National Parks by Hinesh Vithal

Reviewed by: Robyn

I knew I was in for a treat when I received National Park for review. It’s not often that I’d choose to read a book with a dog as the main character. The prologue alone solidified my excitement in opting to review this book and as I read on I found myself immersed in a journey I hadn’t entirely anticipated and one which I see myself em-bark-ing on again. (Hahaha! You’ll get it once you’ve read the review)

The Book
Our main character is Raja, a puggle – and before I proceed, I’ll admit I had no idea what a puggle was. I googled it, assuming it’d result in Harry Potterish references to a pet muggles keep. No, a puggle is a cross between a beagle and a pug. And OMG. Soooooo cute!!!
Anyway, Raja is off on a another family vacation, which he usually looks forward to, except this one takes place over his birthday and he’s been experiencing awful and vivid dreams of his death. A not too pleasant encounter between a safari vehicle and a defensive Mommy Elephant results in Raja making the acquaintance of a few new friends, and with them he sets off on an adventure that he’ll likely never be able to experience again and will certainly never forget.

My Thoughts
What I liked
1. I just love the concept of talking animals, Vithal makes the point from the animals perspective that humans cannot understand ‘animal speak’ due to the disconnect from nature that they (humans) have experienced – this is actually a belief I’ve held for quite sometime so I loved seeing this thought shared – even if just fictionally.
2. Beautifully characterized. Moving on from the fact that they’re animals, Vithal has stitched his characters together in such a way that I often forgot these were in fact animals. It’s humanlike wildlife.
3. As I read through this book, all I could ask myself was; who would you recommend this to? And all I could respond with was; “Anyone who has questions they need answered”. Now. Yes I get this sounds rather hippy dippy, but really. I have always felt a deep seated connection to nature, and there is just this thing that came through for me in this book; there are laws in the bush as there are laws in cities, and while we may not see or comprehend them, they’re there. Just as ours are. Fine. I’m hippy-dippy, that’s OK with me
4. It’s quirky AF. Meaning – while there is drama and there is a touch of politics and seriousness, there is this quaint, quirky, humourous tone throughout which really holds attention and elicits a few giggles.

What I disliked
1. I am battling to identify any faults with this book, perhaps only that in the beginning chapter or two there were a few to many exclamation marks used where it wasn’t entirely necessary to include them
Yes. That really is all I disliked. Oh. And now I need Book 2. Because it’s another trilogy. Someone remind me to check if a book belongs to a series before allowing me to read Book 1 please? I’m too impatient for this waiting thing.

Opportunities for discussion
The biggest appeal of this book for me was the broad range of subjects mentioned some of which are built on and others which are merely mentioned in passing. I’ve provided them below – I feel this is the type of book parents could read to their kids (maybe 10 and over) and use it as a starting point to discuss the type of experiences and self-reflective lessons that life often throws at us.
Bullying, self-confidence, leadership, community values, family values, support for loved ones, belief in oneself; it’s all covered and it all makes sense, and is woven into what has to be one of the most precious stories I’ve read in a long time.

I feel this is one of those books that can be picked up by almost anyone, and be enjoyed. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Animal Farm as there is a deeply animal-political story line which made me think of the Farm, and while there was that sense of familiarity – it didn’t influence the story line, it was similar but different. The chapters are a comfortable length and the action and dialogue are such that you could easily finish this in one, rainy, cuddled up in bed day.

Review Rating: 5/5

More Information:

Published Date: August 25, 2015

Genre:  Teen & Young Adult


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