Esther David is an author, and a trained artist and sculptor. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book titled Book of Esther. She grew up and lives in Ahmedabad. Through this book, Esther has paid tribute to her father Reuben David, the miracle man of Ahmedabad.


The two-legged are more dangerous than the four-legged.

Reuben David

My Father’s Zoo is a peach of a book authored by Esther David, wherein she describes her father’s love for animals. Reuben David was the founder of the Ahmedabad Zoo. The author talks about her father’s heart-touching encounters with the animals in the Zoo. The black and white illustrations by Esther David further enhance the feel and add a bit of liveliness to the stories.

Reuben was a hunter-turned-veterinary doctor. He had an phenomenal way of dealing with animals, who reciprocated his love and warmth. He was approached by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to set up a zoo around the Kankaria Lake. The zoo was christened ‘Hill Garden Zoo’ and was later renamed as ‘Kamala Nehru Zoological Garden’. This short novel details the journey of Reuben David in making the zoo happen.

An illustration from 'My Father's Zoo' by author-cum-artist Esther David

The book is filled with heart-warming facts about the different animals present in the zoo, how each one was brought there and the way they were treated by Reuben David. The stories about Silver – the talking cockatoo, Shikha – a sarus crane, Jimmy, Jane and June – the rescued crocodiles, and many other animals, are amusing and also underline the need to protect wildlife.

The story of the lions is especially endearing. The author details how Reuben separated the three lion cubs from their mother and undertook great efforts to feed them and help them survive. The relationship between Montu, one of the lion cubs, and Reuben was particularly special. Reuben spent most of his time in Montu’s cage and experimented with the concept of coexistence.

There are many other stories of various animals and the way they were inducted into the zoo. The clear-cut explanations of the traits of different animals and their behavioral patterns makes for an interesting read.

My Father’s Zoo is a paperback with just over a hundred pages. The contents are divided into short stories, each dealing with a specific animal in the zoo. Each animal is given a name and the author expounds her father’s unique connection with each animal.

‘When man hunts animals, he calls it sport. But, when animals hunt men, we call it ferocity and brand the animal as a man-eater.’

The book is replete with some thought-provoking quotes by the author’s father. This book is best read by children as, in addition to its high dose of intriguing stories, it can help inculcate in them an undying compassion for animals.

Ameya Rating:

My Father’s Zoo is easily worthy of a 4-star rating. The book is a perfect read for all children who are fond of animals. The language is very simple, which makes it both easy and fun for young readers to comprehend the stories. Esther’s illustrations can help the children picture each animal in all its splendor.

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