a dreamy world in the readers imagination. Follow Jupiter the box turtle through this imaginative read and see what a box turtle dreams. Children and adults will enjoy this story and immerse themselves in the colorfully detailed artwork, page after page. You must experience The Turtles Dreams and Keys."
/ Turtle Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and protection of endangered sea turtles worldwide.
Jupiter is an Eastern Box Turtle, waking from hibernation in the spring. The author and artist, who goes by the pen name Benrali, sees the pattern of a key in the markings of Jupiters shell, and it opens for him the wonder of nature. Look at all the patterns in a garden, stars in moss, circles in sand, ivy wings, little hats on mushrooms and sun letters on box turtles shells. He muses about what Jupiter dreams, and what would be lost if turtles went extinct. I imagine he can see all the species and empires that have come and gone through time.
Benralis accompanying illustrations are magnificent, dazzling, beguiling. Every page of his book begs to be pored over, appreciating every facet of color, pattern, and expression. His drawings are ethereal, imaginative, full of fantasy and yet true to life with the detail of a naturalists eye. Every time I look I see something new.
This book will appeal to both children and adults, sparking interest in the natural world, the lives of turtles, the history of nature, and the fate of our planet. I imagine Jupiter has a key to a place beyond time, a place where he can change from turtle to wings, from reptile to butterfly, from fossil energy to solar energy, a key to a place where anything can be changed. The accompanying drawing shows Jupiter morphing into a butterfly, connecting life and patterns and making us wonder, what if? The Turtles Dream and Keys is not just a childrens bedtime story, but an exquisite book that can be used as a starting point from which we can explore art, nature, and conservation, with a child or within ourselves. This is a book which will remain on the shelf and be enjoyed long after the children are grown. I highly recommend this book!
Benralis second book is another gorgeously illustrated picture book, about a sea turtle hatchling born on Shell Beach in Guyana. The first face Manni saw was the moon. The first music Manni heard was the sea. The story traces the dangers Manni faces at sea, and the strange spirit guide who helps keep him safe. The verses are written using ghazal, an Arabic and Indo-Persian form of rhyming couplets, and the story incorporates cultural myths and legends, like the moongazers. Moongazers are angels of palm trees. We come from the moon and live in palm trees.
Like his first book, Benralis illustrations are mystical and captivating, inviting the reader to linger on each page to absorb the intricacy of the designs. Due to the style of writing, the story flows a little less fluidly than his first book, but the mixture of nature and myth encourages us to further explore the life of turtles and the cultural stories of our natural world. This book, like the first, will appeal to both children and adults. Recommended.
Benrali is a Guyanese author and artist who fuses together many styles to create something truly his own, and definitely worth seeing and reading. For more on Benrali, see his webpage at http:// www.benrali.com.
Reisa Latorra works with Turtle Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and protection of endangered sea turtles worldwide. Our organization currently has projects protecting green sea turtles in Kalimantan, Indonesia and loggerhead turtles in Cape Verde, West Africa.. If youd like more information about our organization and our work, see our website at www.turtle-foundation.org.
Review done by:
Trinidad & Tobago Environmental Educator/Biologist/Sea Turtle Rescue is currently doing research for an M.Ed.(Literary Instruction)
I enjoyed both books immensely, from an adult and an environment education/art educator/artist point of view, I see tremendous potential in both books for guiding children's sensitivities across into what I can only describe as an 'inter-codex' galaxy.
There are so many ways in which these books can be used to promote holistic environment teaching. You have embraced all the components of the environment in your books. So many dimensions to it. You certainly provide much fodder upon which one's creativity can thrive!
As I read and re-read the books I thought of how well you merged mysticism and life's realities. Whether I was reading too much into what you have written. Both books have much for contemplation. I had a pleasant time reading your books while being in the company of our Leatherback sea turtles at Grande Riviere Beach. Benrali keep dreaming Godspeed!!!
Book Review by Marguerite Lucerne:
Manni From a World Beyond Stars
This is an unusual childrens book. It is not a mere childrens book or a just another beautiful book but a book for that can be savored at any age. It is book that resonates at many different levels.
The story can be described as simple: the journey of a baby sea turtle, however the richness of the poetic device and the imagery which the book presents is far from simple. Reading the story, especially aloud illuminates the book. Oonie is both in the ocean of the text and voice of the text. Mannis journey is a mystical journey, as one from a world beyond the stars who is protected by another presence, the moon says I have to protect one.
