The Secret Sanctuary is another gem from Stephen Alter – a mesmerizing author. He like Ruskin Bond lives in Uttarakhand. Stephen re-creates the same for his readers in the loveliest of the ways. I earlier read his ‘Becoming a Mountain’ and fell in love with the Himalayas. Not consciously, but I happened to visit the Himalayas in Himachal, Kashmir & Ladakh just after finishing the book. I think his book worked mysteriously for me.
In ‘The Secret Sanctuary’ written for kids, Stephen Alter creates a magical secret sanctuary for three school going kids. Through his magical storytelling, he introduces the children to the flora and fauna of the region. He creates the mystery through a mysterious Mr. Mukherjee and weaves a lovely story. It is a story where you are concerned about the children while you learn with them about the various birds and animals. You learn while you are also turning around with tension thinking if the children would be able to get out of this mysterious land.
The author introduces not just the animals and birds that are found in the jungles of the region but also the ones that have become extinct. He builds a hope that one fine day some member of the extinct would make an appearance and we would be able to see these birds flying again. He shows the birds that are migrating and who just pass by these hills but never stop.
As an ardent reader, I could guess the end. It had to be a happy ending with children happy about this dream visit. Still, the storytelling kept me on the edge. At the end of this small book, you know the Dehradoon Mussourie area a bit more intimately, even without visiting it.
Language is so smooth that you just flow with it. The narrative absolutely gripping that would make you let go of your lunch or dinner. The illustrations deserve a special mention – lovely and perfectly complementing the text.
The secret Sanctuary would make an excellent gift for children around you.
In fact, I enjoyed the book so much that I can safely say that no matter what your age is, you would enjoy this book.