The book works at numerous levels, as an adult reading to a child, there are many threads to pull from this well crafted tapestry of art, folklore and thought: elements of a real world environment. Mannis journeys enriched by the illustrations and the text are intrinsic to this jewel of a book.
In essence, Manni from a world beyond the stars, is for children that must be read to, with an uniformed child, as it requires some interpretation. Again on two levels, one in the reading itself, and the need to read to the beat of ghazal.
Very well done, Benrali, you must be credited for introducing many concepts in a childrens book, foremost the ghazals, this was the first rainbow born of night is reminiscent of Rumi, who through his poems suggests that developing one's spiritual capacity is much more possible through a relationship with someone, who has made this spiritual journey and can help to guide and help us and quite relevant as ghazals "are poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain.", so there was for me the use of art (drawing and poetry) that complimented one another.
The next is an element of Guyana folklore, the moongazer a tall, giant of a man-like creature with its abnormally long legs on opposite sides of a roadway or village dam seemingly reaching up for the clouds. The old East Indian sugar workers would tell tales of the frightening figure breathing the clouds from around the moon, which, contrary to its violent nature, allows the moonlight to help them to find their way to their villages.
The Turtles Dream and KeysThank you for highlighting the distinctive carapace of the Box Turtle shells. One wonders whether each shell is a cartouche that bearing the text of some royal name. Egyptians believed that if you had your name written down in some place, then you would not disappear after you died. The images on the turtle, look very much like the Adinkra symbols of the Akan, Ghana. The Adinkra symbols, loosely used in patterning fabric in Western culture, and a fad of the African diaspora in modern times, they have much of a decorative function. However they also represent objects that encapsulate messages that convey spirituality, traditional wisdom, aspects of life or the environment. In Akan culture, they are used on death cloths to send messages to the afterlife. I also liked the passage "I imagine my turtle is a secret angel of time".A book that paints a story as we read, but gives us a line that engages deep reflection what if Imagine if Eastern Box turtles became extinct, what patterns would leave the planet?Why do we need these patterns, what is the purpose of beauty? Questions for deep reflection...Both books are works of art, that leave one relaxed, a convenient visit to an art gallery. For younger children to fully appreciate the depth of these books there must be traversed with an adult. The books, I iterate are both are very sophisticated as 'childrens' books', they should be read with a child. I found them very mystical and of course, your attempts at incorporating the ''ghazal' poetic form in Manni is to be commended.
I would like to respond to one part of your interview response, "Books cannot compete with the internet when it comes to providing information and raising awareness in environmental concerns". I disagree, a book well presented like this, can compete with the internet. It is unusual, because it is a living book, a work on art in itself. Sierra Club has produced books that can also not be dwarfed by the internet or e-books in general.A child, holding such works in tangible form is akin to viewing the original works of art by the artist. This is what we must seek to promote, the virtual world, can in no way compensate for the f2f (face to face) interaction with nature.Marguerite LucerneTrinidad & Tobago Conservationists:The Sea Turtle conservationists in Trinidad and Tobago are in a league of their own, the foremost of whom include the late Peter Bacon, Susan Lakhan, Carol James and Ken Fournillier (presently Outreach Environmental Officer at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, where Marguerite worked as Environmental Educator/Biologist 1999-2004) were instrumental in highlighting the plight of the Leatherback Sea Turtles. The conservationists on Trinidad are monumental conservationists, who patrolled the beaches of the east coast of Trinidad, predominantly Matura for years, protecting these awesome creatures, before the legislation came into place. "Susan has been recognized for her "outstanding work" in the field of conservation, work that involves all-night seasonal surveillance of the nesting beach and not uncommonly brings her and her group threats of personal violence from potential poachers." Dr. Carol James and Ken Fournillier were instrumental in establishing Nature Seekers Incorporated, continues to be a tour de force in sea turtle conservation in Trinidad and Tobago
Environmental Education Officer
Manni From A World Beyond Stars
Benrali is a Guyanese author. He has used ghazal (an Arabic and Indo-Persian form of music) style for his write-up and selected name of the main character Manni - the baby turtle, from Sanskrit. This shows his interest in different cultures around the world.
This is a small book with pleasant illustrations. Many illustrations are very scientific, which shows the nature of nesting ground, the companions around the sea turtles, their enemies/threats, etc. This helps children to easily co-relate and understand the life of this interesting reptile.
The moon plays an important role in guiding turtle babies towards sea from their nesting ground. The young turtles face many threats till they grow adult. These facts are narrated and illustrated very simple way for better understanding of young minds.
The text and illustration definitely tempt all the young readers to ask many questions on turtles, associated animal groups and on their habitat the ocean in the broader sense. Though the write-up has touched the origin, the happy world around the young turtle and natural threats, he has not included the threats from human (which is the major issue in these days). Inclusion of this may bring some additional responsibility in the young minds on nature conservation.
The balanced mix of fantasy with science make this compact book interesting for readers. As an environmental educationist, I personally recommend this book a must read for every child to get interest towards nature.
Environmental Education Officer,
Chennai Snake Park,
Tamil Nadu, India.
Sivakumar. S., born in India, has completed his Master of Science in Wildlife Biology. He worked as Wildlife Biologist with Bombay Natural History Society for almost 10 years. He has studied various animal taxa, including sea turtles during this tenure. Later, he served as Environmental Education Officer in World Wide Fund for nature India (WWF-India) and Chennai Snake Park. Presently, he is working as Programme Officer with Centre for Environment Education (CEE). He has published about 40 articles, both in national and international journals and has conducted environmental awareness programmes for thousands of students and hundreds of teachers between 2009 and 2011.
Advice From A Caterpillar
An Book Review Column for Young Adults
by Peggy Tibbetts
Manni: From a World Beyond the Stars
Dreamworlds Beyond Time
On the same night that hundreds of tiny sea turtles are hatched, a mysterious creature named Oonie is sent by the moon to come down to the sand and help one baby turtle named Manni return to the sea. Manni tries his best to make it on his own but he nearly drowns. Oonie appears at first as a coconut seed and shares his sturdy shell with Manni as they are tossed about by the oceans current on an adventurous journey. Benrali combines natural science, Caribbean folklore, and a touch of magical realism to create an exciting tale of friendship and adventure. Benrali is an extraordinarily talented illustrator. Each turn of the page unveils a brilliant work of art. Even the backgrounds he draws are exquisite. His marvelous attention to detail draws readers into the pages for an out of this world experience.
Copyright (c) 2011 by Peggy Tibbetts
Research Librarian of Art, Music and Rare Books
Creativity at its best. The story of a little turtle finding his way home, guided by spirits and given direction to safety. Manni has a guide that helps him navigate his world - a spirit named Oonie, introduced as a moongazer.
Im a moongazer, I am Oonie.
Moongazers are angels of palm trees.
We come from the moon and live in palm trees.
I explained to Manni that we are friends,
that we are guardians of palm trees.
Look, I said, look at your guide, King Moon.
He is your guide on your long journey. from Manni -
This is a story of divine intervention, a lesson that there is guidance from beyond, and as with all living creatures, human beings are guided by spirit as well. The color illustrations are rich in detail and mesmerizing. Manni is an art book destined to become a collectible.
Los Angeles Public Library
Dr. Irene Kinan Keller
Have you ever wondered what might be in a turtle's dream? I hadn't, but that's the genius fantasy portrayed in Benrali's "The Turtle's Dream and Keys". The colorful eye-catching illustrations and imaginative prose of this beautiful book take you back to an era when turtles witnessed dinosaurs and thrusts you forward to consider the consequences of future turtle extinctions. I love this book so much that Im having a hard time letting it go for my original plan of gifting it to friends with children. I guess I need to buy another copy for my coffee table.
"Manni from a World Beyond Stars" is a playful imaginative story book focused on a sea turtle hatchling trying to make its way through the sea. Manni is guided by an unknown spirit that disguises itself as a coconut. The illustrations of marine life are captivating, and the storyline is impressive when you realize it's told poetically within the rules of a ghazal, an Arabic and Indo-Persian form of rhyming couplets. This book is great for adults or children. While adults will find it relaxing and can appreciate the mixture of cultural folklore of the moongazer spirit, poetic prose, and the tranquil colors in the art work, children will enjoy its entertainment that is perfect for bedtime reading.
Irene Kinan Kelly is a conservation biologist dedicated to the recovery of protected marine species. Originally from Santa Monica, California, she moved to Hawaii in 1996 and spent five years working for National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Protected Species Investigations monk seal research and monitoring in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Given the many impacts and threats to marine species, she realized the importance and necessity to bridge the gap between research and management. In 2001, Irene was introduced to sea turtle conservation and the interface between management and commercial fisheries; an accidental foray into the world of turtles that has captivated and motivated her. As the Sea Turtle Program Coordinator for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council she built a grassroots, community-based international sea turtle program to reduce threats and increase survivorship of leatherback and loggerhead turtles. In 2008, Irene brought her experience back to NMFS as the Sea Turtle Recovery Coordinator for the Pacific Islands Regional Office, Protected Resources Division to work collaboratively with both domestic and international partners to address the demanding conservation and management objectives of all five Pacific sea turtle species that occur in the waters of the Pacific Islands Region loggerhead, leatherback, green, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles.
Italian marine biologist and teacher
I think these are very nice art books, beautiful colors and paintings; it is very relaxing way to expose the story (thanks to the colors used). The books are very beautiful and attract the client to buy them. They are as I wrote before colors and drawing are really beautiful and well done. I felt as children a big attraction is on the theme. Well for sure it is a new level of doing children books, any way I find the story very abstract. Yes everything impressed me: colors, design, images and packaging. Well Im not a writer and now my work is to research and protect marine turtles, as a biologist if I would create a book for children it would not be like yours but more concrete as I told you, not only as a story book but with the objective to be a tool to improve consciousness and educational about marine turtle as an endangered specie.
The two books are really beautiful, as Ive already said. The point is which one is your objective to do these kinds of books? Is it for entertainment? Or do you want to make some kind of entertainment and educational books?
I think it could be a very nice story and with a little more compatibility with marine turtle biology and threats it can became a very important tool even for sensitize children to the main problem.
Francesca Vanini's Bio
Im an Italian marine biologist I start to work with marine turtle in 2005 in Italy and I really fell in love with them. I was encharged of the educational program in different schools with lessons about contamination, endangered species, the water cycle and other important environmental themes. In addition, with the organization, we were working on dead stranded marine turtles and catched by fishing boats that are working in the area of the North Eastern Adriatic Sea. The organization name was ARCHE ONLUS.
In 2006, I decided to learn about nesting activities so I start to send my curriculum to different places in the world and Mexico was the first one who accepts me. So, I went to Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga in Mazunte, in the Coast of Oaxaca, as a volunteer and after 5 years Im still working in the mexican Pacific area,not anymore as a volunteer but as a technical researcher in a sanctuary of the leatherback turtle called Tierra Colorada, this is one of the four leatherbacks index beaches in the eastern pacific ocean.
During these five years I was working in different important beaches in the Coast of Oaxaca like Escobilla, one of the most important arribada beaches in the world as a volunteer and in 2008 as the coordinator of the marine turtle conservation program in Red de los Humedales then in 2010 with Fondo Oaxaqueno para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza and Fundacion Comunitaria Oaxaca, we were working on the tourists program for turtle watch in six camps site of the Coast of Oaxaca.
I really hope to dedicate all my life to marine turtle that represent for me a very interesting and important species for the ecology of the planet.
Dr. Annie Page
Doctor, Veterinarian and Biologist
Review from Dr. Annie Page, veterinarian and biologist who specializes in marine animal health, research, and conservation.
In his beautifully illustrated book Manni From a World Beyond Stars, Benrali gives us a chance to experience a hatching event from the perspective of Manni, the hatchling sea turtle. The description of Oonie the moongazers experience embodies the emotional surge experienced by every person fortunate enough to interact with these inspirational creatures. Our attention is drawn to the mystical relationships Manni has with his environment- the moon, sea, beach, trees, and sea creatures all speak to him and help him along his journey. Mannis fragile form belies his resilient nature, but ultimately his destiny depends on his friendship with Oonie, his lifesaving guide. Manni and Oonies friendship is symbiotic as they form a bond that neither will ever forget. This book will encourage children and adults alike to develop a personal bond to nature as they delight in this colorful adventure of a baby sea turtle and his friends.
Dr. Annie Page is a veterinarian and biologist who specializes in marine animal health, research, and conservation. She is currently completing a PhD degree program in Veterinary Pathology at the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine. Her degree project focuses on leatherback sea turtle health and conservation in the Caribbean, as she works with fellow investigators, biologists, and naturalists to elucidate patterns of mortality in these endangered reptiles. Her background in conservation medicine and her love for travel have led to her participation in sea turtle conservation projects throughout the world. email@example.com
Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol,
protecting sea turtles from going extinct!
Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beaches, Duval County, Florida, U.S.A.
Review for Manni: From A World Beyond Stars
"A colorful, eventful journey of a unique little hatchling named Manni. Sure to induce magical dreams in the young, and the young at heart" Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol
The Art Of Creativity
Judith Nasse is a Teacher, Artist and Reviewer for The Art Of Creativity
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Inspiration & "finish what you begin..."
TheTurtle's Dream and Keys
Benrali, Author & Illustrator
I recently decided to begin writing book reviews again after Benrali sent me his query. At first I thought I shouldn't, but his amazing images haunted me. And now that the book project I was semi-ghost writing is into the publishers hand, I have time to indulge my love of childrens' books and talking about them.
As creatives we all need inspiration whether it's from nature, others' work from our own media or cross-over inspiration from another media. Go to http://childrens-book-reviews.blogspot.com/ to see my review of two of Benrali's books. And, sometimes, like happened to me this week, something we view, read, hear, or see just doesn't inspire us. I was starting to read a novel that is being raved about. It bored me, and I had to put it down. Now, that was hard as - remember - we were taught as children to finish the food on our plate, our homework, our chores, etc. As creatives and adults we have finite time; therefore we can give ourselves permission to chose what inspires us. If it doesn't, then we can put it down and dash to the studio to work on our latest creation. What inspires you this week?
Posted by Children's Book Reviews at
Judith Nasse's formal reivew;
The Turtle's Dream and Keys
Was there a time when giant box turtles carried the Earth on their back? Jupiter dreams of that time after he emerges from his winter hibernation and stops to rest beneath the ivy. He imagines what it was like to live in pre-historic times. Did strawberries grow then? He loves to eat them. The young reader will be enchanted to imagine along with Jupiter, the box turtle. He will also enjoy looking for the various dinosaurs, insects, and land and sea animals. Will he count time with the box turtle clock?
Benrali is an inspired, unique artist who illustrates in etchings, pen and ink, and Photoshop. His intricate illustrations beckon the reader to pour over each page following the patterns and rich depictions of each object. This book is highly recommended for both home and school libraries, and is one that may well be kept into adulthood.
Only1earth, Inc., 2008
Gwyneth E. Price-O'Brien
Book Review From Price Stuart Townsend
Gwyneth E. Price-O'Brien, copyright 2011
The Predisposition of fashion forward or Couture enthusiasts, if you will, lend their tasteful lifestyles to that of the public divine. Since 2005, PST Couture has embraced the public's envelopment of all matter constituting sublime expressionism, which is why I have reviewed Benrali's work. The Turtles Dream & Keys is a celebrated book by Benrali which has captivated my attention for more than a fortnight. Here is a children's book which blends myth, fantasy, factual relevance to that of a rare North American box turtle and epic illustrations which are truly divine. The book's immaculate written text and accompanying art brings to surface past memories of being lost in gaze at great works of the Masters at Le Musee du Louvre, in Paris. The treasured book has found a place of honor in my private gallery after I purchased it at local boutique jewelery store in West Hollywood and is displayed among my collection of canvas paintings by many artists.
Having had the distinguished pleasure of meeting this gentleman in person, my mind left in adolescent wonder, enchanted as to one mans passion within such a rare niche within the arts. I did indeed find myself in the company of a true visionary. The Turtles Dream & Keys invokes "Couture of the literary expanse" where artistry cultivates depth of imagination, engaging readers of all ages with its flourishing verbiage that raptures with timeless illustration. I have also found myself secluded in West Hollywood's cafes, hiding and pouring over his second breathtaking book, Manni From A World Beyond Stars, following a fanciful adventure of a sea turtle. At long last, no longer is there a need to sit in misguided wonder as to what gift to present a child with that is truly unique in today's age of mass produced and overly commercialized gifts. Benrali's works have found a place in the thread of time to be celebrated by persons of all ages for generations and generations to come both in bookshelves, Kindle, e-books and within our own human hearts.
Wishing you the key to all your dreams from my conservatory to yours.
Gwyneth E. Price-O'Brien
Elizabeth Campbell, PhD
What images come to mind when people think of the West Indies and Guyana and art? Most people immediately associate the West Indies and Guyana with music and live bands. But where do books or art fit in? There are novelists & poets throughout Guyana and the West Indies but children's books are rare and artist books are practically unheard of within the Guyanese and West Indian community. Benrali is a new Guyanese author-artist who graduated from Parsons School Of Design and is truly an artist beyond mere categorization. He fuses different styles of art; from Balinese rainforest paintings, carnival art & Japanese woodcuts to Rajput, Moghul and fantasy miniatures paintings into a style that is truly his own. Benrali is an innovative artist who has woven together many styles, schools of thought and even periods into a style that is constantly evolving and opens Pandoras box within the West Indies, whether there or living abroad; there are no limits to style, genre etc... His two new books are a clear example of Guyanese creating new doorways for themselves within the art world.
The Turtle's Dream & Keysr. has explored areas in children's picture books that have not been explored before. It has managed to cross over into that delicate area of being both commercial and personal. The Turtle's Dream & Keys is more than a book; it is a place in the center of a crossroad where naturalist, artist, poet, environmentalist meet and become one. Detailed pen & ink illustrations are woven together with beautiful prose to take children and adults back into time through a Box Turtle's Dream into prehistoric times. Another face that is unusual is that usually when you read picture books one aspect usually excels over the other, i.e. the art or the prose or the concept outshines the other but in The Turtle's Dream & Keys all facets are polished equally. Its easy to say that the art outshines the poetry but the brevity and succinctness in the words and paging paging are truly helpful in creating the magical feeling.
Since tortoises are prehistoric how far can they actually dream back? The Tortoise Jupiter goes back to a time where Earth was pure and silvan and Benrali also mentions " what language does the world lose when a species goes extinct?" The work is not truly a story but a collection of detailed pen and ink drawings alongside wonderful verse devoted to an endangered species. This is a unique book that blends styles of fantasy, naturalism, surrealism and borderlines with something "otherworldly".
Within Manni From A World Beyond Stars we find the first picture book of its kind; a creation that goes beyond the terminology of "East West" because the West Indies are so much more than that. Manni From A World beyond Stars is similar to it being a creation that weaves together various influences but it has what true art needs in order to be called "art"; it attempts to go into areas or worlds that are undiscovered. Whether that exploration is within the artist's soul, culture, relation to the world etc is personal but there is within these pages an attempt to take picture books or children's books on to a level that surpasses even American standards. Here we find the first picture book using the ghazal written in English as a foundation for the rhyming couplets where the author uses his/her name on the last line. Now if that isn't unique enough the story is narrated by a West Indian folkloric spirit called a Moongazer named Oonie who even weaves in its name in the last line according to the rules of ghazal. Aside from the beautiful art and rhyming couplets do I find the book entertaining. Both books have to be read a few times in order to appreciate the amount of work and thought that was poured into creating these works.
Dr. Elizabeth Campbell is a graduate from Swarthmore and is Microbial Pathogenesis at Rockefeller Center focusing on Molecular Biophysics. She is a native to Georgetown, Guyana and lives with her husband, two kids and library of picture books for her kids on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, New York City Elizabeth.Cambell@rockefeller.edu
Phuket Post: Thailand's Paradise Newspaper
Dreaming of Phuket Turtles' Survival
1. What are the recurring themes in your books?
One may think by looking at my books that tortoises and turtles are a theme but this is just a tiny fraction of my work, my favorite animals are actually peacocks! A recurring theme within my work is fusion. I strive to create unique worlds that blend multiculturalism, naturalism and solid drawing within an ethereal quality that borderlines fantasy with surrealism.
2. The plight of the turtle is one well documented in Thailand, especially Phuket, and owing to pollution and over construction and expansion, very few turtles actually come to lay their eggs on Mai Khao now. How do your books address the themes and problems associated with naturalism and environmentalism?
First I would like to sympathize with the situation going on in Mao Khao; a situation all too common all over the world.
Books cannot compete with the internet when it comes to providing information and raising awareness in environmental concerns. We have recently seen how much influence blogging and other Internet announcements had and are still having with transforming North Africa and the Middle East. So instead of using the books as a tool to provide information, I wanted to weave environmentalism within verse to make readers think, ponder and discover for themselves.An example is a line in my book, "If all patterns on earth are words, then what song would leave the earth if an entire species like Eastern Box Turtles became extinct?"
3. What are your thoughts and opinions on how Thailand and Thai people deal with environmental issues?
I am not an expert on Thai conservation but just by looking at Mai Khao and the Elephant conservation teams within Thailand I am impressed.Of course all conservationists can do more with more money but the question also comes down to available land space. This is happening all over the world. Thailand conservationist issues are global because we find them in many other places across the world. But overall I am glad to see there is growing awareness of the problems. I would love to see more conservationist information at all airports around the world. Imagine seeing and learning about Mai Khao or the Elephant Conservation Reserve while standing at those long lines at the airport or even as posters in an exhibition. Airports are a great place that I don't feel conservationists use to the fullest extent. A lot of tourists and business people would visit these reserves if they knew about them.
4. What are the most pressing environmental issues facing the world today?
The most pressing environmental issues are depleting fresh water supplies and dependency on fossil fuels a close second. We need a voting system on major issues to be given back to the people and out of the hands of a select few, similar to the system found in some Central American countries. Fix this and I believe you will have solved the hugest environmental problem. Lawmakers should not be making environmental decisions. Major decisions like that should not be left in the hands of a select few.
5. You have a South East Asian background, yet now live in America, what would you say are the main differences with the way the West and East view the animal kingdom and environmental concerns?
It would be unfair to say one is better than the other since all of it depends on the country's economy, funding and donors. North America and Asia cannot really be compared. I believe nations such as India, China, Thailand and Myanmar have a longer history of venerating animals than European nations because animals are a part of the religion, myths and legends. Therefore my opinion is that since animals are in the foundation of the culture there is much more respect for them. Native Americans had great veneration for animals and this is where I got the idea for the book-jacket for The Turtles Dream & Keys. The giant tortoise rising up from the sea is actually a common theme found in the Iroquois Indians with their belief that the Earth started on a giant tortoise's back.
Author of Hinduism for All
published under Giri Trading agency Private Limited Chennai India
I have had great pleasure writing the review for the book The Turtles Dream & Keys and I congratulate him on this poetic contribution.
Since the dawn of time humans have evolved many ways in expressing themselves, cave paintings, hieroglyphics, writing and when you go back and come to the present, through the industrial revolution, the information revolution and now in the present high technology revolution; modes of communication throughout mankinds existence are brought to mind when reviewing this work. One of the significant factors of development and progress in the human history is the knowledge of planets, stars and other heavenly beings & their influence on living things on the earth. Even though we have come through from several generations and many things have changed the planets, stars and galaxies with their aspects continue to influence Earth. This came to mind when the author chose the name Jupiter as the main character and the tortoises tight connection with the time-clock of seasonal changes.
With all the overwhelming information available out there, whether print or online I feel there is still a place for poetic quotes & a good imagination. I find The Turtles Dream & Keys an inevitable book which stands in sharp contrast to the present high- technology age since every part of the book supports "silent activities of nature".
I enjoyed several quotes and musings as to how a prehistoric animal as a turtle thinks about the Earth before and after humans and their destructive actions. This is a good book covering quotes, musings, passages which touch on human action and their impact subtly, which make this book enjoyable. Only in this context, the present book, A Guide to Injection Moulding of human thinking, has its significance.
This contribution by Benarali is very timely when the new millennium is born. Benarali has taken tremendous pains in preparing this book focusing attention on basics as well as advanced aspects yet keeping simplicity and readability that would help any beginner and expert alike enjoy reading while understanding universal flora and fauna.
I am confident that all readers will benefit by keeping a copy of this book as their own and request it from their libraries. The book has the principle of " small things add to perfection but perfection is not a small thing". I congratulate Benarali for this fine contribution to the "arts" and commend this book for all.
Review by T.S.Srinivasan Author of Hinduism for All
published under Giri Trading agency Private Limited Chennai India
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